29 January 2017
Miss Quinn had prepared us well for our first Holy Communion. Over and over and over again we repeated prayers before and after until they were word perfect. We had practiced everything in the classroom for the big day for weeks on end . She was the priest and the large iron cast fire-guard that surrounded the coke stove at the centre of the back wall was to be the alter railings. If you who don’t understand the reason why there were railings its important to remember that they were in all Catholic churches until decreed to be removed after Vatican Two.
We would line up, hands joined- there would be no interlacing of fingers - straight fingers only and thumbs crossed over to hold the position. We knelt down in a row on the classroom side of the fire–guard in deep prayerfulness and desperately tried to ignore the swish of the Masters cane on the far side of the partition. The “priest” Miss Quinn took the “ciborium” with the “hosts” to the other side of the fire-guard. We knew from the bigger boys that had gone before us that this would be a moment of sheer ecstasy. I watched from the corner of my eye and could see the long black skirt and black flat shoes move ever closer. It was important that you got your timing just right. Reverence demanded that you close your eyes and put your tongue out to receive the host. It took me quite a time to perfect this. If you closed your eyes too soon and put your tongue out and nothing happened, you could open them again put your tongue back in just as communion arrived . Disaster! I got it perfect on this occasion, eyes closed , tongue out and Miss Quinn laid a dolly mixture right smack in the middle of it.Wow! We loved this part of the practice.
The big morning arrived for me. I was suitably prepared, my soul sparkling like the cleanliness of day of my baptism. I was word perfect the final dress rehearsal had been inspected by the Master himself from next door. We had made our first confession and I had told the priest that I had stolen more buns from my mother that she had ever baked. I just didn’t want to get the number wrong.
As for cursing, the priest must of thought that I spoke nothing else but curses when he asked “How many times”. I was so glad there was a curtain between me and him and that he couldn’t see me and even if there hadn’t been, he would only have seen the top of my head for I had crouched down just in case.
I was suitably decked out for the big day with my new suit bought from Sean Burke in Earl St. Short trousers were the norm then with socks to the knees and black shoes, special white prayer book that included Latin, throw in a few aunts, Godparents, if your family knew a few nuns that would insure that you had enough rosary beads to last you a lifetime.
It is hard to image now but at that time my father had just bought a machine called a fridge. It measured about 3 frt. 3ft.It was used to store milk and butter.We had never seen the like of it before as up till this time these items were kept in “The Safe” in the scullery which was a number of shelves about 6 in all with wire mesh doors to keep the flies away. I loved milk. It came from the cow that we owned in Castletown. My Uncle Thomas milked it each day, we collected the milk, and he got the calves each year, a workable arrangement. On the morning of my communion I went to the new fridge door opened it and was amazed to see ice on the top of the jug where the cream should be. Without a moments hesitation I lifted the jug to my head and lowered the lumps of frozen milk into my mouth.It was at that moment that my brother Michael later to become a priest arrived on the scene. ”You broke your fast” he said “you can’t go to communion”.
At that time the rules were that you had to fast for 24 hours before receiving. Word spread around the house like wildfire. They all arrived to the scullery “ You broke your fast, you broke your fast”. I think my mother said that I shouldn’t been drinking out of a jug. We left Ghan House for St Michaels in silence.We arrived in silence except for the sobbing and sniffin of myself the sinner.The Master was there organizing everyone. I didn’t dare to raise my eyes to look at him. The saints sat in the front row of the church while I was in the middle of the congregation with my parents. The great moment came, the saints knelt the length of the rails, hands just right, eyes closed, tongues to receive, “Corpus Christi” and my moment was gone. The saints were congratulated on their great day and left the church for the customary group photograph. As a concession I was allowed to stand in.I have never seen this group photo in all that I have collected, it might be that it was torn up by everyone that had one for I must have looked a sight.
I made my first communion on the next Monday morning at the regular Mass, on my own with my family there. I am probably the only one that this happened to in the parish or maybe even the country. God made up for my disappointed that Sunday long ago, I got an extra day off school and no saint ever made as much money in 6d pieces as I did over the week as the news of my story spread. Thank you God.
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29 January 2017
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29 January 2017
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29 January 2017
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.
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29 January 2017
ooooh the smell of Mrs Harolds shop. Anybody remember...?More > (0 comments)