Thinking Back

by Thomas John Mulvey, PhD

shamrock Childhood reflections of rural, 1870s Ireland and Celtic history. shamrock
Edited by Eric C. Biemiller and William L. Mulvey
Grandsons of Thomas John Mulvey, PhD

Copyright© William L. Mulvey, all rights reserved

Old Stories


Chapter Eleven

My mother and all her people, the Slacks of County Leitrim, were dark with straight hair. She and her father, brothers and sisters, could be taken for Spaniards, as could many of the families of the West of Ireland. It is said that they are of the Iberian type and show the strain perhaps of the ancient Firbolgs, that people who succeeded the Formorians, reputed in mythical and traditional Irish lore to have come from under the sea.

She was a genuine County Leitrim woman, shrewd in a bargain, getting the last penny for her produce. She might have been the principal character in a market-day scene described by Padraic Colum as taking place between a Leitrim colleen who had brought some young poultry to market and the dealer. The girl was holding out for her price, saying to the dealer: "’I won't take what you offer, anyway….' Then an old woman intervenes. 'Take ten shillings, a vourneen deelish (my little loved one)' she says, 'and you'll have luck.' The girl admits that there would be no harm in splitting the difference. The bystanders arrange the treaty, and the dealer and the girl shake hands. When it is all over the man wipes his brow and makes a speech that is full of a happy incongruity. 'You'd need the brain of an elephant in this place. You'd want to be like Jumbo in the Zoological Gardens to be able for the women of Leitrim.'"

My father, on the other hand, had a fair skin, brown-blue eyes, and a head of black hair with a wave in it. In him, perhaps, was typified that "high Milesian Race" who invaded Ireland sometime after the Firbolgs and Tuatha de Danaans, subdued them and mixed with those earlier inhabitants of the island. He always carried himself erect to make his five feet eight and a half inches count to the fullest extent. I remember him as a well built man, square of shoulder and always straight as a ramrod. He had the deep, broad brow and the quiet eyes of self-confidence. When he looked at you, his gaze was direct and steady; if there was any anger behind it, it was a gaze to "strike the fear of God into you." He was about thirty-five or thirty-six years of age at the time of his leaving Ireland in 1879, and in the full vigor of manhood. He was openhanded with money and generous to a fault. As a provider, it was the same story: he always wished to sit down to a well laden table with plenty of everything - a large roast, a good sized piece of corned beef, or a twelve-pound turkey at Thanksgiving. Although a small eater himself, he insisted on being able to hand around plentiful helpings on every plate. He hated to see a skimpy little beefsteak on a platter and to have to cut it into stingy little slivers in order to make it go around.

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven My Father Leaves
For America
Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Chapter Twelve
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