February 6th has a strong echo in my life as it was the day in 1967 that our family moved from Castleblayney in Co. Monaghan to Drogheda in Co. Louth. I was nine then and that was one of five moves that we made from when I was 3 to 18 years old. ( I also moved away from home when I was seventeen to go to College but that’s a different kind of moving.)

These moves were all within Ireland and were part of father’s job in the bank. Both he and mother had been in the bank from the early 1940s and had moved numerous times in their single days ~ their paths crossing when they were both based in Kilkenny City for a while.

As a kid, I found moving from place to place rather exciting and remember being full of excitement as I bade everyone in Castleblayney goodbye and watched all our belongings, which were packed in tea chests, being loaded into a huge big removal van.

Bank House, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan
Bank House, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan

There’s no doubt that all the moves brought us very close together as a family ~ we only had each other until we made new friends. Going to new schools was daunting, especially landing there in the middle of term and having to get to grips with new teachers, new sets of rules and and, of course, all the existing pupils who tended to be curious about any newcomer.

Apart from family, tennis was the other anchor that made moving manageable. Tennis courts are the same size no matter where you go and the rules of the game are the same. It was always such a relief to get sorted in a tennis club and be able to feel at home hitting forehands and backhands like always!

We never knew how long we’d be staying in any one place ~ it ranged from 10 months to 8 years ~ but it was pretty certain that a transfer was never too far off. This never stopped me from putting down roots and getting incredibly attached to places but there was always that feeling of being a little bit on the sidelines.

St. Patrick’s Day always made me feel this ‘outsidedness’ more than any other. I can vividly remember watching St. Patrick’s Days Parades from our Bank House window in the middle of Drogheda and feeling that I simply didn’t belong in the town. To this day, I’ve never be a part of a St. Patrick’s Day Parade! Perhaps, this year I’ll get stuck into our local one here in Tramore, which is the place I was born and the place to which I eventually returned full-time in 1991.

More than anything, all the moving as a child, brought it home to me how every single place has lots and lots to offer; new people, new landscape, a depth of local history. Much of this can be taken for granted by people who have always lived in the same place but through new eyes it can be a whole new adventure.

The Viaduct, Drogheda, Co. Louth.
The Viaduct, Drogheda, Co. Louth.

It certainly doesn’t surprise me, after all this, that it is very often people who are ‘blow ins’ who blog or write about the wonders of places.

Are you a person who moved around as a child or did you spend your childhood in the one place? 



The Four Places I Need to See Again in 2016

I have no major ambitions to travel the world in 2016 but there are four places in Ireland that I am yearning to see again.

The first is Drogheda in Co. Louth which was a huge part of my life growing up. I went to school there; played hard and learned the true meaning of what it is to love and be loved.

The Boyne Viaduct in Drogheda, Co. Louth.
The Boyne Viaduct in Drogheda, Co. Louth.

The second is Dublin and, especially my alma mater, Trinity College, where I spent many, many happy days. I was fortunate enough to live on the campus for my final year and that was a blissful experience.

Botany Bay, Trinity College, Dublin.
Botany Bay, Trinity College, Dublin.

The third is Mount Usher Gardens in Co. Wicklow. I began going to Mount Usher when I was in my teens and they have been part of my life ever since. They never, ever fail to soothe my soul:

Mount Usher Gardens, Co. Wicklow.
Mount Usher Gardens, Co. Wicklow.

And the fourth, is the Burren in West Clare, especially Bishop’s Quarter, near Ballyvaughan. West Clare was my father’s native heath and I’ve come to love it like a second home.

Bishops's Quarter, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare,
Bishops’s Quarter, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare.

I’d love to hear about the places that YOU feel you need to see in 2016 and why they hold special significance for you.

Needless, to say, I’m hoping that, at least some of you will yearn to see my beloved Tramore, here in Co. Waterford, that place which I never, ever, ever take for granted in all its moods and beauty.

Tramore Beach, Co. Waterford
Tramore Beach, Co. Waterford


Blogging Down the Years

Thoughts of  the unfolding of years are among the Decemebery things that come round every year for me like berried holly and fresh mistletoe.

As I was out walking yesterday, I was thinking of how so much of own’s life can be encapsulated by thinking of the defining events, images, memories associated with particular years in each decade.

This brought me to:

1964 ~ I was seven and we had just moved to Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan. That was a whole new adventure and it was the last year in which all five of us (Mother, Dad and us three kids) were together as a family as my sister headed off to boarding school in 1965.  Being insulated by a warm, warm family is what stands out most as well as the arrival of our very first television in time for Christmas.

Running Free Photo: Frank Tubridy
Running Free
Photo: Frank Tubridy

1974: I did my Leaving Certificate in 1974 by which time we were living in Drogheda, Co. Louth.  It was a year of turmoil in quite a lot of ways and the Troubles in Northern Ireland were a huge worry.

I had placed all my hopes on pursuing a career in tennis but a serious wrist injury put all that on hold.  I had deferred taking up a university place in the hope that summer surgery would rectify the problem but by the December it was clear that a career in tennis was out of the question. That was the year I began learning to drive and it was also the year that my sister and I were re-united as she came back ‘home’ to teach in the school that I had just left.  It was all a bit of a social whirl with big sis as ‘chaperone!’

The song I played over and over in 1974 was this one:

1984: This was a year in which I was still reeling from the death from cancer of my long-time boyfriend from cancer in 1981.

