Burying Baby Jesus: A Galway Christmas Story

My dad, Guard John Murphy (Killimor, Ballinasloe) died in Our Lady’s Hospice (Harold’s Cross, Dublin) aged forty-four, leaving my mother, aged thirty-nine, with ten children aged two and a half to eighteen years old.

On Christmas Eve of 1945, we spent most of the day playing outdoors in the snow while Mother stuffed a goose which had hung on a nail out in the back kitchen for several days. Mrs. O’Mara had sent the goose up to her with a basket of groceries. In the basket were sweets, biscuits and a bottle of raspberry wine, and a sweet cake for all of us. Before we went to bed that night we had a small party. We prayed and asked Santa not to forget us and we asked Baby Jesus to help Santa with our toys. Mother hung up our small stocking with big safety pins on a clothes line that hung over the fireplace.

Christmas morning we were all up bright and early. We tip-toed down the stairs and crept along the hallway so as not to awaken Mother. We took down our sock, and in it was a pair of knitted socks, a few sweets and a pencil. Not one toy for any of us, not even for the baby. After dinner we went to the church with the smaller children sitting up in the big pram. We looked into the manger crib. After all our praying Baby Jesus sent us nothing so we decided to hide Him under the straw. We climbed into the crib, pulled the straw up and hid the Baby Jesus under the straw as far down as we could. We then went home satisfied that Baby Jesus was hidden away. We told Bab Flood what we had done and she just smiled. She felt sorry for us and gave us some apples and oranges. The next day we went to the church only to see Baby Jesus back in his crib again. This time we buried the Baby Jesus again, but this time we used our shoe laces and tied him to the straw so that he couldn’t get out. Mother was very cross and wanted to know what happened to our laces but we never told her.

The Garda Superintendent heard about our dilemma and a few days later a phone call came to the barrack to say Santa hadn’t forgotten us and a large parcel was on its way from the Guards in the Depot Training Centre in Dublin. The parcel contained a beautiful doll, with a china face, drums, bugles, games of all kinds, a big fruit cake and socks for all of us. We were overjoyed. Baby Jesus had loved us after all, even though he was a little late. We paraded up and down the street of Killimor to the delight of Mother and neighbours. No-one could ever imagine the joy and happiness that parcel brought to Mother and her orphans. 

The above story was written by, and is courtesy of Philomena Hill, (nee Murphy) formerly of Killimor, County Galway, where my mum came from.

We wish you a Merry Christmas, to you and yours, and a happy and peaceful New Year.

Brian Nolan
Walking Tours of Galway

Views: 5510

Tags: Christmas, Galway, Ireland, Killimor, Living History, Santa

Comment by Gerry Regan on December 27, 2014 at 10:20am

Poignant story, Brian, Philomena! Reminds me once again that ours is a God of surprises, and the importance of patience!

Comment by Gerry Regan on December 27, 2014 at 10:21am

BTW, we knew the Mocklers, the founders of Patrick's Pub here on Long Island, and sadly closed now about 10 years. They hailed from Ballinalsoe, I seem to recall. Know the family? 

Comment by Fran Reddy on December 27, 2014 at 3:38pm

Lovely story Brian, thanks for the post :)

Comment by Jim Hawkins on December 30, 2014 at 12:41pm

Thanks, Brian! What a great story! It reminds me of the times growing up in Westmeath and we looked forward to the coming of our postman, Billy Whelan, and the packages he might bring to us, especially the ones from America!!

Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on January 24, 2017 at 11:03am

Brian... That story is very reminiscent of my Grandmothers story.. I wrote a book called 'That's Just How It Was ' as a tribute to her .. She was left  a widow with 7 children at 36 year#s of age...  How the times have changed .. Even I remember not having any toys for Christmas.... We were poverty stricken... none the less .. the children of today do not have a clue how hard life was for their ancestors...Not sure ifs a good or a bad thing.. 


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