Friday, January 30, 2009

My Mother


Tomorrow is my mother's birthday. January 31st. She was born in 1914. WW1 had just started.

Through her growing up years in the village of Castlemartyr in Co. Cork, a stronghold of Irish republicanism, the Black and Tans were a highly visible presence in the town, intimidating the townspeople, shooting first and asking questions later. As a small child, she lived in terror of their miasmic presence, they marched freely into private homes, businesses, churches and schools, searching for weapons and wilfully destroying the poverty-stricken hovels of the locals.

The effects of the Great Famine of the 1840s were still being felt in the town. The population had shrunk substantially and her father, who still spoke the Irish language and carried the sean-nos style of singing and story telling in his soul (for all who had suffered and died, as he frequently said) would meet quietly and inobstrusively with others who fought for Irish freedom.

She was only 6 years old when the barracks, situated about 1/4 mile from her house, was blown up.

She was only 12 years old when she was put 'into service' in the merchant family of the town as a type of maid, taking care of the children and helping the mistress of the house.

She was only 18 years old when her mathematical ability was recognised by a priest friend of one of the leading merchants of the large town close by and she was trained as a bookkeeper and worked in the accounts office and lived, as was common then, in the dormitory over the shop with the rest of the staff.

She joined the Gaelic League and found encouragement in performing locally with her remarkable soprano vocal talent. Her passion for Ireland and her condemnation of what the English had inflicted for centuries put a lasting fire in her remarkable green eyes. She never did see, as a complete dichotomy to this, her lifelong passion for the works of Charles Dickens.

I'm putting together a memoir for my family of this quite extraordinary woman who saw a uniqueness in all six of her children and fostered a thirst for knowledge and appreciation for arts and culture in each of them.

She died far too young, far too unfulfilled. She will never be forgotten.

Happy birthday, dearest mother.

18 comments:

  1. Sounds fascinating.I hope you share excerpts, if not all, of the memoir on here for us to read.

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  2. I will continue to share excerpts, Dave, as it will help me to formulate the memories.
    Thanks!
    XO
    WWW

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  3. I must be wonderful to be so proud of your mother. You're very lucky that you harbor such good feeling towards her. That doesn't happen all the time. She sounds like an heroic woman.

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  4. She sounds like a wonderful mother. Fortunate that what must have been a rather scary childhood with the black and tans roaming around doesn't seem to have left any permanent scars.

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  5. wow. what a life. (and what a wonderful photograph.)

    how old was she when she died? how did you get to canada? i'm glad to hear a priest did some good for a change.

    this is one book i will be absolutely riveted by. i already am. tell us more.

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  6. The British have had much to answer for in Ireland, much as the Israelis have held sway over the Palestinians. Fighting for independence from an oppressor is surely the only righteous battle. Your mother sounds a remarkable woman. I, too, would love to know more of her.

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  7. Irene:
    She was quite extraordinary for her time and place but highly self-deprecating.
    I still feel her loss all these years later.
    XO
    WWW

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  8. Nick:
    I think it did leave scars on her but some were good. She never wanted me to live a 'traditional' role but encouraged me to spread my wings.
    XO
    WWW

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  9. Laurie:
    She died in 1971, my only sister was only 13 and my mother had been sick since she was 6.
    I emigrated before she died with my husband of the time.

    Ah, there was the odd good priest, I knew a few ;^)

    I will write more of her. Thanks!
    XO
    WWW

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  10. RJA:
    Was it ever thus, though, India and Africa suffered too. Much as Iraq and Palestine do today. The spoils of the conqueror and I mean that in more ways than one as you know.
    Yes, I will write more of her. Thanks!
    XO
    WWW

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  11. I am a couple of days behind.

    My mum was born in 1914 but not until April. She grew up in Dublin and her mother had a local corner shop - a cross between grocery store and newsagents.

    She too told stories of the Black and Tans entering the shop and helping themselves to cash and stock from the shelves.

    Leaving school at 16 she worked for a major Draper from those days in the Millinery dept. Like your mum, mammy had a head for figures and was moved into the office and worked there until she married.

    Again like you, I am one of a brood of six living children.

    Are we Twins?

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  12. GM:
    That gave me goosebumps!!!
    Are you the eldest of your brood?
    I am. My mother was late in getting married (28). In those days the old folk were so reliant on their working children for the necessities of life.
    Twins. Absolutely!
    XO
    WWW

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  13. Wow - please do share the memoirs here - the lost world needs to be remembered. We are trying to persuade my gran to write her life story before she dies (she has done her childhood as the daughter of a Methodist Missionary in China, but there is still so much more to tell!).

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  14. Jo:
    I will. And for your Gran: it might be a much better idea to come up with a series of questions (there are books on such things) and engage interactively with her to get her life story. Sometimes writing is such a chore for people who have never had to do it.
    XO
    WWW

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  15. Hi, I wonder if you already know about the census 1911 details which are online here:
    www.census.nationalarchives.ie

    I have spent days searching and reading about my relatives back then.
    Enjoy,
    Sorcha

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  16. Unfortunately, Sorcha, they still don't have the Cork records on line. Just 4 counties, so far, unless I'm missing something?
    XO
    WWW

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