Fairwell My Dear Friend

Nov. 19th, 2017

Farewell my dear friend

A phone call from her son first thing this morning, and then a little later another phone call from one of her daughters (which put the heart across me as it came up with her name, from her house phone), told me that my dear old friend and next-door neighbour, this past quarter of a century had passed away, peacefully, in her sleep last night. Beannacht Dé lena hanam.


I first began to get to know Bridie when I moved in with my late partner, Pat.

Bridie would come over on Saturday evening for about a quarter of an hour or so before Pat was ready to leave for Mass, (he would be shaving and getting his suit on and Bridie and I would have a little chat) and then they would go down to the village together (she would never have wanted to keep him waiting). At the time, Bridie was full-time Carer for her husband, who had been laid up for a number of years with chronic arthritis. When she was away from his bedside, their son would mind him. Whenever he carried his mother shopping, Pat would go over and sit with him, and on occasion I would, although as a newcomer to the area he found my lack of “news” rather trying. From his bed he knew everything that happened in and around our little village, and in fact it was more a case of him giving me the news!

Bridie was a wonderful nurse to him.

I remember on one occasion when my parents were staying with us, the Traveling Draper, Mr. Quill, from Killarney made his twice-yearly call, and Pat probably bought a shirt or two or maybe some bed sheets, and Bridie bought a pair of enormous pyjamas for her husband. She explained to me that she wanted them this size so as to be able to put them on him without the need of raising his arms, which was excruciatingly painful for him. That was the kind, thoughtful and practical person Bridie was.


Bridie loved poetry and songs and she could remember ones that she had learnt as a girl. She was a fine singer too, and appreciated other people who had a talent for it.

Two of her favourite poems that she recited to me were Thomas Hood’s “Bedtime” (or “Goodnight Little People”) and an anonymous one about a Jersey Cow (a very pretty animal that she loved):



The evening is coming,
The sun sinks to rest;
The rooks are all flying
Straight home to the nest,
“Caw!” says the rook, as he flies overhead,
“It’s time little people were going to bed!”

The flowers are closing;
The daisy’s asleep,
The primrose is buried
In slumber so deep.
Shut up for the night is the pimpernel red;
It’s time little people were going to bed!

The butterfly drowsy,
Has folded its wing;
The bees are returning,
No more the birds sing.
Their labour is over, their nestlings are fed;
It’s time little people were going to bed!

Here comes the pony,
His work is all done;
Down through the meadow
He takes a good run;
Up go his heels, and down goes his head:
It’s time little people were going to bed!

Good-night, little people,
Good-night and good-night;
Sweet dreams to your eyelids
Till dawning of light;
The evening has come, there’s no more to be said,
It’s time little people were going to bed!

Thomas Hood 1799 – 1845


Anonymous A Jersey Cow:

We walked the road together

The sky was covered with stars

We reached the gate in silence

I lifted for her the bars

She neither smiled nor thanked me

Because she knew not how

For I was just a farmer’s boy

And she a Jersey cow


Bridie had a wicked sense of humour too and enjoyed retelling me stories of her youth and the silly things that they used to have a fit of laughing over.


One time as a very young girl, her mother sent her on an errand for a very old lady, a hag if you like, as Bridie would have said “as old as Methuselah’s cat!” Bridie was sent over to bring in turf for her or some other such job. This old woman gave Bridie a cup of coffee to thank her! Bridie had never before tasted coffee and thought it tasted disgusting! She even wondered if the old woman was trying to poison her! So when her back was turned she lifted the heavy black lid off whatever was hanging on the crane over the roaring fire and in went the coffee! To this day she never knew if twas spuds boiling or a stew, but she said her goodbyes and fled without ever looking back!


