Archive for the ‘family’ Category



Behind all the glitter, the flashing neon and the mood music there are many people outcast from society – cast into the shadow by a shamed system. Many who went through the Industrial Schools system ended up on the streets; many of them lived short, desperate lives before succumbing. We mustn’t forget them, or the system that destroyed so many lives.

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The Robin Redbreast & Forgiveness

I expect we all have a Robin Redbreast in our gardens or around our homes. but particularly in our gardens. I’ve lived in the same house for nearly 35 years now and we’ve always had a Robin bobbing around the place. A regular sight in my garden in the Autumn and Springtime is a Robin perching on the handle of my shovel. Have we had the SAME Robin for all those years – probably not. But I’ve never seen this Robin hatching from an egg and I’ve never ever seen a dead Robin, so why not the SAME ROBIN for all those years ? Why not?

I remember as a child my Mum leaving scraps out for the birds and I particularly remember the Robin visiting the windowsill – I remember too my Mum telling me of the story of how the Robin got its Redbreast – something to do with keeping the last embers of life in the world alight. Maybe it was a metaphor for something or other? But things changed and when Mum moved away there wasn’t anything on our windowsill for the Robin or any other bird for that matter. Indeed the hunger in us was so bad that I used to “raid” other windowsills just for food for myself and my brother. I remember chasing these birds away so I could get at the rasher rinds and the crusts of bread that were left out. Hunger does that to you. You steal from smaller things!

RobinNaturally the “authorities” got to hear of this and we were all carted off to Court and placed into the tender mercies of the Sisters of Charity. You’d think that things would improve a bit because of this but no, they didn’t. Many of the beatings I got in my early days with the Sisters of Charity was to do with “food raids” – there was many a time I chased birds from the windowsills of the convents kitchens to get at the scraps left out for those birds. Sometimes I would lie quietly under the windowsill so as to be first to grab the delights being placed there. A few of those times a Robin would actually perch on my shoulder so he/she would be first in the queue!

Of course when I made my grab for the food the poor Robin would fly away. I’ve always felt a twinge of guilt over depriving this Robin of his chance at the feast – I’ve never forgotten the awe I felt that a bird would perch on me. Amazing feeling really. And now I have a Robin in my garden just like I’ve had a Robin in the back of my mind for years. Like us all, I’m sure, I put food out for the birds, particularly during hard frosts and maybe throughout the year …. I have four bird feeders placed around the garden and in winter these are kept topped up. And these are visited regularly by all kinds of birds …. only recently I saw a Heron at the bottom of the garden – – there is a swamp/bog behind us so Herons are occasional visitors in the area.

But the Robin is the constant bird in my garden. So last week I was bringing a fistful of muesli down to one of the feeders when I noticed the Robin perched on the hose – I offered the Robin my open palm with some of the muesli in it. The Robin alighted onto my hand and proceeded to feed. I went into some kind of hypnotic state and basically froze while the Robin cleared my hand of the muesli. I’m a bit of a camera buff and an opportunity like this would be something I would pray for BUT that is not what went through my mind. I felt that this Robin was forgiving me for all those many many times that I had take food from them when I was a child. I have tried since to repeat this but with a camera – but to no avail.

Maybe forgiveness is given once – because once is enough.

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This is what is so beautiful.
It’s around half two in the afternoon
The sun is shining
My page is shadow dappled
with the overhanging
quivering foliage.
It’s the middle of September
and it’s my birthday.

The middle of September and it’s my birthday.

The phrase sends a tingle
of excitement
around my stomach.

It feels so precious

so transient

It could slip
and will slip away
so easily

The corn is cut,
golden, yellow grass
and foliage everywhere.

The breeze is soft
cooling the gentle mugginess.

It’s so calm.
The air is filled
with the gentle gentle rustle
of leaves being combed with air.

The mountains blue,
distant, clear
and fields
are a million shades of yellow and green.

The grass here is soft
and bright
tender green shades.

Stippled rough tree-trunks.

I lie back
in the warm grass
feel packed earth
solid beneath
and look up into the boughs of trees.

So Beautiful.

A city person would die for this
love this

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In the picture below are a mining family. My Grandmother – wife of a Miner. My mother – wife of a Miner, mother of 14. My big sister.  My big brother – dead but never forgotten and me.


Mary Brennan ME

My mother is now dead 31 and a half years – she is buried in a graveyard in Moneenroe in Castlecomer in county Kilkenny. One of her headstone states that Mary O’Connor (aged 48) lies here. In another part of the same graveyard there is an empty space amongst a row of headstones and that is also where where my mother is buried – according to her brother!

I have very few memories of my mother, and the last time I was with her was 1955 or maybe 1956 when she left Ireland, my father and us – her children, and went to England and re-married and had 10 more children. On occasion she returned to Moneenroe to her mother and brother but these visits were furtive as she was subject to arrest for bigamy, and breaking a solemn pledge.

For, you see, my mother was once in a Magdalen Asylum.

And the story I’ve heard: In this Magdalen Asylum she gave birth to my older brother (Bunty) and to get out of the Magdalen Asylum she had to pledge to marry my father, also a sum of money had to be paid. My father was NOT the father of Bunty, and my father was 15 years older than my mother – also both of them were close blood relatives and special permission had be applied for in order for the marriage to go ahead. Her mother also paid £100 to the nuns in the Magdalen Asylum to further secure her release.

So my mother was released into a forced marriage, to a man years older than her and a very close relative to boot and £100 was paid to for the privilege. My mother produced 3 more children (my older sister, myself and my younger brother) in a very short time. But such an “arrangement” was bound to fail and my mother did leave us and went to England where she had some kind of a life. Of her 10 children one of them became a Cancer specialist – so it seems her mothering skills were put to good use. Of course the 3 children of the marriage were all incarcerated into various detention centres, but Bunty who was born in the Magdalen Asylum was not touched as our mother’s family prevented it and he continued to live with his Granny.

During my time in those places the only information I received from the nuns about my mother was that she was dead – basically that I was an orphan – and that my mother was evil, a tramp and no good to anyone. That she was a wicked woman who was burning in the fires of hell where she would remain for eternity – and at times the same nuns liked to point me out to the other children and label me as a spawn of the devil.

Yes that’s what Irish nuns used to tell children about their mothers.

Although my mother was buried in August 1980 she died a long long time before that – for you see I BELIEVED the nuns – she was dead to me when I was in those places. The tragedy, to me, is that this denigration and belittlement of my mother by the nuns prevented me from ever seeking her or her family out until it was too late. They made me feel ashamed of my mother and this shame (and loathing) has haunted me. So when people talk about ‘forgiveness’ and ‘moving on’ they are really asking us, asking me, to forget.

I will not forget and I will not forgive.

Happy Mother’s Day

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