My Granny O'Rourke was the was the mainstay of our household. The Kavanagh family was made up of five children, Mam and Dad, and Granny's other grandchild (Terry) whom she also raised (read "That's Just How It Was"). We lived with her and she had a huge influence on all our lives. Without her tensity, love and care, the Kavanagh family would not have been able to survive in what was and has been described as a poverty-stricken and deprived era. My Mam had to go to work in the golf clubs and hotels as a silver service waitress to try and earn some kind of living for us. My Dad ... was a kind man ... but spent a lot of time in the pub; not a bad man, just a weakness for drink. I have covered all of this in the follow up story of "That's Just How It Was," researching alcohol and its effects as much as possible so that I can give my Dad the knowledge and understanding that a man of his background deserves.
In my new book -- a follow up to "That's Just How it Was" -- it is her story continued through the eyes this granddaughter, encapsulating yet again the historical events that were unfolding all around her.
Mass on a Sunday had a pivotal role in our household. Although my Granny O'Rourke was unable to attend mass by the time of my recollections, she ensured that all of her grandchildren did; even my Dad. Being late for mass was not a option for any of us.
There was no money for doctors. The only doctor available to the poor of that era was a dispensary doctor who only sat on a Friday. Being a "handy woman" (a term used in historical records to denote a woman who cared for the "sick and dying, laying out the dead, and to assist women in childbirth"), Granny O' Rourke was a mine of information about herbs and spices. She would send the grandchildren up to woods to collect nettles and brambles. In fact, what she was sending us to pick were plants and other materials that she would make potions out of to ward off sickness or, indeed, to help cure a sickness.
I do wish that I had recorded all of the concoctions and potions that helped us in childhood. Our neighbors benefited from her goodness as well.
Mary Thorpe is the author of "That's Just How it Was," a personal memoir and tribute to her much loved Granny O'Rourke (nee Nolan). It is an attempt to place the stories she heard and was told into a true and historical context.