The Signal Box

Railway stations stretch my mind. They are places of comings, goings, waitings, quietude, hecticity and evokers of emotion.

I was waiting at Waterford Station last night to collect son, Harry, off the Dublin train and, as always, my eyes were drawn to the timber clad signal box which dates back to 1906.

Signal Box
The Signal Box, Plunkett Station, Waterford City. 

It’s almost impossible to think of all the trains, passengers, railway staff, people waiting to collect passengers or wave them goodbye who have been watched over by this distinctive building up on its metal support frame.

Similarly, how many people, like me, have a whole mixum-gatherum of memories that seem to live in this signal box which opens up each time they have occasion to be in around the station or simply passing by for fleeting moments.

Little did I ever imagine when I was being collected by my father at the station as a teenager, that one day I would be collecting a ‘child’ of mine!

It was only when I was driving into the station last night, after shrugging off hubby’s offer to go instead, that I remembered how my mother used to stress how much Father loved collecting us because he got to hear all the news on the drive back out to Tramore.

I nearly turned back to ‘let’ hubby go but it was just a nearly!

Memories of Val Doonican

I was listening to BBC Radio Five Live in the early hours of this morning and was really saddened to hear of the death of Waterford-born singer Val Doonican.

Val Donnican in 1971 1927-2015 Photo: www.wikimedia,org
Val Donnican in 1971

Val was a huge part of my growing up and we watched him on his BBC television show for years and years every Saturday night  from when it started in 1965. Those were the days of the black and white telly, the roaring fire and the whole family gathered ~ Mother and Dad on their easy chairs and us kids on the sofa ~ me the youngest invariably in the lumpy bit in the middle but feeling all secure and nestled.

In the early 1970s, when we were living in Drogheda, it was like a dream come true when news hit town that Val Doonican was coming to perform in concert. It was the first concert of a ‘big star’ that I ever went to and Mother and I revelled in every moment.

I got Val Doonican’s autograph that night and was stunned with the fact that he took the time to talk with eleven-year-old me as if I was the only person in the world.

So many songs, so many memories associated with a man who hailed from my native Co. Waterford and made such a success of life from tough beginnings.

Cycle Against Suicide

I wonder if there is a family in Ireland that has not been touched by suicide? I somehow doubt it.

Today, though, I was fortunate enough to witness the other side of suicide ~ the support, solidarity and openness that can be associated with what was once an absolute taboo subject in this country.

My nephew, Matthew,  is taking part in this year’s Cycle Against Suicide which is aimed at raising awareness of the considerable help and supports that are available for anyone battling depression, self-harm, at risk of suicide, or those bereaved by suicide.

It is a cycle around the island of Ireland and today was Day 3 of 14, with the route taking the riders from Waterford to Cork City.

I’m so glad that Matthew stayed with us last night. Yes, he was tired but it was only this morning that I realised why he wasn’t absolutely exhausted after yesterday’s long haul and the prospect of 120 kilometers today.

Part of the Cycle Against Suicide involves presentations in schools along the way and this morning the venue was De la Salle College in Waterford. Pupils from neigbouring schools, cyclists, organisers,  and odds and sods like me filled the sports hall and heard people talk openly about mental health issues and how we all need a helping hand to get us up the hills of life and shouldn’t hesitate to ask for it.

I was completely taken by a moment when the school pupils were urged to repeat the words: I am lovely; I am lovable; I am loved. There was hesitancy at the start but gradually the communal voice got louder and more assertive. How far we have come from my school days in the 1970!

The hundreds of cyclists left Waterford as a surge of orange blazing through the thick drizzle. Their unity was palpable and I’d be amazed if anyone who heard the presentation and witnessed the incredible camaraderie will ever, ever forget it.



awareness of the considerable help and supports that are available for anyone battling depression, self harm, at risk of depression, self harm, at risk of suicide or those bereaved by suicide.

‘To Every Up There’s a Down’ ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 225

It is quite amazing how a fleeting glimpse of young lads on bicycles could set off a whole train of thought.

Garrarus Beach, Co. Waterford.
Garrarus Beach, Co. Waterford.

Just watching them from my ‘natural bathing box’ in Garrarus where I was just back from my swim, I thought  Patrick Kavanagh’s lines from Inniskeen Road: July Evening:

The bicycles go by in twos and threes –
There’s a dance in Billy Brennan’s barn to-night,
And there’s the half-talk code of mysteries
And the wink-and-elbow language of delight.

I was also transported back to a time when my brother and I used to go cycling with a youngster in Drogheda who was also a ‘bank manager’s child.’  One day when we were out in a very hilly area, he made the pronouncement ~ aged about ten ~ that ‘ to every up there’s a down.’  We debated the subject as we hauled ourselves breathlessly up a ferocious hill and then dropped it as we flew down the other other side, our young hearts and minds taking respite as the wind rushed through out hair.

Forty or more years on, my father broke his hip and was operated on in Waterford by the young philosopher who had stayed very much on my mental  map.  It was late in the evening when the dicey operation on my then 86-year-old father was taking place.  The phone rang; my heart beat ten times faster than when we were heaving ourselves up that monster of a hill.

It was the young philosopher, turned orthopaedic surgeon, at the other end of the phone.  After all the years, he decided that I must be the Jean from those far off days and he wanted to tell me that the operation had gone very well and to rest easy for the night.

I reminded him of our cylces and the hills. He remembered them as vividly as I did and his phonecall meant the world to me that August night when the hills had seemed to be all upward climbs!