Anne was a widow who lived in Co Clare she reared hens & geese and when she came to Dublin it was usually for the day and involved a trip to Clerys Department Store. There she bought a complete new outfit – from the skin out. The parcels were taken to the “Ladies” and she changed into the finery before she caught a bus to our house.
She always carried a leather shopping bag on these visits. It contained at least two or three-dozen eggs complete with half the hen run on them! These had been collected at dawn on the day of her journey. In the bag, or should I say half in the bag were two chickens. The head and necks hung out one side while the legs complete with claws hung out the other. Their necks had been wrung that morning while the due was still on the ground. They were complete with feathers and innards and there would be a trail of blood dripping from them all the way from Ennis to our front door! Her arrival on the avenue was announced by her laughter, which was loud and infectious.
One year when we were very young mammy was ill and in hospital. Anne was looking after us. She cooked, fed us and generally kept the house ticking over. My youngest brother who was aged three and the baby of the family pined for mammy and refused to eat. He refused to come to the table at meal times so Anne sat on the stairs and fed him chocolate biscuits. They were the only food he would eat for her. Her idea was that he was at least eating something.
Dorothy my niece shared this memory with me: “I remember Anne in a huge high bed with about 200 mattresses and blankets in the box-room”. Houses do not have box- rooms any more, all bedrooms are smaller nowadays. “I think about it when reading the princess and the pea to my own children! It was so high I remember not being able to climb onto it; I still remember the feeling of falling off yet again! And then when you got up it was so bouncy! People’s backs must have really ached after a night’s sleep in it” she said.
We were forever having visitors to stay at our house. Mattresses came up and down the stairs like yo-yos. The easiest place to store them was on the bed. A little less dusty than under it! One year we had a gathering for my father’s entire family. We planned to have the August bank holiday weekend Saturday as ‘The Day’. They were like ‘The Tinkers’ coming for a week and going for a week!
We realised it would be a late night. So plans were made for everyone to stay over. We children were to sleep on mattresses on the floor while all the adults had the beds. The only problem was that the adults stayed up all night talking, singing and drinking.
In the end nobody slept in the beds.
We learned plenty of old ballads as we sang through all the Counties of Ireland. Each song seemed to have about 32 verses. Even today when I hear one of them on the radio, I can clearly see an aunt or uncle sitting by the fire singing their heart out!
I sometimes think about the children of today and wonder if in forty or fifty years time they will remember what happened in Big Brother or I’m a Celebrity get me out of here, or for that matter what their parents looked like?
TV has a lot to answer for!