Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Late Agnes {Aggie} Curry (1929-2008)

When I think of the late Agnes, it is a memory of her from the 1960’s – always immaculately groomed, the hair stylish, lipstick always worn and the smart, quick way she walked – a woman with determination and dare I say it, one who didn’t suffer fools! I remember her as sharp of mind and not afraid to give her opinion whether it was required or not. Agnes was born to Garda Thomas Meehan and his wife, Margaret nee Byrne/Farrell of Chapel Street, and the family lived in Clontarf when Agnes was young. On one visit to Ballymore Eustace, little Aggie got violently ill and was left with her Aunt, Mrs Byrne (Myles’ mam) who ran Farrell’s Shop on Chapel Street (her aunt was married to the late Jack Byrne).

Young Agnes loved working in the shop and didn’t want to leave especially when Garda Meehan was later promoted to the rank of Superintendent and moved to Granard, Co Longford. She settled well into school here and it was in primary school that she met her future husband. After school, Agnes went to Dublin and took an apprenticeship in hairdressing but she returned to Ballymore at weekends to see family and no doubt, the handsome Paddy Curry. Together, they bought the Curry home next to The Forge in 1955, which had previously been owned by Purcell’s.

Aggie set up a hairdressing salon from home where she worked for over 30 years and even travelled to elderly clients when they were no longer able to get in to the village. I recall the promotion boards in the window and
the strong hair scent of hair spray if the door was open as a customer left and I was fascinated with the sight of
the occasional woman leaving with huge rollers and a bright nylon scarf wrapped around her head. In my innocence, I thought I would never go to those lengths in the name of beauty…….Little did I know! Perms and sets were the order of the day and Aggie had loyal customers for decades.

Paddy was a carpenter by trade, a quiet easy going man; his first job was on the Curragh and coincidentally, his last job was on the Cathedral in Kildare Town. He died at the young age of 67 in 1996 and Aggie was devastated at his death. “They were a perfect match, my parents” said John, Aggie’s son. “My father was placid and my mother, well my mother wasn’t placid, that’s for sure!”

The couple loved to travel and enjoyed many a holiday abroad with the Isle of Man, Spain and Portugal being their favourite destinations. Aggie was a great cook but couldn’t master the art of baking bread at all. She loved classical music and art was her passion which obviously led to her association with Russborough. Agnes studied the lives and works of artists to a rare intensity.

The couple enjoyed regular card games at home with friends such as Greg and Maura Byrne, Sean Byrne, Noel and Bridget Headon, Dr Laura and Pat Burke, Hilda and Joe Headon. Paddy was especially close to Noel and his brothers, Brendan, Joe and Willie. Other regular visitors or holiday companions included Rita and Tom O’Rourke, Kathleen and Andy Cowley, Valerie Hamilton, Annette and Justin Byrne, Myles Byrne, Eddie Darby, Anne (Gordon) and John Meehan, Patricia Woody, Fr Frank McDonald and Nellie Carroll who always cheered Aggie up.

“Martin Deegan was great for keeping an eye on the house here and for doing jobs around the place as Mam got older; when she’d see Martin, it was a great excuse to open a tin of biscuits and make a cup of tea and she’d keep him talking for hours on end – so much so that Martin would come in early and ask us not to tell her he was about or he’d never get anything done!”

John’s wife, Muriel noted when she first came to Ballymore and was introduced to people as John Curry’s wife and they realised she was living with Mrs Curry, she regularly got a sympathetic look and a “Bless you.”
“I hadn’t a clue what they meant by that at first!” she laughed.

Aggie’s opininated personality was marked by her energy and drive; along with running her hair salon, she worked with Russborough House as a tour guide for 25 years and organised the annual trip to Lourdes for parishioners from Ballymore and Hollywood parish. “From Rollers to Rosary to Russborough” added John.

Aggie’s organisational skills were excellent and God help a tour guide or hotel employee who messed up Aggie’s booking! They were terrified of her but she always made sure the Ballymore brigade got best value and were well looked after. She ran the Ballymore Lourdes group for over 40 years.

In latter years, osteoporosis set in and made Aggie’s mobility difficult and greatly reduced her energy levels, much to Aggie’s frustration. “She still liked to look her best” said Muriel “And always took pride in her appearance even when she was ill in hospital”. Cancer affected Aggie for the final years of her life but she fought the illness as she had tackled all other obstacles in her life – with great determination.

“She was very poorly at one stage and we were told to expect ‘the worst’” added John. “She was 90% paralyzed with doctors and nurses standing over her, simply waiting on her final departure. I was urged to leave at 4am and return for her expected passing the following morning. I arrived at 9am with mother in the bed, like a bull, sitting up in the bed, arms folded, face like a sergeant major and complained “I can’t even get a feckin’ cup of tea here……and where were you anyway?” Hilarious, it was…..Lazurus couldn’t have topped it.”

Her cousin Myles Byrne and nephew John Meehan were very good for visiting her in hospital but they got a lash of her tongue on occasions too. “I remember her telling Myles to remove the bars from the side of the hospital bed and take her home. As Myles managed to escape, she told him to sod off home and stay there with John Meehan laughing in the corner. “And you can sod off too” she says “You’re no good to me either!” I don’t know how they put up with her but she was very fond of them both despite all her giving out.”