She had many stories about her friend and neighbour Maggie Ann (a childhood sweetheart of my late partner Pat’s!). Maggie Ann was a very spirited young girl (which may well have been the reason why Pat’s parents refused to allow him marry her). On one occasion they called in to a little shop at the bottom of the road to buy a quarter pound of biscuits. There was a very old lady running the shop and the biscuits were in a huge tin with a glass lid. The old lady used bend down and pick out a handful of biscuits and put them on the scale and bend down again for another handful. While she was bent over, Maggie Ann would take one or two off the scale and put them in her pocket! This went on and the old lady said “Well I cannot understand how I can’t make up the quarter pound!” and Bridie who could no longer keep a straight face would have to go out!

On another occasion they cycled into Kenmare and Maggie Ann was admiring the flowers outside a very posh shop. The lady who ran the shop was so pleased that this young girl was interested in flowers that she brought her through to the garden out the back and started discussing the different names of flowers and asking Maggie Ann had she this kind and that kind in her own garden and Maggie Ann said she had! Neither girl had ever heard of any of these exotic names and twas far from flower gardens either girl was reared! Growing up on a farm with animals everywhere there was no time or use for such extravagancies! The old lady was delighted with Maggie Ann – a kindred spirit or so she thought! Bridie went away as she could no longer contain herself and the two girls fell about the place with laughter afterwards!


Years ago when one of Bridie’s children was getting married, I took her shopping for an outfit. (Bridie always regretted that she never learnt to drive, as her best friend Peggy had). We went to Castleisland and Tralee and Killarney. In one dress shop Bridie tried on a dress, which although pretty, I thought was meant for a younger person, but I didn’t like to say anything. It was a soft chiffon type of fabric with gentle shades of lilac and green floral patterns and it had an underskirt inside as the material was so sheer. The trouble was, this under-garment, made of purple cotton (something like butter-muslin) had no give in it and was like a second skin! She got stuck inside it and we couldn’t budge it up or down! Her two knees were locked inside it and we were inside the changing cubicle nearly peeing ourselves laughing! We prized it off her eventually without it having to be cut off her! She was great fun.


Many’s the time that myself and Bobby would go for a drink after work in Crowley’s Bar, Kenmare and I would sit with Mrs. Crowley (Beannacht Dé lena hanam freisin), doing the crossword. We could be stuck on a clue for hours and eventually I would have to phone Bridie and say “any chance you could pop over and lock up the hens for me?!” Bridie adored the hens and it was no bother to her at all in those days. Like a little bird herself she’d skip along “the near way” and go up into the haggard to shut my hens in safely. She loved to hear the hens “singing” after they had laid an egg.

When my own mother was dying, Bridie looked after all the dogs for me (I had four of them that time) as well as the hens, and a cat!  I was so grateful to her because it allowed me to stay in England for a full three weeks which I’d never have been able to do if it weren’t for her.

In recent times Bridie helped me with my Irish learning and would greet me with “Dia duit, conas atá tú” or if I got it in first she would reply with “Tá mé go maith!”. Sometimes we would have a copy of the “Buntas” book each and we would read out the conversations, each in our turn. She was a great help to me with pronunciation. She remembered a lot of what she had learnt in school and twas obvious she had been a very good scholar in her day.

Bridie was the very best neighbour in the world, and a very very dear friend who I will miss more than words can say.





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Katharine of Aragon’s last letter to her husband, King Henry VIII

On Friday last, 27th January 2017, the people of Peterborough and beyond came to remember the death and buriel of King Henry 8th’s first wife Katharine of Aragon. I saw little of the actual s…

Source: Katharine of Aragon’s last letter to her husband, King Henry VIII

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Katharine of Aragon’s last letter to her husband, King Henry VIII

Very moving….


On Friday last, 27th January 2017, the people of Peterborough and beyond came to remember the death and buriel of King Henry 8th’s first wife Katharine of Aragon. I saw little of the actual service because a group of us in appropriate costume guided some 360 chidren from St John’s Church to the Cathedral, and after the service gave them brief descriptions of life of that time.

