In a word

Róisín

 

Róisín is Irish and the diminutive of Róis, meaning Rose in English. The Normans introduced it to England as Roese and Rohese and I am taking advantage of it to tell you a story.

Just recently it was my good fortune to meet two utterly charming young ladies whose shy, retiring, demure demeanour, at least in my presence, impressed me so deeply it compounded my guilt.

I had come so close to depriving the human race of their existence .

Had I my way neither five-year-old Joya nor twin sister Priya (Indian names) would be with us today. They are the daughters of a favourite colleague Róisín Ingle and her partner Jonny Hobson.

It was 2000 and I was in Drumcree, near Portadown in Armagh, to report on protests there.

Róisín was based at our Belfast office and came along to write features on Drumcree.

As veteran reporter, I felt particular responsibility for her welfare. I wasn’t fazed when she said she hoped to do a feature on a day in the life of an Orange bandsman. Or that she had met him at a riot. Or that he would drive us to Drumcree hill for the final post-midnight report back to the news desk.

On the hill we were silent, as usual. It was our custom to keep our mouths shut lest we be identified by accent. There one night, hearing our equivocal Southern tones, a local man cocked a hand, pistol-like, and went “bang, bang, bang” at us. Thereafter we knew him as “Bang Bang”.

Having established that the scene on the hill was likely to be quiet for the night, we decided to leave. Except Róisín wouldn’t budge. She was going to stay. There on the hill among all those angry loyalists, with Jonny who I’d never met before. What was I to do?

I repeated, firmly, that we were leaving. She was staying. Clearly Hobson’s choice. I looked to colleagues.

They reminded me “. . . she’s an adult”. I conceded anxiously, followed by a troubled night. Back in Dublin I was relieved to see Róisín’s byline in the paper.

It was that Christmas before I heard she and Jonny were an item. They’re together since. He is, of course, a total gentleman. And me? I was the fool on the hill who almost prevented the existence of exquisite, at least in my presence, Joya and Priya.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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