My grandfather was a very interesting ne’er-do-well! He was great!

My grandfather was a very interesting ne’er-do-well! He was great!

Maureen was raised by her maternal grandparents and spoke several times about the central role they played in her life. One example she talked about was her love of singing which she has attributed to her grandfather. This has been an important artistic pursuit throughout her life: she won the Comhaltas All Ireland competition in the sean-nós style in 1965 and has taught others this traditional style for many years. While she speaks a great deal about her grandfather in this clip, her grandmother was another central figure in her narrative. She worked very hard to support the family and continued to raise Maureen after her grandfather passed away.

Since her grandfather’s health was not strong and he could no longer continue his work as a stonemason, he spent most of his time tending to their land in County Tipperary and taking up occasional schemes (such as raising dogs for the races). He was very present in Maureen’s life before his passing and is strongly associated with fond memories of childhood.

Stories about grandparents were common in the interviews. These figures are typically associated with personal roots and, as such, they play a significant role in the formation of identity. I would suggest that the affection Maureen expressed for her grandfather and the way she attributed her love of singing and reading to him points to the ways these emotional memories become foundational in the process of self-understanding.


Photo: Knocknarea, Co. Sligo. Courtesy of Tom Naughten.