Thursday, December 18, 2008

‘We are coming back one by one’

‘We are coming back one by one’. The words of a grieving wife and mother who has spent almost 40 years away from her home town as she stood in the local cemetery following the burial of her husband. St. Michael’s new cemetery had already received 14 years ago her son George. As she looked over towards the Peoples Park where she played as a young girl from Offaly Street, Josie Aldridge’s words encapsulated a lifetime spent between two countries. Josie was a child of the street where I spent my formative years amongst friends and neighbours. It was then a community of young families whose friendships forged in youth endured through to adulthood, even as those friendships were marked by a gradual exodus from the street.

The Murphy family lived on the far side of the entrance to Kehoes Coal Yard and Josie worked in Bowaters on the Monasterevin Road until she married Patrick Aldridge. Patrick’s parents, George Aldridge and Winnie Mullery, were from Athy and like so many of their peers they emigrated to England. Patrick was born 68 years ago in the Mullery family home at William Street, Athy, while his father was on service overseas. The Aldridge and Mullery families were some of the oldest families in Athy and the ties which went back generations would almost inevitably draw their son Patrick back to the town of his ancestors and of his own birth. He joined the British Naval Service and on meeting Josie romance flourished and on marrying they made their home in England. But if they did Athy was never far from their thoughts. Regular visits to the town, especially to Josie’s cousin and good friend Lily Bracken, helped reinforce the couple’s affinity with the town.

Sadly their eldest son George, who had qualified as a Solicitor a short time previously, died 14 years ago and his remains were brought back to Athy for burial in St. Michael’s new cemetery. Two weeks ago his father Patrick died suddenly and for the second time the same sad journey was made by Josie and the members of her family.

The ties of friendship were in evidence as the Offaly Street residents of yesteryear came out in force to join with Josie in mourning the passing of her beloved husband. Fr. Tommy Tuohy celebrated the funeral mass as he has done ever since his ordination for those connected with his old home street. Neighbouring families of old were represented at the funeral, the majority of whom no longer have a presence in Offaly Street. Tuohy, Kehoe, Kelly, Breen, Moore, Murphy and Taaffe family members all turned out to pay their respects to a neighbour’s husband and for a brief period that morning memories were relived of ‘our street’ of 50 or so years ago.

On Sunday morning the remains of Tyreake Keane, just 8 years old, were received in St. Michael’s Church for 12 o’clock Mass prior to his funeral to St. Michaels cemetery. The small white coffin in front of the altar was a heartbreaking sight, especially so at this time of the year when children’s thoughts are concentrated on the great annual festival of Christmas. Tyreake’s photograph was standing in front of his coffin as Fr. Joe McDonald spoke eloquently of the young boy whose short life was marked by illness. The poignancy of the occasion was deeply moving and no doubt prompted many attending Mass that morning to reflect on the joy that children bring to their lives. Our sympathies go to the Aldridge and Keane families.

In last week’s article I made reference to Rev. J.J. Malone’s Ballad on ‘The Bullock’s Revenge’ and asked for the readers help in identifying the Misses Malones identified in the ballad. A regular correspondent, Tom Hendy of Kilmeague, sent me the following rhyme.

‘Malone of the Hill
Malone of the Hollow
Malone of Dunbrin
Malone of the Barrow
Mick of the Hill
Mick of the Hollow
Red Mick and Mick of Clogorro.’

I had come across something similar many years ago but cannot say whether the wording was exactly the same or not. Its source is not recalled, but hopefully some of my readers can fill me in on the origin of this local rhyme.

In the meantime I want to mention a book which was published quite recently written by Hermann Geissel, who has been a stalwart of local history research in County Kildare for many years past. Born in Germany, he came to live in Ireland in 1966 and since retiring from teaching he has devoted his free time to historical research and writing. His previous book, ‘A Road on the Long Ridge’ was an account of his attempt to trace and map out the ancient highway on the Esker Riada. The results of his research were first presented as An Slí Mór, a six part television documentation on TG4 which was later expanded into the book published in 2006.

His current publication ‘Bumps in the Fields and Crumbling Walls’ is described as a companion for the local enthusiast engaged in archaeological investigation on Sunday afternoons. In other words the book is for the amateur archaeologist or local historian and gives a step by step guide to our archaeological landscape. Bearing in mind that it is intended for persons with little or no knowledge of the subject it gives a comprehensive list of questions to help the readers discover the field monuments of Ireland of which we probably have more per square mile than any other European country. The book cost €10.00 and can be highly recommended for anyone with an interest in archaeology and would be a welcome and useful Christmas present for any secondary school student.
Finally, another photograph this week of an event which once took place every year through the streets of Athy. The annual Corpus Christie procession is no longer held and the photo sent to me some months ago by the former Sheila Carbery of St. Johns Athy shows a Corpus Christie procession going up St. John’s Lane. No doubt we will be able to identify the approximate year of the procession by reference to the two young mass servers, Patrick Hayden and Dominic Timpson who were probably 15 or 16 when this photograph was taken.

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