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    0 18

    The story of Thomas Edison who switched on the first electric light on October 21st. 1879,
    140 years ago, writes June McDonnell

    As a small child Thomas Edison was often ill and, with the added handicap of deafness, his formal education was cut short. For a time he was taught at home by his grandmother. Always a curious child the words ‘How’ and ‘Why’ were uppermost in his mind. Failing to get satisfactory answers from his parents or grandmother, Edison began his own investigations.

    His grandmother was encouraging and even let him have a small laboratory in her cellar. He was also quite enterprising and at 12 years of age he sold newspapers on the local trains. For a while he wrote and printed his own little newspaper, full of local news and gossip.

    One day at the train station while sorting his newspapers, a carriage broke free and began sliding backwards down the track. Thomas quickly reaslised that the station master’s young son was in grave danger.

    Jumping on to the track he rescued the young boy. The grateful father rewarded Edison with a job as an apprentice telegraph operator. This apprenticeship also introduced him to electricity. His first patent was for a telegraphic vote recording maching. It failed because politicians weren’t interested in a machine that recorded accurate votes!

    By the age of 16 he was a fully qualified telegraph operator. Not content, he investigated the possibility of making the telegraph machine more effective. It proved to be a very successful venture, and his ideas were purchased by the Western Union for $40,000.

    With this windfall he set up a workshop of his own in Newark and employed brilliant engineers to work alongside him. This workshop eventually evolved into the General Electric Company.

    Edison set himself a target of a new invention every ten days and an important one every six months.
    His first ‘important’ invention was to improve the ‘speaking telegraph’ or telephone that had previously been invented by Graham Bell. While it was a wonderful invention, the voices sounded faint and carried for only a few miles. He was invited by Western Union to work on the project. It was a hard and arduous task involving over 2,000 experiments.

    Working day and night Edison and his team of engineers finally made a breakthrough. They invented a small carbon transmitter that solved the probem. He was handsomely rewarded for this invention and received a payment of $100,000.
    His ambition now was to invent a ‘phonograph’ a machine that could record and play back the human voice. With great dilligence he eventually came up with a sharp-tipped carbon transmitter. He then recorded his own voice on a cylinder wrapped in tinfoil.

    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

      0 19

      By Mary O’Brien

      While looking through a copy of the Irish Independent newspaper a few years ago I came across an obituary for a man in his nineties whom I had known when I was in my teens. A mixture of nostalgia and regret came over me as I mistakenly believed that the man in question had died years earlier.

      Mr. McCann was my English teacher in local Technical School I attended in the early Sixties. Of average height, stocky build and pleasant, his few remaining stands of prematurely grey-hair were drawn across the top of his head to hide his near baldness. He was always neatly dressed in a grey suit with a shirt and tie.

      Mr. McCann was passionate about literature and art and if we wanted to distract his attention for any reason we would ask him to recite one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. He always rose to the bait.

      ‘Macker’ as we called him was very well liked by all his students. He was an inspirational teacher, who believed that every child had a talent for something. He was aware that no matter how academically gifted any of us were, lack of money would restrict our progress.

      Free secondary education was still a few years away and University education was the preserve of the rich.
      After attending the local Convent National School since the age of three, the transition to the ‘Tech’ – with its male and female teachers – was a pleasant surprise.

      I had always been one of the top students in my class but I never felt inspired until I met Mr. McCann. His interpretation of English literature was second to none, as for the first time in my life Shakespeare became real.
      It was as though the Bard himself had stepped out of the pages of his Collected Works, transcended the centuries and entered the classroom, giving me a bird’s eye view of what life was like in his time.
      Every word began to resonate with me and I realised that Shakespeare’s message was as relevant to the Sixties as it was to his own time four centuries earlier.

      Under Mr. McCann’s direction, not only did I develop a passion for the works of Shakespeare, I also began to read other classical writers in my free time. Names like Jane Austin, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, Mark Twain, the Bronte sisters, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and Jonathan Swift became as familiar to me as my own.
      My bedtime reading also included poetry; in particular the works of the War Poets – Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Mr. McCann lit a fire in me that never went out.

      As well as encouraging me to read the classics, Mr. McCann also encouraged my love of art. He used to lend me his own art books about the lives and works of the great Masters, as art appreciation was not on our course syllabus. I became familiar with names like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Titian and Raphael.

