Drawing of the book cover Water Under the Railway Bridge by Bill Gerty

Grannie Gerty



One of our few visitors was Grannie Gerty who used to visit us in her donkey and cart along with my cousin Ernest. He was the only one I had to play with before the rest of my brothers and sisters came along. They did not come very often so I was happy to see them both. I used to listen for the noise of the cart wheels as they came up the lane to our house. I would run down to meet them and always got a cuddle from Grannie. I never got any sweets or chocolate but she always had a big basket of food with her. She thought the world of our mother and they always got on well together.
Grannie Gerty was a tiny little woman who always wore black clothes and a black hat. She was known to a great many people in Cavan having been at the birth of very many babies in the area, although she never had any training she appeared to be the one person mothers wanted to be there and she was present at the birth of all of us with the exception of George. To me she was a wonderful lady. Our mother was a lot taller than she was and she had quite long black hair. Grannie always kept her hair in a bun at the back and she had a very wrinkled face. Our mother was very quiet and she had a very soft voice. I can never remember any of us ever been hit or shouted at by our parents.
When I was able to walk our father would take me down to where he used to work. We would walk down the little lane past the various farm buildings and eventually down the narrow passage way through the yard gate which led into the kitchen.
Compared with our humble kitchen this one was very large. It had a very large black range which did all the cooking and also kept the kitchen very warm. The floor was covered with black and white tiles. There was a large dresser on one wall and all around were shelves stacked with pots and pans of various sizes. The dresser held a large selection of plates, cups and saucers. On the range stood a couple of large kettles with steam pouring gently from their spouts. As I stood and looked around I felt that there must be some mouth watering dishes served up here, pity I'm not here when it happens. Although my father once opened a cabinet and produced a slice of bread and jam for me. On the few occasions I was there I never saw the housekeeper but there was always a smell of something cooking.
It seemed to me that one of my fathers jobs was to stoke up the range whenever he went in there. Once while we were there I ventured up the large stairway, only to be terrified by the head of a large bear which hung on the wall. I never saw a picture of a bear before and did not know what it was so I run down a lot quicker than I ran up. When my father told me what it was I crept back up again keeping my eye firmly fixed on Mr. Bear. At the top of the stairs was a big room with a large
thing in the middle grinning at me, at that point of time I did not know what it was but years later I found out that it was a grand piano, so I hurried back down the stairs.
Outside the kitchen was a large greenhouse and we used to go in there and pick mushrooms for the kitchen, but my favourite place was a beautiful orchard. It was not very far from the kitchen. It had an enormous high wall, it seemed to me to reach up the the sky and to get inside you had to go through a big locked wooden gate with spikes on the top of it. Just inside the gate was an apple and pear store and you had to go up some stairs to get into it, but what a lovely smell when you walked through the door. The orchard itself was divided into four sections and on either side of the paths were small clipped boxwood hedges. One section con­tained apples and pears, one soft fruit bushes, one small vegetable and one appeared to be herbs and flowers, but the largest was the apples and pears section. I remember my father and two other men being in there pulling apples and while they were doing that I was busy stuffing myself with some lovely juicy pears which had fallen from the trees, completely unaware of the hundreds of wasps who were enjoying themselves like me, they must have been friendly wasps because I never got stung.
My mother always seemed to be working, washing, cooking and ironing. On Saturday she always made a cake for the weekend, this was an addition to the soda bread cakes she baked every day. When they came out of the oven they were put out on the windowsill to cool and it was my job to stand outside and make sure that the hens did not jump up and take a beakful out of one of them.


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