Past reality

Mar 19th, 2008 | By | Category: Ireland

He had gone to England for work; there was nothing to be had on this side of the Irish Sea, and he wanted to be able to give his children a life that didn’t revolve around waiting each week for meagre state benefits. What he earned had to cover his keep in England, so what was left to send back didn’t cover the cost of family life at home. He hoped to get a better job, but the shortfall meant that his wife back at home had to work until things improved.

She had a clerical job. Her mother looked after the three children during the week: two girls, one of school age and one just below school age, and a baby boy.

Flying home at the weekends was not an option in those times, typical air fares were around £200, at least two weeks’ wages. He got home when he could.

One weekend morning, after she had worked a long and tiring week, she was asleep in her room with the baby. Somehow the older girl got matches. One was struck that set light to part of the furniture in the girls’ room. There were no flames, just fumes that filled the room, fumes that claimed the lives of both little girls.

I found their picture amongst some old news cuttings. I cut it from the paper at the time as a reminder of what things had been like.

There was a jolt in seeing the photograph. This is what the world is like when your country has no work and no future for its people. Physical and mental tiredness cause people to make mistakes.

Had I been in his shoes would I have gone away? Of course. You do what you believe to be best for your kids and there would have been little for them in him sitting at home on the dole in a housing estate they dearly wished to escape. Both of them did what they believed would bring a better future.

No matter how bad the financial stories may be this week, things are infinitely better than Ireland of the 1980s

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  1. Ian

    You are right, there is always someone who is worse off than us or some time when things were a lot worse than now.
    There were no luxuries in my childhood like my boys have now, but I was happy and made the best of what I had. The boys do get reminded of this from time to time!!

  2. Moving story, Ian

    How could anyone ever forget Charlie telling us to tighten our belts while he was busily dipping his grubby paw in the coffers. Two of my brothers crossed the Irish sea in search of work, and never returned to live in Ireland.

    My son is the same age and stage as I was at in the early 80’s (early stages of a career) and when I compare his life now to how it was for me then, there simply is no comparison. He was based in London last year and it was cheaper for him to fly home to Ireland for a weekend party than seek entertainment in the big smoke.

    You sound just like me with your newspaper cuttings – I’m a real hoarder of articles that have interested me. Baino wouldn’t be able cope with us at all! 😀

    btw Thanks a million for visiting Laura. Sadly, she was moved to intensive care yesterday and her blog has been removed. I’m very worried for her.

  3. I can remember clearly the preparations for the funeral, I was a curate at the time and it was conducted by my Rector, but I have no recall of the funeral itself. Perhaps the mind closes things out.

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