FAMILY FORTUNES


This is my mother Catherine Lawless (née Geraghty) in the fifties with me as a child. She came from a Liberties family where there was always music: accordion, violin, piano and even a bass, which I remember my father transporting home to the suburbs on a bicycle. Most Liberties folk loved to go to the seaside, which is where this photo was taken (possibly Portmarnock), for the fresh air and to escape the congestion of the city.
My mother’s people owned a shop in Bishop Street near where the National Archives are now and where ironically years later I was to do research for my first novel. My mother was the youngest in her family. The eldest, her sister May a monitress, died young from Bright’s disease. My mother’s middle brother Joe also died young. He was a member of the Volunteers and got frequent wettings when training in the Wicklow Mountains. It was an exciting moment in my mother’s life when, as a young girl, she discovered Joe’s revolver in a drawer in a room above the shop. Her father Daniel Geraghty also died at a young age. He was the treasurer in the plumbers’ union. He was shell-shocked during the Easter Rising when, despite suffering from flu, he went out to pay the idle members their sustenance allowance. So my grandmother Muddy Geraghty (née Woodburn) became a young widow with seven children to rear—another child Margaret had died at two and a half from pneumonia. My great grandmother on my grandmother’s side, Mary McClean from Belfast, became a convert to Catholicism and eloped to marry Andrew Woodburn, a rich publican from Gorey. My great grandfather on my grandfather’s side, another Daniel Geraghty, born in England, was an engineer in the British army. He married Ellen Nugent from Crosshaven who lived till she was ninety and reputedly never ate butter.
I had asthma as a child and my mother, always seeking the fresh air, insisted on our moving to the suburbs when I was six. But she used to go back regularyly to the Liberties to work in my uncle Andy’s shop in Kevin Street. She missed the sounds of the bells of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and the baking smells from Jacob’s biscuit factory where she had worked as a supervisor. A great reader, she enrolled me early in the Carnegie library and instilled a lifelong love of books in me.
Published in the Irish Times, 23/02/2018

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Author: James Lawless

Irish novelist, poet and short story writer.

2 thoughts

  1. What a lovely depiction of your maternal families life and history. Written with such enchanting elegance, captivating my mind immediately.

    Thank you James, I am about to holiday for the first time in 8 years, I will be reading ‘Family Fortunes’ and catching up on your blog .

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