Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Christmas Dinner That (Nearly) Never Was…

The Christmas Dinner That (Nearly) Never Was…

It was early 1965 and I had just invested in my first car, a five-year-old black Ford Prefect, DI 6858. It declared its age proudly, sometimes letting out a groan or a rattle. On Christmas morning 1965, my mother, two aunts and myself (the navigator) prepared for our annual visit to Longford, to another member of the family, for the Christmas get together. This was an annual event, a renewal of family bonds, an update on all things small and great.

We took off about noon (after the 11.30 a.m. Mass) in good weather conditions; no snow, no frost, no flooded roads to contend with. As we swung into Abbey Terrace the ‘Old Faithful’ started to splutter and chug a little, slowly grinding to a halt at Abbey Terrace Bridge. Shock and dismay hung heavy in the air; could our Christmas visit to Longford be about to end before it began? 

My knowledge of the workings of a car was extremely limited to say the least, a few basics and that was it. ‘Thinking things that never were and asking why not’…I remembered a friendly little man named Paddy Conroy who lived a short distance away at No. 8, Lower Marian Road. Paddy was the master mechanic in Taylor’s Motor Works (now Corrib), a very popular man respected by all who knew him. With the adrenaline running high I plucked up the courage (it was Christmas Morning after all) and decided to call to his house and hope for the best.

After a gentle, well-nuanced, knock his good wife Mary answered the door. I wished her and the family a very happy Christmas and then with an intake of breath gave her the bad news of my predicament. “Come in Christy, he’s sitting here in the kitchen. You can explain it all to himself,” 
Mary said. 

Things moved quickly from there. Paddy promptly collected his magic kit (the tools of the trade) and led the way. In the midst of all the hype and the hope I couldn’t help but think of a local Medical Doctor of the time, hurrying to give relief to a sick patient somewhere, or perhaps help bring a baby into the world. Paddy was the Doctor that morning and time was of the essence.
He raised the bonnet. Open heart surgery, hopefully not; too much choke, perhaps? Check the plugs! Minutes passed, the bonnet still open, Paddy eliminated a few more possible problems and said: “Try her now Christy…again…again”. At the third time of asking, the engine kicked into action. The sense of relief was so palpable ‘it couldn’t be described’. The Miracle Worker (not quite Anne Bancroft) gave a little smile of satisfaction and simply said: “Keep going and don’t stop till you get to Longford. See you sometime in Boyle!”
Paddy, God rest him, will forever remain in our memory for his wonderful deed of kindness that morning and for making Christmas one of the best we’ve ever had.

Christy Wynne


  1. What a lovely post,it brought a tear to my eye. I am Paddy's youngest daughter. My full name is Julia Bernadette although I was always know as Bernie. I was about 7 years at that time. It just goes to show kind deeds are always remembered. I thought I would share another tale with you. It was 1977 I was trying to get home from Charlestown for the weekend,at that time was almost impossible. I got a lift from a friend to Castlerea, I then hitched a lift to Boyle. A kind man stopped he said he was going to Frenchpark which was about half way, I was very nervous as I had never hitched before. He asked me my name when I said he asked are you any relationship to Paddy Conroy I said he was my dad. He then said I know your dad very well he fixed my car many times when I was young and never charged me, just said buy me a pint sometime. When we got to Frenchpark he kept driving, I said I thought you were going to Frenchpark he said I am not going to leave Paddy's Daughter here and drove me all the way to Marian Road.He let me out just before the house so dad wouldn't know I hitched. Such kindness always comes back.

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