Love Doesn’t Age
It was put to me, very early in myself and Bob’s relationship (on the subject of the age difference) that I may be ‘looking for a father figure’. My response? ‘So what? And if I was, I got an absolutely gorgeous one’!
I’ve been thinking a lot about my father recently, and whether by co-incidence or design, there are similarities in my Dad’s and Bob’s personalities – both quietly-spoken, gentle people, protective of those they loved, humorous and talented. And I love them both very much.
In Memory of Patrick Gerard (Gerry) Fealy
Dad died when I was eight but I remember lots of things about him. We’d sometimes go for walks around Shanganagh where we lived, and he’d smoke a cigarette as we strolled along. We’d have conversations, my Dad and I.
It was beautiful around there when I was a child: nothing but woods between the back of our house – originally a gate lodge – and the sea. They were proper woods, too, with ferns and lots of undergrowth to shelter everything that lived there. Then there were just railway tracks between the woods and the sea – a perfect environment for a child to play in.
The original ‘big house’, Shanganagh House, had become Shanganagh Stables. I was surrounded by horses – the owners of ‘Maryland’, another large house, had the most beautiful animals at pasture. I was besotted with horses – at the age of five or six, I remember persuading one under a tree so I could climb up the tree to get on it. I could have been killed but it never occurred to me – or the horse, luckily.
I don’t remember ever not being able to read. Dad was a journalist and in the evening he’d sit at the dinner table with lots of sub-editing to do (he worked for the Evening Press). I’d sit on his knee and he’d give me a tiny stubby pencil (usually with a rubber band around the end – he saved rubber bands) and show me how to make the proof-marks to delete or insert.
He was a true gentleman, my father. I never heard him raise his voice. He was so gentle that, when he’d tidy my hair in the morning, he’d brush only the outside. After a few days of this, my sister Martha called me to her: You’ve a rat’s nest in your hair!’ All the untouched hair underneath had gotten tangled and it took ages to get it out.
Dad brought me into the Press with him one day. I was dazed with happiness. From the moment we got to town, I just held on to his hand and revelled in the experience – he knew everyone. We walked up the quays a bit, I remember, and people were greeting him continually. When we got to the paper, he brought me into the press room. After he got me show them all how well I could read, he told me how the paper was put together.
One reason, I guess, that Dad was quiet was that he had a stammer. Apparently it was brought on from shock – when he was a child in Dundalk, during a political rally, a bullet slammed into a wall right in front of him. However, it was not an unattractive stammer: as he spoke quietly anyway, and slowly, it became just a part of his personality. When he sang, though, he didn’t stammer. And he had a lovely voice.
There’s a story that Dad and his friend Paddy Pedigrew were in a ballroom one night, and while Dad was a very good dancer, Paddy had a limp. The tale goes that Dad looked around the room, looked at Paddy, and said: ‘some pair of Romeos we are – I can’t talk and you can’t walk.’
The manner of his passing was tragic, to say the least. He was crossing the road one morning and was hit by a car, injuring him so badly that he was not expected to recover. He had severe brain and physical injuries. He lived for eighteen days after the accident.
My childhood was happy until Dad died. After that, things obviously changed. He was no longer there to protect me. When I think about him, I remember how secure he made me feel – ‘she’s only a child’, he’d say quietly, letting me squeeze in behind him in his chair.
Because of him, I thought I’d like to become a journalist and mentioned this to my career guidance counsellor when I was in the Tech. He frightened the lard out of me by going on about a good Leaving Cert and four years of college… aargh! I was only fourteen! Anyway, things work out the way they should and eventually I did end up being a production editor and general manager with a publishing company, at the time called Irish Marine Press.
But that’s another story.