Memories of Dessie. 1.

The Mushroom Stone

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Sometime during the summer/autumn of 1992, Dessie and I went for a cycle ride along the road from Kenmare to Kilgarvan (R569). We stopped just beyond the crossroads at a farmyard. The farm house at the roadside was obviously abandoned, the farmer having built a new house in the middle of the field alongside. I remember thinking what a pity it was to see this pretty little house empty and how nice it would be to live in such a house (I lived in a tiny bedsit above the Green Note Music Shop).
We cycled /pushed our bikes through the farmyard’s various gates and followed the lane through an avenue of beech trees.
At the end of the lane-way, one can see evidence of the old train line to Kenmare; a perfectly straight boreen between two ‘ditches’ (rough-built stone walls)stretches off to the east and to the west, and old iron gates remain here and there.
Our path led us to the most amazing spectacle. A vast boulder of sandstone rock sat perched on a pillar of limestone rock.
Dessie explained how after the ice age, this boulder had rumbled its way down the hillside with the melting ice and came to rest here. Scientists tell us that the boulder would have been sitting on a level ground of limestone which has, during the last 18,000 years, eroded away. Except for the pillar which has been given protection by the gigantic sandstone boulder. It is (apparently) still eroding!
Recently, Bobby and I visited the mushroom stone. Curiously, Bobby, a man born and bred in Kenmare had never even heard of it! We walked the lane on a bright, crisp day at the end of October and the sun shone, lighting up the stone at the end of the lane. Bobby was amazed at it (as I had been over a quarter of a century earlier).
The following week our dear friends “the Pendys” came over for dinner. Imagine my surprise when young Flor came in with a book in his hand (“Reading The Irish Landscape” by Frank Mitchell & Michael Ryan”), saying to Bobby “I suppose you knew about this for years Bobby…?”
How extraordinary that these two men, who came from “The Pound Lane” and grew up together, a few doors apart, lived their entire lives in total ignorance of this fascinating geological site on their doorstep! And what a coincidence that they both discovered it within a fortnight of each other, quite independently!
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”

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Dessie Merrigan, A Biography

