On March 7, 2020, I said goodbye to my sister in Perth Western Australia at the end of my holiday. I had been staying with her during my almost annual trip down under to visit her and my daughter and my grandchildren.
She was looking forward to a holiday in Ireland and would see me soon. Donegal, where we grew up, she called her ‘happy place’.
Little did either of us know that this would be the last time we would physically be in the same place.
Covid happened, Australian borders were closed and then she got very sick.
That last hug has to last me for my lifetime. Three years on, it is still one of the most cherished moments of my life.
Our lovely sister Eva Gallagher Croskery died on 31 December 2021 aged 65.
“For you were beautiful, we have loved you dearly More dearly than the spoken word can tell”
This handy booklet, Carrigart-Walks and Explorations has details of 11 walking routes with distances. It is a gem!
The latest walks booklet from Kevin was published this year. – A labour of love, it is much more than a list of walking routes. It is a pocket guide to our local heritage and attractions.
The maps and photographs are excellent, and I really liked the notes on various hazards that might be encountered such as road traffic where the routes run along the main road, or the need for midgie deterrents in certain locations!
It is often true that we don’t always ‘see’ what we look at day after day, but Kevin has included great descriptions of the landscape features of this very scenic area, both nearby and in the distance, so you are not only walking, you are appreciating the wonderful scenery along the way.
This area is steeped in history, so you can learn about the lucrative seed potato exports days, the old ferry crossing between our parish and Fanad, a gun-running expedition on behalf of the Ulster Volunteers in 1913, the destructive sandstorms, or the origin of The Slate Row in Carrick. Not only that, the unique ecosystem of Mulroy Bay is included – who knows what a ‘Maerl bed’ is or a Couch’s Goby? Find out here!
Kevin authored ‘Danders around Downings and Rambles around Rosguill‘ a few years back. This is a mighty wee book, also of around 40 pages, with really attractive line drawings of places along the spectacular routes.
Concentrated on the rugged coastline of Rosguill, there is information on local archaeological finds, where to see long-gone ‘clachan’ settlements, and it has a great list of local place names along the coastline. Here you will discover the location of Frenchman’s Rock and the Little Frenchman. Who knew?
The walks are mostly either along the wonderful and epic Wild Atlantic Way, or afford great views of it.
Walking has grown in popularity in recent years. It is so good for health of mind and body, suitable for all ages and of course it comes for free. So if you fancy a wee short dander or a bit of a hike, or are thinking about New Year Resolutions, these lovely wee books will guide you on your way.
Both publications are available at McNutts Shop in Downings and at Galánta Gifts in Carrigart.
Newgrange. Aligned with the rising sun whose light floods the chamber on the winter solstice. Image Wikimedia Commons
‘One of these days’ is a phrase that trips off many an Irish tongue and whose meaning is clearly understood asbeing ‘sometime in the near future’. I was not so sure if this is the case across all the English speaking world, so a quick Google came up with the following: “One of these days” is an idiom that behaves like an adverb. It’s basically a drop-in replacement for “someday,” meaning something like “at some unspecified point in the future”. So there we have it!
‘One of these days’ goes around in my head at this time of year for two reasons, both of which are ingrained in my DNA.
Growing up in North Donegal with its dark star-filled skies meant that we were reasonably familiar with celestial goings-on, especially in winter…
Thoughts of my sister Eva, gone 64 days today, come flashing through my head from the most unexpected sources, some, like storm clouds, are gloomy and dark, some are as joyful as catching a glimpse of a shooting star.
Today, a Twitter account I follow, Fermanagh County Museum, referenced an article in The Guardian newspaper about the history of the hanky and that was the trigger that opened the pandora’s box of happy little memories…nothing dramatic, but quiet gentle little reminiscences that made the day more pleasant.
My sister Eva adored handkerchiefs and used them all her life. No paper tissues for her – she was a woman before her time with her ecofriendly hankies, lovingly laundered and meticulously ironed each Saturday, her housework day. I was just wondering if I asked my grandchildren aged 10, 11 and 12, what a hanky is, would they even know?
Handkerchiefs as they were known, before the diminutive ‘hanky’, were staple Christmas and birthday gifts. Aunts, visitors and even Santa considered them approriate and suitable gifts for people of all ages.
Our Aunt May, a nun, never overlooked a birthday or Christmas for any one of her nieces and nephews. Often her gifts would be a box of hankies- flat book sized boxes, smaller cigarette packet sized boxes. Some single offerings, some containing 2, 3 or even 6 . Some beautiful ones with prints of favourite cartoon figures for the small children, some colourfully emroidered, some emroidered white on white, some with lacework and very special linen ones with lace edgings for weddings.
Eva acquired her great love of hankies from our Mother – who had dozens of them, some for everyday, some for special occasions. When Mum died in 1999, Eva laid claim to the cache of hankies and she proudly packed them into her New Zealand bound luggage!
On December 10 last, Eva said she had ordered some new hankies from Marks and Spencers online and she hoped to have them in a few days as the delivery service from UK to Australia was really fast. I asked her if she needed more hankies and she said she wanted new ones for Christmas, her favourite time of year.
