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Martin's Mutterings

Martin Timmins shares some of his reminiscences about growing up in Dublin

Dublin in the Rare Auld Times: Part 2

The memory is a quare thing! If I was asked what I did yesterday I’d need a week to think about it and double check with the people who were most likely to be in the same place but I can remember as if it were yesterday a little while before my second birthday. I was sitting outside our little two-room house in Saggart swigging on a bottle (milk of course, the other stuff was a couple of years later at me sister’s birthday party). About a half mile down the road was a huge farm which “belonged” to Colonel Campbell, a hero of the British occupation who was later to die in the same heroic manner as he lived, sitting on the toilet. My aunt, who used to clean house for him, found him but wasn’t quick thinking enough to just pull the chain. Anyway, I digress – on that rare sunny, warm afternoon one of the brave Colonel’s workers, a dairyman, happened to be passing on his way to do the milking. He bent down, took the bottle out of my hand and said “I need that because the cows don’t give enough milk in the warm weather”. I remember a scream for me mammy, a look of panic on the dairyman’s face and me ma giving the poor bugger who was only joking the telling off of his life. Nobody gave Mary Timmins’ kids a hard time! I have never trusted any man who squeezes the udders of four legged females from that day to this.

School days started very soon after that, no trauma, still had the same pals who used to build a dam in the stream at the end of the garden and go “swimming”, the only difference was the regimentation, sitting in rows, not being able to natter on (which of course I would never do, as everybody knows), having to put your hand up and saying “Wil ceád agum dul amách” - meaning “Do I have permission to leave” when you need a pee – and the having to be in one place from a time to a time. (I’m reliving that now, having never believed I’d go full-circle). The best thing about going to school was that my granny, that’s me mammy’s mammy, lived about halfway between our house and the school, in one of a block of four stone-built houses with stairs as steep as ladders, but had one more room than our original house. I used to wonder why they didn’t swap until I understood renting. I found out on my last visit to the Auld Sod (that’s the country, not me granny) that this block had changed hands for about four million euros.
Why do I keep going off on a tangent? On the way home from school I would almost without fail call into granny’s house. She was the loveliest of ladies, grey hair tied in a bun, grey stockings, always wore a bib (maybe some of the older ladies will be able to explain what a bib was to the younger people, I don’t know where to start), made the best cup of tea ever, sang songs and had the best ever sense of humour. Granny told me stories about the auld times that my parents didn’t have enough time for because of all the other kids. One of my favourites was about her father’s Guinness. When me granny was a kid and the family lived near the Royal Canal her “da” used to send her to the local pub to fetch his bottle of Guinness every day. Having had the occasional drop on the sly from time to time she hit on a plan. In those days the bottles were corked, so one day she uncorked it, drank a mouthful, filled the bottle from the canal and recorked it. It wasn’t noticed, so next time it was a mouthful and a half and gradually she weaned him down to half a bottle. When you take into account the fact that neither of my parents drank, it’s obvious that granny’s genes merely jumped one generation. Later I was in the same class as the headmaster’s daughter and got in a whole heap of trouble, but that’s another story.

Martin Timmins

Click here to read Part Three of Martin's Mutterings

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