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In Memory of Dessie

dessie cropIn memory of Dessie

I first met Dessie while I was living in Kenmare. I had lived there for about a year and a half and was working for Joe Thoma in the Green Note Music Shop (sadly no longer there).
I can’t remember where we met, or with whom, but it was probably with either Cloe & Norman or Katrina.
While Katrina was away in India or Australia, in 1992, I stayed in her house at no 3 Parnell Place (owned by Johhny the Carpet {shop} O’Connell at that time). Dessie called in (I think to say Hi to Katrina) and found me there instead, alone, eating beans on toast! I mention this because he said afterwards; more than once actually: that he had felt sorry for me and thought I must be really hard up! I may well have been but you might just as easily find me eating beans on toast today, as I am rather partial to them!! Anyway, he asked me out and we began “doing a line”.
Dessie used to cycle to Kenmare from Allihies to see me and I would borrow a bicycle from Joe’s brother francis and we would go cycling along the boreens around Kenmare. I remember one time we cycled to Blackwater Pier and he took a wrong turn and went off up the road to the Tavern when he should have gone over the bridge instead. I waited at the pier FOREVER before going back to the bridge to look for him. He landed back and we rowed about whose fault it was! We argued about this a couple of years ago too! In His version I am at fault and He was ahead. In My version He is at fault and I was ahead! In any case whether I was ahead (more likely behind) or he was, he is still to blame because the road markings clearly show the road goes to the left over the bridge; the other turn-off being a byroad. There were no mobile phones in those days!
Sometimes we hitch-hiked to and from Allihies where he lived in the Copper Mine Cottages. Allihies seemed a bleak place to be stranded in the winter months and he kept his little cottage warm by sticking a needle into the side of the ESB meter to stop the clock whenever he had his electric heater plugged in!! He never abused this system though haha so his bills were pretty normal!!
Dessie was doing Massage in those days and I think he used to get a lift to Castletownbere with the Post lady. He also did Guided Tours around Allihies. He was as fit as a fiddle. He told me that he had taken out a mortgage for some tiny sum like £3000 on his cottage and was paying about £10 a week. I thought that was incredibly enterprising. He was delighted to get on a FÁS scheme that time because he could earn a lot more than on the dole and save up.
Once when Dessie had either cycled or hitched to Kenmare we “borrowed” a car! Friends had just got married and were away on their honeymoon. They were about to build a house and there was a vast trench on their land and the car, which had belonged to Susan Kavanagh, a white Fiesta, was the wrong side of the trench! This was no obstacle to an enterprising and imaginative man like Dessie and he quickly found some boards and made a bridge which I obligingly drove across to liberate the car! We drove to Killarney via the Moll’s Gap road (the ring of Kerry) but on the way back we ran out of petrol! Who should come along but the Priest who had lately married Clare and Joe! Fr. Martin Sheahan. He towed us back to Kenmare! Dessie made some joke about the symbolism of being pulled back into the flock by the Priest; his joke very thinly covered the message that marriage was definitely NOT on the cards! But we did have such fun!
My landlord very generously gave me £120 for my birthday which I was supposed to hand over to Annie Goulding to enrol on the Asgard training vessel. Dessie said she would probably poison me or throw me overboard hahaha. So instead, we spent the money like there was no tomorrow! We dined out in posh restaurants and had a blast; thanks Patrick!
Once when we were strolling through Reenagross we sat down by the old boat house on the bench and he confided in me about the abuse he had suffered at the hands of the Christian Brothers. His childhood was certainly a tragic story. His mother had died and he had been handed over to the orphanage as his father couldn’t take care of a baby. He didn’t know until later on in life that he had siblings! So many wasted years. But I know his siblings were thrilled to have found him and loved him dearly. I remember him telling me that the only way to escape the CBs was to join the army, so that’s what he did. But he found them to be just as abusive and left as soon as he could.
A year or more after we had stopped seeing each other he phoned me out of the blue when I was house sitting for a mutual friend, Melissa, in Baurearagh. He invited me to a party. I drove to Allihies and booked into a B & B but I felt very out of my comfort zone surrounded by all his friends, none of whom I knew, so I decided to drive home anyway, despite having paid for my lodgings, as I hadn’t been drinking anyway and I was safe to drive.
Several years later on when I met him in Crowley’s and we caught up with each other, he told me that he had received £93,000 in compensation from the Christian Brothers (I think that was the sum, it is in my head anyway), and he was able to pay off his mortgage and build an extension to his lovely little cottage. He was very proud of his cottage and the garden and I particularly remember him being proud of growing Red Hot Pokers! I can never see those flowers without thinking of Dessie.
I took my niece to Allihies a good few years ago and I called to his house to invite him to lunch. Danu enjoyed his company very much and it was nice to reconnect with this colourful character again.

The last time I met him was the year before last when I took my sister Susan down to Allihies for the Michael Dwyer Festival to listen to the sessions (there were a lot of Kenmare people there; Ann Garrett, Mary Donegan and Cahersiveen’s Sean Garvey to name but a few) and who should walk in but Dessie! He joined us and we had a brilliant time with him. He was in terrific form and looked great; bald as an egg, but great!

I can honestly say that I never met anyone quite like Dessie. St. Peter and the rest of them won’t know what’s hit ‘em when he arrives at the pearly gates! He’ll liven things up a bit that’s for sure!

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

 

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Fairwell My Dear Friend

Nov. 19th, 2017

Farewell my dear friend

A phone call from her son first thing this morning, and then a little later another phone call from one of her daughters (which put the heart across me as it came up with her name, from her house phone), told me that my dear old friend and next-door neighbour, this past quarter of a century had passed away, peacefully, in her sleep last night. Beannacht Dé lena hanam.

 

I first began to get to know Bridie when I moved in with my late partner, Pat.

