The little red Toyota Starlet gave my mother independence and she drove it with style
Family Fortunes: She was eighty before she doused it in holy water and passed it on to me
My mother Kitty
If I was asked what travelled with me most in recent years I could honestly say my picnic basket and my inherited mother’s Toyota Starlet 1996 car. They both moved all over Ireland, visiting places where I enjoyed scenic picnics on the Atlantic Way in Clare, Galway, Cork or the Ring of Kerry. I often thought if my mother could see where her car ended up in Ireland she would be amazed to learn of its power and endurance.
The Toyota Starlet was given to me on May 1st, 2005 when my mother was eighty. Catherine or Kitty as she was known appreciated her car immensely as she learned to drive late in life. She had used a high Nelly till the age of forty, cycling to our farm in Doon from nearby Derrinsallagh before my father built a bungalow there.
She sold a field of the farm in Ballymeelish to fund the sale. The exhilaration the day she bought her new car in Tullamore was unbelievable. Its christening had to be a visit to the Cistercian monastery in Roscrea for a blessing with holy water by Father Thomas. The car was kept immaculate and housed at night in one of the outhouses of the farm.
The little red car enabled my mother to be independent, attending religious and social events in the parish of Borris-in-Ossory, visiting local friends and collecting her grand children Mary and Daniel from school from time to time. She also visited me in Robertstown. Especially at Christmas time, I liked to see her drive in style into our drive.
When the dreaded day came for her to part with the Toyota she doused it with holy water on its way out the yard shedding a tear. It had only 30,000 miles on it when I received it. In her later years I took my mother on many outings with my picnic basket tucked in the boot. She enjoyed a glass of whiskey and an occasional cigarette.
Panic struck one morning in Robertstown when I noticed the Toyota had disappeared. But a good neighbour Evelyn spotted it in the drive way of a local supermarket with a tyre missing and her holy scapulars gone from the front pocket.
I enjoyed the trips back to Laois in the Toyota Starlet visiting her many friends and later visiting her grave in Clough, which is located beside a wall close to a little stile where I could park her car. When our farm and house was sold in 2012, and the house was knocked down to make way for a new modern build, I felt the Toyota was a little space that still belonged to my mother and I felt good about it.
My mother died in 2010 when the snow lay thick on the ground. I was still driving her car which passed all NCT tests until January 14th, 2019 – the day of its departure from my house to a local garage. I felt a little sad as my husband Kevin drove the 23-year-old car with 167,000 miles out the gate for the last time to the garage for a newer model.
I now take my picnic basket in my Toyota Prius to the graveyard in Clough.