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The start of adulthood

Living

SLIGO DAYS Sonia enjoying a pony ride with her cousin, Nick, in Sligo.

Sonia Kelly

As mentioned in my last instalment, I was 14 when my mother died. I was living in England, and attending St Michael’s convent school in Cirencester. My Aunt Baby, who lived in Ireland, was appointed to be my official guardian. I became a boarder at St Michael’s in Cirencester, but spent the holidays with another aunt, Aunt Kitty de Freville, who lived nearby. Those days passed happily, and I was really homesick when I went back to school.
Then it became time to study for the final exams. However, halfway through I developed a mysterious illness so had to leave school, and I was shipped back over to Ireland to stay with Aunt Baby and recuperate.
The Prioleau family in Easky, Co Sligo, consisted of Baby and Robert who were renting a big house called Fortland on the edge of the village and their son and daughter, Nick and Pat, who were a bit younger than me. During this period of inactivity, I learned German from Nick’s German tutor to compensate missing out on the end-of-term school certificate.
Eventually, I recovered enough to resume outdoor activities, such as pony rides and cycling with Nick, and games of hockey, which included Pat and the butler. About this time my brother, Michael, surfaced and wanted me to join him for a holiday in Loch Ine in County Cork, where a biology professor in Cork University who he knew ran a research station.
We stayed with seven of his students, which included the professor’s son who had a fierce reputation as a womaniser. An affair between him and me developed which was the first experience I had of such goings on.
When Michael got to hear of it he was furious and immediately contacted Aunt Baby and arranged for my return to Easky. In the meantime, I was sent hiking up a mountain with Idris – a Welsh student – to keep me out of harm’s way. When I returned to Easky I was made to write my ex-lover a letter of dismissal, which I did without too much stress.
Shortly after this, a letter came from Aunt Kitty in Cirencester saying that she had found a job for me in a riding stable nearby. So off I went, a fully fledged adult.

The third of a series of articles in which Sonia Kelly, who is now now in her 90s, looks back on her childhood and life. An author, poet and entrepreneur, Sonia founded Cloona Health Centre in Westport in l973.