Monday, May 9, 2022

Three Years Today

Today is the third anniversary of my father's death. I posted this about him last year on Facebook (and shared it again this year).

Today is the second anniversary of my father's death. He was the biggest influence on my life. My love of poetry came from his extempore reciting of Shakespeare and Walter Scott and Robbie Burns and any number of others, not to mention his buying me books such as Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Verses.

He put far more effort into the public good than he ever did into his own private good. He edited a community newspaper (latterly a magazine) called The Ballymun News for over thirty years. He wrote most of it himself. He took a leading role in setting up a community social centre called The Ballymun Workman's Club. He helped set up the Irish language school in Ballymun, without which I would not even have the Gaeilge briste [broken Irish] I have. He said he had no Irish himself, although I suspect he had a little more than he pretended.

In the seventies he became a whistle blower and had a brutal boy's remand home called Marlborough House shut down.

He did all this while working a succession of jobs which were rarely more genteel than house painter, labourer, or orderly. Several times he had opportunities to advance himself but refused them on grounds of principle.

He was a strongly believing Catholic, although he rarely went to Mass. He also had a big influence on my religious beliefs although there was never any pressure in this way. I am such a contrarian that I probably would have reacted against it if there was. He could quote fluently from the New Testament, though the Old Testament was a closed book to him. When we went into town to get a birthday gift on my birthday the ritual was always: a glass of orange and a bag of crisps in the Flowing Tide, and lighting a candle in the Pro Cathedral.

I have so many memories of him but recently, I find myself remembering one from the mid-nineties: the smell of papier-mache as he made something from it in the living room-- a Christmas crib most likely. Soccer was on the TV. He watched every sport except a handful, like basketball (which was "a game for freaks") and motor sports.

"He was a man, take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again." Please say a prayer for him.


  1. Seems to have gone by quickly, though probably not for you.
    He was probably unusual for his generation of mostly-going-to-mass people whose Catholic ethos ironically wore down.
    I was reading about Greenland's barnacle geese recently. The young are hatched on gigantic cliffs and made jump off to search for food before being able to fly. Usually they float and glide apparently landing on their stomachs alive if the wind is right.
    Albrechtt Dürer,mostly known for woodcuts, produced some Renaissance masterpieces paintings as well: one subject,St Acacius and several martyrs,whose feast was Sunday 8th,was a 1508 subject. At a time when, among other things happening in the world,churches in your father's direction are reportedly among those earmarked for closure, the massacre depicted by Dürer of the martyrdom,some of the ten thousand being thrown off cliffs,is a good meditation point,as is however the thought that there are little birds surviving cliff falls against humanly impossible odds.

    1. Thanks for those profound thoughts, Séamus. I never really understood why my father didn't go to Mass. I gently tried to prod him once, after our parish priest urged us to invite one other person to Mass, but the quizzical reaction inhibited me any further.

      I realize it was a metaphor (and a good one), but your story about the barnacle geese (I would love to go to Greenland!) reminds me of my father's story of how my grandfather taught him to swim. Apparently he just threw him in the sea! I'm sure he would have hurried to his aid if he floundered too badly...

      Thanks for the comment.

    2. And you're right, it doesn't seem to have gone quickly for me at all! While a book or film that I read ten or fifteen years ago will seem like something from yesterday....the human experience of time is strange.