My father came from the mountain, my mother from the valley.
Memories of my mothers home are older, from when we were younger, and full of sunshine.
The children of children born in the famine, these grandparents are harder to grasp. Patrick Fox is an old man in a sepia photograph.
He was the local storyteller, the man to whom people brought letters to read and forms to fill. He died before we were born but lives on in stories still.
My grandmother, Mary Susan Logan, was with us until I was six. She had long silver hair in a bun, gentle elegance. Her corner by the fire seemed dark at first but she’d draw you in, with emerald sweets and sweet smiling eyes.
Every time I see wild roses I think of her, the way they brushed her dear head that time we walked to the corner. Somehow I knew I’d remember.
She loved music and dance and we’d dance for her, our shoes into slippers on her flagstone floor.
The lane from the road was long and it wound, from high fields to a dip, a rugged place of fiery whins, to golden crops and down again in verdant green to street, and house.
Whitewashed walls of stone with pots of begonia and another plant I can’t recall. The blind goose who’d fought the fox and lived would make his way along the wall then turn triumphant at the gap. The black dog Jasper was always waiting for us at the end of the lane without fail. We didn’t know our uncle Joe had told him we were coming, and set him on our trail.
Corraleehan was quiet in our childhood, a place for daydreams, but from our mother we knew it hadn’t always been. And her stories of Corraleehan she painted so clear and so lovely, that I could see the young people coming over the hill at dawn from a dance as if they had just come that morning. Or the summer the house was re-thatched they slept under the stars, I like to think of them.
Hay time in summer heat we’d hide under trees in the cool grass and one bonfire night we had a big fire there with our uncles Joe and Pat. It was one of those perfect evenings after a long hot day when the air is balm and the ground smells sweet.
‘Listen’ my mother said. ‘Listen to the sound of the corncrake, a bird of the past, we might never hear it again, this time might be the last.’
I tried really hard to imprint it in my head only to find was other things got printed there instead.
By Jane Gilheaney Barry