My Da has been dead eighteen years but he still has a big influence on my life, and also on the lives of my sisters and brothers. I am getting on in years and I have never heard anyone say a bad word about my beloved Da.
He was born in a small cottage in Blackditch, County Kildare. He was the eldest of four children, three boys and one girl. His dad died when the youngest was a baby, leaving my granny, his mother living in the middle of nowhere with four children under six to rear. He and his siblings had to walk three miles to school in bare feet, Winter and Summer. When he was twelve he and his best friend decided to mitch from school and travel a bit further to sit an exam for a scholarship to a secondary school six miles away. His friend’s family were better off, so he was able to lend my da a pair of shoes and some decent clothes fo the journey.
Well the long and short of it is, he was offered a scholarship. There was no way my granny was ever going to be able to afford clothes, books and travelling expenses so he had to turn it down. When we children were growing up there was never a more well read and knowledgable man than our da, he could do anything with his brain and his hands. He was very much in demand by our neighbours for any job you care to mention, and every renovated kitchen in our terrace was his handi-work. He would put the heart crosswise in my poor ma every time we got a new appliance. Before it was even used our rented radio was dismantled on the kitchen table, and every valve was memorised and replaced in it’s proper slot. Likewise the telly and washing machine when they came along. He could fix anything, irons, hairdryers, bicycles, cars anything at all.
To back-track for a minute, he came to Bray when he joined the Irish army, and had progressed as far as corporal by then. The army was based in the International hotel, located beside the white gates near the sea-front. Just down the road beside the harbour lived the Kelly sisters six lovely ladies of marriagable age, so of course they were a magnet for the soldiers. My da started off by dating my aunt Mag the eldest of the sisters but soon fell in love with Julia, my Mammy.
Eventually they were married and I came along. We all lived in two large rooms over the public baths and the rabies clinic, as you can imagine, it was a crowded household, my mam and dad, granda and five aunts as by this time my aunt Kathleen had emigrated to England and was later followed by my aunt Eileen. Daddy was demobbed and started to look for a secure job to provide for his growing family..
One day a contractor he had managed to get some short-time casual work for was contracted by Guiness brewery to do some building work for them. While they completed the work my da was impressed by the place and there and then decided to work there when this job was done. Unfortunately Guiness jobs are traditionally handed down from father/uncles to sons/nephews, but this did not deter my father and he took himself in to the recruitment officer every day for six weeks until they offered him a job.
My mother’s family adored him, and although we all lived together until I was eight, there was never a harsh word spoken in that house, He was a peacemaker all his life. I remember one time when I fell out with an uncle over a game of cards and we weren’t talking for a week before da found out. I still remember him taking my nineteen year-old hand and taking me down to my uncle’s house to shake hands and make up.
Although we didn’t know it until after he died my father was a bit of a poet, and had slips of paper with lovely poems written on them stowed away in his things. My brother gathered these up and kept them safe. Two years ago, he had them made into booklets and presented them to us all. Well the floods of tears nearly drowned us, it was just as if daddy came back and spent an hour with us, priceless. We have all learned from Daddy not to fall out over silly things and we have never had any falling out among the ten of us. When I went back to school to do the leaving cert. twelve years ago, I thought of him every day, and I am convinced that if he had been still alive he would have done it with me. Below is one of his poems, and indeed this is the belief he lived his life by, he is still badly missed RIP DA xxxx
Sometimes we tend to be unkind
thereby causing sorrow,
but more than likely will regret
when we ponder it tomorrow.
Yet tomorrow may oftenn be too late
to undo what’s done today,
the hurt we’ve caused may still remain
whatever we do or say.
A little kindness in our hearts
will save us causing worry,
a little thought before we act
will save us feeling sorry.
If, however we do cause hurt, it’s consoling to realise,
that the greatest quality in anyone
is the grace to apologise
( a poem by Paddy Nolan)