The first Christmas card arrived at the house on Wednesday the 10th of December. I was almost sure who the sender was before I opened it as it is always the same person’s card which is the first to arrive each year. It was from an old Fuerty football colleague of decades ago. The two of us still follow the fortunes of our home club, he from London and I more discreetly from Boyle.
The arrival of Christmas cards has been part of the build-up and tradition which heralds the closeness of the season. In my youth there were family members living abroad, most of them in various parts of England. The cards and letters would arrive on cue some with welcome enclosures especially the ones from the U.S. Occasionally some family member would be home for Christmas and that added greatly to the pleasure of it all. It was counterbalanced of course by their departure a week or ten days later as it always is. Then the arrivals were met at the busy train station of Roscommon town. The crowds of young people home from England brightened the social scene and gave an extra vibrancy and economy. The men mainly from the building sites of London or Manchester with their shiny suits and brylcreem hair and the girls, many of them nurses, with their flared frocks and lacquered hair. There would be the odd time when the young men would crowd at the end of the church at midnight mass and being inebriated one of them might talk too loud or lose his footing and become a minor talking point over Christmas Day.
Preparations for Christmas Day began once December arrived and the tempo was raised after December the 8th. The mothers began making those lovely heavy Christmas cakes which were such a treat. Christmas trees were sourced in the local woods then being encouraged and the concertina decoration was again drawn across the kitchen with its welcoming open fire. Berried holly was spread on the window sashes and on top of presses and other vantage points. School holidays arrived and were greeted with a particular seasonal enthusiasm. Being farmers the tasks of the time continued. Cows had to be fed, cleaned out from and milked by hand. Cattle fed and sheep especially watched as lambing season then was a broad canvas of time. The storm lantern was used for the night-time inspection.
There were four boys in our house so there was a rough rota which was often the subject of debate! I did it yesterday and you are always asking me were regular exclamations of defence. Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat. It was before the era of the turkey dinner and the goose was the bird of choice. Indeed sometimes a Christmas dinner bird would be posted to a family member in England. I wondered a little about it being edible after its journey and the time lapse. Inevitably the letter of thanks came recognising its arrival. Perhaps they were just being diplomatic. The geese were also the subject of prey to their mortal enemy the fox and very occasionally the results of his seasonal visit was a source of considerable upset especially to my mother.
The arrival of the Christmas shopping in the house was a significant event as it included items that were then annual treats. As young children we studied this cache with enthusiasm as it was spread on the big ‘parlour’ table.
While we only became aware incrementally of the reality, the Santa provision was also in train. Dolls for the girls, comics, cap guns, a cowboy hat or pouch, a small train or some such items for the boys. (It was the era of the cowboy for us) These would be bulked up with more useful items like a school copy or pencils. It was a time also of the ‘lucky bag’ surprise. Once I felt that my older brother had done a bit better than I had and since I was up earlier I balanced the Santa offering more in my favour. This resulted in a subsequent interrogation which puzzled me. On Christmas Eve we listened closely to the radio regarding Santa’s final preparations and departure from the North Pole and ensured that he had some refreshments to tide him over from our house. I doubt if anyone of my generation would remember but for a couple of years Santa had a dilemma as one of his helpers wished to travel with him. This would require a bag of toys to be left behind so it was decided to bring the toys and see if the helper could be accommodated the following year, which we hoped he would.
Christmas morning was one of frenzied joy as the toys were compared. The family then prepared for Mass in best attire where the atmosphere on exiting the church was of a happy, laughing, welcoming crowd. The dinner was of course special and the challenge with the desert of jelly and custard was in trying to have some left when my brothers had all theirs eaten. A while after it was time to have a bottle of lemonade and feel the fizz of it in your nose on first opening. The radio was the backdrop to the kitchen and if our cousins visited us later in the evening, from near Athleague, the ‘parlour’ also was in play on one of its rare occasions. A new deck of cards were introduced the Joker dismissed and a serious game of twenty five ensued. The lit candles were checked from time to time to ensure basic safety. Those Christmas days of our youth are still vivid in the memory.
It is good to be able to say that much of what I have related above is still very much with us. The joy of Christmas day with its visitors, family solidarity and especially remembering our friends and relations abroad is still hugely strong. So I wish you all a great Christmas especially Damien and Ciaran Keenehan (congrats) in Oz, Killian with a K Egan and Johnny Lyons in Oz, Tadgh Egan, and Sean Mullaney in Kanada (!) Damien Dooley in the U.S.; Paddy Conlon in the Home Counties; John Harrington and Caoimhin Young in London; Austin Beisty in N.Y., Darren Dockery in the Gulf, Sean Young and family Spain and A.N.Other everywhere. Also not forgetting the ladies.