One thing I missed was toward the end of the service when Katharine’s last letter to King Henry VIII was read. I have, however, got a copy of the text – and this is what it says:-

My most dear lord, king and husband,
The hour of my death now drawing on, the tender love I owe you forceth me, my case being such, to commend myself to you, and to put you in remembrance with a few words of the health and…

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Dogs go on Killing spree on a farm in Cork

several sheep were killed and more had to be euthanized due to someone’s lack of responsibility for their dogs.


please ensure that your dogs are always under strict control around livestock.


Thank you for reading, please share and get this message home!


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The Great Blasket Islanders – my heart is full of love and admiration for them and their ghosts

The Great Blasket Island

The Great Blasket Island

I have never been to the Blasket Islands! Although I hope to very soon. Isn’t it queer that I have lived here for a quarter of a century and yet I had never even driven around Slea Head until last year, when an old school friend Ann visited me? I was so pleased with the journey that I made it again soon afterwards when my sister Susan came to stay!  On that occasion we stopped for lunch in Dingle and I bought “Peig”. I knew, from various friends, that Peig Sayers, a famous story-teller from the Great Blasket Island, was compulsory reading, in Irish, for generations of school girls here.

Reading Peig’s book (translated into English I hasten to add) “An Old Woman’s Reflections”, which she dictated to her son, Micheál Guiheen (Sayers being her maiden name), gave me an appetite for more knowledge of the Blasket Islanders. According to the census records of 1901 and 1911, Peig, or “Margaret Guiheen” as you’ll find her, could both read and write, but this seems not to have been the case. From what I gather, a few of the islanders (and bear in mind that Peig came from Dunquin on the mainland and married into the island), learnt a little English during brief periods when there was a school on the island. Their own language though had been passed down orally, with their stories and poems. None could read or write in Irish. This is hardly surprising when you consider how under British rule, for several centuries, the language and religion were banned, discouraged and sent underground. The miracle is it survived at all! As “The Tailor” (Tim Buckley from Kilgarvan) observes in Eric Cross’ “The Tailor and Ansty” (a book which was banned when it was first published!) “All the schooling was in English. There wasn’t a syllable of Irish. It was against the law, and you would be beat if you used it. But the people had the Irish, and good Irish too, and they spoke it amongst themselves. Now the world has changed round, and you are paid to learn it and few people have it! It’s a queer state of affairs.” It has been observed by academics who are knowledgeable in these matters, that the Irish language that was spoken on The Blasket Islands, during the 19th and early 20th century, was a “pure” form of the language; unadulterated by foreign influences. It was for this reason that these academic gentlemen first went to the Great Blasket Island.

The first of these esteemed gentlemen was playwright (Edmund) John Millington Synge, best known for “Playboy of the Western World” (which caused riots when it was first performed in Dublin!) Synge didn’t receive a very warm welcome from the Islanders when he arrived in 1905. Memories of Bailiffs and Land Agents (attempting) to land on the Islands to extract rent and rates from the impoverished islanders were too recent in their minds. There is an account in Tomás Ó Crohan’s “The islandman” from his childhood, when a steamship was sighted, moored outside the island. It had put out a large boat full of uniformed officers with guns. These armed soldiers would have ‘sacked’ the houses of the islanders had they succeeded in coming ashore. They hadn’t reckoned on the women of the island though, who stood above the strand, on the cliffs and pelted them with rocks! The children gathered more ‘ammunition’ and the women continued to rain stones upon them until one had his head split open and they retreated back to their boat and rowed back to the safety of their steamship! In those days the islanders were supposed to pay £2 per cow in rates to the (Earl of Cork) which would be about £8 for the whole island; it may as well have been eight hundred pounds! Tomás Ó Crohan was born in 1856 and he was a boy when he observed the above event, so I am supposing it to have taken place in the 1870’s; just thirty years or so before Synge’s visit, so not surprising then that they were still very fearful of strangers!

