This work is a labour of love by the writer Mary Thorpe as a tribute to her much-loved Granny O’Rourke (nee Nolan). It is an attempt to place the stories she heard throughout her life into a true and historical context. As a modern social worker who came across many cases of social deprivation in various social-work departments in South East and North West England, Mary gradually realised what her own grandmother must have been through during the even harder times in late-nineteenth century and early twentieth century Ireland, and so she sought to record this.
Mary felt the driving need to record her grandmother’s story, in recognition of Bridget’s harsh life and also as a tribute to her and the millions of others like her. These were people who made the best of things whilst still retaining a sense of pride, of the worth of education as a ticket out of poverty, and of the importance of retaining one’s dignity and commitment to family through good and bad times.
Mary acknowledges that Bridget possessed the old Irish good luck as well, in marrying a good man and in gaining the sponsorship of her patron, N. Stanislav Murphy.
Within Bridget’s story however, Mary is also writing about an era of tough times, and she acknowledges ‘these roots’ as the make-up of her own resilient Irish character. She is proud of her grandmother’s achievements, especially with regard to the life chances Bridget was able to create for her family – and rightly so!
Mary uses the life of Bridget to celebrate the achievements of other women in Dublin and Bray – in fact, from all over Ireland – during this era, and so this story will be of interest to anyone with Irish ancestry. Mary hopes her readers will enjoy the mix of history and biography as an authentic record of times past, and she hopes that this will be an addition to Celtic history from an empathetic and homespun point of view. Mary clearly believes that our roots are important, just as important as ‘our word is our bond’.
Bridget would have been the first to utter these sentiments, and in this respect Mary has taken the lead straight from her own upbringing which, of course, was heavily influenced by Bridget.
This biography is meant to preserve a time now past and to show current and future generations how previous struggles shaped them. It is a true story, including adages and personal experiences that have been passed down by word of mouth to Mary from her grandmother, in true Irish tradition. Mary has simply set about recording what she was told, as a history of her own family and as a story that will ring true with many of Irish ancestry who wish to know about their heritage. The tale is simply told in a comfortable and easily accessible style of writing that will be understood by all: young people seeking answers to questions and older people seeking comfort from former times as a way of making sense of their current lives.
Mary has done a grand job in preserving something of her grandmother’s life, and she has created an authentic piece of Irish history in doing so. Readers should enjoy this poignant read and be able to experience Bridget’s woes and triumphs along with her. Moreover, they will end by thanking God that women like Bridget existed as role models for women everywhere and that such strong, hardy, and steadfast women contributed to forming that charming, quirky, determined Irish character which shines in Irish eyes all over the world.
Shayne Langstroth B.Ed., Hons.M.Ed.
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