      When I left the Tech to start work as a junior secretary in a local office, I took with me Mr. McCann’s message that real education begins after one leaves school and that books are the source of all knowledge. He also taught me that museums, art galleries and theatres were temples of learning.

      By some strange twist of fate, I found myself living in London a few years later where, for the first time, I saw an opportunity to study for a University degree. After I had graduated with honours, I tried to contact Mr. Cann to tell him of my success and to thank him for inspiring me when I was one of his students in the tech. I knew that he would be delighted hear that one of his class had benefitted from all his hard work.

      What I discovered, however, was that Mr McCann had retired overseas with his wife.

      I learned through reading his obituary that Mr. McCann had moved to the UK on a two-year teaching contract and that he had returned home after it had expired. I also discovered that at the time of my graduation, Mr. McCann had been living in England in a city less than 60 miles away from where I was based!

      Had I known, I would have invited him to my graduation ceremony, as I feel certain he would have liked that very much.
      My one regret in life is that I never got the opportunity to thank this inspiring teacher for all the hard work he put in on behalf of his students so that we could make the best of our lives. I have no doubt that other students also have reason to be grateful to Mr. McCann, who I still remember with gratitude 50 year later. ÷

      Read memory pieces like this every week in Ireland’s Own

        0 43

        Kay Doyle talks to Ireland’s best-loved blues performer Don Baker.

        The conversation begins with a memory that would shape Don Baker’s life forever.

        “I was helping my mother with the pram up the steps,” recalls the blues musician. “We lived in Whitehall in Dublin, out by the airport in a place called Ellenfield. I drive by there sometimes and see the three steps still at the front of our old house.
        “It was one of those really big old fashioned prams and my mother had it by the handles pulling it up those steps and I was pushing it from the other end. But she pulled it too quick, I went flying forward and took a lump out of my tongue. The doctor couldn’t stitch it but they gelled it up.”

        An interesting memory from the man who has been performing as a musician, actor and song-writer for over fifty years. But of that accident on the three steps of Ellenfield Don smiles and says, “God works in mysterious ways”.

        “Years went by after that little accident and I never really thought about it. Then one time I was adjudicating the World Harmonica Championships and I was playing this particular tune on the harmonica and all the guys there asked me to show them how to play it. A lot of them were better players than I was but they just couldn’t do it, and I couldn’t fathom for the life of me why.

        “A couple of weeks later I was brushing my teeth and noticed there was a chunk missing from my tongue, and then the penny just dropped. My tongue is able to manoeuvre around the harmonica in a different way!”

        Famous for his harmonica playing, Don Baker is synonymous with the blues and his edgy raw style of performing that he puts his heart and soul into. With songs like Winner In You, Rain On The Wind, Don’t Start Me Talking and Never Let You Down, he introduced Irish audiences to the sounds of soul and blues that many had never experienced before.

        Growing up in Dublin in the 1950s, Don describes himself as cheeky and brazen. His early run-ins with the law have been well documented, and are far from the person he is today.

        “I was a brazen kid. I was mad. I came from a broken home with a lot of upheaval and I simply rebelled, ran away from home and got into trouble with the guards.”

        But every cloud that hung over Don Baker, it seems, would have a silver lining. He was sent to Daingean Reformatory at the age of twelve, which he describes as a horrendous time, and he learned to play guitar in Shanganagh Castle prison as a teenager.

        He also recalls another lonely and difficult time many years earlier, when at the tender age of seven, he was hospitalised in Blanchardstown Hospital with TB.

        “I was in the ward and there was this man in the next bed lying on his back. He was confined to bed, couldn’t even sit up, so he just played the harmonica. So I heard him play first, and he inspired me to take it up. I loved the lonesome sound of it.”
        He asked his mother to bring him a harmonica which he played constantly in hospital. “I drove everyone mad with it,” he remembers. “I was playing little songs like The Black Hills of Dakota , popular songs of the fifties.” However he credits it with his recovery. “I think it was the harmonica that saved me.”

        Unable to go out like the other lads of his age, Don immersed himself in ‘The Blues’ and most especially blues harmonica, listening to the recordings of Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin’ Wolf.
        “I can look back at it all and say this was all meant to happen so that I’d grow, mature and learn. I’ve still a long way to go and it’s gotten me this far.”