The next of these academic gentlemen to dock was a Norwegian called Carl Marstrander in 1907. They called him “The Viking” (‘An Lochlannach’). Marstrander was interested in Celtic languages and visited Scotland and the Isle of Man as well as all the islands. He was already fluent in ‘Old Irish’ when he arrived on the Great Blasket. A Pole-vault champion from Norway, he succeeded in astonishing Tomás Ó Crohan by vaulting over his house using the oar of a naomhóg* for a pole! Marstrander, so the story goes, “worked and laboured on both sea and land” from the first day he arrived. Later he took up a position teaching Old Irish in the School of Celtic Studies in Dublin. One of his first students, a scholar named Robin Flower from the British Museum came to read Old Irish and was advised by his professor to visit the Blasket Islands. He arrived in 1910 and immediately struck up a rapport with Tomás Ó Crohan, who was chosen by the ‘King’ of the Ireland, (An Rí), Pádraig Ó Catháin, to help Flower learn ‘Modern Irish’. The whole island had great affection for Robin Flower and called him “An Bláithín” (meaning Little Flower).

Tomás Ó Crohan, with the help of visitors to the island, like Robin Flower, as well as his relations living on the mainland, learnt to read and write in his own native language.

One of these visitors was the son of a businessman from Killarney called Brian Kelly (Brian Ó Ceallaigh), who eventually persuaded a sceptical and reluctant Tomás Ó Crohan to write down his recollections. Kelly read him Pierre Loti’s “Pescheur d’Islande (an account of a Canadian fisherman) and stories by Maxim Gorky “My Childhood” about Russian peasants, which eventually persuaded him to put pen to paper.  Tomás Ó Crohan began writing about his life, as a sort of diary, which he sent, almost daily, to Kelly in Killarney. These precious papers were subsequently sent to Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha “An Seabhac”. These were eventually published as “Allagar na hInse” (Island Cross Talk). Although they were written first, they were published after “An tOileánach” (The Islandman) – generally regarded as the greatest literary work to have come from these poetry-speaking islanders, and considered a classic.

Blasket Island Writers

After Reading Peig, I was sent Muiris Ó Súilleabháin’s (Maurice O’Sullivan) Fiche Bliain ag fás (Twenty Years A-Growing**) by same sister, Susan (she had bought it at Kerry Airport after leaving me). Twas then I really fell in love with the Islanders! Maurice O’Sullivan was a beautiful writer: truthful and candid in his intelligent observations. His mother died when he was an infant and there being no-one in his home yet old enough to look after a baby, he was put into an orphanage in Dingle (part of the poorhouse). When he was about seven years old his father brought him back home. At that time he hadn’t a word of Irish, but he wasn’t long picking it up! When he first clapped eyes on the naomhóg, below the cliff he thought it was a giant beetle “twice as big as a cow” and as it was being carried by two or three men underneath it, as was the custom, one can easily see why!

The houses that they islanders lived in were tiny, (about 102ft) and built huddled together like a flock of sheep huddles to avoid bad weather. Originally the roof was made of rushes but later they copied the canvas and tar of the naomhóg and these were anchored with ropes and rocks holding them down and keeping them from being blown off during the many storms. The kitchen had an open fireplace and perhaps a few súgán chairs (woven straw) and maybe a settle that could be turned into a bed. Below the kitchen, another room for sleeping was formed by placing a dresser between the two apartments. The floor was just a dirt floor and the women went down to the beach for sand twice a day to keep it dry. By night the animals were brought inside. All the cooking was done on the open fire, and bread would have likely been made in a bastible (a large iron pan on legs with a heavy lid upon which you put red-hot sods of turf). Their diet was very simple. It consisted of whatever could be caught. They snared rabbits, which were very plentiful, hunted for puffins, scaled the cliff face for gulls eggs, caught thrushes nesting in the stone walls by night and of course fished. Sometimes they went off to another of the Blasket islands and found seals in caves. A typical meal would be a plate of potatoes, some salted fish and some milk over it. To drink they had skimmed milk, until the arrival of Tea.

