I have often talked here of my grandparents house and my memories of it. They, my Dad’s parents, lived close to the mountain, but the house I knew was never home to my Dad or his brothers and sisters. Home to them is the house they were born in, higher up, a little stone house by a river with a great tree for climbing. This was a wonderland for children, far from the road. A prettier place that now sleeps in the forest, ever more, ever closer to the forest floor.
Dad and I went to see it on Sunday. So here we go in…
Follow the path. Leave it.
Fuchsias. First sign of Nanny, ‘she planted the mountain with them,’ says Dad.
‘Come on Jane,’ he says while laying a coat on old rusty wire, forces it down, flattens, lays waste to and points out the dangers, just as he’s always done.
Getting close now…
The forestry’s calm. The only sound’s the nearby river but the light is astonishing, ethereal, luminous. The atmosphere is warm, closeting and more inviting than you’d imagine from the outside.
Dad took my picture…
This, he tells me is a Primus Stove, a paraffin stove for cooking on. He tripped over it one night coming from a dance. He hung it on this tree where it’s stayed ever since. He tips it, smiles and moves on.
First glimpse of what’s left of the house…
‘The wall was stone up to a point, mud after that with a thatched roof. Even when living here the thatch was hard to maintain. Blackbirds were the biggest problem. They would tear a hole and the rain would come in.
We were always trying to catch and kill them, no one cared for their song then. They were too big a problem. I killed one once with a stone from a good distance, my uncle was very impressed with my aim.’
If you were lucky enough to live by a lake you could thatch your house with reeds, more durable.
He showed me the stones.
‘The black ones are wet, from the river bed. Always black, always wet, not good for a house but the people, they used what they could get.’
Dad stands by the fire with his hand on the mantel and talks about them. The kind uncle, the children, the mother…
You can just about make out the doorway here…
The dividing wall’s moss covered, starting to fall
The remains of the chimney and hearth still holds court.
When my grandparents left from here it was to the house beside my Dad’s grandmother. It was much better being close to the road but it was never home. Dad was gone to England by then.
Here from the moss he uncoverd the lintel…the large stone from over the fire, or door.
This is what they called the ‘wallco’, a wallcove perhaps! A little inbuilt press! I wonder what nanny kept there? It seems very her somehow. I put my hand in and conjure her who is so easy to conjure. Nanny the young mother with her ‘wallco’ and her fuchsia’s and her fire.
I don’t feel sad here. I mean I do feel the sadness of generations of Irish people who left places like it knowing they’d never return, but to me it’s magical, grounding and peaceful. Life was hard for the mothers, too hard. But I love the impressions they left, you can still feel.
Here a river runs through it…
And if this tree could talk it would talk not of forestry, machines or of men, but of children, nine of them. Mary, John, Josephine, Anna, Eithne, Tommy, Bernadette, Brendan and Margey.