Apologies for the delay in responding to recent emails and those who have been in touch via the website’s contact form. It’s been 8 days or so here, without laptop access to the internet. Windows 10 had to be updated. The update took a day and a half. Then things quickly went south. Network adapters refused to work. Arghhhh. Anyways, I am back online this weekend. Yeee-haaa!
I came across, some weeks ago, a delightful late 1800’s poem by the Reverend William Cowan, of Galway, called Old Voices.
In 1870, he put together and published a collection of his own poems. The book was called Tourist Pictures, and other Poems. Two years later, he took holy orders, and subsequently was appointed curate in the parish of Gweedore in County Donegal. Given the words of his Old Voices poem, one suspects that the beautiful Donegal coastline was the source of his inspiration.
After three years in Donegal, he moved to the parish of Faughanvale, some eight miles South-East of Derry, where he stayed for thirteen years. In 1878, the Reverend Cowan published a second volume of poetry, entitled Poems: Chiefly Sacred, Including Translations from Ancient Latin Hymns. This second collection was met with even greater acclaim. In 1888, he was appointed as preacher at St. Augustine’s, in Londonderry.
1977, Mulholland Golden Wedding Anniversary – 50 Years Married
The Reverend Cowan’s ‘Old Voices’ poem got me thinking about my grandparents, Tommy and Isabella Mulholland, and an old 1977 photograph that I had encountered again recently. You can see it below.
In 1977, to mark their 50th wedding anniversary – which I believe is referred to as a Golden Wedding Anniversary – their offspring got together at Lottie McCaughern’s house, just outside Kilrea, to celebrate the occasion.
Lottie, Richard and Stanley, were in attendence.
1977 also marked the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II coming to the throne. There were ongoing celebrations of the Silver Jubilee across the year. My parents saw her Royal Yacht Britannia just off the coast of Portstewart in late summer.
But the Mulholland’s primary celebration that summer was Tommy and Isabella’s Golden Wedding Anniversary. Imagine that, fifty years married. They had married in July 1927. The decade was known as the roaring twenties – though there wasn’t much roaring around Eden.
Tommy was 30 years old, his wife some ten years younger. Tommy was slim and probably maintained the same weight his entire life. He knew nothing but hard work and responsibility – his parents had died when he was relatively young. He had a farm and younger siblings to look after. I never knew him as anything but completely bald.
They enjoyed, as much as we can tell, a very happy marriage. I don’t ever recall hearing of a cross word, or a raised voice, between the pair of them. Although my father sometimes said that when he was young, his father was very strict.
The Tommy that I knew only raised his voice when someone (usually a grand-kid) started to speak when the news came on the wireless. “Wheeeest” was his most commonly used word at that point i.e keep quiet. It would be fair to say that he liked to hear the news.
In modern times, he would have been addicted to the internet and a smartphone.
Tommy lived for another two and a half years after this 1977 get-together. He had just turned 83 years old, on the day before he died, in December 1979.
It was early evening, when Stanley rang. My father took the phone call. I can still see dad walking to the phone and seeing his reaction. We raced over to the house, at Eden, about a mile away. He was already gone. Stanley said that he had put his arms around his father, to move him up the bed, and said that he immediately felt the life leave him. Grand-dad’s heart had given out.
Isabella lived for another four years. She took a series of strokes, in her final couple of weeks, and passed on in December 1983. We sat with her those final days and nights. I can still vividly remember one night near the end, when things looked hopeless, hugging Uncle Stanley, at the bottom of her bed. We were both in tears. Her death marked the end of an era.
Across the seas they come to me,
Old voices of a happier day,
When love was young and hope was high,
And flowers grew bright about my way.
I sit within the rose-girt pane,
And watch the tranquil western sun
Dip gently in the golden sea,
And think of friends for ever gone,
And while I gaze and think, to me
There come old voices o’er the sea.
I hear them when alone I stroll
Along the white surf-beaten shore;
They mingle in the fisher’s song
Heard ʼmid the lull of ocean’s roar;
And when with toilsome steps and slow,
I struggle up the fern-clad cliffs
Which slope in beauty from the bay,
And watch far off the fading skiffs,
They whisper of old times to me,
Those voices from across the sea.
So when night curtains sea and shore,
And white stars gleam across the wild,
And underneath the shadowy limes
With thoughts of other days beguiled
I linger long, too sad to rest,
For in this lonely heart of mine
There whisper as from long ago
Old echoes that have grown divine
Old echoes from across the sea,
They whisper of old times to me.