Remembered love stories still ring true

The food of love? One of the illustrations by Anna McCarthy in Cats Cradle 5 now on sale at Charlie Byrne’s.

The food of love? One of the illustrations by Anna McCarthy in Cats Cradle 5 now on sale at Charlie Byrne’s.

O, hurry, where by water, among the trees,

The delicate-stepping stag and his lady sigh,

When they have looked upon their images

Would none had ever loved but you and I!

Or have you heard that sliding silver-shoed

Pale silver-proud queen-woman of the sky,

When the sun looked out of his golden hood?

O, that none ever loved but you and I!

O hurry to the ragged wood, for there

I will drive all those lovers out and cry

O, my share of the world, O, yellow hair!

No one has ever loved but you and I.

The Ragged Wood

~ William Butler Yeats

Some women were just not bothered. Kathleen Moloney didn’t get married until she was 35 years of age. She had ‘gone out’ with a few men whom she met at dances, but, as she says, she wasn’t really bothered. Eventually she met her husband, who lived close by. His cousin introduced them. Mary Costello also went out with a few different men before she met her husband. She was a nurse in Birmingham during the war, and went out with a man ‘who liked her’ but she too wasn’t much bothered. She was unsure whether he was Italian or English, and anyway, ‘he lived too far way.’

Distance didn’t deter Martin Fallon. He met his wife at a dance at Seapoint. He asked her out for a dance, and then at ‘ladies choice’ she asked him. ‘It was a good sign’. Afterwards he offered to walk her home. She lived at Prospect Hill, the complete opposite end of the town to where Martin lived. Maybe to save his legs they married in the end. They were both in their early twenties then and life stretched before them.

Louis Hanley is a stickler for the correct term. The word ‘date’ is American and relatively recent. In his courting days you said you were ‘walking out’ with someone. Then there was, what was called ‘company keeping’. But ‘that was something dreamt up by the Redemptorists. They had all the time in the world for dreaming up these things.’

There was some physical danger in romance as well. Peter Perkins met Marika when he was a stunt man in the film Lion in Winter made in 1968 starring Peter O’Toole. He didn’t tell us what stunts he pulled to win the fair Marika. Mary Hynes admitted that if she wanted to go to a dance, and her father had forbidden her to go, she would simply climb out her bedroom window. If she was caught she would have got a ‘fleecing’ from her dad.

She eventually married and had her own children, but she became aware that they followed her footsteps and sneaked out to dances they were not allowed to go to. She only learned about it when her girls had grown up. The trick about not being caught, she said, was not to make any noise when coming back into the house in the early hours of the morning.

Moments of pure joy

These are just some of the memories and stories from the long stay residents at Units 5 and 6 at Merlin Park Hospital, published in the fifth edition of The Cat’s Cradle*. Under the guidance of Pat Finnegan, chairperson and founder of the Galway Hospitals Arts Trust, a modest sum, which is raised outside HSE funds, is set aside to introduce arts to the hospital. Long corridor walls are decorated with paintings and poems, there are exhibitions and recitals, performances and active encouragement for patients to participate in such activities as painting and writing. It is a very worthwhile engagement, and has beneficial effects for patients.

The editor of this booklet (on sale at Charlie Byrne’s for €5 ) Kevin Higgins, writes that the theme We are family is taken from the Sister Sledge disco hit of 1979. It reflects not only the sense of family enjoyed by the patients, but their willingness to share aspects of their home lives. It’s an upbeat title, and does not in any way reflect the miserable Irish childhood of so many recent biographies. ‘It reflects a time,” says Kevin, “when life was hard, but people got on with it. And there were also those moments of pure joy which made the getting on with it worthwhile.”

Practice makes perfect

Emigration, as well as love and family, often played a role in the lives of the contributors. In 1956 Louis Hanley fell in love with a girl he met at a hurling match between Ardrahan and Gort. She was always talking about going to America. Her three brothers were already in Chicago. But Louis never knew when she was to go, or if she really wanted to go. But one day she called to his house and they went out walking along the main road, less than half a mile from Kilcornan. It was a ‘lovely wooded area’. She told him she was going away, from Shannon. She gave him a present: a cigarette case with a lighter attached. She always sent him a birthday card. Then, about three years ago, she called to see him in the hospital. ‘It’s funny. I miss her now when I get the card. She told me to destroy the letters she sends me; but I didn’t, well not all.’

Fr Vincent Lenihan was born in 1929 in Mountbellew. He always wanted to be a priest, and was ordained in All Hallows in Dublin. His first parish was Maryville, California. He was sad leaving home for the first time, but his sister came to say good-bye as he sailed from Cobh. He followed the GAA whenever he could. He saw matches in San Francisco. In the years that followed Fr Vincent got to know his parishioners very well. He saw many of the local boys go off to Vietnam. Not all of them came back. ‘I knew a lot of their parents. It was a tough time in my job. That’s the way it will be sometimes. I did many funerals when they came home.’

Dr Oscar de Souza was born into a family of eight children in Goa, which at the time was a Portuguese colony. He came to Galway to study medicine, and stayed. He met his wife in the early 1970s and they were married in 1976, when he was 30 years old. They went to Goa for their honeymoon. The wife was a happy find for the newly qualified doctor. ‘They say practice makes perfect. So I practised with her for two years!’

NOTES:

Contributors include: (Unit 5 ), Madeline Moloney, Dr Oscar de Souza, Murty McGrath, Martin Fallon, Mary Costello, Tony Qualter and Fr Vincent Lenihan.

(Unit 6 ), Margaret Keane, Kathleen Moloney, Mary Hynes, Louis Hanley, Bridget Mannion, Tom Monaghan, Peter Perkins, and Marika Perkins. (Sadly Peter Perkins and Tony Qualter have passed away since the completion of the booklet ). Margaret Flannery is the arts officer at Galway Hospitals. She is at present on maternity leave. Anna McCarthy is the artist in residence and responsible for the colourful illustrations.

The Cat’s Cradle 5 will be launched tomorrow at Merlin Park with students from Scoil Ide, Salthill, and Scoil Mhuire, Clarinbridge.

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