<< Back to the main Stories/poems page
By Mattie Lennon.
Forgetfulness seeps from within, cushioning thoughts of yesterday on whims of fancy.
Beginning images anew, filter through, tending them-selves with renewed energy.
Figuratively flying above thoughts on evening stars of enlightenment.
Sensing beautiful oasis's of once grand moments in time, falling asleep within their memories, reliving them once more before final horizons close their doors.
(RoseAnn V. Shawiak)
Can one ever really relive a memory or successfully re-capture a feeling? I think so, if only fleetingly and infrequently.
It was Christmas morning 1952. I was being let by the hand to early Mass in Lacken. Why did my mother have me by the hand since, in the words of Patrick Kavanagh, I was “six Christmases of age”? (What child of that age with my surname wouldn’t be chuffed with A Christmas Childhood, where the music of the poet’s . . . fathers, melodeon called the Lennons).
I was restrained because my mother considered me “wild”; although in later life I would always claim that I was an eejit but didn’t tick any of the boxes that would constitute “wild.”
Rural electrification was just arriving in the area but had not yet been switched on. Post- dawn it would be possible to see poles which had stood, complete with insulators, all summer, sentry-like and were now strung with high-tension cables. An ESB official, one Mr Heavy from Naas, had called to the school to complain about the number of insulators which had been the victim of stone-throwing. The schoolboys from Ballinastockan were the prime suspects. Not because they were more destructive than the rest of us but they were young marksmen with a stone or any small missile.
If you stood close to an ESB pole and looked up it appeared to be falling, an illusion caused by the rolling clouds. The term opto—kinetic movement would have meant very little to a young mind. Not every house opted for the “’lectric light”. This omission was mainly out of economic necessity and the “cups” on the chimney became somewhat of a status symbol. The switching-on ceremony would be performed in The Parish Hall, Valleymount, in January 1953. O’ Connor’s lorry would bring the Lacken schoolchildren across the parish for the ceremony, but since I was only in Infant’s class I wouldn’t be brought. For now the valley’s illumination was confined to candles in windows, some standing in hollowed out turnips and others in jam jars or paint tins filled with sand. Conversation on that pre-dawn morning was dominated by several fanciful theories about the forthcoming power. You shouldn’t ever touch a switch with a wet hand. The water out of an electric kettle could electrocute, or as one person pronounced it, “execute”, you. You couldn’t wash a light bulb. You could buy a flex in Woolworths for half a crown to bring the light into the cow-house.
Every pole displayed the warning on a yellow background: “Danger. Keep away … It is dangerous to touch the electric wires. Beware of fallen wires.”
As the adult Mass-goers spoke of the well- dressed men in Ford vans who were travelling the district selling everything from irons, to kettles to Electric fires my fertile imagination ran riot.
Before the holidays the school Principal, Thomas Keane, had brought in an ESB meter and showed us how it would work, explaining how the wheel would spin to record how much current was used. I have always been as honest as hard times would allow but on that winter’s day sixty nine years ago I fell to wondering if said instrument could be “adapted”.
Christmas Day was on a Thursday that year and yet one of our group pointed out the fairly obvious, “Christmas day will be on Friday next year.” A woman answered (and I still don’t know if it was for my benefit), “I hope it won’t be on Friday the thirteenth.”
Would the feeling came over me that morning ever be repeated? Yes. On Saturday 29th September 1979 I was living in Blanchardstown and working as a Bus Conductor in Conyngham Road Garage. Pope John Paul 11 was arriving that day and it meant an early start for many of us.
As I drove down Knockmoroon Hill at 5 A.M. while the endless line of tail-lights ahead of me barely moved, it came back. That feeling. For a few brief moments I was no longer a thirty-three year old Russ-in-Urbe driving a Japanese car.
It was once again Christmas morning 1952.