Submitted by Deirdre McNamee
Following a recent visit to Ireland I felt compelled to tell the story of my father who, like many men and women in the early 1950’s, left Ireland for British shores for what he perceived as a better life.
On arriving in England he made his way to Sheffield where some former school friends and a cousin were already residing. They helped him find accommodation and, most importantly, work.
A few years later he headed further south to Birmingham where, on the brink of the modern Industrial Revolution, one can imagine work was a plenty. It was in Birmingham that he met and married my mother and went on to have seven healthy children, of which I am the youngest.
However, the marriage was not a happy one. My father suffered underlying depression – such a condition was poorly recognised in those day’s and so, went untreated only to find the condition worsened and his health deteriorated over the subsequent years.
Making Memories in Ireland
Despite this however, this unhappily married couple made their way to County Offaly, Ireland, to my grandparents’ home each summer without fail. My family would stay sometimes for the duration of six weeks, while dad would return to England, to work. These were happy times. We kids had freedom and played from dawn till dusk amongst ourselves and also, of course, our cousins, our extended family. It was here that I recall first tasting a gooseberry.
Our Grandmother was so very kind to us and gracious to us, but you’d see the other side of her when she found out we were chasing her hens!
Of course, the most wonderful thing about our visits to Ireland was my father whose whole demeanour would change, as soon as he touched Irish soil, it seems. He would become relaxed, animated and joyful. Only at these times were we ever to witness such an attitude in him.
A Return to Offaly
Years later, my mother and father became officially divorced, my mother citing she could no longer ‘cope’ with my fathers ‘condition’.
My father returned to his native Offaly, a place he loved, buying a house which had belonged to an old school pal, Jimmy Mulligan, who resided at the ‘Old Post Office’, in Fahy Cross.
Visiting the town of Rhode now as I do with my own two children , one cannot help feeling a profound sense of vulnerability and intense sentiment in equal measures, as I walk throu’ the wonderful countryside, taking in the breath taking views along Ballyburly and even as far as Croghan Hill – a place which will always hold significant memories for me.
My dream now is to return to Ireland as often as circumstances permit me to do so.
I am proud to be Irish and truly value my Irish roots and would never deny my two children the chance to know their rich, cultural, lively and diverse heritage that is, IRELAND.