On this day, 25 August 1979, the youngest and last surviving child of our great great grandparents, died. She was Margaret Gallagher from Mulnamina, Glenties, Co.Donegal who was born just after Christmas in 1893, the 10th child of famine survivors, Daniel Gallagher and Isabella Mulloy. Margaret, known as Maggie, but who referred to herself as ‘Peg’, was aged 86.
How we children loved heading to Glenties to her little house on the side of the hill, overlooking Gweebarra Bay! Her brother – Uncle John – lived here with her in the three roomed house – 2 bedrooms and a kitchen. The front door was always open and we would run straight into the flag floored kitchen with its open turf fire. The kettle was swung over the hot embers the minute we arrived, and the fire raked. Small in stature with her hair tied back in a roll, she moved about very fast, her long skirt covered with an apron, busying herself setting out the table, in spite of protests that ‘a cup of tea’ would be fine. There was no running water, so all the water was drawn from a well. Only 3 lightbulbs were connected to the electricity supply and a battery operated wireless stood up on a shelf.
Aunt Maggie was unmarried. She had been a dressmaker living in the nearby town of Glenties and had been engaged to be married. When duty bound to return home to care for family,that relationship ended. Her mother, Isabella, died in 1925, and then her sister Kate died of T.B. just 10 months later. Kate had lived at home, with her parents and brother John who was also unmarried. Aunt Maggie then became the carer to her father Daniel, who died within three years of Isabella, at the age of 87. Losing parents and a sister so close together must have been very sad for her.
Running up the lane to her house was all part of our great adventure. We invariably arrived unannounced and always in good weather. We ran about outside, inspecting hens, byres, the donkey, cows, apple trees, and Spot the dog who lived in a cozy stone lined kennel hewn into the bank. We would be called in for tea after a while, and that could either be fresh baked bread and home made jam or a chicken dinner, the key ingredient being a hen we had met just a short time earlier!
It is sad to visit the lonely and unkempt grave where she and her brother John now lie. The plaque that my father placed at the foot of the headstone some years after her death is now almost illegible. The grave is not easy to find, but I will make my way up the hill and across the uneven ground in a few weeks time to leave some flowers among the weeds.
I like this little poem as it reminds me of the simple, quiet lives they led, up there on the side of the hill, over looking the Gweebarra.
”Where do people go to when they die?By Jeanne Willis
Somewhere down below or in the sky?
‘I can’t be sure,’ said Grandad, ‘but it seems
They simply set up home inside our dreams.’ ”
She lives inside my dreams