Bridie would come over on Saturday evening for about a quarter of an hour or so before Pat was ready to leave for Mass, (he would be shaving and getting his suit on and Bridie and I would have a little chat) and then they would go down to the village together (she would never have wanted to keep him waiting). At the time, Bridie was full-time Carer for her husband, who had been laid up for a number of years with chronic arthritis. When she was away from his bedside, their son would mind him. Whenever he carried his mother shopping, Pat would go over and sit with him, and on occasion I would, although as a newcomer to the area he found my lack of “news” rather trying. From his bed he knew everything that happened in and around our little village, and in fact it was more a case of him giving me the news!

Bridie was a wonderful nurse to him.

I remember on one occasion when my parents were staying with us, the Traveling Draper, Mr. Quill, from Killarney made his twice-yearly call, and Pat probably bought a shirt or two or maybe some bed sheets, and Bridie bought a pair of enormous pyjamas for her husband. She explained to me that she wanted them this size so as to be able to put them on him without the need of raising his arms, which was excruciatingly painful for him. That was the kind, thoughtful and practical person Bridie was.

 

Bridie loved poetry and songs and she could remember ones that she had learnt as a girl. She was a fine singer too, and appreciated other people who had a talent for it.

Two of her favourite poems that she recited to me were Thomas Hood’s “Bedtime” (or “Goodnight Little People”) and an anonymous one about a Jersey Cow (a very pretty animal that she loved):

 

Bedtime

The evening is coming,
The sun sinks to rest;
The rooks are all flying
Straight home to the nest,
“Caw!” says the rook, as he flies overhead,
“It’s time little people were going to bed!”

The flowers are closing;
The daisy’s asleep,
The primrose is buried
In slumber so deep.
Shut up for the night is the pimpernel red;
It’s time little people were going to bed!

The butterfly drowsy,
Has folded its wing;
The bees are returning,
No more the birds sing.
Their labour is over, their nestlings are fed;
It’s time little people were going to bed!

Here comes the pony,
His work is all done;
Down through the meadow
He takes a good run;
Up go his heels, and down goes his head:
It’s time little people were going to bed!

Good-night, little people,
Good-night and good-night;
Sweet dreams to your eyelids
Till dawning of light;
The evening has come, there’s no more to be said,
It’s time little people were going to bed!

Thomas Hood 1799 – 1845

 

Anonymous A Jersey Cow:

We walked the road together

The sky was covered with stars

We reached the gate in silence

I lifted for her the bars

She neither smiled nor thanked me

Because she knew not how

For I was just a farmer’s boy

And she a Jersey cow

 

Bridie had a wicked sense of humour too and enjoyed retelling me stories of her youth and the silly things that they used to have a fit of laughing over.

 

One time as a very young girl, her mother sent her on an errand for a very old lady, a hag if you like, as Bridie would have said “as old as Methuselah’s cat!” Bridie was sent over to bring in turf for her or some other such job. This old woman gave Bridie a cup of coffee to thank her! Bridie had never before tasted coffee and thought it tasted disgusting! She even wondered if the old woman was trying to poison her! So when her back was turned she lifted the heavy black lid off whatever was hanging on the crane over the roaring fire and in went the coffee! To this day she never knew if twas spuds boiling or a stew, but she said her goodbyes and fled without ever looking back!

 

She had many stories about her friend and neighbour Maggie Ann (a childhood sweetheart of my late partner Pat’s!). Maggie Ann was a very spirited young girl (which may well have been the reason why Pat’s parents refused to allow him marry her). On one occasion they called in to a little shop at the bottom of the road to buy a quarter pound of biscuits. There was a very old lady running the shop and the biscuits were in a huge tin with a glass lid. The old lady used bend down and pick out a handful of biscuits and put them on the scale and bend down again for another handful. While she was bent over, Maggie Ann would take one or two off the scale and put them in her pocket! This went on and the old lady said “Well I cannot understand how I can’t make up the quarter pound!” and Bridie who could no longer keep a straight face would have to go out!

