The dreary weather cannot dampen our spirits

Well, I had a lovely event last Saturday night. Ray D’Arcy had invited me on to his chat show and I really enjoyed the chat with him and with so many of the audience I met afterwards.

I also had the chance, while I was there, to meet with Geraldine Plunkett, who was there as an item on the show with her son, Marcus Lambe. So many of the readers will remember Geraldine Plunkett from her 18 years on Glenroe, and later on Fair City. She is a wonderful actress and so friendly. We talked about her late husband, Peadar Lambe, who died only last autumn, and her grief and her memories of them both together. It was worth going to the show to meet her alone, and I always think of her fondly.

This was followed, last Sunday, by the wettest day I have seen in a long time. Matches were cancelled all over the country, including the Westmeath match with Meath, which is now put off until sometime in mid-February.

Great wins over the weekend for Leinster, Munster and Connacht, but not so for Ulster. It seems to me now that all the rugby players in all of those matches to date have had marvellous experience for the Six Nations, which is upcoming now in early February, while the finals of all those European provincials will have to take their place in the waiting queue until the end of March.

TV3 will be hosting the Six Nations and we have some wonderful rugby to look forward to and to comment upon. It seems to me that Irish rugby is well placed now to take on any team but, of course, that can be the case, and then when the games come so much can go right and so much can go wrong.

All my grandchildren play games, GAA, soccer and the likes, but only Sam in Dublin has entered the rugby scene in his first year in secondary school, so we will see how all of that develops. When they come in to see me it is wonderful to hear their talk of games they have won and games they have lost. Even little Scott, aged 7, tells me that he is in a football blitz. Imagine, and the little size of him! But they are getting great exercise and, particularly, learning the give and take which is the essence of all games for children and grown-ups alike.

Wednesday of this week is the celebration of Mary Ward, the founder of the Loreto order, 400 years ago. She founded the Loreto nuns so that young women would have an education and training which, as you can imagine, back in the 1600s, was an amazing thing to do.

The Loreto Convent in Bray, where I was a boarder for five years, has invited me back this Wednesday (yesterday ), on Mary Ward Day, to be their public speaker and, in particular, to talk about young women exercising their vote and being part of modern Ireland. I am so looking forward to it. Loreto in Bray is now a full day school with more than 800 pupils. In my time, it was day/boarding.

I have written before in my book, Just Mary, about how I hated boarding school. I missed my family, I missed Athlone, I missed my home. I was always cold and hungry and, of course, the whole concept of boarding school is an alien one. When one has a good home, why send a child away? But that was done at that time and, thank God, there are very few boarding schools remaining today.

But I always maintained in that book, and maintain it always, that no matter what my loneliness was like at the time, I had a wonderful education. For that I am truly appreciative. During that time, there were still many Loreto nuns in each convent, and one usually had a few of them for different subjects. I will always remember a Sr Benedicta who taught me Latin, and I went on to take honours Latin at Leaving Cert level, and to do it in first arts when I went into UCD. She was a powerful teacher and, along with my English teacher, instilled in us all a love of literature, of poetry and, most importantly, of reading.

Last weekend, I heard Scott and James telling of how they each do a half an hour of reading when they have gone down for the night into their bunk beds. They take it in turns, one to sleep up and one to sleep down. But they each have a book, and they spend 30 quiet minutes reading. Now, I thought that was a lovely story from a seven-year-old and a 10-year-old and. You can be sure that that little time spent with their books will stand them in great stead in the months and years to come, as they advance in education.

Anyway, back to Loreto Convent in Bray and my visit there. As I compile this, I am excited at joining them all on Mary Ward Day, but I am also full of a little flutter of trepidation. Eight hundred plus of young modern girls, all at different stages of their lives and all expecting that you will talk inspirational talk with them. I hope it will go well, and I am looking forward, so much, to meeting not just the pupils but all of the teachers who, in their own daily interaction with the young women, provide guidance and inspiration.

We had a wonderful night last week with the Old Athlone Society in the Sheraton Hotel, when the guest was Dr Brian Murphy. He spoke about Dr Douglas Hyde, the forgotten first President of Ireland. He gave a most illuminating speech and the questions came quick and fast when he had concluded.

For the lecture after next, the Old Athlone Society has invited David McCullagh down to talk about his book, De Valera. Now, the readers will remember that I wrote about that some time ago as it was one of the books I read during Christmas – all 500 pages of it. But, I am so looking forward to meeting David again. I knew him in my parliamentary days, but I am also looking forward to hearing about how he will go through his book and to listen to the questions, probing no doubt, that will come from the audience to him. That will be a worthwhile lecture to attend.

The abortion debate rumbles on and will do so for the next number of months. It will be a good debate if each side speaks with reason and respect, and continues to hold that reason and respect right through the Dáil, the Seanad and all of the forms of media. Opinions will vary from time to time, but in the end it is the people who will decide on this very vexed question.

This is my lot for this week.

Talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke



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