Sun, Jan
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Mary Barrett


Station House, Islandeady, Co Mayo

Memories of Mary
A tribute to Mary Barrett, Station House, Islandeady who died recently
I’m doing a straight swap. I’m exchanging the Little Book of Sad Memories for another. We laid Mary Barrett to rest on a green sunlit hillside in Islandeady beside her beloved Gabriel. I’m going to try to forget these last few days and that it was all too short a period since Mary was happy and healthy. I want to remember the happier days I shared with her ...
I’m back in the school yard in primary school. The girls teams have been picked and the game just started when we hear a shout from the football field ‘Mary, come on; we need you!’ She has been summoned to play as goalie on the boys’ football team. She wouldn’t desert us, would she? She did and we girls had to make the best of it because we knew Mary was doing what she liked best. Of course nobody could have foreseen that it would be as a goalie that Mary would make her name and all would be forgiven when our classmate stood in goal for Mayo in Croke Park at that glorious All-Ireland Camogie final of 1959. Happy days!
It’s Thursday evening and Mary and I are in her house scanning The Mayo News, the Connaught Telegraph and the Western People. Neither the local court cases nor the activities of the County Council have any appeal for us. We are busy planning where the best dance is likely to be the following Sunday night. The Starlight, the Pavillion or the Traveller’s Friend, maybe? Would we look for a lift to places farther afield like Pontoon, Salthill, Enniscrone or would we head for Tooreen to see if the Devil might appear again? The Dixies, the Royal Blues and the Miami were favourite showands, among others. “What are you wearing, Mary?” I ask. “Oh, the blue dress; when it sees me coming now, it jumps down off the hanger itself!” Our wardrobe was very limited in those days and rotated endlessly.
It’s midnight.  Mary and I, along with a group of friends, are at Murrisk. We have cycled into Westport, left the bikes in a quiet alleyway  and taken the bus to the foot of the Reek. We start the climb. Most of us have sticks, some have bicycle lamps or torches. As we climb we are getting separated from the group but we catch up with the others from time to time. In the dim flickering light figures pass us by. “Howya Mary!” “Hi Mary, how’s the climb going?”. Mary is greeted regularly. I recognise nobody but Mary, who works in the office of the Volkswagen garage in Castlebar seems to know quite a few pilgrims.
“Are ye alright there Mary? Here, hang on to my arm, I have a fairly good torch. Your friend too can take my brother’s hand. We’ll soon get ye up the steep bit!”Am I going to refuse? I think not. We often stumble in the dim light but there is much banter and we get to the top in time for one of the Masses. We meet our own friends at the top and coming back down is a doddle. Walking home pushing the bicycles up Sheeaune Hill affords time to talk and share memories of the climb before we free-wheel home down the other side of the hill as the sun is rising. It’s Sunday morning and so we will more than likely be out dancing as usual tonight. No bother to us!
It’s a blustery evening and the Islandeady camogie team is playing a practice match on the local football pitch. The players are serious, the talent is prodigious. I don’t usually play with them but this evening I am asked to have a go. The ‘silk purses and sow’s ears’ metaphor springs to mind here as I realise clearly that I am basically afraid of that small, hard sliotar that has made a sharp contact with my knee, followed instantly by the rap of a camogie stick across the shins. No prisoners are taken here. I remember saying: “You’re welcome to camogie, Mary!” and getting a sympathetic smile for my pains.
Fast forward to more recent times. The Wednesday Get Together Group is in the local Community Centre where lunch is being served. My seat is directly across the room from Mary’s table where second helpings of desert are being served. It’s jelly, Mary’s favourite. I catch her eye and I mime hunger and jealousy. She loads jelly on to her spoon and mimes offering it to me. Those sitting near us know the score too and smiles are exchanged all round. A lovely memory from the recent past. May you feast royally in Heaven too, Mary.
Yes, that was a good swap!
- NS