By Gerry Moran

Some years back I was attending a course when our tutor handed us a blank sheet of A4 paper and asked us to create our own, original Family Crest. I was stumped. How should I represent our family on one small sheet of paper and in five or six minutes?

And then, inspiration struck, and I started drawing furiously. What I drew on that sheet of paper was a huge oak tree that dominated the entire page. And that oak tree represented my mother: Brigid Moran – strong, sturdy, resilient, a tower of strength, and a mighty woman just like the mighty oak.

And like the mighty oak my mother, through her self-belief and her indomitable spirit, propelled herself through extremely difficult and challenging times to attain, I believe, her full potential as a proud parent, loving wife and marvellous mother.

And just as she propelled herself though life, she also, along with my father, propelled us, her five children, along, affording us every opportunity to fulfill our potential.

Yet as strong and resilient as my mother was – she was also soft and sentimental. Tears came easily to her eyes and always when my children and I would visit her she’d rummage in her purse for a few coins: “A little something”, she would say, “to gladden a small child’s heart.”

For the last few years of her life my mother lived in a palace. An appropriate abode for a woman, a lady, who liked a bit of style, who prided herself on her dress sense and who, when it came to fancy dress, dressed up as no lesser a person than the Queen Mother herself to whom she bore a striking resemblance.
The palace, of course, was not Buckingham Palace; once the dwelling place of the Bishop of Ossory, it was  known locally as the Bishop’s Palace and has since become a nursing home.
At my mother’s 90th birthday party, our family raised three toasts to her – we toasted her physical strength and stamina that had gotten her to such a great and able and alert age.

Our second toast was to her mental strength and stamina; our mother was as sharp as a razor; you would not – and could not – pull the wool over her eyes. Even in her latter years when her eyes weren’t the best, she could still spot a stain on your jacket or jumper or notice how pale or how tired you looked.

And never, not once in my entire life, did I ever win an argument with my mother – and we had many of them!
Our third and final toast to my mother was to her spirituality, her religion, the mainstay of her life. Our mother’s faith was unwavering, unshakeable. Absolute. They didn’t come more devout than Brigid Moran.

A daily mass-goer all her life, she was still having her confession heard up to a few weeks before her passing. Indeed, it has always been a source of mystery and fascination to us, her children, as to what sins a 93 year old woman would have to confess!

Three toasts could never sum up my mother’s 93 years on earth. Nor could 93 toasts sum up this woman who was ahead of her time.

In an era when it was unfashionable for married women to work outside the home – my mother worked. She had to, quite simply, as money was never too plentiful in our household. An excellent book-keeper, employers sought her out to sort out their books.

To her close friends, relations and neighbours, my mother was known all her life as ‘Jiggy’, a pet name given her as a child by a visiting American relation who was taken by her energy and zest and constant ‘jigging’ about.

But woe betide anyone, not kith or kin, who dared address her as ‘Jiggy’; she would rivet them to the ground, as only she could, with a piercing, punitive look  

My mother, Brigid ‘Jiggy’ Moran, died, aged 93, eleven years ago but, like the mighty oak, she is still, a great and powerful presence in my life. ■

Read memories such as these every week in Ireland’s Own