Thinking of all the little things of family
The unsuccessful driving instructor quit school to work on the family farm. “Ploughing with two horses when I was 12,” he’d boast, knowing, of course, it was a feat we’d never match. He was belted at school for writing with the wrong hand. Signing cheques would get him all flustered.
For years he wouldn’t have a TV in the house. He swore we’d never get our homework done. But then, when he relented, he’d never miss the news or Coronation Street and EastEnders.
Joyce’s Ulysses and several books by Dickens lay among the westerns and Ed McBains on the book shelf upstairs on the landing. He finished The Pickwick Papers one year. It took him all winter.
In his final few years all he’d read was the Anglo Celt newspaper. He’d go over it ponderously, page by page in the evenings, his glasses on the end of his nose; calling out the names of those who’d copped it for no insurance and bald tyres, and driving under the influence.
He drove the tractor, the Massey Ferguson 35, into the haggard gate one morning, rupturing the radiator. Furious, he blamed my brother, who was cavorting on the dunghill and distracting him.
A frugal man too, he had a weakness for auctions and bargains. He brought home so much furniture and, once, a portable dunny. He couldn’t believe no one else would bid for it. We were mortified.
He got on well with a Protestant neighbour who drank too much, and who later turned his rifle on himself in his upstairs bedroom. They’d stop to chat for ages when they met on the lane on their tractors.
When we were little, he broke his ankle, while shifting a tree stump. My mother made toast for us all through the evening, the slices piling high on a plate on the kitchen table. So much toast, it could never all be eaten.
Everyone reckons I’m a carbon copy of him. No comparisons were ever made with my mother.
We lived on opposite ends of the world. But it wasn’t just the distance.
Now they lie side by side, a world away, in the local cemetery on the bog road. I still think of them often.
Share your views and experiences with Generation Emigration, The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens abroad, curated by
Email: emigration@ irishtimes.com