        He has spoken openly about his alcohol addiction in the past but hasn’t had a drink for many years and says the spiritual and emotional journey he has gone on in his life has enlightened him.

        Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

          0 32

          David Mullen examines the Hillman Avenger and the demise of a car-making giant

          For a while in the late-Sixties, it looked like things might be alright for Hillman and its parent-company, the Rootes Group. The Coventry conglomerate, which made cars and vans under names like Hillman, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam and Commer, had been bought in 1967 by the American giant Chrysler which had hoped to make some in-roads into Europe, a market where it had never had much success, unlike the other members of America’s ‘Big Three’, Ford and General Motors.

          Ford, for decades, had had successful operations on this side of the Atlantic, as had General Motors, which owned Opel in Germany and Vauxhall in Britain. Chrysler hoped that by snapping-up the Rootes Group and French car-maker Simca, it would be assured of a slice of the European pie.

          Before the Chrysler takeover, Rootes was strapped-for-cash. Its little Hillman Imp had required massive investment in a new factory in Scotland, and, having been plagued by teething and quality problems, it was never a strong enough seller to recoup the loss.

          The larger Hillman Hunter, which first saw the light of day in 1967, the year of the Chrysler buy-out, had been developed on a shoestring, but was still a competent car which sold respectably, but in nowhere near the numbers of Rootes’ rivals bestsellers, the Austin/Morris 1100 or the Ford Cortina.

          What Rootes needed was a small-to-mid-sized car, something along the lines of the Ford Escort, to fit between the technically-eccentric Imp and the Cortina-sized Hunter. With the Chrysler deal, the company finally had the money to develop something new.

          The car that came along in 1970 was the Hillman Avenger. It was a conventional machine in every way and was very much a car of its time. Styling was understated and attractive, featuring the so-called ‘Coke-bottle’ curves also seen at the same time on the Ford Cortina Mk.III. The engineering was simple and dependable with rear-wheel-drive and a choice of four-cylinder 1,298 or 1,498cc engines.

          Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

            0 41

            Mary Sheerin pays tribute to the iconic broadcaster

            When news of Gay Byrne’s death broke, I was reminded of President John F. Kennedy’s death. The way most of us remember where we were when we heard the news. I predict it will be the same with Gaybo; we will remember where we were and how we heard the sad news.

            The circumstances surrounding both deaths are very different but that said, death is death. It always comes as a shock when that final curtain is drawn.

            A Dubliner, Gabriel Mary Byrne lived on the South Circular Road and attended Synge Street, Christian Brothers School. He was the youngest of five children. After his Leaving Certificate, he worked in the Guardian Insurance Company, but from a young age he was obsessed with show business and radio entertainment.

            His dream was that one day he might somehow manage to work in the industry. Little did he realise as a 14 year old how successfully he would fulfil that dream. He says he never wanted to be famous but he just knew in his heart that radio work was the road for him. He was driven and strove very hard to achieve his aim.

            His mother was a determined and apparently quite a formidable woman who, in Gay’s words “wanted them all to be a cut above butter milk”. I think it fair to say that Mrs Byrne’s ambitions were achieved!

            Over the years, reams have been written and broadcast about Gay Byrne. Since his death, TV networks, radio stations, newspapers and social media have been saturated with tributes and anecdotes about Gay’s extraordinary success as Ireland’s greatest broadcaster ever.

            Tributes have flooded in from all sectors of society, headed by President Michael D Higgins who described Gay as a man of great charisma and compassion; possessed of effortless wit and charm … “who challenged Irish Society and shone a light, not only on the bright but also on the dark sides of Irish life.”

            Gay worked for RTE and for Granada Television at the same time flying back and forth to both jobs. He described how the money in Granada was great for that time. “I was paid £5,000 per annum, the cheque went home to the South Circular Road. My mother logged it in a housekeeping book and then banked it in the local bank. And when I needed money I’d just ask her for it.”

            I can’t help but think that had Mrs Byrne been around when Russell Murphy defrauded Gay of his life savings might things have been different?

            Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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              Marie Carroll, Nicola Brouder, Catherine Lynch, Tommy Gray, Anette Shields, Cian O'Mahony and Gavin Doody are pictured at the launch of the new ambulance for the Red Cross in Newcastle West

              Since its foundation eighty years ago this year, the Irish Red Cross Society has been a dynamic force in Ireland for humanitarian action and voluntary service and continues to be one of the state’s leading charitable organisations, writes Dr. Shane Lehane.

              While the Irish Red Cross is a distinctly Irish voluntary charitable organisation, it is also part of a wider international concern – namely the Red Cross movement which in essence originated as an idea or vision in the mind of the Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, amidst the carnage and human suffering he witnessed at first-hand during the Battle of Solferino in Northern Italy in June 1859.

              What he encountered shocked him to the core; multitudes of dead and wounded soldiers lying all around. He immediately decided to do all he could and enlisted the help of local villagers to help care for the wounded and bury the dead. Dunant constantly encouraged his helpers to make no distinction between friend and foe by exclaiming ‘tutti fratelli’ – we are all brothers.

              In 1862, three years after the battle, Dunant self-published a booklet entitled Un Souvenir de Solferino (A Memory of Solferino) in which he set out his idea that neutral, impartial voluntary relief societies should be established in each country to provide care and medical assistance to those wounded in time of war.

              Within a short few years, his vision was realised with the adoption of the first Geneva Convention in 1864 and the gradual establishment of new national relief societies which subsequently became national Red Cross societies. Today, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement has an estimated 17.1 million volunteers worldwide operating across 190 countries.

              The terms of the Geneva Convention stipulate that an approved Red Cross society should be legally established in each country and be administrated in accordance with domestic law. As such, there can be only one Red Cross society in any give nation and its government must be a signatory to the Geneva Convention.

              In 1929 the Irish Free State became a party to the Geneva Convention of that year and as such, was obliged to enact legislation for the establishment of an Irish Red Cross Society. Nine years later, the Oireachtas introduced the Red Cross Act (1938) and on 6th July 1939, a government order formally established the Irish Red Cross from 1st July that year.
              However, there was a Red Cross presence in southern Ireland under the auspices of the British Red Cross prior to the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922. By 1907, the British Red Cross had established 12 branches in southern Ireland and its most active years centred around World War One. Volunteering with the Red Cross provided an ideal opportunity, especially for females, to engage in the war effort.

              Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                RAY CLEERE looks at the life of the Irish poet who gave us the hymn ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’

                Joseph Medlicott Scriven was born at Ballymoney Lodge, Banbridge, in County Down, and was baptised on the same day 200 years ago, on September 10th, 1819, the second child of well-to-do John Scriven (1780 – 1850), a Captain in the Royal Marines, who served in Canada during the War of 1812, and Jane Medlicott (1787 – 1866).

                Scriven’s grandfather, William Barclay Scriven, died in Quebec in 1782. The family moved from Ireland to England in 1826, and back again in 1834 to live in Dublin. Joseph attended Trinity College, Dublin, at age 16, and although he was a good student, he was in poor health at the time.

                Hoping to carry on the family military tradition, Joseph spent two years at Addiscombe military school in England, but, having been declared physically unfit for a soldier’s life, he returned to Trinity College, Dublin, where he received his BA in 1842. He gained employment as a tutor and in 1843 he planned to get married.

                Tragically, his fiancé fell from her horse while crossing a bridge, as Joseph stood waiting on the other side, and drowned in the River Bann, the day before they were to be married. The River Bann is the longest river in Northern Ireland.
                That tragic event helped him to move towards one of the Separatist religious societies which had recently been established in Dublin at the time.

                Joseph was influenced by the ideas of a group called ‘The Brethren’, which had its beginnings in Dublin when he was a child.
                The fundamentalist ‘Plymouth Brethren’ trusted in the absolute authority of the Gospels. Their great event was the Pentecost. They cared for none of the established churches, and felt no need for a pulpit or conventional clergy, when every male was meant to minister at the time.

                Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                  ‘A Bridge Too Far’ for two cousins serving, in two different armies, at Arnhem, writes Con McGrath


                  SEVENTY-FIVE years ago Allied forces were involved in one of the most famous battles of the Second World War around the Dutch town of Arnhem.

