Alan O’Brien recalls some of his mammy’s sayings from when he was a lad

There are seven children in our family and every Sunday morning when our parents were alive we, as adults, would all gather in their house for a fry-up.

Our father used to joke that he thought that when we got married we would be up and gone and leave him in peace, but instead we had returned, and brought more (meaning the grandchildren) with us. It was a great social occasion where we would catch up with the latest bits of news concerning each family and we could watch our nieces and nephews as they grew from babies to children and then to teenagers. Indeed, they were so close that they were more like siblings than cousins.

They would be gathered in various corners of the large kitchen exchanging their own bits of news. From time to time we would see them fall into kinks, giggling and tittering, and it took us a while to realise that they were laughing at some of our mother’s old sayings. We grew up hearing these sayings and so were used to them, but, of course, it was all new to the grandchildren. Our mother had a saying for every occasion.

Some didn’t even make any sense – but we all knew what she meant! If, for example, a person was particularly wicked looking, our mother would be heard to remark that ‘they had a face that would turn back a funeral’, or if someone wasn’t very pretty she would describe them as being ‘as ugly as Pontius Pilate’.

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