Regina Glynn, 56: ‘Salads were part of our daily meals. That was very unusual’

Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision


Regina Glynn lives in Mallow, Co Cork

My father, Michael, was from Mullingar, and he ran a pub there with his brother, but he had always wanted to go to Australia. That was very unusual in those days, especially when you had a secure job. He went in the early 1950s. It took six weeks to go by boat.

My mother, Heather, is Australian, from a small town in Victoria. She had done an apprenticeship as a dressmaker, and moved to Brisbane.

She met my dad in the Irish club there in 1951. There was a fundraiser for some charity, and the women each had to prepare a picnic basket for it.

The men then bid on the baskets, and whoever bid the highest for the different baskets got to have the picnic with the woman who had made it. My father bid on her. She was 20; he was 32.

He was ready to settle down in Australia when word came from home that his brother didn’t want the business any more and, if he wanted it, that it was there for the taking. So in 1954 he decided to go home.

My mother followed him out six months later. When she turned up in this small town, the first he knew of it was his brother saying, “There’s a strange lady looking for you with an unusual accent.” They got married fairly soon after that.

My mother always drove, and that was really unusual for the time she came to Ireland. She was very independent. She was adamant about getting to know the country.

They bought a trailer tent so we could travel. I can remember we were told that it was only the second one sold in Ireland.

Salads were always part of our daily meals, and that was very unusual for people who came to visit us or who dropped in; they were always commenting on it.

There are five of us children. We lived over a pub, so we saw a lot of drinking.

My mother had this agreement with us: she said if we didn’t drink or smoke by the time we left school she would give each of us an InterRail ticket. It was her way of encouraging travel and broadening our horizons.

I got my InterRail ticket. I’ve never smoked or drunk alcohol. I never really felt the need to.

I went to art college at Dún Laoghaire, and then did teacher training at the Natioanl College of Art and Design. I went out travelling to Australia, and when I came back I met my husband, Ray.

I took my husband’s name when we got married. Mine was Hughes. If I had the time back I’d probably keep my own name, but back then it wasn’t considered all that important. Or, rather, I didn’t consider it was important.

]]] Colleen was a cot death. She was my oldest child, and three months when she died. I got through it by thinking, I’ll get pregnant again as soon as I possibly can. I was lucky to conceive again.

We have three sons and a daughter. My daughter often says she would have loved a sister, and I say to her, ‘You did have a sister.’

I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 49. I was always fit as a fiddle – walking, cycling, swimming and running marathons. I never thought I wasn’t going to get better. I’m always a very positive person. All my family helped me get through it. You re-energise the extended family in time of need.

The only time I cried that year was the day I was in the shower and my hair started coming out in clumps. My father always said my crowning glory was my hair. My hair was my identity. I was frightened and scared that day.

I had to go to a hairdresser to get my hair cut off. The only time in my life before that I’d ever been to a hairdresser was for my wedding. The only time I ever wore make-up was on my wedding day.

]]] All our children are gone from the house now, but they come and go all the time, especially at weekends. I have more time for me now. Before, my evenings were occupied by bringing the children hither and thither.

I did a master’s in education, and last year I did a course in web design. It’s like that now: what project will I do this year?

The need for communication with my children drives my knowledge of the internet. I use Viber and Skype to communicate with them. One is in San Francisco.

I would be very concerned about how my children’s generation are consumed with social media, and the oversharing of information and selfies. Our ability to communicate with other people is something that has changed the most from my parents’ generation.

The only thing that has come down in price since I was growing up is the cost of flights. Everything else has gone up – houses, cost of living, everything.

In life, you’re not always going to be successful, but the process is as important as the end result; it’s better to give something a go.

I think it’s important to show leadership to your children, and get out in the community and volunteer, and get involved in projects.

If you’re not seen to be doing things by your children, it’s hard for the next generation to get involved.

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