I suspect they were Christmas themed hankies like these, but I am not sure. I don’t know if she ever got to enjoy them as exactly a week later she slipped into a coma from which she never woke up.
The humble hanky was my shooting star today.
March 4 2021
Comments Off on The Handkerchief – Memories of Eva
Our sister Eva arrived into our world on November 15 1956, a day I remember so well. We were a family of 4 – boy aged 9, girl (me) aged 8, boy aged almost 4, boy aged 2. So Eva was number 5 in our family and for her recent 65th Birthday, I remembered that day with her. A new baby, they said. Oh, I groaned – another boy I suppose.
I was escorted to the ‘big room’ where babies mysteriously arrived, usually when the local midwife, Nurse Kelly, had left her bicycle leaning up against the wall. The ‘big room’ was in the annexe to our house and was a sort of ‘out of bounds’ area, so this was an adventure at a number of levels.
The usual question was asked – where did this baby come from? I was advised that it had come from Hungary in a tea chest to escape the Russian invasion. This was very plausible as there were images in the newspapers of tanks of the Red Army rolling in to Budapest just weeks before. It certainly made a dramatic change from the usual ‘gooseberry bush’ yarn.
Staring in at this sleeping bundle, I asked what we would call him. It’s a girl they said…’A what’? I responded and was quite stunned when they repeated the news.
I suppose we will have to spend days going through the Litany of Saints to find a name for her, I thought. remembering the trauma of trying to agree on a name for the last arrival, Damian, who had something to do with Lepers. Names of prior arrivals in our family were predetermined– Noel arrived on Christmas Day, so ‘Noel’ was a no-brainer, with our maternal grandfather’s name added ; I arrived on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, so Angela it was, tagged on to the names of both grandmothers; the eldest brother was named after his paternal grandfather and great grandfather, James and Daniel, but he was never called by either of these names other than on formal documents.
So what to do with this cute little bundle? Well, as it happened, her name had already been predetermined. No Litany of the Saints to scour this time . She would be ‘Eva’, a family name on our mother’s side of the house, a name that had been given to 4 generations before her (that we know of.) The name ‘Eva’ and variants of it, remain in our family among 1st, 2nd and third cousins. Our mother had a sister Eva, our grandfather had a sister Eva, our great-grandmother had a sister Eva and our great-great-grandmother had a sister Eva. Who knows how far back it goes?
So off to the chapel to have her christened – and I recall clutching the piece of paper with her chosen names. Our mother was still confined to bed, and in any event had not been ‘churched’, so she could not attend. (Churching was a catholic practice of ‘cleansing’ women who had given birth, that has thankfully ended). To satisfy the Church requirement for a Saint’s name for Baptism, our mother chose Philomena, a great favourite of hers as evidenced by the huge picture of her clutching a lily, that hung over the end of our dining room table.
However, the priest insisted in the nicest way possible that it might be a good idea to add in the name ‘Mary’ as there was some discussion beginning around the authenticity of Philomena’s status as a saint. It was a cold winter day in a church with no heating, so Dad readily agreed to the proposal so we could get home to a warm fire. I seem to recall that our mother was none too pleased by the decision.
To the best of my recollection, Johnny and Mary Josie Sweeney were godparents to our Eva Philomena Mary Gallagher.
In days before cameras were the norm, we do not have any photos of her as a baby. But here she is aged 2, in June 1959
Eva – In Memoriam
My sister is dead.
The vast emptiness astonishes me.
The lonely painful journey she made, angers me.
Her life unlived, dismays me.
She had dreams and hopes of change, which may have come in the silence of her final hours.
19 years after the 9/11 hijackings, another look at the site of the Shanksville Crash site in Pennsylvania. The eerie silence of the landscape, pierced only by a whistling strong breeze, has remained with me. I am very pleased to have this record of the crash site, now utterly changed by the massive memorial that is now there.
On September 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93 departed Newark, New Jersey, one of the main New York airports, for San Francisco, California. It was 8:42 am. 37 passengers and 7 crew settled down for the almost 6-hour flight. About three-quarters of an hour later, at around half past nine, 4 hijackers entered the cockpit and took control of the plane.
Aware that something was wrong, passengers and crew phoned family and friends on the ground and were told that passenger planes had been flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre at 8.46 am and 9.03 am. A third plane was crashed into the Pentagon Building in Washington D.C. at 9.37 am. Realizing that their flight was in all probability being used for the same purpose, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 decided to take action.
At the turn of the 20th Century our great grandparents, Daniel and Isabella lived and raised their family of 10 on a small holding on the side of a hill overlooking the Gweebarra River, near Glenties, County Donegal.
There were a number of those children that we knew well, and others who were names that we only had heard as they cropped up in conversation from time to time.
One of these ‘names’ was ‘Aunt Kate’.
Catherine Gallagher was born on May 22nd 1884, the 6th child and 5th daughter of the family. All the children were born at home, usually with the assistance of a local midwife or a neighbour who had experience at births.
