The friendship started in high infants in Murlog School. I lived in Drumbuoy, just outside of Lifford. Alice lived in a townland called Moneen at the edge of the small village of Ballindrait.

Every day, Alice and I met at a little crossroads about a quarter of a mile from the school. There was a shop at the bridge which was part of the crossroads. This emporium was owned by Bridget Donlon. Bridget was a woman of great integrity and generosity. To the school-going children of Murlog she was the Sunday in every week. Alice lived with her grandmother.

Every day her granny gave her a penny to spend in the shop coming home from school. In rural Ireland in the early sixties, the recessionary climate had no line of correlation to the global economy. I remember Daddy giving us thrupence to spend when he received the monthly cheque from the creamery.

After Easter each year Donlon’s shop would stock ice-cream and this extra goodie would be on sale throughout the summer. It was only once a month that I was in a position to treat my friend Alice. We would go into the shop after school, my thrupence clenched tightly in my hand. Bridget would peer over the counter at us with her kindly bespectacled face and her grey hair swept back into a tight bun. She always wore a floral wrap-around apron around her tall frame.

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