In Merry’s I had a right old session with my Dad and a friend of mine which resulted in yours truly getting rather sick. It was my first night out as an ‘adult’
FAMILY! For most of us they come with the package called life and they come in all shapes and sizes. No such thing as ‘one size fits all’ here. Cousins: I have tons of them. Sadly, very few of them impact on my life these days. We haven’t necessarily lost touch as much as time whizzes by and suddenly it has been months and often years or ‘at the last funeral’.
I was born and bred in the Déise to a Waterford Dad and a Mother who hailed originally from County Meath. My Dad, the local, was an only child but my mother was the eldest of 10. As I grew up I realised that on my Father’s side the relations seemed pretty thin on the ground. They were generally from my Grandad’s neck of the woods, up Tipperary way, and I don’t recall meeting any of them bar a cousin of my Father who stayed with my family briefly in the 70’s. He was a lovely chap from Cork and he introduced the first record player and vinyl singles to our home. I still remember Willie Green and his sense of humour and those wonderful records. Recently I tried to make contact with him again but with no success to date.
We used to travel to his parents’, Mary and Bill Green’s on the Limerick/Tipp border when I was young. I can still recall their house with the hens in the yard and the big black pot on the fireplace. The smell of a little Irish cottage never leaves you and the place seemed another world completely to a townie kid from Dungarvan like me.
On the other side of the family tree, things were a lot different and busier. My Mum, being the eldest of 10, did most of the looking after of the rest of the brood. Her Aunt owned a pub in Dungarvan and she came to work there in the 1950s. In truth it was an experience that largely turned her off alcohol for the most part. In the little seaside town, she met a young man called Tom Ryan, who worked across the road in Merry’s. In those days Merry’s in Dungarvan was something of a general store. As they say, the rest is history.
Ironically, it would be in Merry’s, when it later became a pub, that I had a right old session with my Dad and a friend of mine which resulted in yours truly getting rather sick. It was my first night out as an ‘adult’ so to speak, in the company of my Dad and I was a pitiful sight by the end of it. He never gave out to me though, unlike my Mum. For him he had witnessed a rite of passage, for my mother it was the ruination of her only son. When you consider that the extent of my mother’s drinking was a Babycham at Christmas she was horrified!
Over the years my mother’s sister, Auntie Bernie and her husband Sonny used to come down for the Tramore Races every summer and they’d pop in to see us. We’d go up to Ashbourne for holidays and they were wonderful days. I saw farm life at first hand, kept my cousin David company as he did the evening milking and got used to my Uncles slagging my Dungarvan accent. I introduced David and his brother Gary to Subbuteo, a table football game I adored, and got them hooked on it in the summer of ‘78. I was pretty amazed really by just how many cousins I actually had there.
As adults some have ventured down to Waterford now and then, but my trips up there have been very infrequent. The wedding invitations to some of the cousins’ big days invariably arrived every few years but not for some time now and sadly it is mostly at funerals where we meet these days.
My Mum hated getting the wedding invitations and never travelled after the first few. She wasn’t one for those sorts of occasions. Everyone has a posh sister or two and I still remember how much stress she put herself under when Aunty Dinah and her family came down from Clare one Sunday every year back in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
The good china came out, steak was served and she handled it all with a smile. We all know that smile, the one you put on when you have to, when you really would rather not have to be dealing with the fuss at all. I loved playing with the kids though, and we had great craic going wild before they headed back west.
My late Uncle John was a successful racehorse owner. He won quite a few races with one of his horses “Rule Supreme”. Not being a Racing fan, I never knew when he was running and I pretty much missed out on a few nice little earners unfortunately. The thing is, when you’re one of the only branches of the family outside of Meath, you tend to be out of the loop so in the era before I added some relatives as Facebook friends, I was at a bit of a disadvantage. There was one big reunion, thankfully down here, but I suspect given the passage of time and the ages of my Uncles and Aunts right now, the chances of the next one being another funeral are regrettably quite high.
I often wonder if we all lived near each other, would there be as fond a remembrance or would I take the clan for granted? Would we even be friends? I’ll never know but I suppose a bond is a bond, we have something very rare in common; blood.
I have occasionally considered doing another trip up to cousin country. I can’t hear Sting’s “Fields Of Gold” without thinking of Meath and my Aunt’s farmhouse was where we played on those amazing sunny evenings you imagine at least from your holidays. I can still smell the fresh dairy milk we had for our breakfast every morning. Straight from the cow, no messing about here.
Last time I ventured up that way, it had changed considerably. Ashbourne is now almost a suburb of Dublin and it has mushroomed. No more fields as I remembered them, but some seriously good restaurants that I really enjoyed. Life happens to all of us and time wiped away a lot of the links I had there. An Aunt ran a little bakery there once, even Johnny Logan got his bread there apparently.
It’s hard to separate the memories from the people so I suppose regardless of how often we meet or even whether we meet, they’ll always be my extended family and it surely counts for something.
Thanks to Facebook, those of us who are on board, we get to see the pics of new arrivals, party celebrations and general odds and ends that at least lets us know that they seem to be doing ok and life is treating them alright.
Whatever comes down the line I hope they get on well and who knows maybe we’ll go for one more big reunion and have a right blow out. That might just be worth all of us making an effort. We’re all we have after all.