Saturday 4 April 2015

The McNamaras are coming (back)

'Roscommon' acrylic on canvas
Later this year I shall be making an emotional return to Roscommon. From being a babe in arms to a stroppy teenager, I and the rest of the Medds went on an annual pilgrimage across The Irish Sea to my maternal grandmother's year after year after year. And for the first fifteen of those summers I had a blast. But by 1977 I'd had enough. So much so that two days into the vacation and I baled: a quick 'phone call to my favourite Auntie north of the border and I was travelling, alone, on a bus through 'the troubles' and spent the rest of the fortnight in Lurgan, Co. Armagh. Happy days.
  But now, I want to go back. See the old place again. Will it have changed? Probably. Will I recognise the place? Definitely. Will I be able to take a walk down to Hessions and grab myself an ice cream wafer. Alas, no: Cyril Hession, like the lone Texaco petrol pump on his forecourt, is long gone.
  My cousin Raymond, who will be joining us on our quest, sent an email to the local rag ahead of the trip. I'm not expecting a ticker-tape reception, but a pint of the black stuff with their reporter & toggy would be nice. Here's what Ray had to say.

I am Raymond Murray, son of Aidan Murray (born 1934, Ballyleague) and Carmel McNamara (born 1936, Strokestown). My mother’s family moved to Ard-na-Greine in Roscommon town around 1940. My grandfather was Sergeant Joe McNamara, my grandmother, Mary (Maxie), nee Lynch from Donegal. They produced 14 children, Sean, Phyllis, Gerry, Joe, Myra, all deceased, and Mabel, Olive, Dolores, Carmel, Paddy, Adrian, Noel, Bernie and Stella. 

My granny may well be remembered by many still living in the town. She was a renowned golfer and a tremendous consumer of a product called Jameson’s Whiskey. You may have heard of it! My aunt Stella (Finnerty) has lived locally in Knockcroghery for 40+ years, a couple of doors down from the great Jamesie Murray’s pub. As you know, in the 1950s work was hard to come by in rural Ireland, with many having to go overseas to support themselves. 

My parents moved to London in 1953, returning to marry on 5th August 1957, before returning to England until 1968. We now live in Lurgan in County Armagh. Several of my mother’s sisters also moved and settled in England and live there to this day. As separate families, the various McNamaras travelled from parts of England to visit Ard-na-Greine each summer, but often our paths would cross as we squeezed into granny’s three bedroom house. As is normal, you veer towards those of your own age. So John Medd (born 1960. son of Dolores), Adrianne Stone (born 1959, daughter of Mabel), Susan Medhurst (born 1959, daughter of Olive) and myself (born 1959) formed special bonds. 

Memories of ice-cream from Cyril Hession’s shop opposite the county hospital; what seemed like very hot summers spent at Portrunny on the Shannon in the pre-sunscreen days of old; and the occasional night out to Con Moran’s pub or the Kon-Tiki near Rooskey to hear the soon to be famous Brendan Shine. Then life took over…..we grew up, we married, had children, did what people do….and drifted apart. John, Adrianne and Susan remain in England, but let’s not penalise them for that. We did, after all, thump them at rugby quite recently. But with many of our domestic commitments now fulfilled, and with luck having smiled on us, we have recently rekindled our friendships. We had a wonderful gathering in Lurgan in 2013, but always felt that a visit to Roscommon town would be a fitting way to seal our reunion. It is now 40 years since we spent a summer together in your town……and it’s been too long. Flights are booked, cars are hired and the four of us are staying in Gleeson’s on Saturday 4th July along with our wives and husbands. The girls have husbands, the boys have wives. (It’s not something you would have thought necessary to mention in the 1960’s but the times they are a changing). We hope to visit some of the afore-mentioned places and perhaps pay a tribute to Jameson’s, which killed my poor granny at the age of 93. Legal proceedings are ongoing. I hope this story is of interest to you.


  1. Every sentence (and brushstroke) of this post is bloody wonderful. I hope that you, Ray and your wives (and husbands) have a truly fabulous reunion in July.

    1. Thank you for your kind words TS.

      Yes, this time it's personal. Stories will be told (and retold), memories will be shared and, I dare say, liquor will be taken. Tears may even be shed. But this has been a long time coming. I can't wait.

  2. I am mightily looking forward to it, I hope we do Grandma proud! The photos will be pored over by the clan for years to come no doubt

    1. You're pushing at an open door here Suzie! See you in the Mother Land.