Following on from The Colour of Life, my father-in-law Geoff Cronin wrote two more books with stories of life in Waterford and Dublin from the 1930s. He collected the stories on his travels, swapping them with others in return for his own and then treating us to the results of the exchange. Geoff also added some jokes overheard just for the Craic…Over the next few weeks I will be sharing selected stories from Milestones Along the Way.
The American Connection
My great uncle Richard Condon who was my grandfather’s brother in law lived in Chicago for most of his life and was reported to be worth at least three million dollars. In 1930, my father was his sole heir and was to inherit the fortune. However, my father received a telegram about that time to say that his uncle, Richard Condon, had just got married. The man was near eighty years old at that time and my father said “he’s got married now with one leg in the grave and the other on a bar of soap!”
Apparently, he had been involved a car accident and was seriously injured. A long period of recovery ensued and he was nursed back to reasonably good health by a lady nurse called Jessie Barr? And this was his new bride. She was a Scots Presbyterian, twenty nine years old and weighed about twenty stone. Quite a handful!
Anyway the happy couple set out on a sort of world tour in the process of which they came to Ireland and visited my family for about three weeks, during which time they enjoyed lavish hospitality at my father’s expense, including hiring a car for the duration of the stay.
Time came for them to depart and my brothers and sister and I were given a present each – a five shilling sweep ticket! We were not ecstatic at such munificence needless to say.
Their programme was to go to Glasgow to meet her family, which they did and then did a tour of the Scottish Highlands. It was during that tour that the old man collapsed and died and we learned that he was to be buried in Waterford in the Cronin grave.
So the funeral took place and the widow accompanied by her brother and his wife stayed at our house in Woodstown and were royally entertained. She stayed on for ten days or so and the others remained on for three weeks. During the ten days she gave me his gold penknife and all his ties, about fifty or so and my brothers received his watch and his cufflinks as their inheritance. I don’t remember my sister getting anything but his new will was produced, leaving everything to his widow, and it had been recently prepared by her brother in law who was a lawyer.
Jessie Barr Condon, Mary Jo Cronin, Richard Condon
So that was that so to speak. But as a sort of goodwill gesture, my elder brother and I were taken back to Glasgow for a ten day holiday and the Empire Exhibition was on at that time.
We stayed with her people there and had a good time, though I was reprimanded for whistling on the Sunday – those people were strict Presbyterian and I retaliated by putting an Irish shilling in the collection plate at mass on the same Sunday knowing that it was not legal tender in Scotland. During that visit we saw the “Queen Elizabeth” still under construction in 1938 and re-visited John Brown’s Iron Foundry which was interesting.
But back to our home in Woodstown before my great uncle died:
At that time the ‘local’ post office, which was run by a Mr. Delaney and his wife, was two miles away, in Rosduff, and during my great uncle’s short illness there were telegrams arriving daily with the news.
These telegrams, of a strictly confidential nature were delivered by the postmaster, Mr. Delaney on a bicycle. The fee for delivery was sixpence, paid on delivery and being a courteous man, Delaney when handing over the sealed envelope would always remove his cap and announce, “I think he’s failing ma’am” or “’tis not looking good”. On delivery of the final telegram, he announced, “I’m sorry for your trouble ma’am, the poor man is gone”. My mother remarked, “I suppose it saves me opening the envelope”!
Extract from Richard Condon’s Will, dated 9th March 1937
The inheritance of fifty American ties on my part caused a stir in another area altogether because at school I had a very dapper English teacher who used to wear a new tie every day and when I noticed this I too began wearing a new tie each day, only mine were multicoloured and garish. My teacher nearly had a heart attack as I upstaged him with these outlandish offerings and the class spotted what was going on. When eventually the teacher came in wearing the same tie I knew he was “out of ammunition” and next day I did likewise and so retired undefeated. Oddly, not one single word was said about this matter.
©Geoff Cronin 2008
Geoff Cronin 1923 – 2017
About Geoff Cronin
I was born at tea time at number 12 John Street, Waterford on September 23rd 1923. My father was Richard Cronin and my mother was Claire Spencer of John Street Waterford. They were married in St John’s Church in 1919.
Things are moving so fast in this day and age – and people are so absorbed, and necessarily so, with here and now – that things of the past tend to get buried deeper and deeper. Also, people’s memories seem to be shorter now and they cannot remember the little things – day to day pictures which make up the larger canvas of life.
It seems to me that soon there may be little or no detailed knowledge of what life was really like in the 1930s in a town – sorry, I should have said City, in accordance with its ancient charter – like Waterford. So I shall attempt to provide some of these little cameos as much for the fun of telling as for the benefit of posterity.
I hope you have enjoyed this weeks stories from Geoff and I hope you will pop in next Saturday for another episode. Thanks Sally.