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Reflections on Some Years of Real Value.
Nios Mo Na Fiche Blian a' Fas
Le Peadar Ó Croinín
Had the great poet Oliver Goldsmith the chance to experience life in our little village, instead of penning "Sweet Auburn..." he no doubt would have felt instead "Sweet Ballingeary! Loveliest village of the plain. Sweet smiling village, parent of the blissful hour." That surely would sum up my memory of the most beautiful place on this side of Heaven.
I remember how the warmth of the Ballingeary community was like the proverbial nest that gives security, comfort and warmth to its members, especially the young and growing. People were sincerely interested in one another's well being. People looked out for one another, and without reservation stepped in to provide what was needed when the need was there.
To begin with, I am strongly mindful of the words of the baptism ceremony that exhort the parents to be "the first teachers and the best of teachers" of their children. My parents were indeed all of that, proving it time and time again, as Wordsworth said "in the many unremembered acts of kindness and of love."
I remember the times of Christmas, the times of threshings, of the stations, of the strawboys and wrenboys, of baptims, weddings, wakes and funerals.
I remember the nights of high winds and scary lightning and rumbling thunder when the bunch of us kids jumped into the same bed under the clothes to seek comfort from being together and to shut out the terror of the night.
I remember the times when the river rose and the water came up to the front step and the cross between Corkery's and Tig na Croise was like a scene from Venice, when the only mode of transport was a boat.
I remember the times when we awoke to an eerie silence of early morning and realized with intense delight that our world was blanketed with snow.
I remember, selectively, some silly boyish pranks (actually some girls were also involved) putting that donkey in the back of Donal & Mary's truck, during their courting period.
And finally, I well remember the time when a most significant person came into my life and into the life of the Ballingeary community. That person was Fionnbarra O Murchu. He came out of the West and the mist in his three-wheel contraption. Despite empty pockets he enriched the lives of individuals and the community at large. I fully realize that without his contribution, both I and many others would certainly not have had the chance to be enriched by the level of higher education that he provided. Also it is with sincerest thanks that I remember the generosity of Jim Corkery who made available his family living room as the first classroom for the fledgling Mean Scoil Mhuire. As Goldsmith put it, it was there "the village master taught his little school."
I remember well the wonderful experience it was to have been one of the original nineteen who were blessed to be a part of that birthing of Mean Scoil Mhuire. I still vividly remember those times of learning and laughter, of innocence, simplicity and most things lovely. It was there the Master led us to an increased awareness of and love for all things beautiful. Time and time again he stressed, "How extraordinary the ordinary is!" His passion for the goodness of life left us with a deeply felt appreciation for the beauty of life - art, music, drama, life, love, paint, dance, song, words, poetry, Shakespeare, Yeats, Wordsworth, O'Riada, and Mozart. I remember all of these most fondly. In the words of Yeats, "always night and day...I hear it in the deep heart's core."
It was Alfred Lord Tennyson who said that "I am a part of all that I have met." I sincerely believe that, and I give thanks to all those with whom I shared those ever so special years --- to my parents, my brothers and sisters, to my neighbors, to my eighteen classmates, to Seamus O'Se and to the Master, Fionnbarra O Murchu.
As a tribute to all of the above, I'd like to close with some words of Francois Mauriac, "We are molded and remolded by those who have loved us..No love or friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark upon it forever...The marks left by one individual on another are eternal."