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The Earl And Lady Of Caherlistrane

South of the border
The Earl And Lady Of Caherlistrane

Willie McHugh

It was to Caherlistrane Church ‘neath the foothills of Knockma Maura McHugh and Paddy Hoade took their marriage vows all of forty five years ago. Until death do us part they promised. But it didn’t. Mother Nature was cracking open the shells of dawn on the morning of Maura’s funeral when Paddy slipped quietly away. Never did ‘I’ll be with you shortly’ have such connotations. Their two funerals left together to the melodic strains of Matt Keane warbling Galway Bay.

“And long ago the hour I know I first saw Illinois”

It’s fairly safe to assume Paddy or Maura never ventured to Illinois. They didn’t need to. Caherlistrane was the spindle their universe turned on. Their life bore testament to Kavanagh’s immortal lines ‘a man who knows his own half-acre knows the world’.
They knew that and much more besides. Maura with the gentle words and the encouraging elbow tug she’d give you by way of a little gee-up. The wafting aroma of cooking and home baking permanently perfumed her homely kitchen. Maura Hoade was to the cooking apple what Van Gogh was to the sunflower.
Through my late father I got to know them. First it was Paddy. They spent the main truss of their working life together. Work is a loose enough term for what they did because Paddy Hoade never visited hardship or undue toil on anyone’s day.
His daily schedule with the Office of Public Works on the Corrib/Mask Drainage Scheme led him over every boreen and bridge to the rivers, streams and water courses where South of the Border sources copy now. On such travails I happen on old landmarks and I can still hear the echoes from the friendly ghosts of yesteryear.
And long before corporate Ireland came up with ‘auld guff and rhetoric about people skills and man management Paddy Hoade had those attributes in abundance. They were foremost among his many fine traits. He understood the inner workings of the human psyche better than the greatest of mind-readers or life coaches. He knew the right thing to say and more importantly when and where to say it. College doesn’t teach you that. Only life does.
His hand rested on my right shoulder on a St John’s Day all of twenty summers ago when we laid my father to rest. They’d remained comrades to the end. A few weeks previous I’d taken dad on what was to be his final spin around Saw Doctors country. Through the twisting turning winding roads of Galway and Mayo we wandered ‘til he unhinged Paddy Hoade’s front door. I doubt if Heaven itself gave him as sincere a welcome as Paddy and Maura afforded him that lovely summer evening. A last curtsy and bow to a lifelong and unique friendship. He left their lovely home reenergised for the long journey that beckoned.
Hoade’s was a rambling house. For thirty years plus Paddy Vahey left his Kilshanvey gate every Sunday night to sit and chat at Paddy and Maura’s warm hearthstone. An unblemished attendance record that outlived three currency changes, The Riordans, Glenroe, Dinny and Miley, unimaginable technological advances, Green Shield Stamps, moving statues, the falling of the Berlin Wall and other great world unfoldings.
Paddy wore the maroon of Galway football and he was no slouch in the boxing ring either. “I flocked him in the corner and wouldn’t let him out” was his tactical account of overcoming an opponent in a Westport tournament one night.
There was a subtle hint of royalty to their demeanour. They togged well and presented themselves in their Sunday best always. He was the earl and she was his lady. He loved to wander with dog and gun and there was an extra spring in his step when Molly and her entourage of horse and hound arrived in the locality with the North Galway Blazers.
Regina and Deirdre will miss them more than most as indeed will the hob full of grandchildren they doted upon. Death could not part Maura and Paddy. They are forever together now.