ROSARY
by
Alan Monaghan

Our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be thy name

And I remember him here in his big boots and his Sunday suit all clean and tall and smelling of carbolic soap and boot black and roaring out the hymns at the top of his voice. I was his eldest and he called me his little Rosie and held me by my hand in the red and green light under the big window there with fiery Saint Peter and flame-haired Judas in the garden with our Lord on the night he was taken. A big man he was with his big rough hands and strong fingers with thick brown hairs on the back but a very gentle man. Gentle as a lamb and soft-spoken and nice but if he got angry he had a voice would throw the fear of God into you. He was a Boilermaker by trade – boiliemakie our Eileen used to say when she was small -- and he worked all his life for the railway to give us our daily bread. It was the work made him a bit deaf what with all that hammering and noise and sometimes when I spoke to him he might smile at me but with the blind look on his face and his hand halfway to his ear. The Ma used to have to call him for his tea shouting at the top of her voice and sometimes he still didn't hear or he'd fallen asleep and she'd send me or Eileen in to get him. I heard you the first time, Mary, says he, and him sitting down with a wink to me and Eileen.

Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee

Blessed art thou amongst women Mary being my mother's name I took it for my confirmation. Scared to death we were of the fat Bishop on his throne what was this his name was? Oh Kelly kay ee double ell wye with his Mitre and Crosier and we could all get the smell of peppermints off his breath. Terrified we were of the questions he'd ask from the catechism and no question of hellfire and eternal damnation if we didn't know the answers and there was fidgety Josie Kelleher doing a little jig and humming the walls of Limerick under her breath and in between muttering all the answers she had learned of by heart. My heart went out to poor Nellie McAuley or was it McCarthy? McCarthy it was. Poor unfortunate Nellie who wet herself with the fright when the bishop asked her the first three beatitudes and she said they were faith hope and charity and the look he gave her. Then she burst out crying with the embarrassment and the priest had to take her into the sacristy My father’s mother's name was Mary as well funny how. Beside her three sons such big men all she was a tiny little grey mouse of a woman but her daughter my aunt was a small girl as well. Auntie Bernie that was, little Auntie Bernie who married Cornelius what was his name the fishmonger from Manor Street. What was this he was called again Wilson? No. Williams? No. A lovely fella all the same and never left us short of whiting on a Friday.

Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with

God save us and bless us White was his name. Cornelius White gave us whiting on a Friday. His sister died visiting a friend confined with a child on the North Strand. She was killed when the German bombers came that night and dropped their heathen fire on us. All over in a flash, the Priest said. A big bomb landed in the street and the house fell in on top of the pair of them like it was made of matchsticks. An accident, they said, they thought it was the Liverpool docks. The two of them died of the fright, some said, and still they were able to save the child. Isn't it fabulous what the doctors can do nowadays. I remember the coffin standing in the aisle there and half of Dublin going by to lay a hand on it and cross themselves. I heard DeValera himself and his ministers came for the funeral but I only went to the removal. The Ma was getting sick then and I had to stay home to mind her.

Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is

With her I stayed until she died before the year was out after being sickly for nearly two and it was the influenza that took her in the end. People get it all the time nowadays. The Da got such a fright he could hardly stand up and for the whole mass he held onto Eileen and me with a grip like we were all he had left in the world and poor Eileen thought he might crush her bones with those big hard hands of his. Paddy was here too, standing behind me all the time and praying out loud Lord have Mercy, Christ have mercy so I could hear him and he came around then and shook our hands l'm sorry for your trouble says he but he had a smile for me the little scamp And it was just as well DeValera didn't come to that funeral because it was him and his shinners shot Paddy's Da off his bike one evening and him on his innocent way home from work. Paddy came to the grave in the pouring rain and put his flowers with the others to be stained under the earth while the priest shouted his office over the wind. Always bad weather for funerals. The only time I ever saw the Da cry was on that day but the big tears he cried got washed away by the rain and it was like something was gone out of him He went back to the railway and it was me put his tea up to him every evening when he came home because Eileen was after leaving school and got work in Scotts the haberdashers She never lifted a needle and thread before in her life but she picked it some way and she met her Tommy there. Poor little Tommy with the squint and the squeaky voice. Can't think what attracted her to him because he wasn't much to look at. but he was a terrible nice little fella He looked a bit like what was his Jimmy Cagney if he put on his big overcoat and his soft hat. Look Ma, says he, and we'd be bowling with the laughter, top of the world Ma!

Hail Mary full of grace the Lord

Be my Bridesmaid says she to me and they were married on the last Friday in May. What a picture she looked in her dress, and what a fuss all the girls from Scotts made of the two of us. The Da couldn't fit in his suit and they had to let it out for him. Real proud he was with our Eileen on his arm walking up the aisle and me walking up after them and Tommy standing up there with the Priest and his brother as best man, and him shaking in his boots. The Da said he'd thump the living feck out of him if he didn't see his little girl right. The youngest she was and always his little baby. She had a lovely face with a big smile and her eyes like a pair of sparkling emeralds and they always did say she had my Mother's eyes. I was on Paddy's arm at the reception and him with his suit hanging off him and the flower in his lapel all wilting and droopy like he'd picked it off a wreath on his way to the church. When we danced afterwards he whirled me around the floor like Ginger Rodgers and the wheel of the air brought the hair down over my face. Lovely and light on his feet, was my Paddy.

