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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