Sunday, July 22, 2007

The sun will soon be going away from us.

I got a taxi home from work last week. The driver was an old fella in his early 60s (at least) and was from the West of Ireland. I sussed the West of Ireland bit straight away but it wasn't until we chatted further that I was able to pinpoint the area.

We were having a rare sunny spell so inevitably the conversation turned to weather. 'The sun will soon be going away from us' said the taximan. Reading back that phrase while typing it and it strikes me that it almost sounds like a translation from another language. I suspect that it is. My late grandmother used to talk in this style and she was from a small remote village in Co. Mayo. I took a guess and asked the taximan did he know of the area? Know it, sure amn't I from it was his answer.

'The sun will soon be going away from us'.

To these uneducated ears it sounds like a sentence constructed in Irish but spoken in English. My grandmother was a fluent Irish speaker - this taximan wasn't. Could it be that years after the language fell from daily useage that it still influences us? The driver was curious as to how I gussed his birthplace and I explained that my grandmother had grown up in the same area. What age was she when she died was his next question? The answer was 92 years old - old enough to remember the black and tans trying to burn down the village.

He told me of his grandmother - another strong mayo woman who died at a similar age. His grandmother was born during a great storm in eighteen seventy something. I knew of this great storm because my own grandmother talked about it when I was younger. The people of the village had their houses ruined and crops destroyed during a bad gale. To this day the locals won't build houses on the hills just outside the village - they prefer to live in the valley for protection from the winds. That a pretty long memory.

He recited me off a list of people from the village that had moved away and were scattered all over the globe; I recognised some of the names from talking to my grandmother. As she raised her family in Dun Laoghaire they were near the ferry and in the 50s and 60's an entire generation from that little town went to build English towns. Most of them stayed in my grandmothers house the night before they left and she remembered them all. Some of them became hugely successful builders and powerbrokers. Some married English girls and raised families over there (with cockney accents who'll tell you how proud they are of their Mayo roots). Others fell through the cracks - including two of my grandmothers own children.

'The sun will soon be going away from us'.

Two old women from a one horse town in the west; born years apart yet so much in common. What was it that made them so strong? Answers on the back of a postcard to the usual address, and lets hope the sun will soon be returning to us...


  1. Are you sure the storm he is referring to was in the 1870s.

    The more famous storm of the 1800s would have been 6-7 January, 1839. Night of the big wind.

  2. It's just such a lovely story GB. I see the influence of the gaeilge in everday phrases we use all the time.

    I've heard you tell stories of your granny a few times but to see them written down is a different matter. To get ponsy for a second this is the sort of oral tradition stories that two or three generations ago would have been passed down without a second thought.

    I've been threatening for years to try and get some of the stories of my family down on paper before my granny inevitably passes away. I love slivers of almost forgotten history like this.

    There's a book in this y'know.

  3. you have a lovely way with words GB, this post should definately go in the archive.