In this way, people have lived since Neolithic times.

How sad that their number fell into decline. The young people emigrated to America. The fishing came to an end when huge French trawlers fished off the islands, depriving the islanders of their livelihood. Eventually, the handful of islanders remaining, were almost starving when the government finally evacuated the island in 1953. Very quickly the wind and rain tore the roofs off most of the houses and the stone walls began to crumble. Most houses now look as though they have been unlived in for centuries. In recent years one or two have been restored and visitors can now go and see them as they once were.

Looking back at historical documents, such as baptism, marriage and census records, the signs were there to see. In the early 1800s there were more than forty different surnames associated with the Great Blasket Island. By the early 20th century fewer than a dozen names survived on the island.

It is impossible (for me anyway) to read Muiris Ó Súilleabháin, Tomás Ó Críomhthain, Peig Sayers or Michael Carney (Michéal Cearnaigh)’s “From the Great Blasket to America” (subtitled The Last Memoir by and Islander) without weeping. I have a genuine love for these people and the deepest admiration for them.

Blasket collage

I would love to have the mental capacity to learn Irish and read these books, and a lot more besides that haven’t been translated into English at all! But I find it impossible to learn from books and most the CDs are Ulster Irish with is so very different from the beautiful, soft Munster dialect spoken in Kerry along its west coast. What a pity I wasn’t born a hundred years ago and could have gone, like Robin Flower and George Thompson, to live on the island, where only Irish was spoken! Perhaps then even I might have picked it up!

Do have a look at this website:


And if you ever find yourself in Dingle, drive on a little further to Dunquin (Dún Chaoin) and visit the Blasket Exhibition Centre. There, watch the short documentary, take your time to stroll through the exhibition, and if you have time, and the weather and tide are with you, take the Blasket Island Ferry over to the Great Blasket Island, as I will, myself, very shortly, God willing! Booking is advisable, and the telephone number is 066 9156422 or from outside Ireland 00 353 66 9156422

*Naomhóg (sometimes called a curragh and pronounced ‘knave OhG” (hard G) is described by Maurice O’Sullivan as “A canoe of wicker covered with canvas and tarred”


**The title comes from an old Irish saying that Maurice learned from his grandfather: “I dare say a man grows weak when he reaches you age, daddo?” “Oh, musha, he does, my heart. Did you never hear how the life of a man is divided?

Twenty years a-growing         (Fiche bliain ag fás)

Twenty years in blossom         Fiche bliain faoi bhláth

Twenty years a-stooping         (Fiche bliain ag cromadh)

And twenty years declining    (Agus fiche bliain ag meath)

Maurice O’Sullivan’s friend, George Thompson, who translated Maurice’s book into English, and wrote the preface, also wrote a brief postscript in 1951. He tells us that his dear friend, from whom he learnt to speak Irish, drowned while swimming in Galway in 1950, leaving a widow, a son and a daughter.

One cannot help thinking back to the words of “Mirrisheen”s Grandfather, “Daddo”:-

“Musha, my heart, a man of the sea never had a good life and never will, as I know well, having spent my days on it, and I have gone through as many perils on it as there are grey hairs in my head, and I am telling you now, wherever God may guide you, keep away from the sea”


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God Speed you on your Journey Debbie…

Thinking of Debbie

“Those LEGS!” My sister exclaimed as we drove through Mildenhall. I turned to look, seeing a group of girls walking ‘up town’. I smiled as I recognised my friend Debbie; tight jeans hugging her super-model figure: legs up to her armpits! I felt a strange pride, as though admiration for my friend somehow reflected on me.

She did do a bit of modelling too! For David’s Hairdressers. She was his model and went to fashion shows and competitions with him. She had the most silken hair. Long and brown and unimaginably soft and shiny; like a shampoo ad. I compared it to my straw-like blonde mop! I could pin mine up with a pencil, but no hair clips would stay in Debbie’s hair. They slithered down her sleek hair, finding no imperfection on which to get any sort of grip.

