Monday, April 03, 2006

The Mother of all the Leonard's

Let me introduce you to my Grandmother, Mary Leonard (1879 - 1963). My Father's Mother.... to me she was just "Gran." Here you see a study of the face of a woman filled with a lifetime of wisdom and compassion for everyone. In this photo she's sitting outside of her home at 42 Summerhill.... where she sat to get her fresh air in her declining years. I have so much to say about this woman that I don't know where to begin, so I'll just write a small bit here and add to it as I go along with this blog. I suppose I should start by saying that my memories of her are all good memories for me personally. I can honestly say that I do not have one bad memory of her. She kept me enthralled with her stories, and I believe that my love of local history... of my city came in no small part from her. The night she died I lost not only my Gran, but a pal. She was wise, compassionate, and generous to a fault. I know it's the 'thing' to speak well of those who have passed on, but if you could speak to anyone around the area of Summerhill I do not believe that you'd meet one who would say a bad word about her. She was known by all, and indeed was the local unofficial midwife, delivering babies for the neighbours because back then it wasn't always easy to get doctors to call to a home to deliver a baby, and then also most babies were born at home.

She used to tell me stories of how her family came from "the shortgrass" (Kildare) to escape the ravages of the Great Famine, and stories that her mother told her of that time.... of seeing the bodies of women lying at the roadsides with babies at their breasts, with green juice running from their mouths because they had tried to survive by eating grass.

After she met my Grandfather they moved to a tenement house in Summerhill.... and that's where our story begins.... a story that I will continue as time permits.... but one that I want to tell. Posted by Picasa


Ellen said...

God bless her Jim and God bless you for keeping her alive in our memories. Well done.

Mike S said...

This is just the stuff I'll come back to read more of. Good on ya!

Anonymous said...

Can you please let me know any information ou have on Blinky Gifford and Spike Mc Cormack the Golden glove winners of Sean Mc Dermot street the champions. As blinky was my Grandfather and unfortunitly there are only a few chearished pictures if you have any i could copy it would be great.
THanks for a great read. Denis Gifford.

Jim said...


Will you contact me as soon as you can? You could leave a message on one of the chatboards or else email me at jiml5@eircom net. (close up that space, I put it there to fool the spam merchants.

You see I knew your granda and you da very well! I used to drink with both of them (assuming your da is Willie?) God I remember both of them so well and I was a friend of Willie's. Ask him aboutthe time he played the drums in The Rose Bowl :-)

And see that woman Mary? Well she actually delivered Willie!

I'm dying to have a chat with you now. Please either leave me a phone number or write or anything.



Johnny Doyle said...


I like the sound of your Gran. My Gran (Ellen Niland from 32 Summerhill) had a big influence on me as a young snotty nosed tyke. Similar to your Gran, she took on the role of bringing in babies as an unofficial midwife and laying out the dead after her move to Harold's Cross.

Another of her grandchildren, Keith Whelan, appears on the Balbriggan Net site that you link to :

Keep up the good work on your site.

Keith Whelan