Its the end of an era for the Smith family home. After 40 years in Sandymount, my mum is selling up and moving all the way around the corner. Over the past few months we’ve been helping to pack up the accumulated effects and memorabilia of three generations of Smiths in Farney Park. Each box discovered in the attic or photograph album that comes to light provokes a bout of reminiscence and nostalgia.
Mum came across some items belonging to my dad, some of which date back to the 1950s and his previous life as a Manchester-born boy. Dad died 10 years ago so there’s a certain poignancy associated with these pieces.
Here’s a photo of him trying to get to grips with the joys of dial-up internet in the late 1990s.He’s probably looking up travel destinations. When mum and dad moved back to Ireland in the late ’60s dad worked as a travel agent in Universal Travel. He was initially based in Dun Laoghaire but later moved to the GPO Arcade in Henry Street (I think there is a shoe shop there now).
Back then we lived in a rented house in Monkstown at the foot of the dairy, an endless source of fun for inquisitive 5 year old boys. In 1970 we moved into Farney Park to live with my granddad (my mum’s dad) after my granny died. Dad kept a link to Dun Laoghaire by playing football for St. Joseph Boys, I still remember his shin guards – two pieces of old carpet felt!
Dad loved sport, especially football and Manchester Utd in particular. He grew up on the terraces of Old Trafford, watching the likes of Duncan Edwards, Harry Gregg and Dennis Viollet and he held on to a collection of programmes from the ’50s and early ’60s. More Man Utd stuff here –
I can only imagine his disappointment when I told him that I was a Chelsea fan – I preferred the swagger and style of Peter Osgood to the dour dependability of Bobby Charlton. He could probably have put up with me following City – one of his brothers was City through and blue – but Chelsea must have seemed like a sort of betrayal. However, he hid his disappointment well and didn’t laugh much when Chelsea began their downward spiral in the ’70s. It’s just a pity we didn’t get to watch the 2008 Champions League final together.
Here are a couple of athletics programmes that he kept -
Among the old programmes we discovered dad’s National Service records. Dad served in the RAF as a teleprinter operator for 3 years and seemed to be reasonably competent. He was posted to Cyprus at a time of extreme tension between the Greeks and the Turkish Cypriots. However, I reckon the only action he saw there was the Saturday night music show and like most young men of that time he joined a skiffle group, playing broom-stick bass.
My parents, like most Dublin couples it seems, met in the Top Hat in Dun Laoghaire. They were married and lived in London for a while before moving back oop North, where four of the five children were born. We lived in Openshaw but, like the rented house in Monkstown, the house was demolished when we left – I don’t think we were that untidy. The terraced houses of Openshaw have since become some really ugly tower blocks, all part of the progressive ’60s architecture failure.
I’m sure my mum will feel a real wrench when she finally leaves Farney Park. This was where she grew up and where she lived most of her married life. But she is remaining in Sandymount as part of that unique community and while it might be the end of an era the memories remain strong even as the photos begin to fade.
Here’s something for dad:
I came across the appreciation that I wrote for Dad at his funeral (its not often that you have a captive audience for your musings) and I’m copying it here for, well, because I can…
A memory from Sean, Mount Jerome Crematorium, 10/02/2000
My father was an active, kind, generous and considerate man although he was not perfect, he was after all a Manchester United supporter. He was also incredibly brave – he left his home in Manchester to come and live among the madness that is the Smiths. He went from the roar of 60,000 people in Old Trafford to the screams of 4 kids in half a house in Monkstown.
On moving in to Farney Park he must have wondered what he had let himself in for. There were approximately 3 million people in Ireland at that time, 2 million of whom were related to my mother and most of them stayed in Farney Park at some stage. He used to call it Maureen’s Bed and Breakfast, but no payment was demanded at the time, so if all you who stayed could form an orderly queue we will accept cash or certified cheques.
Without wishing to offend anyone, there are, besides my Mum, three women who were very important to him:
- The first was Grace, his walking companion. My Dad looked forward to his walks immensely and the fact that he had someone he got on well with, who also appreciated the beauty of the Wicklow Mountains, made them all the more enjoyable, plus there was the fact that she came over to give him a lift.
- Next was Madge or, as Dad called her, ‘That Bloody Woman’. Madge and my Dad got on like a house on fire and she would arrive, periodically, from Manchester to drink my Dad’s finest single malt Scotch. Not that he minded (much).
- And last – but by no stretch of the imagination least – was Auntie Tess, the mobile bread maker, who Dad was particularly fond of, although the only way that he could keep her quiet was to give her a glass of whiskey and the crossword.
Dad had a natural affinity with children, who were immediately drawn to him and he had great patience while they were trying to destroy his flowerbeds. I have an abiding memory of Molly, who is two and a half years old and about 15 stone, barrelling her way through the front door, pushing everyone out of her way, while shouting ‘granddad, granddad, granddad and launching herself onto his knee.
There are some who think we have become an impersonal and cold people but I have to say that we have been absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of support and comfort that we have received over the last few days.
I think I am a bit like my Dad in some ways. We are both reasonably quiet people, when we got together you wouldn’t exactly call it chatting – silencing would be a more accurate term, but there was probably more said in those silences than could ever be put into words. However much or little was said I always felt comfortable in his presence.
My parents both displayed great patience with me while I spent 24 years trying to drive them mad. They stood by me all the time and supported me in whatever I wanted to do, no matter how ridiculous. Dad even offered me a job in the Travel Agency but, being the appreciative sort, I replied, ‘Me? Work in an office, answering phones? Not a chance.’ And here I am 16 years later working in an office, answering phones. In closing I have to say that I would not swop any of the 37 years that I spent with my Dad for anything.