(P.S. The best essays I have read on Christmas in Boyle have been from the pen of Christy Wynne and are well worth a reprint so maybe the R.H. might consider same).
Paddy McDermott R.I.P.
One of the great stalwarts of Boyle GAA, Paddy McDermott, passed away in the last week. Paddy gave a lifetime of service to the Club as a player and official. He was a member of the Junior Championship winning Boyle team of 1964. There was only Junior and Senior then. He also made a number of competitive appearances with Roscommon teams in the fifties. After finishing his playing career, Paddy performed the role of administrator, holding all of the key roles in Boyle Club over many decades. No task was too mundane for him. He was also a familiar face in the role of gate collector at many fixtures throughout the County. No one could be more conscientious in that role. The Club provided a guard of honour at Paddy’s removal on Sunday evening.
John Austin Beisty emailed me from New York on hearing of Paddy’s death, as follows; “I was saddened when Shane O'Dowd called to tell me that Paddy McDermott had passed away R.I.P. All that remains from that GAA era would be Nerney, Bill Corcoran, Hal Cawley and I think Gerry Mullaney. I always maintained that Paddy was the best clubman and player that Boyle had during that era. Whenever fellows from other clubs would be talking about the Boyle team, invariably, the McDermott brothers- Paddy and Seamus would always be mentioned first. Paddy was in his prime in the fifties and deserved to be a regular on the Roscommon team but politics trumped ability in those days. He was the last of the Marian Road McDermotts. They were all fine, decent and hard-working people- may they all rest in peace”.
The point he makes regarding Paddy’s ability was endorsed by a number of playing contemporaries I talked to over the week-end, Barry Feely, Bill McQuillan and Micheal Shivnan who referred to him as “A gentleman on the field and off the field”. Along with his football he was a huge community activist in ‘The Catholic Club’, ‘The Choir’ and ‘The Credit Union’ to mention but three.
Brendan McQuillan R.I.P.
Sympathy also to the McQuillan family, Marian Road, on the death of Brendan. Brendan was an accomplished underage player with Boyle GAA Club and was a valued member of the 1978 U 14 County Division ‘B’ winning team. Mary Martin Donagher of St. Mary’s College remembered him as a fine badminton player and recalled the fun and enjoyment with Brendan on board when badminton was a vibrant game in the College. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dilis.
GAA Annual Quiz
Arrangements are currently well under way for the Club’s annual social event of the year--the quiz which will be held in St Joseph’s Hall on Saturday night 27th December. This is always a most enjoyable social event where we can meet up with our former players and supporters who are home on holidays for the festive season. As an added bonus, it is intended to announce and present the various end of year awards. The quiz this year will start as early as possible after 8 and will conclude at say 10.45 enabling people to socialise at their leisure through the town.
Gaelic Games in Roscommon 1990-2014
A number of Boyle GAA people attended an understated (euphemism) launch of the above contribution of the Roscommon County GAA record on Saturday night the 13th last. The publication is an update on the History launched in 1990 which covered the period from 1889 to 1990. It was launched by the President of the GAA Liam O’Neill. In his short address Mister O’Neill emphasised one true and hugely important point regarding a practise which is too common especially at under-age games and that is the shouting at and criticism of young (often very young) players. He said that it is acknowledged that such criticism can greatly damage the confidence and self -esteem of a young person and it will take innumerable affirmative comments to redress the balance.
There are many articles, photographs and references that are of particular interest to Boyle GAA supporters. The book is available from Boyle GAA Secretary Mary Clifford for €15 @ 086 8164541
A star hurler visited a local national school to speak to the pupils. He explained that in achieving the skill levels that he had he brought his hurley with him everywhere. “When I went down the field to bring in the cows I had the hurley clipping the thistles, when I went visiting my cousins, when I went to school, everywhere”. At the end of his talk he asked if any boy had a question. Then a hand shot up. “Yes, what is your question?” asked the star.
“Where is your hurley now?” came the response.
I am sure that everybody will join me in expressing heartiest congratulations to Cian Smith and Michelle Garvin who announced their engagement in the last day or so.
On that happy note ... Slán.