Wednesday, 1 December 2010


My great grandfather Joseph Denis O'Driscoll lived and worked for some
time in Skerries, Co Dublin, and was married there.  He died 4th July
1892 in Schull, Co. Cork, aged 35 years. He was an Inland Revenue
Officer.  He married Catherine Murtagh from north Co Dublin in 1883
and 3 of their 4 children were born there – Joseph Denis, John and
Kieran my grandfather.  Joseph Denis also worked in Bandon.  Ellen
their daughter was born in 1889 in Schull.
Thanks to my brother Donal (who is a retired Customs & Excise
Officer!) for procuring the photograph from the old photos my father
once kept.
My paternal grandmother was born on Horse Island.  Her parents were
from around Ballydehob-Schull.  Her mother Ellen McCarthy was from
Horse Island and her father Timothy Collins was from Ballycummisk.
Her parents moved to Cape Clear for a while and then to Derryconnell.
Granny was married in Schull, and my father Joseph and his sister
Kathleen and brother Gerald Kevin were born there.  Gerald Kevin died
when he was only 3 months old.
My paternal grandfather Kieran was a Yeoman of Signals in the British
Navy and died in Plymouth hospital at the young age of 31 years in
As children, we spent many idyllic summer holidays in Ballydehob,
under the kindly influence of Granny-in-Cork (as we used to call her).

Something in my father’s mother flipped whenever she beheld us.  She was smitten by that ultimate biblical blessing, May you see your children’s children, and she couldn’t stop fussing over the offspring of her son.  A dance sprung up in her mind that didn’t know how to translate itself into body; hers was a broken syntax of over-feeding and sudden embraces and readiness to call the doctor at the sound of a sneeze.  Her continuous jumbled narrative of proverbs, verses and admonitions, half-understood by us or not understood at all, fragments of it remembered and most of it forgotten, has left behind it a sense of possible blessedness, as if someone passing down the street had shouted There is another way! in a foreign language, and the uncomprehending listeners noticed a sudden vibrancy in the air around them and felt a promise of better days rise in their hearts.  Any even though we didn’t know what precisely our grandmother’s happy pother was all about, we were happy to know in some way that we were the cause of it. 
From A Runner Among Falling Leaves, Liverpool University Press, 2001.

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