An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Thursday, October 20, 2005  

Garret the Good

I had cause to consult Garret's autobiography today (All in a Life) and came across this passage. He had been describing his early childhood, how his brother Fergus taught him to type at the age of 7 and other such gems. He then talks about Nurse O'Neill having charge of him until age 5 when she was replaced by a governess Miss Cuddy until he was sent to an all-Irish boardiing school at the age of 9.

"It would be very wrong to think from this account of events that my mother was somehow lacking in affection or care for me. Nothing could be further from the truth. But she was the product of a middle-class Victorian environment that involved extensive supplementing of parental care by nurses of governesses. She had never been able to afford such luxuries in the past when my elder brothers were young, my father was frequently in jail and she was herself involved in revolutionary activities. It seemed natural to her to take advantage of a recent inheritance from her father by trying to give me the kind of childhood she had enjoyed"

Many things struck me about this. His casual reference to the jail and revolution are amusing and yet such was the insistence by FF that FG was a bunch of old west-Brits that most people have no idea how key both Garret's parents were to 1916 (they were both in the GPO) and the War of Independence and of course the Civil War when his father helped form the pro-Treaty party of Cuman na Gael (I know I've spelt it wrong, but no time for checking now).

Secondly, when there is so much hysteria about childcare and mothers feeling guilty about not being constantly present with their children, one does start to wonder when the orthodoxy arose that women had to devote such an amount of time to child rearing. I'm not saying the victorians were right - we know what adults they produced - but, I must say, the idea of a Nurse O'Neill, seems very appealing.

And finally, isn't it amazing that despite the fact that we hold our parents responsible for most of our miseries and defects, we still insist on rearing our children in the same fashion? I resented bitterly that my school mates lived in the town and could play with each other after school and we were so unfortunate to live down a lane where I hated the only other girl on the road and had to tag along with older brothers and their friends...hmm perhaps this explains my need for approval from slightly older men whom I have placed on pedestals...

Isn't it great this blog is free and I can sort out all these issues without need of a therapist? Oh, and the point is that we could have lived in the town but I wanted my children to grow up with fields to run around in just like I did, even if they are bored out of their minds.

posted by Sarah | 12:59 1 comments
Good points! I'm possibly more of an FF than an FG fan (not by much margin though, and it varies with time!) but I've always admired Garret. I must get my hands on that book. One major thing which impressed me about him was how he managed to get Margaret Thatcher to agree to the Anglo Irish agreement in 1985. I suspect he used his exceptional calm logic and intellect. It was at a time of awful IRA violence and Thatcher was normally as rigged as stone about UK total dominance of NI.
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