Source: The Foxgloves.
“In my father’s house there are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you”
Mai Buckley (nee Fitzpatrick) walked into 3 Glenview Terrace, The Spa, Mallow in August 1944. She has been there since. She married Jack Buckley, A North Corkman an employee of the Sugar Factory in Thurles who had moved back to Mallow. She walked into a house that was shambolic. Only a burnt out range with Jackdaws in the chimney. She had a husband at the time who had serious concerns like would the Cork hurling team achieve the 4 in a row and all the Guinness that entailed. Within 4 years she had 3 children, one with cerebral palsy.
Reverend Father McCarthy , Family, Friends, neighbours, and Julia although she is still my Aunt Julia, our mother’s sister.
My mother had a vision, an image from childhood. What was it? The 1920’s. An elegant gentleman walks out with his wife and his 3 children of the time. The gentleman entertains his children by rolling coins along the pavement. He is witty, debonair, a domiciled Dubliner in Thurles. That gentleman is my mother’s father John Fitzpatrick, an idealised and idolised figure, always in her mind.
That little scene of the strolling couple represented order, an order of family life; secure, simple relationships with the attendant delightful domestic details that brought content to the soul. The flower in a vase, the well-made table. To her child’s soul. She never forgot those things..
In the hungry 1930’s my mother would grow up to see all of that domestic order swept away. Other forces threatened, especially poverty. So her mother Sarah Fitzpatrick set up the butchering business. The front room was broken into as a shop. My mother saw at first-hand what business does to family life. It takes it over. She saw how the unique intelligence of each family member is enslaved by the “business”. The business rules over every thought and all those little feminine details of family life, the well laid table, the meals on time, domestic order is gone.
The family members, especially the boys, seek fulfilment outside. They have the ready cash. The pub, the card table and the race track beckon.
To marriage was it an escape for her or a statement ?
One would never use sentimental terms like “falling in love” with my mother but when she thought of marriage I would think that the ideal of the walking elegant gentleman was in her mind. Jack Buckley, the tall man in the factory, with the soft hat, and the glasses met some of her ideals.
“He did drink”, she told me “but at weekends only”. No man is perfect. He had potential.
True! He had “notions” about himself and the Powerstown Buckley’s. His chat up line. However she could be the most scathing about those “notions” and yet she had an encyclopaedic fascination with the Buckley family.
She did marry him.
By the 1950’s she had her house in order, a husband who was now a teetotaller and daily mass goer. The mass going was not her idea. Jack, the weekend drinker was converted into Sean the daily saint. As children we often wondered about that Jack.
And our dominant memory the first clutch, I, Pat, and Emer was of the walking. We were walked. The two clutches by the way in our family are marked by the sons. Son number 1, Son number 2. Feminists take no notice! My father was called the “Boss”. He wasn’t.
The memory of my mother and father elegantly dressed walking on a Sunday afternoon and we unfortunate three trudging on ahead of them. Except there was no coin rolling from my father. The only coins we glimpsed were of the heads up or down as we passed the pitch and toss schools at the end of Joseph’s Road. I see the bowlers on Ballymagooley road silencing the lofting of the steel bowels with their coats to let my parents pass through.
In time we three escaped the discipline of the walk. But we now realise that our parents imbued us with character, a sense of ourselves, backbone, values that have served us all well in our lives.
The elegant couple walking. That is the picture of my parents etched into the memory of the people of the town at the time. The simple pleasure of walking. And its consequence a return to a home ,a place of order, a room where my father under my mother’s pleased gaze , could pursue his hobbies, Cork Hurling history, the history of the turf, books, coins, birds eggs, nature study. The life of the mind. A place of peace and sojourn.
So my mother set up another house one that was counter to her own mother’s business model.
There was another way.
A way that was a role model to all her brothers and sisters and I see the generations of Fitzpatrick’s, Buckley’s , Maher’s now before me. I am aware of all your fine houses chock full of the little feminine details which civilize the soul and all the accomplishments of your children and grandchildren. My mothers’ way is all round us today. A vision of elegance, civility and well-ordered family life. Of course there are new challenges to the family. There always are.
My mother was probably not unique, even though we grew to realise she was. She is representative of all the women who rise every day to make their families lives better.
So lastly to my mother’s greatest achievement. Faced in the 1940’s with a handicapped child and without any social help she worked tirelessly to make Pat her daughter, our sister, the independent and strong person she is today. Pat ran the seed office in the Sugar Company for over 30 years. That was a testament to my mother’s indomitable will power.
IT was my mother’s reward as a widow that it was Pat, who became her companion, friend and her angel of grace, ushered her into the world of Bridge where they both became I believe, and what do I know of Bridge, combative, competitive and compelling partners.
It was Pat, who gave my mother her quality of life in her own home right to the end.
It was Pat who slept in a camp bed at the foot of my mother’s
bed to tend to her.
It was Pat who held her hand at the end.