The most efficient person I’ve ever seen. Watching her work was a sort of poetry to me. I, an awkward oaf in comparison. Her nimble fingers clicking away at the keyboard as she typed, lightning fast and word perfect. Click click click went the stapler as she grasped bunches of documents; more sections that she had fingers for it seemed! I would have helped her, she was always on some Marketing deadline, but my clumsy hands could never perform such magic tricks, I’d slow her down!

She ‘owned’ the Rank Xerox 9400 photocopier: an aeroplane of a machine, every bit as noisy, in a room all to itself.  She’d stand supervising as it devoured boxes of paper, spewing out reams and reams of material. Copying, collating, stapling. When it jammed as it was want to do, usually when she was trying to get a mailing out to her Reps in today’s post, she’d crack open lids and doors, pull out trays, manipulate, manoeuvre, free the smallest piece of torn paper or a scrunched up sheet. Where other mortals would have to call Paul Kippen, Chief Engineer, she’d just get on with it herself! Replacing ink and toner posed no problem to her and unlike most of the other secretaries who didn’t want to dirty their hands, she’d get stuck in; nothing would hold up her progress!

Paul Kippen, a chauvinist I suppose, but we had different values back then. He’d trace the outline of her figure; never touching, just outlining. “Looking for the string!” He’d say to our confused faces. “You two are joined at the hip!” he’d say, laughing at us.


Debbie was “always” in Reception, drinking coffee and chatting to Peggy Colacchio, Receptionist for decades, trans-Atlantic accent and chain-smoker! Enormous ashtrays would adorn her desk; a great advertisement for a pharmaceutical company!

But Debbie wasn’t idle as she sat there. Her hands were busy always, stapling, labelling, stuffing envelopes, wrapping videos in silver paper to save the precious film from the scanning machines that were known to wipe them clean. It was sensible. The alternative would be to bring everything all the way back upstairs and into the Portacabins, which were the Marketing department. Crazy when the 9400 was just along the corridor from Reception. The post room too adjoined reception. That was my area, so I had “genuine” reasons for being in reception. Also it was my job to give Peggy her coffee breaks.

If Debbie wasn’t in Reception, then I was up in Marketing. Armed with huge catalogues of office equipment and stationery, I’d write down this week’s orders. Debbie’s grey area made more colourful by shocking pink files for Product Manager Chris Dewes (Palacos R with Gentamycin) and turquoise for Product Manager Paul Clinch (Intron A Interferon). It was ironic that Chris plugged Palacos when he could scarcely walk himself and badly needed hip replacements in both hips! He kept postponing it though because of his love of Squash! Truly! He was “slaughter” the young managers, wet behind the ears who gleefully accepted his challenge! They thought he’d be a walk-over! He was nothing of the kind! He had the eyesight of an eagle and lightning fast reactions. From where he stood he would send that small rubber ball flying in all directions, the youth running round the court sweating and breathless as Chris massacred their hubris!

Her other boss a handsome Rugby Playing Irishman; Captain of Lansdowne Rugby Club. He said to me once “I’d love to get in Debbie’s knickers!” Naturally, I told her what he’d said. She blushed pink but rose to the challenge in her unique and fabulous way! Next morning she brought in a pair of knickers and put them in a brown envelope and put them on his desk with his post. “What’s this?” he asked. “You said you wanted to get in my knickers; well here they are!” She had a brilliant sense of humour. A put down certainly, but all good clean fun!

She would pop to the canteen in the afternoon and bring us both a Cadbury’s Twirl and bring her handsome Irishman a Toffee Crisp as I remember. She liked KP Discos too as I recall! I’d get fatter as she’d stay as slim as a whippet!