Hail Mary full of grace the

Paddy and me we were married two years later in this church and I had Eileen for my bridesmaid. The Da wouldn't fit into his suit at all by then but it was time he got a new one anyway. You'll come in Nealon and walk out Standing was what Paddy said but the Da didn't think it was funny. He said he was nearly a Proddy with a name like his and joking like called him Paddy the Proddy. The new Parish Priest had a bad stutter and went red when he tried to read the office. Rorororse- mamamary says he to me and Paddy had this big grin across his face that put me laughing under the veil. Oh what a day it was all in all when Eileen nearly fell over my train and Paddy's best man had a bad leg and sat down to rest it for a few minutes next to my Auntie Bernie and the look she gave him would have stopped a galloping horse. And then when it was done we went into the sacristy to sign the register and the sacristan couldn't find us a pen. A whingey weasely little man he was with his face red from the drink and his nose running with a cold. It's here somewhere says he, but Paddy had a fountain pen in his pocket with P Standing, penmanship 1937 engraved on it and he signed for us in his lovely hand. Says he it was the only thing he ever won at school and it was a shocking waste for him to go into plumbing. Well it was mid-December and freezing out on the steps for the photographs and our Eileen four months pregnant with her Joseph was afraid it would show in the picture and everyone think she was the one getting wed! The trees were bending in the wind and creaking like they were set to come down on us and it was all I could do to hold my veil up off my face. Paddy had to put his hand behind me and hold it down while they took the picture and that's why it looks like he's got his arm around me.

Hail Mary full of grace

Eileen‘s Joseph was born the following May and a year later our little Billy came along. When the Da heard that name he nearly had a fit. And what kind of a name is Billy Standing for a good catholic grandson of mine? says he, and Paddy laughing pipes up that it was his Da‘s name all his life and him a Bishop, so we baptised him William Brendan, to keep the two Das happy though the one was long dead and the Priest with the stutter, father O'Leary was his name now, mixed them up the first time and Paddy had to whisper in his ear that it was the other way around. The Da said afterwards that this was a sign from God but Paddy swore that when the Priest called him Brendan little Billy widdled all over his vestments. I got Paddy to promise that if we had a daughter we would call her Mary alter my Mother God rest her.

Hail Mary full of

God rest her but we never baptised poor little Mary. She only lived for ten or was it twelve days and we buried her in the middle of the summer. That was when Billy was three and in all his little child’s innocence he asked his Da what was in the little white box on the Altar and Paddy held his hand and told him it was his sister going to Heaven and he was crying when he said it and that set me off crying too. It rained all day for the funeral shocking weather for the month of July and I was afraid Billy might catch himself a chill but Paddy said he would be alright and he walked under a big umbrella with his grandfather to the little hole they had dug for her near my Mother. Father O'Leary with the stammer was gone off to the missions and a big hay-bale of a country man oh the Lord knows his name buried her in his deep round voice while an altar boy stood on tip-toe with the umbrella for him. Let us pray for the souls of the dearly departed. After poor Mary God never granted us another but our Eileen had two more and then her Tommy was killed in a car crash in Birmingham. Oh Lord thy will be done the pair of us went over on the packet to bring him back and Eileen was still very young, and the other passengers kept looking at her and a few asked me what the dear girl was crying over and her a widow with three young children to keep. She moved back in with the Da and our Billy used to go and play with his cousins on account of we only lived around the corner and he grew up fast oh so very fast.

Hail Mary full

I didn't hardly feel the years going by. They say as you grow older you don't notice time so much well that's certainly true. I don't hardly remember the Da's dying and our Billy making his communion and all of a sudden he was back here making his confirmation like I did. A small boy like his father – Paddy always used to call him his little gentleman and he looked a proper little gent in his suit that looked two sizes too large for him on account of he was so skinny around the chest and his big rosette on him like a red red rose. Paddy gave him his first watch and five bob and told him not to spend it all in the one shop and then we all drove around to the church in our car. Shocking proud was our Billy because not many had a car in those days and he sat up in the front with his Da and I had to go in the back with my knees jammed together and hardly room to breathe in that little Austin Eight. Then he kept looking at his new watch for most of the service and he asked his Da if the Bishop had a watch like his one and then when he went up there to receive he smiled at us like a little saint and he sat down with the other boys and put his hands together and prayed up to heaven like the little child of Prague.

Hail Mary

But he was such a bright little boy was our Billy. We sent him to college and Paddy was real proud of all the stuff he learned and then he got himself a grand job in the civil service. Still there he is too, a big noise in the department of health and comes to see me every week as well. He was at college when his father left me a widow God rest him. It was the cancer took him slowly creeping up on him and eating away at him and blinding him with the pain sometimes He said he could smell it when he lay in his bed the last time and then he died with his eyes closed and his teeth clenched and his mother's rosary wound around his fingers He was very devout at the end for all the joking he went on with when he was well because I kept the room darkened and he wanted candles lighted under the picture of our Lady and the room was turned into a sort of church with the smell of the anointing oil the priest had and he murmuring the last rites under his breath and praying the Lord to have mercy. But he went off with the blessed sacrament still lodged in his poor throat and the anointing holy oil still wet on his brow and the last thing he said to me was that he believed in the power of the Holy Ghost and he wanted me to keep myself and our Billy well and he was sorry he was leaving us. And then when I cried he placed his cold hand on mine and whispered that he was going and then the pain stopped him like it was catching his throat and when it cleared he was gone and it was just like he had left us on a journey.

Hail


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