MY MOTHER THE MINISTER
Martin Black on the mother of the Black Family singers,
Patricia ("Patti") Black:
In the last year, my mother has become famous, appearing on the Late Late Show, the Pat Kenny Show and now singing on the new album that Shay, Michael and myself have released. In fact her song is the most popular one on the album. But the Mrs Black of now is not the same woman I remember growing up with.
My mother had a tough life bringing up five children in this house (Martin Black now runs a bicycle shop in the house on Charlemont Street, Dublin, where the family grew up) but she was well able to handle us. Although we had a hard upbringing, my mother was always pushing us to get a good education. I remember my Dad wanted me to follow him into the plastering business but my mother went crazy at the idea because she always wanted us to do better for ourselves.
"She has always loved singing and this ha been her greatest influence on us all. When she worked in Rowntree's factory before she was married, she was the one to lead all the other workers in song. I remember having all my friends in for one of my birthdays and being completely mortified when my mother arrived in the room, singing The Gay Cavaliero dressed in a top-hat and with a cane. When we got together as a family, we were always encouraged to sing songs. I remember my father used to bring people into the house on Sunday nights and everyone would get their turn to sing a song.
"My mother made a lot of sacrifices for us and worked in the family grocery shop from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day as well as looking after all of us. After my father died she was left in a big house on her own and I wondered how she would manage. In fact it has meant that she is finally able to do things for herself and has even travelled to San Francisco to stay with my brother Michael.
"Lately, she has become very proud of herself and is willing to sing a song in any situation. This was the beginning of the new Mrs Black. Her 80th birthday is tomorrow so I'd like to wish her a Happy Birthday."
Diarmaid Mac Aonghusa on
Judge Catherine McGuinness:
"What I remember most about my mother when we were children, and even now, is her tremendous energy. I have never seen her relax. She is always doing something - even when she's on holidays. There's a joke in the family that whenever I go away on holidays now I avoid churches and old buildings because we were brought to see so many on family holidays.
"As regards her public life, I'm very proud of her and genuinely think she has the best of intentions in what she does. I think I've developed an interest in the world generally and a knowledge of current affairs as a result of both my parents. I also get to meet all the various players in Irish society which is interesting. I work in computers at the moment but I do have an interest in working in politics at a later stage which is definitely due to the way I've grown up.
"Last year I was living in the United States so when my mother was over for the Washington Conference on Northern Ireland last May I got to go to the conference. I also met various people and was in the same room as the President of America which was a great opportunity for me that I wouldn't have had without my mother's involvement in the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation
"In terms of characteristics I have inherited directly from my mother, I have her mechanical mind. She was the one to fix the car in our house and the one who knew how things worked. She would always try to fix things first before getting someone in to repair it and I'm like that too.
"We're a very closely-knit family. All three of us children still go to my parents for Sunday lunch every week even though we no longer live at home.
"I come from a very feminine family and my mother and grandmother, Sybil Le Brocquy, have been strong influences on me. However, it's my mother as an adult person that I relate to and value most. We are very good friends and I think we probably always were except that my childhood years were not a particularly intense phase of this relationship.
"When we were growing up in the Dublin suburbs in the 1960s, parents were more distant from their children than they are now. But I believe it was a wonderful environment for children to grow up in as my parents had a strong belief and expectation that children should actively think and respond to things in the world.
"Ours was an open and liberal home and my mother passed on to us an appreciation of good things and art which was very warm and inspiring. She has extraordinary taste. I am very much my mother's son and hope I have some measure of her appreciation of these things. I deeply admire her gift and although I don't have any creative talent myself I'm very glad to be able to work in the area of literary culture (Bruce lectures at the University of Ulster in Coleraine and is assistant editor of the Oxford Companion to Irish Literature).
"I'm quite aware that neither my mother nor I correspond to typical Dublin people yet a recent depiction of her as a post-imperial fusspot is ridiculous. She has always taken great care of our home and the things she has received from her parents but she also has a tremendous concern for the community in which she lives. She grew up as an Irish Catholic who then married a Protestant which was a very brave thing to do. We grew up in an atmosphere of great tolerance yet with a useful confusion of ideas. In fact, Yeats's line the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity was something of a household motto.
"On a more personal level, my mother's extraordinary fairness is something that sticks out in my mind. She was the one to bring balance and strength to me when I went through my divorce. She is hugely responsible for the fact that everyone involved emerged in good shape after that divorce.
"My mother also showed a tremendous strength and courage when facing my father's protracted illness and has come through his death completely without self-pity. It is this strength and saneness that my brothers, sisters and I appreciate and admire enormously. We could do with a lot more Melanie le Brocquys."
Edward Owen on the Minister for Justice, Nora Owen:
"I haven't too many memories of my mother when I was young because she was out a lot of afternoons and evenings. I remember visiting her office in the Dail as a child and really enjoying running up and down all the stairs in the building.
"As a teenager, I worked in the Dail during the summer but I
have never been interested in going into politics myself. It has always seemed too tough a job to me because you have to give 24 hours of your day to it.
"My mother has never tried to push me into politics either as she knows only too well of all the work involved. She's been under a lot of pressure in the last year or two. She comes home very stressed out and exhausted so we know we have to give her a bit of space when she arrives. (The youngest of three sons, Edward lives at home with his parents. He is studying engineering at Dublin City University).
"I'm like my mother in the sense that at times I can feel very pressurised but a lot of the time I am more like my Dad who is very relaxed. I try to be like my mother in terms of leadership and I do have that same sense of fulfilment that she has when she gets a job done. She has also shown me that you do have to work a lot harder in later life.
"I would say that my mother has made me feel very independent and that she doesn't take over my life. She'll talk things through with me but leave me to solve the problem myself. I am very proud of all her achievements over the years - and I love her."