                  On September 17, 1944, 35,000 Allied men were flown 300 miles from English airbases and dropped 60 miles behind enemy lines in the Netherlands. These paratroopers and glidermen were to secure key bridges and towns so that approaching Allied ground forces could sweep easily through the country and onwards to Germany.

                  However, this operation – code name: Market Garden – met with unexpected German resistance, and the Allied ground forces were unable to reach the airborne men as quickly as they had hoped.

                  This epic military disaster later became the subject of a famous book, “A Bridge Too Far” by Dubliner Cornelius Ryan, which in turn was made into a feature film, directed by Richard Attenborough. This 1977 film epic starred a host of big star names including Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Dirk Bogarde, Anthony Hopkins, Ryan O’Neal, Michael Byrne, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, and Dublin born Frank Grimes.

                  The man Robert Redford played in the film was Major Julian Aaron Cook of the US Army, a son of Nelson Pingney Cook and Honora Gallagher. During the battle for Arnhem, Major Cook would meet up with his cousin, Sergeant Harry Gallagher, from Coundon village, County Durham, England. At Arnhem both cousins would distinguish themselves and be decorated for bravery.

                  In an article for ‘The Northern Echo’ newspaper, Chris Lloyd outlined the story of these County Durham-linked cousins:
                  In the 20th Century, American, Nelson Pingrey Cook, was touring northern England as a commercial traveller, he also seems to have been promoting baseball as he went. (When the 1901 census was taken, he was recorded staying in the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Spennymoor, County Durham.

                  His travellings must have taken him to the market town of Bishop Auckland in County Durham, because according to a family story, he had such a fine meal in the Wear Valley Hotel in Newgate Street that he demanded to give his complements to the chef in person.

                  Out came the hotel cook, 26-year-old Honora Gallagher, a Coundon lass from a large Irish family. They fell in love, and in 1902, the cook became a Cook as they got married at St Wilfrid’s Church, Bishop Auckland.

                  They settled in Coundon and had four children. Then in 1909, they decided to return to Nelson’s home, a farm in Mounty Holly in Vermont. They sailed from Liverpool on board the Ivernia and, although their eldest John died almost as soon as they arrived, more sons followed. All were given J names: Joseph, Jerome, Jermyn (who was given Brancepeth as a middle name) and, finally, in 1916, Julian – the half-Coundon boy who grew into an all-American war hero.

                  BORN at Mount Holly, Vermont on October 7, 1916; the future war hero attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, and graduated as an officer, with the rank of Second Lieutenant, in 1940. He volunteered for the airborne forces in 1942, joining the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (504th PIR), which became part of the 82nd “All American” Airborne Division.

                  Cook made combat jumps into Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio before taking command of the 3rd Battalion of the 504th PIR just prior to Operation Market Garden. The regiment, due to heavy losses in Italy and a lack of airborne replacements, did not participate in the Allied invasion of Normandy.

                  Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                    The sound of a lone bugler playing the Last Post has become one of the most distinctive sounds in the world. Eerie and evocative, it exists beyond all the usual barriers of nation, religion, race and class, charged with the memory of generations of the fallen, writes Bill McStay.

                    When London’s famous clock Big Ben boomed out the hour at 11am on 11 November, 1918, signalling that the Great War had officially ended, the world breathed a sigh of relief. For ‘this war to end wars’ had caused massive loss of life and devastation across Europe during its four years.

                    So, when Britain’s King George the Fifth later suggested that a public act of remembrance, including two minutes silence, for all who had died in the conflict, be held annually at the same hour and date, commencing in November 1919, there was a swift positive response.

                    Long before eleven on the day, huge crowds began to assemble at the Cenotaph memorial in London, and at memorials across the country. The brief silence in London was brought to an end with the sounding of a military bugle call – the Last Post – the tune formerly composed by a bugler called Arthur Lane.

                    The simple ceremony, made poignant for many by the haunting strains of the bugle, would develop over time in many countries as a formal salute to those who had died for their country. Its popularity was helped by its association in people’s minds with St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, and its lines “For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.”

                    The Last Post, which was actually a British Army signal in military camps marking the end of the day’s activity, was followed each morning by the bugle call Reveille (informally known as ‘the wake up call’).

