Uncle Bungle was visiting this weekend. We blathered, had lunch and went to sports day.
The next day he visited Herself when we were there. It was good to spend so much time together. It’s relaxing and supportive and challenging and fun. I’m looking forward to being taught the ways of The Bee when we visit his hives soon.
He is the Old Man’s brother, who left home in 1964 and hasn’t lived in Ireland since the early 70s. His parents, brother and sister are all buried in the one spot, next door but one to his grandparents, uncle and aunts- a country graveyard we all know well. My granny was related to half the country and knew everybody. He and I have no idea. We remember Mary The Tea Drinker and Sarah who came into town from the glen every week, but were they sisters or sisters in law? We think that one was married to Johnny (do you not remember Johnny?) but which one? And the neighbours on the street- what did you call the people round the corner? Oh, were they …? That’s right! Her brother was the first person we ever knew of to go to university. Then I used to play in that house, you know the one down at the end?
Uncle Bungle had the skills to be excused from music and gaelic football when at school, and to skip Irish dancing classes for weeks before Granny asked the dance teacher how he was getting on… caught. He was part of that first generation of working class children to make it to the grammar school, to benefit from opportunities undreamt of by their parents (his father had joined the army when he was 14, and always maintained it was a grand job, except when there was a war on). That also meant he had to deal with the Christian Brothers, and there are tales which could be told, but aren’t laboured.
the boy soldier, 1934
We’re not quite sure what the connection is with that village- were those people Granny’s cousins or yours? Does anybody know those things now? All that shared information burbling along in the background through the generations, assumed knowledege, and we can’t piece it together anymore. Herself was able to help fill in some of the gaps, but the Mary/ Sarah/ Johnny relationship defeated even her, or maybe just her communication. I remember when she knew everything- the Old Man didn’t keep track of all his relations (a man thing apparently) so Herself did. She knew every person who came to the house for his wake and funeral, even all the whose-cousins-are-they people from the village.
Do you think we could qualify for one of those ’Who do you think you are?’ type programmes on television? Researchers and tv producers, please form an orderly queue. We need to know about Mary The Tea Drinker, Sarah and Johnny.
Originally published in June 2011, when sports day had a bouncy hopper race, and I had a real live mum.