She used to bring us in sandwiches too; cheese and chutney! And a yoghurt from her dad who worked for Bridge Farm Dairies. Sometimes we’d go round hers and she’d whistle up some scrambled eggs. She did them differently from anyone else I’ve ever known. Instead of whisking them and cooking them in a pan with the inevitable burning of the bottom, she’d put them into a non-stick frying pan with butter, using two wooden spatulas to blend the whites and yoke and move them round the pan. A buttery and delicious lunch! No-one’s ever cooked me eggs as nice since!

On Friday’s we finished at two. We’d head off to Bury St. Edmunds in her British Racing Green, canvas-topped MG Midget. In the summer with the roof down and our tape player blaring! The Midget needed a good bash from a hammer to get the starter motor working, and she had an enormous crook-lock which she fastened between the steering wheel and the clutch pedal. We had no idea what speed we were doing as the speedometer didn’t work either! “Get off the road” she’d say to pedestrians crossing our road “I don’t take passengers!”

A flash of M & S white knickers as she swung her long brown legs out of the low seats. Graceful and feminine. Her chubby friend scrambled out less elegantly!

We’d park on the Butter Market and go for a late lunch in her favourite Italian restaurant. Pizza and a cafetiere of strong, delicious coffee: NOT widely available back then!

Then we’d go shopping! We had store cards for all the best shops, Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and we’d run up terrifying bills! I would try and exercise some restraint but Debbie would say “Oh, get it!” and I’d willingly obey!

Once when we were shopping in Mildenhall, in a little boutique called “Gaywear”, we both tried on the same dress: in different sizes I hasten to add! It had a fitted bosom , and was a lovely, feminine, floral, floaty thing. We nearly pissed ourselves laughing inside that cubicle! On Debbie the dress hung empty across her flat chest. On me, my breasts burst out over the top; Nell Gwynn with buxom bosom bulging! All I needed was the oranges! When we’d stopped laughing she said one day when we’re rich we would have joint surgery! She’d have half my boobs!

I remember her telling me that when she was at Newmarket Upper School her mum bought her a ‘training bra’. She wore it once. She was playing netball and when she raised both arms to shoot for the net, it came rolling up to her throat! Nothing to stop it! She never wore a bra again after that! (Or at least, she may have done during her two pregnancies!!)

It seems cruelly ironic that it should be she who got breast cancer.

I wish I could see you again before you go off on that journey that you must face on your own.  We none of us can know what lies ahead of us, but I feel certain that your dad will be there waiting for you. He’ll hug you as tightly as he did at the airport when you left to start your future in America.

God speed Debbie. Don’t linger and shrivel and suffer long. When you get there, look down at me and smile. Know that I love you so much my dearest friend.

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R.I.P. Debbie Parker, Gray, Wallace, Dixon. I love & miss you!



Yesterday, a Christmas card I had sent to my friend of thirty years, Debbie Dixon, came back. A cursory line hand-written on the back, perhaps by the person who lives in her house now, said “I’m sorry to say Ms. Dixon passed away”.

The truly shocking thing was that when I Googled and found her obituary, I learnt that she died three years ago!

That explains why I hadn’t had a Christmas card from her for the last few years!

I had thought that maybe she was still “pissed” (her word) at me for a brief falling out we’d had a few years ago when I had posted a photo of her on Facebook. She had at the time gone mad! Lecturing me about how once a thing is on the internet it is there forever and how she didn’t want certain people finding her! I apologised and assured her that I wouldn’t EVER post another photo of her!

Later she apologised for her over-reaction and further explained her fears about the internet, which as time goes on I come to appreciate much more deeply.

She came to visit me in Ireland a few years ago and I gave her a tour of all the things she had on her list! She was a very organised person!

I first knew Debbie when she came to RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk where I was working as a Civil Servant attached to the USAF Hospital in Medical Supply. My job was keypunch operator on a very old-fashioned card punch machine.

at RAF Lakenheath 1985

at RAF Lakenheath 1985

Before she came, her PCS documents arrived and we all scrutinized them to see who the new Airman Basic was! We found out that she was single but that she had one dependent, a son, PJ; I think he may have been about 3 at the time.

