Over the years since I founded the [Cloona] Health Centre many people have asked if I remember them. The answer has been most likely ‘no’, because most people are extremely nice, and it is only the ones I would rather forget that I remember. For instance, the one that we called ‘So Disappointed’ because everything that she tried was ‘so disappointing’, like her weight loss and her measurements. And, even though she paid us many visits, they were always so disappointing.
Then there was the drug addict. This was a young girl who fell to the floor when I was showing her to her room. I was unable to revive her and this was extremely worrying. So, I sent for a doctor. After examining her, he said she was in a drug induced coma and that we would probably all be going to prison. However, he managed to produce some magic and got her to leave of her own accord without any prison sentence and we became life-long friends.
Next, we had a body on the floor in the sauna, which was found by a staff member who sent anxiously for me. I was just as anxious when I arrived but, between us, we managed to lift her out of the heat and she soon revived with no apparent ill effects and it never happened to anyone else.
Another memorable event was caused by a thief. This was actually a guest of the health centre who was staying in my house because of a shortage of rooms and participating in most of the treatments. At some point, a couple of the guests complained that some of their money was missing.
A staff member became suspicious of the guest staying in my house, and one day she hid in the health centre while all the other guests went for their daily walk. Right enough, the suspect appeared and started trying the bedroom doors. The staff member emerged from hiding and accosted her, saying she would send for the Gardaí and the owner.
She brought her up to my house and then called the Gardaí. We waited for their arrival, and when they did they questioned her and then went to examine her car. From then on it was like Christmas, as the guards came in and out with more stuff from the car – extraordinary things like a bag of onions, a candlestick holder that was part of my antique business and other things like shoes, items of clothing that I had forgotten I possessed, etc.
When I mentioned about the missing money one of the Gardaí went up to her bedroom and come down with a handful of notes, which he gave to me. Eventually, they took the suspect away under arrest and we could hear them laughing as she complained they had not locked her car.
The seventh in a series of articles in which Sonia Kelly, now in her late 90s, looks back on her childhood and life. An author, poet, entrepreneur and regular Mayo News contributor, Sonia founded Cloona Health Centre in Westport in l973. All articles in the series are available on mayonews.ie.