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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

An Appreciation of the life of

Mary O'Regan

Keelogue, Killeshin, Laois. Ireland,

Source: Michael Purcell c.1984

Summer of 1965. A day at the seaside.
With the Courtown beach and the Irish Sea in the background Auntie Poll is pictured here with her son Bill
and two of her Grandsons, Brendan and Gerry O'Regan
Picture by Michael Purcell 1965

Michael Purcell wrote this in 1984 when his Auntie Poll died, it was published in the Nationalist,

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 life.

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 loved. M.P.


Source: Michael Purcell c.1984

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2001 Ireland Genealogy Projects, IGP TM