An uncle of mine who was a GP in Southampton died on the beach in Tenerife. He was only 56 years old. He resided in Spain for three months of the year, as well as some time at a holiday cottage in Wales and at Bassett (near the golf-course) his home-place when his health got bad. My mother told me that the nuns in the area where he practiced (on the other side of town) in Southampton, were all very fond of signing up with him, as he was of such a gentle disposition. They could identify with him because of them too being Irish in Britain. He was in demand. Looking back now, I’m really glad I got the opportunity of knowing him in reality. I went to visit him at his home in Bassett, and I can still visualise him as I write. He was such a handsome man, and he was so pleased to see me. His daughter inherited his good looks. She had snow-white hair as a child growing up. I could see the sadness in his eyes as he reflected on my presence. I could feel the pain that he was feeling because of not knowing me earlier on in life. It showed so much in his prolonged anguished look at me. I too felt a terrible pang for what I had missed out. I would have dearly loved an uncle/niece relationship with him.
I loved listening to the stories about him that I’d heard from people at Fairfield. He too like the rest of the family headed for Doyle’s pub and Nellie Doyle next door when he came home on holidays. That was the place to go to catch up on all the latest news about who had got married and who had died in the area and who had excelled / failed at St. Peter’s college, his old boarding school in Wexford. Some people even asked him to diagnose medical problems, as he sat in the one-roomed pub sipping his favourite pint of guinness. Alas, he had to tell them politely that he would get into fierce trouble, as it was a very unethical thing for a doctor to engage in indeed, even outside the jurisdiction of where he practiced.
I think he had to do his studies via As Gaeilge, which would have been compulsory at the time in Ireland. Gosh, when I think back, that at the time he was studying at university in Dublin, he never knew that he had a niece in Goldenbridge industrial *school*. I know that he would have been abhorred. I know too that he would never have allowed me to stay there and would have rescued me immediately. I would have wished so much to have grown up in his family. He worshipped the ground that his daughter walked upon. He told me that he loved her so much. He refused to send her to boarding school, but instead, to the day part of the boarding school with the French nuns in Southampton. I know that he hated the boarding school in Wexford where he spent his youth. He told me that he could never eat brown bread because of the horrible black bread he got there. Yeah, I’d heard a lot of stories about how the boys were starved at St. Peter’s. I also heard about the cruelty meted out to my mother by one particular nun at her boarding school in Navan. Co. Meath. Prior to that she had definitely given series thought to entering the religious life. Mind you – I think she would have made an excellent nun, because she had a temperament that wouldn’t offend a fly. She was so timid. I had apparently brought back memories of his sister, to him. He told me that heads turned around at her from everywhere whenever she stepped out of the gate at Fairfield. He said that she looked like a picture that one sees on a large box of chocolates. I thought that was so poignant. From old photos that I saw of my mother I would agree with him. His wife was startled when she saw me, as she could not believe that the woman she knew and thought a lot of was also a mother just the same as her. Well – who is to tell who is a mother or not a mother?
My uncle’s daughter grew up with horse-riding since she was four years old. She entered dressage competitions, etc. The parents brought the horse over from Southampton riding stables to Fairfield during the summer time. I remember going to visit the horse and her mother showing me the correct way to feed him a carrot. The daughter had her own car at 16 and went all over the globe with her family. She was spoiled rotten. She got her love of yachts and boats from her family, as they went cruising off to the south of France. I would find it unsurprising if her mother was still going out to sea. They were horse and boat mad and garden parties mad. They would haver blended in well with the royal family, as they shared the same hobbies. They were frightfully posh.