I was ensconced in Trinity College, where I had embarked on a PhD on the experiences of people with physical disabilities in Ireland and I was also very busy working as a researcher on an exciting EU project in the Midlands about the  integration of people with disabilities into society.

Tennis was back on the agenda and I simply adored being able to compete again after all the missed years.

Weather-Beaten Photo: Frank Tubridy
Photo: Frank Tubridy

1994: Undoubtedly the highlight of 1994 was pregnancy and anticipation of motherhood.

That was a year in which I was working in two areas I love: teaching and research and was able to work from home base here in Tramore.

Tramore Bay
Tramore Bay

 2004: This marked the last year that my parents were in good health but they loved spending time with our son, Harry, who was very close to both of them from the moment he was born.

This was a time of major juggling between work and ferrying 9-year old Harry to all sorts of sporting activities.

A major highlight of 2004 was Waterford’s victory in what is considered to be the greatest Munster Hurling Final of all time:

It’s a year I very much associate with my father’s photography and being down in my parents house hearing about their outings to places here in Co. Waterford which they adored.

Curraghmore, Co. Waterford Photo: Frank Tubridy
Curraghmore, Co. Waterford
Photo: Frank Tubridy

 2014 ….. Right now, it’s hard to focus on highlights of 2014 but I certainly associate it with an ever-increasing love of Co. Waterford, nature, the ocean, blogging, poetry and a whole new adventure into the world of carpets.

_Sinead_Boyle_Image_IMG_7202_ (1)

And, of course, the new love affair with Stan!





Sunday Morning Connections ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 312

Festival of Colour, Creativity and Connection
Festival of Colour, Creativity and Connection

I’ve been rather surprised that no one has submitted a song or, indeed music,  of any description to the Festival of Colour, Creativity and Connection here on Social Bridge over the last few weeks.

Songs are all about connections to me and  ever since I mentioned Kris Kristofferson at the weekend that Winter-time started here in Ireland, he’s been more and more on my mind.

Kris Kristofferson brings me back to my teenage years in the 1970s and, most of all, I associate him with sitting on an oil heater in the drawing-room of the Bank House in Drogheda, playing his Greatest Hits, over and over and over and … again.

Listening back to the songs over the last week or so, they make me feel like Kris Kristofferson  was my introduction to the roller-coaster of emotions that are associated with  growing up, loving, leaving, losing, living …..

I must have played Me and Bobby McGee a million times visualising myself in that van with the wind-shield wipers slappin’ time … and contemplating the words: Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose …

I don’t think there’s been a Sunday morning since those teenage days that I haven’t had thought of  Sunday Morning Coming Down. More than anywhere, it hit me when I ventured out on my first day in America – San Francisco  ~ a Sunday, January 2, in 1983.

I’d love to hear what songs/music have extra-special connections for you?

Bridges and Irishness ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 89

Droichead  is the Irish word for’ bridge’ and I find it hard to believe that I never thought about this before  as Droichead Atha or Drogheda, Co. Louth  is the place where I spent my formative adolescent years.

Drogheda was a great place to grow up ~ just 30 minutes from Dublin,  3 miles from the sea and situated on the historic Boyne Estuary.

If I think Irishness and Drogheda, I am immediately brought back to Irish in school and Mother Magdelene.  Nuns were never exactly ‘me’ but  ‘ Magser’ was different. She was a really kind-hearted person with a terrific love of the Irish language. I still gaze in awe at the fact that I debated ‘as Gaeilge’ when I was in my last year in school. This was no ‘childish’ stuff’ but hard-hitting debates about economic and social policy.  Magser had us well schooled in the vocabulary of ‘current affairs.’

I think she would have been delighted to k now that I became a regular at ‘Carberry’s’  Irish music sessions in Drogheda the year I left school ~ at the tender age of 17.  Carberry’s was a pub at the bottom of Constitution Hill ~  arguably the steepest hill in Ireland, especially when it comes to learner drivers and dreaded hill starts. In many ways, Carberry’s was like an extension of Magser’s Irish classes as Mrs Carberry would call for’ cuinus’ (quiet) especially when the singers were trying to be heard above the chatter and clatter of glasses.

So,’ Social Bridge’ has all sorts of connections buried deep in bridges and mentors of the past.  Drogheda’s Viaduct , which I cycled under everyday on my way to and from  school, will live in my memory forever as one of the most special bridges in the world.

Boyne Viaduct, Drogheda, Photograph with permission by Trounce
Boyne Viaduct, Drogheda, Photograph with permission by Trounce

The Boyne Viaduct ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 6

There are few bridges that evoke more memories for me than the Boyne Viaduct in Drogheda, Co. Louth. Just the other day,  I came across this photograph of it which was taken by my father in the 1970s when we lived in Drogheda.  The Viaduct was designed by Irish civil engineer, Sir John MacNeill, and was constructed in the 1850s. It was the seventh bridge of its kind in the world when built and considered one of the wonders of the age.

The Boyne Viaduct, Drogheda, Co. Louth
The Boyne Viaduct, Drogheda, Co. Louth

What makes the Viaduct so special for me is that it was a key part of my journey to school for five years in Drogheda. I had a grand view of this majestic bridge each day, as I cycled to and from school  ~ morning, lunchtime and evening! It was a continuing source of wonder to me all those years.

A friend of mine, Lorna, lived right beside the Viaduct and that was the meeting point for a gang of us in our grey flannel uniforms and wine cardigans as we journeyed together on our bicycles.