Appreciation of the life
of Mary O' Regan, Keelogue, Killeshin, Laois.
- Died 13 April
1984. Aged 88 years.
My late father's sister , we called her auntie Poll, but it
did not matter when one came to visit her home in Keelogue
if you were grandchild, niece or nephew or if that visit was
to last an hour, a week or a month a sincere welcome was
extended to all.
I often wondered how after a lifetime of caring for others,
looking after her parents, rearing a large family of seven
sons and two daughters, she had the energy and patience to
concern herself with a new young generation whenever we
decided to descend on Keelogue for our "holidays".
For us urban dwellers the visits opened up a whole new
world and allowed us to catch a glimpse of a lifestyle that
was fast disappearing from the Irish countryside.
Dylan Thomas wrote ; "the memories of childhood have no
order and no end."
My few reminiscences that follow have no order and are
certainly not the end. Among the most vivid memories are
the road dances with the music supplied by a lone
accordionist and freshly cut turnips passed around to chew
on and afterwards with the moon dancing through the trees
up the long lane we would make our way home, the haymaking
and its accompanying festivities, the wooden barrel of stout
on tap beside the main haystack where I had my first sip of
porter, the willing neighbours, the house dances and the
hay-bogey jaunt through the fields, (each field had its own
name), the hour difference between "country time" and "town
time". Churning to make butter, drawing water from the well,
where one might meet Peg Connolly, sitting on a upturned
bucket, eager for all the latest news from the town (as
far as I know Peg had never been in the town in her life !),
raiding Hayden's Glen for hazel nuts, the travelling shop,
the homemade soda bread and buttermilk, milking the cows,
the farmyard animals, all new and mysterious to us, the
ritual of the preparations made for a trip to town or Sunday
morning Mass, bringing the horse from the field, yoking him
up to the trap, sprinkling Holy Water on the horse and the
trap before the journey.
Then there were the characters one was likely to encounter,
like the eccentric Tom Hayden or his wife Kizzie of "the
hundred acres" or Mick Connolly who would call around at
night to sit by the open fire where by the light of the
Tilley lamp he would entertain us with stories of his
imaginary exploits, producing a red-stained walking stick as
proof of his claim that he had murdered several devils while
out on his ramble.
The person who made all those happy memories possible was
Auntie Poll, who with her gentle disposition and endearing
charm allowed us to share in the richness of that simpler
Hospitality and prayerfulness is the combination that best
sums up her qualities. She belonged to a generation which
seldom questioned the values they were brought up with.
In recent years we witnessed how with great perseverance she
accepted the obstacles of old age. The frame that had
carried her enthusiastic soul had weakened but nevertheless
a visit to her home would bring back the flavour of the old
days. Her clarity of mind, refreshing humour and common
sense remained with her to the end.
Fortunate in her family and in the peaceful accomplishment
of the psalmist decades, her abandonment to the will of God
gave her a rare serenity and internal peace. After a
lifetime of spiritual progress she died as she had lived, no
drama -no fuss- in silence - in her sleep. The previous
night while out walking with her son Paddy she had advised
him to make sure he always had a good breakfast and so on
the following morning, in order to impress her, he put on
the fire a pan of rashers, wafting with his hands the smell
of the sizzling bacon up towards her bedroom. Later when he
brought her a cup of tea he discovered that, although her
body was still warm, she had died.
The attendance of so many at the obsequies and the genuine
sadness that prevailed, showed how far the influence of so
modest and unassuming a person had permeated the lives of
others. Those of us who shared can perhaps appreciate to
some slight degree the loss felt by her family whom she
Source: Michael Purcell c.1984