Snow fell for 30 days in the first months of 1947. I was four but I don’t remember it

Family Fortunes: I have just a few snatches of memory about the day my father died

My father John McCabe who died the year of ‘the Big Freeze’, 1947. On the day he died, my memory is of my sister – aged 13, she was the only girl and the oldest of our family – sobbing as she stood against the brick fireplace

My father John McCabe who died the year of ‘the Big Freeze’, 1947. On the day he died, my memory is of my sister – aged 13, she was the only girl and the oldest of our family – sobbing as she stood against the brick fireplace

 

Recently I watched a programme on television about four-year-old children on how they behave and respond.

A physiologist observed them on a hidden camera and made helpful explanations as to their capabilities of coping with the challenges they meet and how they observe the world around them.

This got me to thinking of my memories when I was that age.

Snow fell for 30 days in the first months of 1947. I was four years of age and have no memory of it.

In July of that year, my brother, aged three, and I were standing on a stool looking out the small window of our thatched cottage in Co Tyrone. The light in the room faded and then went dark. A large black van had arrived on our street and parked close to the window. In those times, a utility vehicle was used as an ambulance when needed. It was rare to see in our area a vehicle of any sort .

I must have climbed down and went to see what was happening.

In the bedroom my father was lying on what I thought was a bed, and two men were attempting to carry him on it out the door. To me, it was a confusing sort of adventure.

I remember thinking how could you get a bed out the door. My father had rosy cheeks and his hair was sort of combed to the side. Of course, I was not to know I would not see him again.

One week later he died in Omagh hospital.

On that day, my memory is of my sister – aged 13, she was the only girl and the oldest of our family – sobbing as she stood against the brick fireplace. Above her head was the hole in the brick joint where we put the nail to hang our stockings for Santa Clause. I was sure of that.

Adults were talking and my baby brother – aged 16 months – was being comforted on the knee of a neighbour woman. He was crying, and that too was perplexing.

I have these few snatches of memory on being present at what of course was a life-changing event for Mother and her six children.

Given that I have no memories of all those snow days – just of the previous few months – what would the psychologists be saying if they had been watching?

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