I liked her immediately. Her sassy attitude, her way of rolling her huge round eyes, and that way Black American women have of sucking through their teeth! She was awesome.

She was such a great friend.

She got me in to various shops and bought things for me that I wouldn’t have been entitled to buy with my sterling. I still have a leather-bound, gold-leaf book of World Poetry that she bought me; one of my favourite books.

We went ‘clubbing’ on the base (Mildenhall), fuelled on cheap Liebfraumilch first! We would laugh at the dopey Airmen who would come over to our table and ask each one of us in turn to dance! Her expression, wordless would say it all: “boy, don’t come over here insulting me, asking me SECOND or THIRD after you’ve been turned down already by my girlfriends! Get out of my face!”

Debbie had a very definite idea of what she expected from a boyfriend or husband. I always felt her expectations were unreasonable, but she stuck to her high standards! Her boyfriend when I worked with her was an adorable young man called Eugene Green. He failed her by not buying her presents! She was contemptuous of his efforts to explain that all the spare cash he earned he sent home to his family. She said he came from “The Projects” which was an expression I did not understand at the time! She liked to lavish her friends with gifts, and I knew her well enough that she expected them back!

In later years she started a collection of teapots and I sent her a couple of them including a rather nice antique one from this house which wasn’t really to my tastes.

Wherever she was posted to in her military career, she would send me enormous parcels, containing all manner of items; clothes, household goods, food items, it was always like a lucky dip as I rooted through my box of loot!

She was a great letter writer. She would write reams and reams. Her writing was quite hard to read until you got into it, as unique as she was. In her letters she would pour out her soul, confiding in me the most private and intimate of things that I believe she would never have been able to say to my face.

She told me that she had been raised by her grandmother, (Ethel Purvey). That her own mother was obese and I think a drunk. She may have also been diabetic. She told me that once when she was a small child her mother fell on her and crushed her; her knee driving into her stomach. She caused internal damage. She didn’t think she could have children, but somehow she did have PJ.

I asked her about him once and she just said he isn’t in her life. I think she said he was being raised by the father’s mother; PJ’s paternal grandmother. She never mentioned him in later years.

In her obituary, there is mention of friends, and I would dearly love to make contact with any or all of them. Their names are Ellis & Crystal Clark, Madison, Alabama and Aurora, Desiree and William Carey IV, of Huntsville, Alabama.

Debbie Dixon RIP 2012 a

Her funeral was at The Rock Family Worship Centre, West Campus, 1594 Old Railway Bed Road, Harvest , Alabama, 35749, and she is buried at 3133 Highway 119 in Montevallo, Alabama.

Debbie was born on 21st March 1961 and died on 12th May 2012. I CANNOT believe I didn’t know she had died, and that I found out in this way.

When I first met her, she was called Debbie Parker. Then she got married and became Debbie Gray, then divorced and remarried and became Debbie Wallace (they may be the other way around), and finally she kept the last husband’s name: Dixon.

Her last known address was 310 Harvestwood Court, Madison, Alabama, 33758-6637 and her email addresses were hswthme61@hotmail.com and dlj2161@yahoo.com Someone out there must have known her?

I wrote this blog as I need some sort of closure! I feel I must speak to someone who knew her, and I would like to know what became of her son, PJ.

I can’t remember the last names of the girls she was friends with at Lakenheath, but I know she kept in touch with them for a long time. They were Gloria (very beautiful black girl) Janice (another very attractive black girl) and Bernie (a small-framed red-headed white girl).

R.I.P. my very dear and loyal friend Debbie. God bless you my dear. I love and miss you and want to thank you for your faithful friendship for all those years. I’m so sorry I didn’t know sooner. Please forgive me now for once again posting photographs of you online!


Filed under Bereavement, Friend, Obituary