Turning the Big One Hundred – A North Longfordman Remembered

How it Started - Dad and Ma on their wedding day
How it Started – Dad and Ma on their wedding day

Dad would have been 100 if alive today. While he always said his date of birth was the 22nd as the “all the twos” birthdate looked cool, we always thought that the 21st was the day he was born. Glossary to be added, as some of the stories make sense to the family more than to the reader!

Born between the wars of the cousins and brothers
In the uneasy peace, a new born baby’s was the only screams,
Born to a family Neutral, but sympathetic to the dying Republic,
We wonder looking back of his mothers dreams,
Who spoke the Irish it seems that he derided
But she valued, who her Ultans families history did know
A family that fled eviction and poverty in Ballyshannon some say,
To come to North Longford in what even then was long ago.

Her husband was modern, according to himself, for his day,
Apologetic to the doctor for the bread and cabbage poultice his wife had made
Before he walked with their young son to Dublin from Longford
That the doctor would think them foolish rural folk, he was afraid.
The doctor, understanding, dads father he gently chided,
“Thank your wife for country knowledge, she was right!”
The old ways are the best when there’s little access to modern medicine
My father said as he told how his mother saved his sight.

He lived to see a modern and much changed Ireland,
But never did get to cash the cheque that the President would sign
Had he achieved his ambition to “live to the big One Hundred!”
He would have enjoyed seeing his name upon that line,
Instead, him and his people we remember,
We look around at what he built – most of it still does stand! –
It all started with a henhouse built by his fathers request for his sister,
Whose husband was interned by government’s command.

That government, decades before shot our house up as the Tans never did,
In Civil War times, “if your neutral your against us” as if to say,
His sister, then a toddler the ricocheting bullets remembered,
Told me of her fear in the street in Aughagreagh.
Their father said Sean Mac Eoin had “fought for the right to be wrong”,
So against him in the Civil War we would not fight,
Though the Free State was far far short of what was fought for,
We would be neutral though the Republicans were right.

It was a conviction he carried with him throughout his life,
By the Lost Republic he staunchly made his stand,
Its sad to think today so many accept partition,
A hundred years after Britain cleft in two our land.
He was active somehow, some folk in half talk tell,
Those snippets of the unknown we gather and we save,
For a man forthright with opinions who liked to talk,
He took a lot of tales with him to the grave.

But, of, the tales he told of him and his cousins smuggling!
The brewing of Poitin with “The Diver” too,
Getting “lost” in the fairy fort at Willies was my favourite,
“It was the drink” by grandfather, angry, who found him, said he knew!
Those ghost stories of his I told to European friends one Halloween,
Are a memory in the heart I will keep,
The fun I had hearing next day that the kids were not the ones that were scared…
It was the mother of the house who could not sleep!

Such stories unite peoples and generations,
We all will be but a story in our time,
Others will talk of us as I now talk of him,
Who told of great fights he fought when in his prime
Tales we dismissed as drunken bravado,
Unlike the “grate spakes” of others that he told,
My favourite was an aged lady called “Old Judy”
Who when Dad was a young boy, then was old.

“No one young nowadays”, she wistfully would say,
After a child answered her question of its age,
“Auld age, hard to cure it”
Was another uttering of this sage!
I tell the tales he told to others who may of me tales tell
By such those now gone are still with us today,
Though he lies with mother in Keeraun Hill as he wanted
to “push up the daisy’s for all time” as he joking, wistfully used to say.

How it finished - the last photo of dad and ma in relative health
How it finished – the last photo of dad and ma together in relative health

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