So I return to that image of the elegant gentleman strolling with his well-dressed lady and I can see them now, my mother and father sauntering away out of sight, out of time. Their work is done. The civility in our society is one we have today is their achievement.
Farewell Mai Fitzpatrick, indomitable fighter, Farewell Mai Fitzpatrick encyclopaedic tracer of people. Mam, Nana, Grand Nana, Mrs Buckley. Woman, wife, mother.
“In my father’s house there are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you.”
A Sunday Walk in Wicklow Rain. March 1st.2015.
I go for a Sunday drive for the poetry of Glenmore.
The usual patch of blue is beyond Bray Head,
The clouds scowl on the hills to the north.
At Nuns Cross Church the gates are padlocked.
I cross narrow Vartry Bridge in scarf, rain jacket,
And cut up by the muddy path through the laurel wood.
I feel the first rain drops patter on my Gore-Tex.
“It will be wet out on the hills”.I Console my mood.
Along the high cliff path I meet morning walkers
Hurrying back with their mutts to fan heated cars.
I shelter under a scenic tunnel. Honeysuckle
Climbs and clutches at the rock faulted scars.
An inscribed lozenge of whimsy from a poet
Who once lived here abouts, is pasted into a hollow.
Afar, the waterfall roars. All the rain crowds
Queue, tumble in from all of Wicklow’s plateau.
I stand on rocky ledges as high as the treetops,
I watch raindrops bead upon branches.
I see droplets drop through the air and fall from
The height of trees to the Vartry far under.
I divert into Tiglin’s sad green plantations.
The waterfall’s thunder fails away like an emptied
Stadium when the supporters and the teams have gone,
Or like the silence that fell when the poets went by.
I scramble over flinty tractor- ready forest beats.
In the damp quiet a wren chirps. A disturbed buzzard flees
Into the low tree tops. The rain turns to sleet
Like frail snow fading into a forest of Christmas trees.
The poet’s seat invites me to rest, take in the view.
A fir has grown up to block his redundant picturesque scene.
I cannot see his gift of farmhouses, hedges, the landlord’s avenue,
The flooded fields, Wicklow’s town by the Irish Sea.
We follow on ways where poets once contoured lines.
The docile act of shadowing proves no true navigation.
Now in winter rain, not in spring sunshine I must find
New ways, imbue the now in land, river, and wood.
A time to cast away stones? A time to gather stones together?
Imma- Dorothy Cross “Trove”. March 7th 2015.
Room 2.Ground Floor.
Strange shapes! Rough diamonds from behind.
Looming like figures from the underworld,
From a misty headland did you becalm a brawling kern
Or alarm a banshee? Now objects-d’art to gaze at.
9 Ogham stones. Petrified Icons in from the Wind and rain?
I touch your lichens, dried to a faded blotch.
Each of you, flank whipped by the feather of a chisel,
An alphabet of hits understood by those ruled.
The chief or land or the audience you stood there for
Or where you pointed to, are long gone and you are
Reduced to being silent stand-ups on boxes.
Fixed On wooden scaffolds, mere orange crates,
Each of you tagged with labels, red crayon marks
And chalked Latin numerals by some fastidious curator.
Massive parcels sent up from the country on the train
By a McAllister cousin who lived in Kerry,
Townlands like Gurrane, Ballinrower, Whitefield, and Derryquin.
Stones! With your rough Heft and solidity have you anything
To say to the smooth photographs of Apollo’s sculpture,
Too fragile or too sensitive to travel in person, the notes explain,
To this museum?
And what could you say
To that see- through modernist painted square of White,
Whose only hope is in the title? A Shared silence!
I stand at a loss before your Ogham Presences,
Specially selected or elected from the medieval age?
“Now representing the Early Irish medieval!” Section.
Through the Georgian sashed window
Framed there, noticed, as if for the first time
I see the soaring Wellington monument.
You castaways gathered together in the museum room
Remind me of the constant power of the monumental?
Drawn to the window I discover below on the terrace patio,
What might be your modern cousins? A notice observes:
“8 limestone blocks stand, cut to a specific size 150x50X 50cms
Split into parts and reassembled into original form in 1988”.
Each block, machine drilled with ruled lines of identical holes,
Each line exactly vertical, exactly divided, or exactly horizontal.
Is this some abstract kind of mathematical language?
It is out there you interned Ogham stones would love to mingle
With much to say to your measured polished relations.
You would notice and empathise with the cracks, the strain
Of remaining uptight for thirty years as an artistic statement.
Ogham could sympathise with the Modern’s disciplined rigour
And fondly finger the cobwebs in their lichened sockets.
You could patronise, you having stood around for mere millennia
Marking status, territory. Chatting about life, death and immortality.
Instead you stand here mute in a museum room,
Stone-faced Oracles out of time and place.
Why look to me to toss the first stone? To tell on and on
Upon the narratives of time, art, its context, culture and….!