Our First Communion Day is a day we always remember, even if imperfectly as the passing years merge into decades. I was reminded of my own First Communion when attending my second granddaughter Eva’s great day in the local Parish Church a few weeks ago. Dress styles have changed in the intervening years. The Sisters of Mercy have gone and so too has the Communion Day breakfast in the local convent which was a feature of First Communion Days in the 1940s and beyond.
What struck me forcibly as a child of the Second World War was the change in the trouser lengths of the young boys receiving their First Communion some weeks ago. All wore long trousers – in my day short trousers were the norm until you reached 12 or 13 years of age. I made my First Communion in 1949 (I’m guessing the year as family records were not then maintained as carefully as today when every major family event is recorded and documented with an unprecedented display of recorders, cameras and Ipads). Cameras were very scarce in the 1940s and the photograph taken in the People’s Park of my friends from Offaly Street on our First Communion Day is the only record any of us have of that day. I can’t even recall the photograph being taken or remember who took the photograph. It’s a documentary record more than 65 years old and recalls a time when none of us in the picture had much in terms of worldly goods but all of us had happy homes and loving parents who did the best they could for their children.
The passing years rest lightly until the time arrives when your own grandchildren are old enough to begin replicating the life lived by their parents parents two generations past. I was reminded of this when a text message alerted me to the news that my first granddaughter, Rachel, all of 10 years of age scored 2 goals 5 points in a Gaelic football match between Athy and local rivals Castlemitchell. The final score was Athy 2-7, Castlemitchell 2-3. What a wonderful feat for a young girl of such tender years and surpasses anything ever achieved by her grandfather in a footballing career which saw him togged out not only with Athy but also Rheban, Kells and Monaghan.
Returning to the First Communion photograph the First Communicants pictured from right to left are Paddy Doody, Basil White, Teddy Kelly, Willie Moore and myself. We were all from Offaly Street, with the exception of Paddy Doody who lived in Janeville. Basil White and his older brother Andrew who lived in No. 5 Offaly Street when the Taaffes lived in No. 6 are now both dead. Paddy Doody who has lived in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire for the past 53 years is recovering after a recent serious bout of ill health and my good wishes go to Paddy for a good recovery. There were 12 children in the Doody family and remarkably seven of them emigrated to Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, England where they now live. Willie Moore, formerly of 7 Offaly Street, is now enjoying retirement in County Wexford, while Teddy Kelly after a lifetime working in Tegral is enjoying his retirement in Ashville.
The photograph brings back memories, not so much of the First Communion Day, but rather of happy days in Offaly Street where young families lived and we youngsters played on the relatively traffic free street. It was also the street of dreams, or more accurately the street to where the locals came each night to share in the fantasy world which played across the screen of Bob’s Cinema.
Now that I look again at the photograph of the five Offaly Street chums I cannot be sure if it is a First Communion or a Confirmation Day photograph.