                    Gradually throughout the 19th century, the Last Post became common at military funerals, following prayers. There was a similar development in other countries, where the salute had different names. Thus in Germany it was known as ‘Ich hatte einen Kameraden’, whilst in America, where the salute is called TAPS, it was first played by both armies in the 1860-5 Civil War.

                    A United States law of 1891 requires the sounding of Taps at the funeral of every military services veteran. To this day also, it is sounded daily at sundown in Arlington National Military Cemetery in Washington.

                    Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own

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                      By Martin Gleeson

                      Growing up in a small town in Co. Galway, our house was on a street between the church and the road to the cemetery. Thus, we were familiar with funerals passing our front door.

                      If my father and mother had been acquainted with the deceased person, they would stand at their front door and watch the funeral procession. As the hearse passed by, they would bow their heads and bless themselves.
                      However, on these occasions I noticed something strange which I did not understand.

                      As the last of the mourners passed by, my mother and father would face one another and smile furtively. I wanted to ask them why they smiled at such solemn and grave occasions, but I did not dare to ask.
                      Many years later my father, Tim, had passed away. My mother led an independent life for some time but eventually she needed the care of a nursing home.

                      I was lucky to be able to visit her very often.

                      I would normally arrive in the late morning and give her the local news in which she had an insatiable interest. When the conversation had slowed down, I would leave to have my lunch in the nearby restaurant.
                      I would then do the shopping required to get the little things my mother needed.

                      When I returned to the nursing home she wanted to know what I had for lunch, who else was there and who I had met in the shops.

                      Local deaths were of great interest to her.

                      One day while I sat in her tiny bedroom, I had just described a funeral I had attended earlier. My mother surprised me by asking about the coffin.

                      It was then that she said, “Were it not for coffins, your father and I would have never gotten together.”

                      This was news to me and I listened avidly while she told me about her meetings with my father during their courting days.
                      Back in the nineteen forties, my mother, Maggie, left secondary school and completed a short-hand and typing course.
                      She got a job as a secretary in a solicitor’s office in the quiet little town of Drumlee.
                      Drumlee did not have a cinema, a decent café or a ballroom.

                      However, Mum was able to get lifts from friends to dances in Ballinrobe.
                      That was how she socialised with men of her own age.

                      There she met a young teacher from the town and she was struck by his good humour, his quick wit and his generous nature. His name was Tim.

                      In those days, women were very reserved about arranging a date with a man.
                      Mum spoke to people in Drumlee who often travelled to Ballinrobe. They knew people who knew Tim, and eventually a meeting was arranged.

                      Tim said that he would meet Maggie outside the cinema in Ballinrobe, that they would go to the pictures and then he would bring her back to Drumlee on the carrier of his bicycle.

                      But Mum had a problem. She did not possess a bicycle. The bus service was poor and she had no way of getting to Ballinrobe.

                      It was common back then for people to seek lifts from commercial travellers or neighbours lucky enough to have a car.
                      Eventually Mum was told that an Undertaker from Ballinrobe was to collect an empty coffin from a cabinet-maker in Drumlee and he would give her a lift.

                      On the evening of her first date with Tim, Mum was picked up by the Undertaker outside her digs. To her horror he had a helper sitting in the passenger seat.

                      To avail of the lift, Mum had to lie down in the back of the hearse beside the coffin. Initially she balked, but then decided she could not leave Tim ‘stood up’ in Ballinrobe.

                      In her best frock Mum laid down beside the coffin and at times held on to it to prevent herself rolling around the back of the hearse.

                      When the hearse had arrived in Ballinrobe, the Undertaker shouted back to Mum, “Maggie, we’re outside the cinema now.”
                      After he had opened the back door for her, she stepped out onto the street.
                      She was mortified when she saw Tim staring at her.

                      ‘Are you back from the dead, Maggie?’ was how he greeted her and then they both burst out laughing.
                      In spite of its grave beginning, Mum’s date with Tim was a great success.
                      More meetings were arranged and again Mum had to cadge lifts from the Undertaker.

                      But she ensured that she always exited the hearse at the outskirts of the town where no one could see her.
                      Tim quickly became the love of Mum’s life. Within a year they became engaged and they married young for those days.
                      I was the result of their love.

                      And it was not until Mum told me this story that I understood why a hearse and coffin had played such an important part in my parents’ courtship! n

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