Vincent Buckley, 87: ‘Men have changed since my time’

Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


In conversation with Rosita Boland: Vincent Buckley is from Cork. He lives in Sutton, Dublin

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I phoned a grandson of mine in San Diego when he was about seven, and on a train. I remember so clearly looking at this thing in my hand, this cordless phone, and thinking that it was so strange I could talk to him on a train thousands of miles away. And I remember thinking about, when I was his age, going with my father to visit my uncle, who lived on a farm about 17 miles away.

We didn’t have a phone. We didn’t have a car. We took the train to Donoughmore [in Co Cork], which had a station in those days. My uncle’s farm was three miles up a steep incline. My father had to send a letter to my uncle a couple of weeks before our visit, to ask if the pony and trap was available to bring us up to the farm from the station. And then my uncle had to write back before we could go.

It’s hard to believe it now; all that for a journey only 17 miles away. The mobile phone still fascinates me. Over my lifetime, developments in technology have been so quick and have evolved so fast. The first aeroplane flew 10 years before I was born, and I saw people land on the moon. It’s amazing.

When I was 17 I was told that if you applied for the CIÉ exam in Dublin you got a free trip to Dublin. I’d never been to Dublin, and I wanted the free trip. I ended up getting the exam, and working in accounts and finance in CIÉ.

I got married in 1958, to Maureen, and we had four children. We bought a three-bedroomed house in Baldoyle for £1,658. We moved here to Sutton in 1972. This four-bedroomed house cost £9,300. The mortgage is long paid off, so I’m not in negative equity, anyway.

I worked too long hours in CIÉ’s finance department, because there was always a crisis. I regret not spending more time with my children when they were growing up.

Maureen died in 1997. She had Alzheimer’s. I still miss her. For years afterwards I’d be out somewhere and I’d think, I must tell Maureen about that, and then I’d remember. I had to learn to cook when she wasn’t able to do it any more, and I’m a reasonably good cook now. Stews are easy to make, and they last. I can cook steak. Chops.

Men have changed since my time. They were very removed, even to their children. I don’t think in my youth I ever saw a man pushing a pram, and now I see the young lads bringing their children out for a walk. I look out the window of my house and I see women out for their walks who are talking all the time. Men go walking and there are long periods of silence, but I think men are gradually becoming more articulate.

The things I value in people are honesty and being straightforward: people you can depend on to help you out. I like people to be a bit affable. I don’t like people who take life too seriously. I get on well with people. I don’t hold grudges. Some people change very much as they get older, but I think the only thing that has changed about me is the colour of my hair.

One thing I never thought I’d see was the IMF coming into Ireland. Never in a million years. It amuses me to hear the politicians saying it’s the end of austerity. I’ll believe that when all the extra taxes are rescinded. I’d be afraid of banks now. They are growing so big, and all the commodities they are dealing with now are so complicated. They lost their heads, and they lost control. It really annoys me to see the top managers get away with big pensions and lump sums.

I go to Mass most mornings. I’m not too sure if it’s because of faith or if it’s about meeting people for a chat. There was a time I was fairly confident that there was a heaven and hell, and now I have a hope that there is a heaven.

Anyone under 70 seems young to me now. But I never feel out of place because I’m old. I go to a lot of matches, and even there, there is a mix of ages. I still have lots of friends around, and that means a lot, too, but I’m also attending a lot of funerals. Once one friend goes, there is no one to take their place.

I’m reasonably happy most of the time, and at my age you’re just delighted to see your grandchildren growing up. I have four here and two in the States. What I am proudest of achieving in my life is that Maureen and myself reared four decent people and we did our best for them.

- In conversation with Rosita Boland

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