THE SPARROWS GAVE ME CONFIDENCE
...But the house names and numbers gave me confusion!
It was May 1951 when I said goodbye to the myth and magic of my Western landscape which included Boyle, the town I loved so well. I was leaving home to take my first job in the twilight world of the "Quality" and the "Landed Gentry."
Bridie, my cousin, had left Boyle three years before me.
She had taken on the responsibility of educating the children of Dublin City. More importantly, she had now taken on the responsibility of meeting me on my arrival in the city and ensuring that I would arrive safely at 97, Lindsay Road, Glasnevin. There I would stay over night with my relatives before going to Kingsbridge Station (Heuston) the following day.
When we arrived in O'Connell Street, Bridie launched into a crash course on personal safety. "Always ask directions from a man in uniform" she said. (Feminism then wasn't even a whisper and everybody was singing "Buttons and Bows") "Remind the 'bus conductor of your destination and sit on the long side seat, otherwise he will forget about you" she warned. With these words of wisdom, instead of accompanying me to Lindsay Road, she handed me over to the 'bus conductor. She and he engaged in light banter about caring for the country boy which left me feeling like a suitcase without a label. In her rapport with the conductor she quickly dropped the teacher's persona of authority and regressed to her true twenty one year old flirtatious self. "Don't forget to drop him off at the top of Lindsay Road" was her parting caution and smiling farewell. The 'bus pulled out and I watched Bridie disappear into a forest of legs.
I stood at the top of Lindsay Road in the company of my compressed cardboard suitcase. It was early afternoon and yet it appeared quite dark . For the first time in my life I was on my own in unknown territory without the assurance of a familiar face or a familiar landmark and there wasn't a uniform in sight. It was a strange ghostly feeling which is clearly remembered. This strange feeling, however, could never again be experienced. No bands played and there was no bugle there to herald my arrival. And then, I heard the sparrows chattering encouragement in the long manicured hedge. They gave me confidence.
The confidence, however, was short lived when I discovered that the house numbers on Lindsay Road did not run consecutively. I crossed the road and found that these house numbers were not a major I.Q. test, just a temporary source of confusion. It was, however, a big change from the Killaraght form of house identification to which I had grown accustomed. In Killaraght, we had "Big Jack's" house, "Catherine Sean's" house, "The Drummer's" house, and "Yankee Pat's" house along with many more. There were other houses in Killaraght and in the neighbouring localities across the county boundary where new occupiers tried to hold the house names associated with the old "quality" who had now left the area or maybe fled the country. In today's language these house names would be described as up market. Some people who had bought, or had been allocated a fairly substantial holding of land for the first time, lost "the run of themselves". The land, the house, and the house name, if any, were accorded the equivalent of the unspoken but unforgotten Victorian prestige which would normally be attached to an official state uniform. There was elusive and imaginary status growing on almost every tree. There was one new occupier who carried the "joke" a bit too far!! When the neighbours came in to help him with the hay, free of charge, he insisted on eating in the original dining room, on his own, and the neighbours were given their meals in the kitchen. This new "squire" was lucky because his newly acquired neighbours had a good sense of humour. They dismissed him with an earthy quote "the fly that rises from the cow dung always thinks that he can fly the highest". There was a woman too, and like most people, through no fault of her own, she had originated from herding stock. She had very "big" ideas, however, because she bought a dining room bell in Lowes of Boyle along with a job lot dinner service from the Indian Tree Design. Herself and her husband built a new house and gave it an original name "The Bungalow". She always said that she was a true Socialist Republican.
Nature was under control in this Lindsay Road red brick valley of lace clad windows. Not even a blade of grass was out of step in the postage stamp gardens. The red brick houses presented a united front in almost every detail and the trees had matured into a guard of honour.
The values and influence of Queen Victoria, though long deceased, could still be seen in Killaraght, Boyle and Lindsay Road, Dublin. As a matter of fact that influence could be seen through the length and breadth of the Irish Republican landscape and for the observant person to gain a good view it wasn't necessary to wear glasses.
My mental arithmetic stood me well as I added the two to each house number – 67, 69 , 71 and I abandoned the exercise only when I could no longer focus on the houses in the distance. Maybe the house numbers would peter out before I reach 97. My mind by then was almost as mad as a March hare. Of course there's 97. I posted letters to 97, Lindsay Road at least one hundred times, I reasoned. Wasn't I an expert operator of the stamp machines in the window of Boyle Post Office? The 97 address, like the Ten Commandments, was indelibly printed on my mind.
Gartan Avenue, which was a side avenue off Lindsay Road, caused some further confusion . After this avenue, I asked myself, would the number sequence continue? Sane men, I remembered, could go astray in the familiar fields of Killaraght and find their bearings only by turning their coats inside out. Could I go astray on Lindsay Road? Perish the thought. At last I had reached the final block of houses - 89, 91, 93, 95, ah! 97 - just saved with three house numbers to spare.
I was happy then, but not for long, - maybe they forgot about me - maybe there will be nobody at home!
(They dug out the hedge the other day and the sparrows flew away. They were young and never knew that from each root a memory grew)