I grew up in Ghan in the 40s, 50s, and some part of the 1960s till it was time to fly the nest.The were 6 of us two of whom were girls,my mother, father, and “Auntie”.
I never really knew who ''Auntie'' was nor did it matter. She had arrived before me and from all appearance she had as much right to be there as the rest of us.I learned later from my mother that she had come from Liverpool to Ireland in the 40s to help her while she was expecting her second child.
She was to come for 2 weeks but stayed till God called her home at the age of 88 in 1961.She died with us in Ghan House.
''Auntie'' later turned out to be my mothers aunt,a sister of my maternal Grandmother whom I had never know. She was one of 9 children and was born in 1873.It seems extraordinary now that I had access to someone who lived so long ago and never took the opportunity to find out more about her life and that of her brothers and sisters.
She had worked as a shop girl in “Bunnies” department store in Liverpool.
Through the Woods Gavan connection and the boat links from Greenore to Liverpool she had met and fallen in love with John Connor from Lordship.
They married and had a son called Sidney.-Sidney died of T.B when he was 27.He himself had married before his death and had a son called “Young Sid”.When he was 17 and in the merchant Navy, the boat on which he was travelling was torpedoed and he was drowned.John Connor died, and some years later “Auntie” remarried a Phil Mc Grath from Hollymount Kilcurry who had a pub in Argyle St in Liverpool.She survived his death and it was then she came to Carlingford.
Though Ghan House was a big place, all 6 of us slept in the one room.It was a big room that was without heat of any kind.It was so cold in winter that if you needed to go to the bathroom in the night you would hold on till morning hoping for a thaw.If you couldn't manage that, you moved throught the frosty air with such dexterity that you didn't disturb the air less you freeze to death.”
“ Auntie” for as long as I can remember was part of our night-time ritual.
We would hear her coming up the back stairs at night never settling until she did.We became accustomed to every creek and squeek on the landing outwitting her every night and she tried to tip toe pass without notice.
“ Auntie have you any sweets” we would chorus. “AHHH” we would hear her say “Go to sleep” and then silence.Minutes later the door would open and each in turn had a sweet stuffed into their gob as she went round from bed to bed,the door would close and she was gone.And so it was every night until a sweet had lost its taste for something more substantial or she couldn't walk passed any more..
“ Auntie” acknowledged everyones birthday with a half crown,she picked up eggs from the “en pen” a throw back to her Liverpool accent.As the years went on she developed a sniff and a drop on the end of her nose.She would drive us all insane with the constant tapping of her wedding ring
on the hearth out of rythmn with the music.
It was only after she had gone to her reward that we discovered one of her best kept secrets.We were aware that each night, summer or winter she would go for a short walk right up to her last days. In the pitch dark on the coldest nights off she would go. Months after she had died we found a hugh pile of Baby Power Whiskey bottles that had been tossed across the garden wall.She had been a regular customer in O Hares and it seems that she must have felt the cold in Ghan House as much as we did.
My father handed me a letter years later that he had found in the chimney of the Ghan that had been left for Santa to read. It was a letter that I had written as a 9 year old and in it I had requested Santa to bring “Auntie” a canary in a cage,and a flashlight.I don't know now why I requested a canary,but I must have guessed why she needed the flashlight,it was a dark road to O Hares in those days.