Dandy Lodge in Winter 2023

Pres. Day in Pres. Listowel

November 21 was always a big deal when I worked in a Presentation school. It was lovely to see Srs. Consolata, Theresa and Eilish back in the school for Pres. Day 2023.

I took the photos from the school’s facebook page.

Kildare Village is No Place for a Two Year Old

The two year old hates wearing coats so the first struggle started before we left the house. When your Nana loves taking photos you just have to wear your beautiful red Christmassy coat.

Second hiccup; We were too early. Gates closed.

Nothing for it but to repair to the nearby coffee shop. Soother had to be unearthed to persuade her to leave the coat on.

To persuade her to relinquish the soother a smoothie is promised.

A piece of tea cake!

Some kind of unhealthy snack is next. The coat is still on but by now the hair bobble has been pulled out and lost.

Next bribe ( inducement) is a story.

Finally, it’s time to return to the shopping village. Coat is still on but by now it’s raining. Photoshoot back on track…kinda!

I’ll leave the story of how it all went pear shaped ’til tomorrow.

In Portlaoise Train Station

Victorian, I think

+ R.I.P. Sr. Helen Hartnett+

Every now and again I have felt that I was in the presence of a saint. If Sr. Helen is not a saint in heaven at the right hand of God, there is no hope for the rest of us.

Sr. Helen’s Listowel connection is strong even though she never lived here for long. Helen’s family moved to Listowel after she had already entered the convent.

Sr. Helen who passed away on December 2 2023 was a Salesian sister who spent her working life in South Africa, living and ministering among the poorest of the poor.

Sr. Helen “never missed an opportunity to do good.” She believed that every child deserved at least two good meals a day and she believed that education was the way to improve the lives of the children she worked with in the squatter camps.

Sr. Helen was frail in stature but she had the heart of a lion. She lived in a very politically turbulent environment in Johannesburg. She lived surrounded by staff and pupils who were constantly being indoctrinated by political activists to believe that she had no place in the school her order had built, and to which she had given her life.

The most frightening day of her life was the day she arrived to school to be met with open revolt. Teachers, parents and pupils met her chanting, “You are stealing our school and our money.” Terrified, she had to barricade herself in her office until eventually the police, through the intervention of a local supporter, allowed her to go free.

Badly shaken and, of course, hugely disappointed by her experience she, nevertheless went on to move to Capetown to revive a school building project post Covid. She was working on this in conjunction with Irish workers when she fell ill with cancer.

Helen’s family and her religious community looked after her well until God called her home.

So, if you were reading the death notices in R.I.P. ie and you saw someone you never heard of before, here is who this humble holy walking saint was.

Sr. Helen’s Listowel family, her brother Dan, sister Carmel, cousin Eddie Moylan and their families are very proud of her and the work she did. They will miss her gentle presence but are happy in the knowledge that she lived a good life of service to the most disadvantaged of God’s children. She was well prepared for death and accepted whatever God had planned for her.

R.I.P. Sr. Helen. “The day thou gavest Lord has ended.”

Another old card

I don’t think this one is an O’Connor one. Symbols are Ballyduff landmarks and the tone is very republican, The Irish greeting reads Nollaig maith suairc duit, roughly I pray/ wish a good merry Christmas to you.

Christmas Long ago in Ballyferriter

Christmas in Boulteens Ballyferriter by Maurice Brick (Facebook 2015)


                            There was a touch of frost, enough to stiffen the grass but it limbered with the noonday sun. The grown ups were in good humor and we were very sensitive to that. The farm work was done and only the cows needed tending. There was an easiness. 

A great day was when Mam and Dad went to Dingle to bring home the Christmas. Dad had rails on the cart. We were bursting with excitement upon hearing the cart coming with its iron band wheels which could be heard for miles. They had a sack of flour, a sack of yellow meal, various foods, wellingtons, some clothes, decorations and most important, sweets and biscuits and icing clad Christmas Cakes. They also had several bottles of Sandiman Port which were presents from Dingle merchants in appreciation of their custom through the year. 

Searching for discarded jam jars which we would wash and fill with sand to hold the candle we put in each window of the house. Holding the ladder for Dad as he retrieved some ivy from the gable end of the house. Going to the Reen, a field on our land that was reputedly a Fairy Fortress and had some scattered Holly Bushes. The house would be spotless and there was a silent buzz as we went about our chores. The turf fire was blazing and added to the glow. 

On Christmas Eve for dinner we had Langa (Ling), a long stringy fish that had hung for weeks from the ceiling. It was salty and boney but Mam’s white sauce with onions, pandy (potatoes mashed with generous helping of butter) and spices made it palatable. After, there was lashings of Christmas Cake with inch thick icing and we made short work of that. 

Going to Midnight Mass to St. Vincent’s in Boulteen was a treat. We went up the Tóchar a Bohereen and pathway through the fields. Dad had a lantern and led the way. At one point we climbed a few steps to climb over a claí (an earthen stone fence that separated fields) and on top you could see all the houses in the Parish with candles in the windows and it was like a glimpse of Tír Na nÓg (Land Of Youth) if such a place ever existed. 

The Church was small and comfortable. It was full and the smell of molten wax permeated the air. And there was a quietness. My Dad sang in the Choir and his cousin Paddy Brick, Riasc played the violin. It was magical listening to them, performing for us a hauntingly soft rendition of Oíche Chiuin (Silent Night) in honor of the Birth of the Baby Jesus. I remember now, I will never forget, Dad singing his heart out & Paddy Brick his cousin on the violin, watching one another with sideway glances making sure each of them was putting out the best. 

After Mass all the people greeted one another and offered Christmas Blessings. All was done in hushed and calming voices and that has stayed with me down through the years. My friend Pad accompanied us once going home by the Tóchar and he was given to speeching all the way. When we passed by the Cemetery he proceeded to name everyone who died in Gorta Dubha for the past fifty years. I shifted closer to Mam and Dad for the rest of the journey. 

At home, we put up our stockings for Santí and reluctantly went to bed. Dad went to the haggard and pulled a gabháll (bunch) of hay which he spread at the front door to feed the Donkey that was bringing the Holy Family for a visit to our house on Christmas Night. 

After a fitful night’s sleep we arose with excitement and checked our Santí stockings. We compared what we got and though at times it wasn’t much we were happy. Off we went running to every house in the the village. We’d get a piece of sweet cake or a bun and sometimes, even a sip of lemonade. We joined the other children and traipsed about joyfully in and out of the houses. It was Gorta Dubha and all the houses were ours. NOLLAIG SHONA……..HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

A Fact

Cheetahs can change direction in mid air while chasing prey.