Martin's Mutterings

Martin Timmins shares some of his reminiscences about growing up in Dublin

Dublin in the Rare Auld Times: 1947 is a year prominent in Irish history for two things – one is the deepest snow ever seen in the county of Dublin and the other is the birth of a son to Mary and Ned Timmins (at the same time as the snow). Right from the beginning I caused trouble. My mother wanted to name me Edward after my father but my aunt, who was a nun in a closed order, wanted to name me after St Martin as she was reading a book about him at the time. As it turned out, they both won (and lost) because my mother got her way in giving me Edward as a first name but I’ve been called Martin ever since! My aunt, who went into the convent in Blackrock when it was just a little village some way out of Dublin, was to get a shock many years later on her first outing since she went in. In the intervening years, without her knowledge or agreement, people had extended the city out to Blackrock and they had also placed a golf course alongside the convent, which was responsible for her trip. Somebody who plays golf about as well as I do had hit a ball over the wall and hit her on the head. When she woke up in the ambulance as it went out through the gates, she nearly died of shock to find herself in a city for the first time in her life. Imagine going in through a gate seeing horse-drawn carts and an occasional car with spoked wheels and when you come out again it’s turned into a bustling city populated by maniac drivers! Anyway, enough of that for now – let’s get back to the beginning.

Being the seventh in a family of ten children (I don’t think my parents ever found out what caused it) in a two room house meant there wasn’t much in the way of creature conforts, at least for the next two years until we moved into a luxury three bedroom council house with a wooden seat on the outside toilet. I was ten before we got running water and an inside loo. Another aunt used to come round every Saturday and give us all a bath in a tin tub in front of the fire. She wasn’t married, never had a boyfriend (or girlfriend) and took it out on us with the hard carbolic soap! I remember wishing that some of the older ones would leave home because by the time it got to my turn the water was cold and I’m sure it made me dirtier.
One thing we did have in abundance was music. Whatever my father was doing he sang. He sang everything from Galway Bay to Frank Sinatra to Caruso and later Elvis Presley and The Beatles. He sang on his motorcycle with two kids on the petrol tanks and two on the pillion, he sang while painting and gardening and when me mother wasn’t telling him to shut up she sang with him. My older sisters and one of my brothers always seemed to have a song coming from their lips and, needless to say, I couldn’t help but join in. There was singing in the schoolroom and in the schoolyeard (ring a ring a rosy), the back seats in buses were transformed into stages when more than two people sat in them. Then along came the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, soon followed by The Dubliners, The Wolf Tones and a few other folk groups who opened the floodgates to Irish folk music – what a magic time to be a teenager. At that time too, we were discovering Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, as well as all that beautiful previously hidden Celtic music from Ireland and Scotland. It was about that time that I found myself in the same tech college and workplace as Sean Keane and Paddy Moloney from The Chieftains, along with a few other soon to be famous musos, complete with instruments in the classrooms, but that’s another story – maybe some other time.
In the meantime, just a couple of things that are happening in the present day. The first Sunday in the month session at the Old Bush Inn at Willunga kicked off to a great start and the next one is at 1pm on Sunday 4th June. The pub puts on drink specials and the atmosphere is great. The next Sunday session in McLaren Vale RSL is at 1pm on 18th June because the previous week is a holiday weekend – look forward to seeing you all there!

P.S. I remember during my apprenticeship days a guy lost all of his fingers in a guillotine accident. When he met the duty surgeon at the hospital he was told he should have brought his fingers with him and with this new-fangled microsurgery they could be sewn back on again. “That’s all well and good” he said, “but I couldn’t pick them up!”

Martin Timmins

Click here to read Part Two of Martin's Mutterings

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