- Site Index
- About Me
- Book List & Themes
- Strictly for Adults Novels >
Tales from Portlaw
- No Need to Look for Love
- 'The Love Quartet' >
The Priest's Calling Card
- Chapter One - The Irish Custom
- Chapter Two - Patrick Duffy's Family Background
- Chapter Three - Patrick Duffy Junior's Vocation to Priesthood
- Chapter Four - The first years of the priesthood
- Chapter Five - Father Patrick Duffy in Seattle
- Chapter Six - Father Patrick Duffy, Portlaw Priest
- Chapter Seven - Patrick Duffy Priest Power
- Chapter Eight - Patrick Duffy Groundless Gossip
- Chapter Nine - Monsignor Duffy of Portlaw
- Chapter Ten - The Portlaw Inheritance of Patrick Duffy
- Bigger and Better >
- The Oldest Woman in the World >
Sean and Sarah
- Chapter 1 - 'Return of the Prodigal Son'
- Chapter 2 - 'The early years of sweet innocence in Portlaw'
- Chapter 3 - 'The Separation'
- Chapter 4 - 'Separation and Betrayal'
- Chapter 5 - 'Portlaw to Manchester'
- Chapter 6 - 'Salford Choices'
- Chapter 7 - 'Life inside Prison'
- Chapter 8 - 'The Aylesbury Pilgrimage'
- Chapter 9 - Sean's interest in stone masonary'
- Chapter 10 - 'Sean's and Tony's Partnership'
- Chapter 11 - 'Return of the Prodigal Son'
- The Alternative Christmas Party >
The Life of Liam Lafferty
- Chapter One: ' Liam Lafferty is born'
- Chapter Two : 'The Baptism of Liam Lafferty'
- Chapter Three: 'The early years of Liam Lafferty'
- Chapter Four : Early Manhood
- Chapter Five : Ned's Secret Past
- Chapter Six : Courtship and Marriage
- Chapter Seven : Liam and Trish marry
- Chapter Eight : Farley meets Ned
- Chapter Nine : 'Ned comes clean to Farley'
- Chapter Ten : Tragedy hits the family
- Chapter Eleven : The future is brighter
The life and times of Joe Walsh
- Chapter One : 'The marriage of Margaret Mawd and Thomas Walsh’
- Chapter Two 'The birth of Joe Walsh'
- Chapter Three 'Marriage breakup and betrayal'
- Chapter Four: ' The Walsh family breakup'
- Chapter Five : ' Liverpool Lodgings'
- Chapter Six: ' Settled times are established and tested'
- Chapter Seven : 'Haworth is heaven is a place on earth'
- Chapter Eight: 'Coming out'
- Chapter Nine: Portlaw revenge
- Chapter Ten: ' The murder trial of Paddy Groggy'
- Chapter Eleven: 'New beginnings'
The Woman Who Hated Christmas
- Chapter One: 'The Christmas Enigma'
- Chapter Two: ' The Breakup of Beth's Family''
- Chapter Three: From Teenager to Adulthood.'
- Chapter Four: 'The Mills of West Yorkshire.'
- Chapter Five: 'Harrison Garner Showdown.'
- Chapter Six : 'The Christmas Dance'
- Chapter Seven : 'The ballot for Shop Steward.'
- Chapter Eight: ' Leaving the Mill'
- Chapter Ten: ' Beth buries her Ghosts'
- Chapter Eleven: Beth and Dermot start off married life in Galway.
- Chapter Twelve: The Twin Tragedy of Christmas, 1992.'
- Chapter Thirteen: 'The Christmas star returns'
- Chapter Fourteen: ' Beth's future in Portlaw'
The Last Dance
- Chapter One - ‘Nancy Swales becomes the Widow Swales’
- Chapter Two ‘The secret night life of Widow Swales’
- Chapter Three ‘Meeting Richard again’
- Chapter Four ‘Clancy’s Ballroom: March 1961’
- Chapter Five ‘The All Ireland Dancing Rounds’
- Chapter Six ‘James Mountford’
- Chapter Seven ‘The All Ireland Ballroom Latin American Dance Final.’
- Chapter Eight ‘The Final Arrives’
- Chapter Nine: 'Beth in Manchester.'
- 'Two Sisters' >
- Fourteen Days >
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Bill's Personal Development
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- 'Early life at my Grandparents'
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- Always wear clean shoes
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- 'Growing up with grandparents'
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'Early life at my grandparent's home'
Recently, I came across this image when I was looking through my photo albums. It is a photograph of my Irish Grandfather and Grandmother, William and Mary Fanning, and though I have a few snaps of them, this picture is one of my favourites. It is how they first appeared to me and how I will always remember them, having born in their home in Portlaw, County Waterford, where I lived for the first four/five years of my life.
