"Our past shapes us and makes us what we are" was a favorite adage of my late grand-mother. To qualify this, she would add, "My tough background gave me strength of character which enable me to cope with what life had in store for me…" For many, our past is in another country. As we live life, we experience many different things along our life's path. We are imbued with knowledge of many different kinds; hardships, cultures, religions, meeting and greeting, making friends with people who in our childhood would not have even been on our radar of communication.

Being fortunate enough to be able to have lived in a house and not a mud hut like my grandmother, our childhoods, however, were imbued with the magic of the deep blue of the sky, the sun shining [in my child’s memory], playing with local friends in the fields and woods. Fields were covered with primroses, cowslips, Hawthorn trees, and nettles that stung, but the pain of that stinging sensation is long gone in the memories that it created, and still lingers all these decades later ... friends rushing to pick the dandelion that had the magical power of healing, while it was rubbed on to the skin.

Pictured, Bray Head, County Wicklow, from the rear of the mountain. 

As we jumped across Sammy Johns river (in Bray, County Wicklow, long gone), invariably one or two of us falling into the river, not heeding the wet clothes as we made our way up to Tarzan's Cave in the woods, overlooking Sammy Johns.  That we may have caught a cold or any other illness from remaining in the wet clothes all day did not deter our ambitions to get on with our life. That we no doubt would have got scolded when we got home in wet clothes never entered our minds. All of these practical things were lost on us. In this magical place we had made our own, Tarzan's Cave became a land where we could achieve anything, and if we did not achieve it, well, there was always another day.

This cave had been cleared by other generations of children, who had left their mark by arranging great boulders to make an entrance, initials carved into very old trees, us [our gang] trying to guess whom the initials belonged to, however, only added mystique to the shape and size that we now wanted for us -- here in our present. … The fact that outside of these woods lay the mountain called Bray Head, looking out over the Irish Sea, only added to this childhood appeal of ‘us’ being the creators of our own playing grounds. We did not want, have, or need any materialistic toys that cost lots and lots of money, as ‘our gang’ was content in the knowledge that we could flit from our Tarzan's Cave sanctuary to the Sammy Johns field below us or walk around Bray Head to the promenade on the other side. There we would take off our clothes and jump into the sea in our underwear, splashing around with not a care in the world ... all so very innocent.

Pictured, Bray Head -- the view from the promenade.

Games of hide and seek, dances [in our mum's clothes] flowing around us, fairy tales of old, all of us attempting to outdo one another in our exaggeration of our own tale, ghost stories, all and everything was created in out child’s mind. The times when we watched as rabbits scurried into their burrows, and then maybe the next day or the day after we would hear and see the tiny rabbit babies, all of us wanting to fetch them home with us, but sadly knowing that would not be possible ...

We never tried to rationalize any of our behavior; we would just carry on day by day, not knowing or even wanting to know that Ireland was in a poverty-stricken state. The fact that we had food on the table and a bed to sleep in was the constant in our lives. The next morning was either a school day or back into the fields, woods or promenade. 

Sometime memories come flooding into my eyes and roll down my cheeks!


Views: 1350

Tags: Childhood, Memoir

Comment by Susan O'Dea Boland on January 23, 2016 at 6:29am
Thanks so much for posting these memories of growing up in Wicklow. You told the stories so well that I could see the children in the cave and on the fields. Well done!

Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on January 23, 2016 at 7:06am

Thank you Susan O'Dea Boland ........... they are still vivid in my mind all these years later .. Do you have any connections to Bray Co Wicklow, as a lot of O' Dea's lived in the Town I hail from ?

Comment by Nora Carabine Reaney on January 24, 2016 at 10:54am
I was born in Bray,remember the long days of summer playing on the beach with friends and swimming in Bray Cove. Going to the movies at the Roxie, happy days.
Comment by mary mc ginnis on January 25, 2016 at 3:43am

Oh The memories that you stirred. I had completely forgotten some of them. Thank you so much.

Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on January 25, 2016 at 12:03pm

Oh Nora Carabine  Reaney,,,,,,,,,,,,,,  How lovely that you know exactly where I am talking about . The Cove went into decline about the time that I am talking about , but I do remember that we had to pay a penny if we wanted a cubicle or 1 half penny if we just want to go in the pool ..

Sadly even though I spent many, many hours in the Sea .. I never did learn how to swim ! 

Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on January 25, 2016 at 12:05pm

mary mc ginnis--- do you have any connections to Bray...  I seem to recall going to school with Mc Ginnis ?? I 

Thank you for your comment 

Comment by Nora Carabine Reaney on January 25, 2016 at 12:27pm
I cannot remember paying to swim in the cove. My sister Eithne went most days. I went with my sister Mary and her friend Kay Maguiness. I lived on Westfield Park.
Comment by Nora Carabine Reaney on January 25, 2016 at 12:46pm
I went to St Patrick National School. My older sister went to Loretta Convent. Long story.

Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on January 25, 2016 at 3:04pm

Oh my Word Nora ... it is a small world  indeed . I went to St Patrick' s  ,with  my older sister Ronnie Kavanagh ... and wonder  if it is the same Kay Maguinness I know from Wolf Tone SQ  ..and younger sister Anne ... How lovely to make this connection ... 

Comment by Nora Carabine Reaney on January 25, 2016 at 4:23pm
Kay lived on Sidmonton? Rd. She had no sisters.


You need to be a member of The Wild Geese to add comments!

Join The Wild Geese

The Wild Geese Shop

Get your Wild Geese merch here ... shirts, hats, sweatshirts, mugs, and more at The Wild Geese Shop.

Irish Heritage Partnership


Extend your reach with The Wild Geese Irish Heritage Partnership.

Congrats to Our Winners

© 2023   Created by Gerry Regan.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service