Muriel’s talent with fresh and dried flowers did find favour with Agnes and the couple were happy to spoil her with flowers during her long illness. “She was devastated when the family home caught fire in 1994 with serious smoke damage and the inner walls were gutted. She went to live temporarily across the road to Headon’s house until the damage was repaired but it broke her heart.” Annette Byrne was of great support to Agnes during this time, Both Annette and Agnes scrubbed soot and smoke off plates, glasses etc for 3 months. Annette was always dropping in for a spot of coffee, they were great friends. Another aspect of her personality was her generosity in supporting several charities, something she didn’t advertise and its something we continue. “Mind you, when she was cooking, you could’nt escape without having to sample everything and when it came to adding spirits to baking, she never used a measure! And that sums my Mum’s personality up – excessively generous, bright and opinionated but equally strong on commitment, hard work and energy.” added John.

The late Agnes Curry, sadly missed by her Son and Daughter in law, friends and family, may she rest in peace, amen.

A Night With The Fir Bolg
The Naomh Eanna bobbed up and down on the choppy sea, rolling continually to starboard and then to port side, half twisting its way back to starboard, then lurching forward, causing those on deck to grip the handrails more forcibly while the wind-whipped sea-spray showered the few passengers still topside and brave enough to face the elements of nature. The thirty mile journey to Inishmore in this veritable bathtub with an engine, was an odyssey no less dissimilar to the perils suffered by Jason and the Argonouts as they went in search of the Golden Fleece. In a sense, I was travelling back through time to the same era as Jason, and in Ireland, the age of the Firbolg, to visit their old domain, Dun Aengus, on Inishmore, largest of the Aran Islands, later to be called Island of The Saints.
When I was young, my parents visited many historical sites not too far from Dublin, and included Glendalough and Clonmacnoise, but most impressionably for me, Newgrange, when it was but a large green mound having few visitors. The gatekeeper, who lived in a cottage opposite the to the site, unlocked the simple wrought iron entrance gate to the ‘tomb’ gave ‘a personal tour’ through this great Celtic monument and its chamber, telling of its history, of the stone decoration and its uses through time according to the archaeologists. It was mesmerizing, and before I left the chamber I was imbued with a ‘spirit’ from within that place and its mammoth stones as though an aura surrounded me. Ever since, no matter where I went to places of antiquity, stones held presence around me, a belonging, as though a message was being imparted, a mystery as yet unrevealed, yet to be realized and understood.

Old Ireland comes to life as you cross the river Shannon at Athlone. Dry stoney walls divide fields on the way to the west, creating an indefinable pattern across the land as though it was a vast handwork of crocheted lace stretching over fifty miles to the Atlantic coast and nearly a hundred miles north and south of it. To hitchhike there was also to walk many miles along the route to Galway and on each side the walls surrounded you in protection, guiding you to your destination. To be so close, and to move at walking pace is both a preparation and a prerequisite in understanding the culture you are about to experience, for along that hard road you absorb, and are eventually inculcated.
The day after that mighty ‘steamer’ docked at Kilronan, and taking into account other ancient church and cultural monuments en route, I headed for Kilmurvey, and then across the island to Dun Aengus, impregnable fort of the Firbolg. It has been described as the Acropolis of Inishmore, but in our time the multitude of the relicts of the later fifth to tenth centuries, churches and tombs, represent a necropolis; but even if so, one of supreme importance in our history.
Dun Aengus loomed large to the eye, and against this advancing army of one, confronted it. Everywhere was littered with stone of all sizes, especially un-native granite, cast there it is said, as the ice age receded; for the island is composed of limestone, formed in shallow tropical waters about 350 million years ago around the equatorial regions, and shunted to this place in the northern latitudes. The fort is oval shaped, and outside the first wall is a masse of unregulated sharp-edged angular-protruding stone lodged in the ground, each one three to four feet long rising from the ground (chevaux-de-frise) as a first line of defence against attack. A short clearing leads to a higher second wall before the main fort which is over twenty feet high and at the base, thirteen feet thick. Entrance to the inner court is by a narrow doorway and encloses an area of 150 x 140 feet. To the unwary, the court has a terminal point; a cliff, with a shear 300 foot drop to the Atlantic Ocean. Beyond, in the mist, lies the lost Fifth Province of Ireland, Hi-Brasil. In the distant horizon, Newfoundland beckons.
I stayed in this court for hours, climbing the inner ramparts, speculating whether or not the fort had once been a complete circle, or had the other half slipped quietly at night into the ocean below, like the Titanic? Looking at the stonework for answers to these and other mysteries, I contemplated too on the wisdom of camping in this isolated spot where I stood, with the inherent dangers of downdraught wind-storms; but the sky was wonderfully clear and recalling O’Siochain’s line of the intimacy of this inner place, its very soul – Ciuineas gan uaigneas, solitude without lonliness – I decided to stay with my friends, the Fir Bolg, for I had no fear nor felt any danger, even from their mortal enemies, the Tuatha de Danann.
The following morning I was awakened by the voices of a young couple, who got as much a fright at seeing me lying lodged against the inner fort wall close to the cliff edge, as I did at their foreign language. They were from Switzerland and I gave them what knowledge I had of this curious place. We exchanged picturesque photos, they for me (inset), and I for them.
The following year, in September, while hitchhiking to Florence, I called to a bank in Basle to change currency, and dashing up the steps to push my weight to open the door, it did so automatically, leaving me sprawled across the floor of the bank. “Hello there”, the pretty face smiled, “we have met before, have we not?” Michael Ward.

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Recorder said...