My grandparents were plain folk of basic educational background; well known in the village where they lived and highly popular with their neighbours, parish priest and nearest publican. They spoke as they saw, did as they felt proper, carried no airs and graces and were greatly respected in their church and community. Although a Roman Catholic couple from cradle to grave, their daily contributions to the saving of their souls was one Our Father, five Hail Marys, a bottle of stout and forty Woodbines.
While my grandparents no doubt expressed their love and affection for each other in the privacy of their bedroom on a night, they were never seen to be demonstrably affectionate to each other in public. They'd parented seven children of which my mother was the oldest, and no doubt, by the time their first grandchild arrived on the scene, all thought of love's first passion had long past.
Grandmother was the more dominant of the two. Anywhere inside the household was her realm, which she ran to her rule and satisfaction while my grandfather's kingdom was his shed out in the back yard where he worked most days, repairing bicycles and mending punctures for the villagers. When he stepped foot back inside the house, my grandfather usually did as grandmother said when she said it. When he strongly disagreed with her, they never argued; instead he would go for long daily walks accompanied by his packet of Woodbines. Grandmother, on the other hand, was not allowed to enter his working shed under any circumstances. If she wanted to tell him something, she would be instructed to tell him it through the closed door of his bicycle shed.
Granddad was a quiet man of very slim stature. He was very thoughtful and avoided all manner of argument and dispute. As a young man who'd been brought up in the heart of rebel Ireland, he was 'on the run' for a number of years before a heart attack in his early twenties brought him back to a more settled life of marriage and raising a family of seven children (one of whom died at birth). In many ways, some might think my grandparents an odd couple, him with a svelte like body and elegant looks, and she, looking like a lost sister to Arthur Lucan's character of Old Mother Riley.
My grandmother, who was a weighty, buxom woman, had a big nose in the centre of her face that you could hang a kettle on. All day long she would bake soda bread on a big, black range and eat half of it as soon as it was baked, whereas Granddad never ate much and was as thin as a rake. As Grandma Fanning rolled the dough for the soda bread, any fag ash that happened to drop from the Woodbine that hung from her lips would be conveniently rolled into the dough that went to make the soda bread. One of Grandma's favourite reminders to me was taht we all ate two stone of dirt before we died!
Granddad's contribution to the family table were potatoes, kale and cabbage; produce he grew in his back garden in abundance and tended to daily, whenever he wasn't mending bicycles. The only thing the family ate on most days of the week was mashed potatoes and either kale or cabbage mixed together, which the Irish call Colcannon. To finish off, we would then have the remainder of the soda bread that Grandmother hadn't eaten during the day, spread thickly with salty butter!
For fifty years after he'd had a heart attack in his early twenties, Granddad was unable to undertake any heavy manual work. So he did what he could to survive. He could always be found in the shed behind the kitchen, mending bicycles for the cyclist of Portlaw and a few neighbouring areas. Two things always fascinated me about this occupation of his; the method of payment he received for his work and my Grandmother's constant supervision/surveillance of him. While the working shed was his kingdom, to which his door remained locked once entered until he opened it to leave, he was never able to prevent my grandmother from being able to see what he was up to or to stop her pestering him as he worked away in his locked shed.
Whenever granddad repaired someone's bike, occasionally he might be paid in coppers, but in the main, it would be a five or a ten packet of Woodbine cigarettes, a cabbage or a pound of fresh butter. I can still recall my mother telling me once that one person paid him for his labour with pig's trotters! The one item he refused to ever take for bartered payment however was soda bread. If ever soda bread was offered as a cyclist's currency, grandmother had instructed granddad to refuse to accept it. She was the woman of 14, William Street and she would have been shamed had her own husband feasted on the soda bread of another woman in the village instead of from the range of his own wife. She always said that were he ever to get food poisoning, she'd rather him be poisoned by her own cooking than the hand of another woman! Besides, grandma always boasted of baking the best soda bread this side of Dublin and she certainlty had no intention of placing her cooking skills in competition with another woman, especially with her husband as chief taster and arbiter.
