By Patrick O’Sullivan
When I was growing up, the traditional thatched cottage was already giving way to its slated counterpart. This was a sign of the times, a sign of progress, I suppose, but there were still some lovely thatched cottages to be seen.
One of these belonged to Annie Sullivan. Set as it was on the corner of the lane, its buttercup yellow walls were trimmed with blue, the latter echoed in the colour of the door and the window frames.
In her youth, Annie had been the local net-maker, the fishermen of the place bringing her ‘pounds’ or reels of cotton hemp. The nets were generally made in the springtime, Annie having learned the art from her father who had also been a net-maker.
Annie’s garden was a haven of colour and scent, the daffodils of springtime giving way in summer to old moss roses and marigolds and masses of hydrangea wonderfully blue. I did not remember it, but some f the older people reminisced of the dances that were held in the house years and years before.
Then the musicians came with their melodeons, concertinas and fiddles, the dancers stepping it out in the kitchen ‘till the early hours of the morning. Annie herself was known as a good singer and when called upon to sing for the company she often sang ‘Kevin Barry,’ one of her own particular favourites.
I didn’t remember it, but it was the easiest thing in the world to picture the scene, the dancers dancing merrily on the flagstones of the floor, the rhythm of their feet keeping time with the music, the yellow of the lamp light rippling gently still. Even the fine old wall clock was surely animated by the sound of jig and reel, its gilded pendulum swinging to and fro with an unaccustomed verve.
Whenever I thought of the clock, though I thought of the long afternoons, its heavy measured beat easy and gentle and slow, as if to say time was a friend and there was no great hurry at all.
The image of Annie’s little cottage stays with me still, the thatch of its roof so neat and so snug, its garden teeming with colour, even its little blue gate that seemed like the threshold to wonder.
Mary Anne’s little thatched cottage stood at another corner, its prize-winning garden making it the stuff of postcards. Mary Anne was proud, very proud, of her flowers, the yellow of the daffodils stirring to life in spring, their frilly trumpets beaded with dew in the morning.
It was a familiar thing to see her husband Jer repair and restore the thatch now and then, the ladder leant against the wall as he went about his task again.