year I made my Confirmation my brother Anthony made his
also. In the parish we lived in, Confirmation was only every
three years. Anthony was too young the last time so he had
to make it with me this time. He was only eleven and I was
just over nine, so needless to say my mother was not too
happy with two of us to rig out.
Two months before our confirmation my Granny Kelly who was
also my Godmother came in a Hackney car and took me to Monaghan.
There, she bought me a beautiful Confirmation dress and
veil. The dress was white damask material with little imprints
of shamrocks. The veil had a wreath of little silk flowers.
Everything was going great for me and I was as happy as
Mammy got Anthony a lovely navy serge suit with short trousers,
because boys wore their trousers short then until they were
a lot older. Mammy also knitted him a V-necked, sleeveless
pullover. She made me a petticoat and knickers from flour
bags. (Nearly everything in our hourse was made from flour
bags, the roller towel behind the door, sheets, pillowcases
and the valances around the big iron beds). Mammy used to
say you couldnt get better, the more you washed
then the whiter they got. As white as a hounds tooth.
Anthony got nice new grey socks and garters to keep them
up nice and tidy, and new black laced shoes. I got new white
ankle socks and white gutties.
In the meantime life was tough at school because we had
Catechism all day, everyday. Soldiers of Christ, we were
going to be, the Holy Ghost and tongues of fire. I thought
I was going to be a very different person after this Confirmation.
The primary school we went to, consisted of four classrooms,
girls and boys junior rooms and girls and boys senior rooms,
and of course separate play grounds, to make sure never
the two should meet. Anthony was talking all the time about
all the money he was going to get. We girls were more excited
about our style. Sometimes we really got carried away and
were living in a fantasy world. Then, doom and gloom happened.
Some of the girls said they were getting black patent shoes
with square silver buckles like dancing shoes. There was
only one shoe shop in the town were we went to school. We
used to look in the window of OBriens shoe shop
at the black patent shoes with the square silver buckles.
Wed stand and gawk at the shoes for ages. In the end
we all got carried away and said we were all getting these
shoes for sure.
I rushed home and said to Mammy, I didnt want
those gutties, I wanted black patent shoes with square buckles.
Well, she really lost her head, and said she couldnt
afford fancy shoes like that. She said it would only be
the very rich mans child who would be
getting them. I told Mammy everybody was getting them but
she said oh no theyre not my girl, because you
will not be getting a pair of them. Everyday I stood
and gazed at those black patent shoes with the square silver
buckles, in OBriens window.
Then, lo and behold, what do you think I did one day, I
told my friends that I had got a pair of the black patent
shoes with the square silver buckles. I told them they were
size 12. I think I did it because one of the girls who was
very rich and seemed to have everything said that her mother
had got her a pair in Belfast. So that is when my lie started
and it spiralled from there. I knew I could not ask Mammy
again because she would just start another sermon and tell
me how I was such a thankless child.
Sunday in our house was not a very good day because Daddy
was at home. He got drunk on Saturday nights and was like
an antichrist on Sundays. Daddy worked away on a farm
all week and came home on a Saturday. He left again on Sunday
night or early Monday morning. There were two masses in
our chapel on Sunday, at 9am and 11.30am. Mammy and Daddy
went to early mass but not together. Daddy always sat on
the mens side and Mammy on the womens side.
Daddy would get the newspaper, the Sunday Press on the way
home. He would sit near the window to read his newspaper.
We would have to keep quiet and not go near the window.
Mammy got the dinner ready and baked some bread as well.
On one of these Sundays I was coming home from mass with
some friends and again we looked into the shoe shop window.
I was getting very desperate because of this big fib I had
told. So I ran into the house and asked Mammy again if I
could get the black patent shoes with the square silver
buckles. She shouted at me, You are lucky to be rigged
out as well as you are and only for my mother youd
be in rags. To my surprise Daddy put down his paper
and asked what was wrong. I told him everybody was getting
these shoes for their Confirmation. I felt my words were
falling on barren ground . Well, said Daddy, if everybody
is getting those shoes my daughter will get a pair too.
Out of the side of my eye I could see my mothers mouth
tighten. The bread was good that day as Mammy kneaded it
with vigour. A couple of days later I asked Mammy, do
you think Daddy will get the shoes for me? She said
Have a bit of wit, and anyway the gutties
you have are lovely. Your father promised me the moon but
never got a ladder long enough. The hatred for those
gutties was getting worse every time I looked at them. Plus
the fact, of how was I going to get out of the mess I had
got myself into.
The next couple of weeks before Confirmation were hell at
school. Rumours were circulating that if you could not answer
the question the Cardinal asked, you could not make your
Confirmation. Oh the shame of that and having to wear the
gutties as well! Then some of the girls said the Cardinal
would give you a big slap on the jaw. I didnt mind
Mammy giving me a slap around the legs but the Cardinal
to hit me in public would be awful.
The night before Confirmation, Mammy put me first into the
big tin bath. She scrubbed me with Lifeboy soap until I
shone like a sixpense. Then she dried me with a big flour
bag sheet. She added more hot water and started to scrub
Anthony. We had to sit beside the fire until our hair was
dry, because if you went to bed with wet hair you could
end up deaf or blind or with some ailment. I sat with a
very heavy heart, looking at my clothes which Mammy had
hung up carefully and at Anthonys shoes and those
horrible gutties sitting beside them.
Our neighbour Mrs Millar, a Protestant woman came in and
gave Anthony a lovely blue pair of rosary beads and me a
lovely white Confirmation book. We went to bed but it took
me ages to sleep because of the worry about those shoes.
Could I say that I lost them or that the pigs ate them?
I knew the pigs ate the clothes off the line once when Mammy
forgot to put it up high enough. Oh, I dont know,
maybe I will not know my question and oh the slap on the
jaw! At long last I fell asleep.
The next thing I knew Daddy was lifting me out of bed. It
was about 3.30 in the morning and I could smell the drink
of Daddy. He took me into the kitchen. There was a box sitting
beside the range. He took the lid off and inside were my
black patent shoes with the square silver buckles. Then
Daddy put his hand in his pocket and took out a brown paper
bag and inside the bag was a pair of new white nylon socks.
The new kind that didnt get wide and fall over your
ankles. I fitted on the black patent shoes with the square
silver buckles. They were the right size. Daddy had kept
his word. I couldnt believe it. I thought I was dreaming.
My Confirmation day turned out to be one of the best of
my life. The Cardinal did not ask me any questions and he
gave me a gentle tap on the face. My other Granny (Daddys
mother) came and we all went to the donkey derby out the
road. Anthony and I got lots of money and loads of ice cream.
That night Daddy brought both of us to the pictures. It
was our first time to see a film on the big screen. The
film was called The Quiet Man. It was just like
magic. I have watched the film so many times since and still
Many years later I went out the door dressed in white, on
the arm of my brother Anthony. He was dressed again in a
fine navy blue serge suit. It was another very happy day
as it was my wedding day.
Anthony gave me away. Daddy was not available, probably
because it wasnt Sunday. Daddy ended his days in a
nursing home. He had lost his memory. I called to see him
many times. Mammy successfully ran a second-hand store for
Taken from Monaghan's Match