When my grandfather first erected his working shed for the purpose of his bicycle repairs, Grandmother made him turn it around so that one of the two windows behind his work bench faced her kitchen window. He would work between 9.00 am and 3.00 pm, with his shed door locked to intruders, but grandmother would always keep an eye on him, just in case he had another heart attack. Granddad was also a dab hand at making up lots of useful gadgets. He was, more or less, the Keith Robinson inventor of Portlaw. Between the kitchen window and his shed, a long piece of rope was attached to a pull cord at each end, with a bell suspended from its washing-line centre in the back yard, half-way between his shed and the kitchen. This enabled each to attract the attention of the other, should they need to by simply pulling the cord. Grandmother would simply pull the cord to communicate when the mid-day meal was ready and he would pull the cord to make his regular request, 'Make me a cup of tay (tea), woman!' (A phase spoken by the late John Wayne to his wife and taken from the film 'The Quiet Man' that anyone who is Irish has seen half a dozen times).
Whenever my grandmother served granddad with his cup of tea, she wasn't allowed to enter the shed, but had to leave it on the window ledge, which he would retrieve once he saw her back inside the kitchen. Grandmother always said that he had a secret stash of cash in that old shed, along with a hit list of traitors he'd shot while 'on the run.'
Despite having six children still living at home, plus myself. somehow we all managed to sleep by the males and females doubling up and sleeping top to tail. Every night when my grandparents went to bed, we would hear them talking about what they'd done that day as they smoked their last woodbine. As they spoke, they each looked up at the ceiling often and allowed their eyes to rest on their homely heaven that my grandfather had created just after they'd started married life in the house. Over many years, granddad had painted all the ceilings in the house blue and had painted in hundreds of golden stars to gaze up at. One always knew when my grandparents were ready for sleep, as they gave out their final smoker's cough of the day, followed by a loud, sloppy kiss that I always listened for in the adjacent bedroom.
My grandparents were Irish Nationalists in their politics through and through. In the narrow corridor of their house were hung over twenty photograph portraits of Irish rebels who'd lived and died between the mid 19th century and the early 20th century. Occupying the central and most prominent position of their rougue's gallery was a framed photograph of their hero, Kevin Barry. Kevin Barry was the first Irish Republican to be executed by the British after the leaders of the 'Easter Rising' were sentenced to death for their part in an operation against the Crown that resulted in the death of three British soldiers. Following his hanging, Kevin Barry became an Irish hero and it is a recognition of how well he was regarded by the Nationalist supporters that they wrote a ballad about his part in the 'Easter Rising' that is 6 minutes and 38 seconds long. It is the longest recorded song I ever heard in a world, at a time when early records were never longer than three minutes. One of the few possessions that my grandparents had was an old gramophone which I used to love winding up and playing the only vinyl record they had to play on it; the 'Ballad of Kevin Barry'. For any non-Irish reader who wants a potted history of the 'Easter Rising' in 1916, it is well worth a six and a half minute listening.
My grandparents remained staunch Irish republicans until the day they died, within weeks of each other at the age of 75 years. Ever since they could vote, they would always travel 100 miles by train to Dublin at election time to cast their vote for the Irish revolutionary leader and statesman, Eamon de Valera (1882-1975), who served as Prime Minister and later as President of Ireland (1959-73).
I once recall me, mum and my two oldest sister being taken into the seaside resort of Tramore in County Waterford by my grandparents. My grandparents stayed in the pub drinking and smoking Woodbines all day, while mum and the three children on holiday with her went to the beach. The place was as busy as Blackpool in the height of high season. When mum asked my grandmother where we would meet up later, grandmother replied, 'Oh don't worry your head, girl. We'll be around somewhere. I'm sure you'll find us'. And to be sure, we did!
The one thing that the English will never understand about the Irish is their ancestral connections that binds blood with bones. Take the pub in Tramore for instance, where we left my grandparents that day. Within five minutes of their arrival in the Tramore pub, they had struck up conversation with a number of strangers. Within fifteen minutes of drinking, talking and chain smoking Woodbines, they'd be guaranteed to find someone in one of the twenty-six counties with whom they shared a close or distant relative that ancestrally bound them! I could never explain this peculiarly Irish phenomenon of finding a relative beneath every bed one looked under! It can only have come about by much interbreeding or an orgy of sexual encounters between consenting colleens and boyos over the past century. All I can testify to is that walk in any Irish pub, and somewhere inside you'll find a relative in the pack, if you speak to enough folk!
When my grandparents died, so did a part of me. I will never forget them and when I die, instructions are left to bury part of my ashes with them in their Irish grave, along with the English grave of my parents and the memorial site on Haworth Moor of my wife Sheila's deceased husband and our faithful dog, Lady. God bless my grandparents who first taught me that there's no place like home, especially if one's first home was at grandparent's house.
Below I have included one of the first songs I heard as a child. It was one of my grandmother's favourite songs called 'A bunch of thyme'. I recorded it in February, 2018.
William Forde: October 29th, 2016. (Amended and reviewed: April, 2018)