EVERYBODY has been reading the Holly Bough from cover to cover, and finding echoes of their own childhoods. Which is as it should be.
Noel Dillon wrote to say: “When I read of the career and death of the famous cyclist Tony Duggan in the Holly Bough, it brought me back to an amazing incident in the early 1950s.
“During my holidays in Crosshaven, I regularly played hurling and football in the GAA field. One day, while returning to my family bungalow, I was talking to some of my friends at the top of the hill at Graball Bay. Along came Tony Duggan, having cycled from Cork - about 14 miles away - and as he knew some of my friends, he stopped to talk to them.
“I was fascinated with his bike: no mudguards, no carrier, no bell - and no brakes! It was so light, one could lift it off the ground with two fingers. Nothing would do me but to throw my leg over the bike to get the feel of it.
“As it was obviously a racing bike, it had straps on the pedals to protect the feet from slipping. I still had my football boots on, so I struggled to get my feet into the pedals.
“With Tony’s ‘implied permission’, I went for a short spin up the road. It was a thrilling experience in more ways than one.
“I quickly realised it was a fixed-wheel bike: no free-wheeling. Accordingly, I drove it very carefully. Deciding to return, I realised there were no brakes on it and I couldn’t stop, and with the studs on my boots, I could not slip my feet out of the pedals, so I turned the bike around gingerly and cycled back up again.
“I had to put my thinking hat on quickly so I cycled slowly up against a ditch and fell onto it as gently as I could, and then I was able to get off the bike!
“A few minutes later, I walked back to Tony and friends, pushing the bike, and nobody was aware of the trauma I had just experienced.”
One cringes at the thought of what might have happened, Noel, both to you and to Tony’s beloved racing bike! Lovely memory, and thanks for sending it in.
Another correspondent inspired by the Holly Bough was Adrian Spillett.
“Really enjoyed reading your articles on EchoLive.e,” said Adrian. “I always feel privileged to have met and enjoyed some time with your dad, Joe. That was during his interest in the then new experience of hang-gliding.
“We had visits to Inchydoney, and to North Cork, etc, along with a very well known local photographer whose name I cannot retrieve from memory right now. You probably know who he was?”
I do indeed, Adrian. It was Roy Hammond again (he of the famous canoe picure from last week’s Throwback Thursday), who enjoyed my father’s new enthusiasms and always made a point of going along to see what he was up to.
Roy was there on that momentous occasion when Papa decided to celebrate a major birthday (it may have been 75), by hang-gliding off the top of Carrauntuohill.
It might well have been the end of him, except for the legendary Kerrigan luck, since he dropped into an air pocket and fell like a stone for some distance before gaining the wind under his wings again.
He landed safely in the midst of a vast stretch of bogland and lit a small smudge fire so that Roy could locate where he was and drive his car as close as possible to pick him up.
Afterwards, my father said seriously to me, “I probably wouldn’t do that again. Possibly a bit risky.”
Coming from him, that was quite a statement.
“Joe was an inspiration and always so enthusiastic,” concludes Adrian. “The canoe in the city was great to read about as I also was closely involved during the later flooding in 2009.”
Well, tell us more about that, Adrian. Don’t leave it there!
Tony Finn noticed that the Lord Mayor’s Gala Christmas Concert will take place this year on December 3 (gosh, that’s no more than a week away!) and wrote to ask: “I wonder if any of your readers remember, or took part in, the Lord Mayor’s Gala Christmas Concerts in the 1960s? This year’s concert on December 3 will be the 60th and it is good to see that it still survives.
“I took part in one of the earlier ones as a member of the Colaiste Chriost Ri Choir; I’m not sure if it was in 1963 or 1964.
“My Dad, Jimmy Finn, was a member of the North Cathedral Choir at the time and he was in the same concert.
“I never understood why Dad was in the North Cathedral Choir as he never lived north of the Lee in his life, but he had a very good voice so maybe he was headhunted!
“The choirmaster at Colaiste Chriost Ri had the nickname ‘Dantro’ after a character in the Urney Chocolates radio series of the time, Dantro The Planet Man.
“Whenever we rehearsed at school, Dantro would take off his shoes and walk around in his socks so that he wouldn’t make any noise on the wooden floor and ruin the wonderful melodic sounds we were creating!
“That was what he told us anyway, and he was clearly from a different planet if he thought that the racket we made was melodic, but I wonder if anyone remembers his name?