In the 1901 Census, taken in April of that year, Catherine is shown as ‘Cassie’, one of 8 offspring at home on that night. Interestingly, our great grandfather Daniel seems to have completed the census form, but left the column headed ‘Rank, Profession or Occupation’ blank. The Census Enumerator has entered ‘Farmer’s Daughter’ for each of the non school going girls, as can be seen by the different handwriting.
Cassie is shown as aged 15, but she was almost 17 and had finished school at that time. All the children had attended Kilkenny National School, about a 20 minute walk away. All members of the family were bilingoal, speaking both Irish and English.
In the 1911 Census here ‘Cassie’ is recorded as Kate and is now 27 years old and again denoted as ‘Farmer’s daughter” In reality, all of these girls were workers, expert knitters, seamstresses and embroiders and would have contributed to the family income as well as helping on the farm with feeding hens, collecting eggs, milking the few cows, saving hay, jam making and baking. I don’t know whether they worked from home or in a workplace.
There is mention of a Kate Gallagher from Mulnamina who was commended for sewing ‘an emroidered white petticoat’ in the Derry Journal newspaper of July 7 1913. Was that our Kate? While there were a few girls of similar name in the townland at the time, I think I am going to claim that it was her!
But we really know nothing of Kate, beyond that she spoke Irish and English, that she attended school and was the 6th born child in the family. Did she have a boyfriend? Did she go dancing? That she would have had many friends in the area is beyond doubt – cousins and neighbours frequented one anothers’ homes. Some of her sisters had married at this stage and perhaps she visited them in their new homes.
The next evidence we have for Kate is her death certificate in 1926.
We learn from the death certificate that Kate had Tubercolis, the great killer of the time and for decades afterwards, and that she had been suffering from heart failure for 3 years. It’s unlikely that she would have been well enough to leave the house for some time before her death if she was frail. The death was registered by our Grandfather James who was present at death. It was probably known that Kate was grievously ill and he travelled from Carrigart to Glenties to be with the family.
Kate’s mother Isabella had died in November 1925, just 9 months before Kate. As far as I know, Aunt Maggie the youngest of the family, had to forgo her job in Glenties when she was needed at home to look after her elderly father, ill sister and eldest brother John.
There were crowds of hazel bushes near the house and I like to think that she and her siblings had fun collecting them each Autumn, as we did decades later.
The great family mystery is: Where is Kate buried? Where are her parents buried? What graveyard are they in? It is terribly sad that there is no trace of her, no trace of them, as though they never existed.
The house is off the beaten track. Kate would have walked this laneway many times during her lifetime, to and from school and to and from homes of relatives.
It is also the lane taken on her last journey, just months after her mother went the same road. The great family mystery is: Where is Kate buried? Where are her parents buried? What graveyard are they in? It is terribly sad that there is no trace of her, no trace of them, as though they never existed.
Yesterday I found a rose named ‘Catherine’. It is deep crimson and is described as elegant, slender, beautifully perfumed and a good cut flower.
Catherine – a rose for Grandaunt Kate Gallagher …who we never knew.
After months of so called ‘cocooning’ as we sheltered from Covid-19, it was with some trepidation that we headed north west to my home county of Donegal for a holiday. Our chosen location had been determined by a road marathon that had been cancelled due to the pandemic, but we decided to go anyhow. And what a great decision it was!
We were located in the south-west of Donegal, about 15 km from the town of Ardara, along a maze of narrow roads, with only sheep and babbling brooks breaking the silence. Our house was spacious and very comfortable,with all mod cons,apart from internet or a telephone signal. A huge basket of turf was provided for the fire, to add to the coziness and to the sensual experience of being in Donegal, where delicious turfsmoke permeates the air.
So this was going to be a time for enjoying nature and wilderness, a time for walks and fresh air and wide open spaces.The vastness of the empty landscape was sheer paradise. apartment.
Just a short distance in either directon was the fabulous Donegal coastline and the Wild Atlantic Way with a choice of secluded little coves for sitting, or vast exapnses of relatively unoccupied beach for vigorous walks.
This particular region is well known for its spectacular historical features.
The Pilgrimage route or ‘Turas’ at Glencolumkille comprises engraved standing stones, tombs, wells and ruins of an ancient church and would take several hours to complete.
Not quite as ancient, but even more poignant for me are the many remains of old buildings in the area, where families once lived and once toiled.
There is an abundance of beautiful native flowers thriving in grasslands.
And not only delicate blossoms….. Fuschia hedges abound
Donegal is also known for its lovely hydrangeas, widely planted outside houses.
A socially distanced trip to the fishing village of Killybegs, for roadside Fish and Chips beside the busy harbour was a ‘must do’. The fresh-from-the-sea flavour is a dream!
The most dramatic feature in the area has to be the waterfall outside Ardara. It was in full flow after a night of rain when we visited.
This was my first extended trip to this part of Donegal. There is so much to see, so much to do – and this is just a sample of what is on offer.