On another occasion they cycled into Kenmare and Maggie Ann was admiring the flowers outside a very posh shop. The lady who ran the shop was so pleased that this young girl was interested in flowers that she brought her through to the garden out the back and started discussing the different names of flowers and asking Maggie Ann had she this kind and that kind in her own garden and Maggie Ann said she had! Neither girl had ever heard of any of these exotic names and twas far from flower gardens either girl was reared! Growing up on a farm with animals everywhere there was no time or use for such extravagancies! The old lady was delighted with Maggie Ann – a kindred spirit or so she thought! Bridie went away as she could no longer contain herself and the two girls fell about the place with laughter afterwards!

 

Years ago when one of Bridie’s children was getting married, I took her shopping for an outfit. (Bridie always regretted that she never learnt to drive, as her best friend Peggy had). We went to Castleisland and Tralee and Killarney. In one dress shop Bridie tried on a dress, which although pretty, I thought was meant for a younger person, but I didn’t like to say anything. It was a soft chiffon type of fabric with gentle shades of lilac and green floral patterns and it had an underskirt inside as the material was so sheer. The trouble was, this under-garment, made of purple cotton (something like butter-muslin) had no give in it and was like a second skin! She got stuck inside it and we couldn’t budge it up or down! Her two knees were locked inside it and we were inside the changing cubicle nearly peeing ourselves laughing! We prized it off her eventually without it having to be cut off her! She was great fun.

 

Many’s the time that myself and Bobby would go for a drink after work in Crowley’s Bar, Kenmare and I would sit with Mrs. Crowley (Beannacht Dé lena hanam freisin), doing the crossword. We could be stuck on a clue for hours and eventually I would have to phone Bridie and say “any chance you could pop over and lock up the hens for me?!” Bridie adored the hens and it was no bother to her at all in those days. Like a little bird herself she’d skip along “the near way” and go up into the haggard to shut my hens in safely. She loved to hear the hens “singing” after they had laid an egg.

When my own mother was dying, Bridie looked after all the dogs for me (I had four of them that time) as well as the hens, and a cat!  I was so grateful to her because it allowed me to stay in England for a full three weeks which I’d never have been able to do if it weren’t for her.

In recent times Bridie helped me with my Irish learning and would greet me with “Dia duit, conas atá tú” or if I got it in first she would reply with “Tá mé go maith!”. Sometimes we would have a copy of the “Buntas” book each and we would read out the conversations, each in our turn. She was a great help to me with pronunciation. She remembered a lot of what she had learnt in school and twas obvious she had been a very good scholar in her day.

Bridie was the very best neighbour in the world, and a very very dear friend who I will miss more than words can say.

 

 

 

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Katharine of Aragon’s last letter to her husband, King Henry VIII

On Friday last, 27th January 2017, the people of Peterborough and beyond came to remember the death and buriel of King Henry 8th’s first wife Katharine of Aragon. I saw little of the actual s…

Source: Katharine of Aragon’s last letter to her husband, King Henry VIII

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Katharine of Aragon’s last letter to her husband, King Henry VIII

Very moving….

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On Friday last, 27th January 2017, the people of Peterborough and beyond came to remember the death and buriel of King Henry 8th’s first wife Katharine of Aragon. I saw little of the actual service because a group of us in appropriate costume guided some 360 chidren from St John’s Church to the Cathedral, and after the service gave them brief descriptions of life of that time.

One thing I missed was toward the end of the service when Katharine’s last letter to King Henry VIII was read. I have, however, got a copy of the text – and this is what it says:-

My most dear lord, king and husband,
The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forceth me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and…

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Dogs go on Killing spree on a farm in Cork

several sheep were killed and more had to be euthanized due to someone’s lack of responsibility for their dogs.

 

please ensure that your dogs are always under strict control around livestock.

 

Thank you for reading, please share and get this message home!

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