“At the end of the Christmas Concert, all the choirs mingled on stage to sing Adeste Fideles, conducted by the great Aloys Fleischmann the elder (The Prof), and my Dad and I stood together belting it out and enjoying every minute. Happy days!
“My Dad had some great memories of his time singing with the North Cathedral Choir, and he told my sister and I the story of a Corpus Christi procession where the choir were walking along Patrick Street going through their repertoire.
“Over the tannoy came a sound like someone being strangled; it was in fact the sainted Connie, or Bishop Cornelius Lucey, attempting to sing Faith of our Fathers. I don’t know if Aloys Fleischmann Senior , known to the choir as The Prof, or his son The Herr, was choirmaster at the time, but, furious at the tannoy-assisted intrusion, he turned to the choir members and said, ‘I wish that man would shut up, someone should tell him that he can’t sing!’ and having got that off his chest, he led the choir serenely onwards.”
Sounds like the elder Prof, Tony. He was obsessive about good music and good voices (well, they both were). Always wore a wide brimmed hat and a flowing cloak. This writer remembers that he composed a truly beautiful Te Deum for the senior choir at St Angela’s back in the early 1960s. I can still chant the opening lines, but that’s about all!
We mentioned Richard Goodison’s Daisychains & Trout last week, that lovely book of recollections about growing up in St Luke’s. The other night down in Dunmanway, Sandra Maybury launched her own book, Spins, a great collection of stories, memories, anecdotes and incidents from the lives of her parents, Sonny and Mary, who not only ran the Parkway Hotel for half a century (the next generation have it in good hands now) but also introduced open air dancing and ballrooms (The Red Fort Drive In at Ballineen, and St Patrick’s Hall in Dunmanway), to the eager young people of Co. Cork in the 1960s.
(We should make it clear that Sonny and Mary are very much still part of the life of Dunmanway, keeping a sharp eye on how their children are handling the businesses that they built up over the years.)
“My dad, was the ideas man really,” says Sandra. “A sort of Del Boy, except that most of his enterprises were successful, and who used his head more than his hands, whereas Mary was the grafter who worked hard while still raising a family of five children. They have always been a great team.”
It is the gems of rare information that make this book a must-read. The fact, for example, that Duffy’s Circus always wintered in the town in the ’40s and ’50s, bringing their elephants down to the lake to drink, repainting their wagons, holding family weddings, and even asking local people to be godparents.
“They did great things for the town, and provided a lot of employment,” Sonny recalls.
It was another circus coming through town that tried (and failed) to train a family dog. The Mayburys had a Norwegian elkhound which was “a terror for digging up the garden”, so when the circus came by, they handed him over, thinking he would be better off there. A few days later, he was returned, with the terse message, “We no keep him. He fight our lion!”
While Sonny and his children were always busy with new ideas, wife Mary was never idle. Not content with running the kitchens, and creating the signature dishes for which the Parkway became renowned, she decided first to open a wool and knitting shop, and then a hat hire business.
As soon as Ryanair got going, Mary seized the opportunity, and would cheerfully fly over to Luton to tour all the wholesalers, picking out the latest colours and styles. Then she would fly home again, dragging huge boxes of hats with her. (No, excess baggage wasn’t an issue back then - ah, for the good old days!)
Reading through this book, with all the contributions from those who worked with or knew the family over the decades, one becomes keenly aware of how some of the old and best traditions of Co. Cork are still kept alive in a place like Dunmanway. At the book launch, Sandra’s parents sat serenely, receiving the hundreds of friends and acquaintances who had come from far and near to celebrate with them, and that in itself was tribute to how much they are part of this town. And it is another measure of their involvement in the general good that profits from book sales are to go to the Irish Community Air Ambulance.
Sandra has done something very valuable in collecting and recording all the stories and memories of her parents’ life while they are hale and hearty and able to assist her in the work with their recollections. It is something we should all think of trying, before it is too late. If you don’t, who will? It is only by doing this that rare little snippets of information, personal details, almost-forgotten events, are recorded for future generations to treasure.
How many times have you wished you had asked more questions of a now sadly departed parent or grandparent? Follow Sandra’s example, and get going on your own collection!
Spins: The Life and Times of Sonny and Mary Maybury, is available from all West Cork bookshops and online at www.buythebook.ie. A great Christmas gift for anybody who loves, lives in (or wishes they lived in) West Cork!
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