Milestones along the Way – How I met Her by Geoff Cronin


Sadly my lovely mother-in-law Joan died at only 74 years old in 1994 and was sadly missed. She was a woman who loved crosswords, Rubik’s Cube and a patch of sunshine. She and Geoff had six terrific children and I am sure that she would love to have seen her great-grandchildren, some of whom remind me of her and her smile.

In the last of the stories from Geoff based on his three books, I thought it was appropriate to end with the tale of how he met Joan.

How I Met Her by Geoff Cronin

In the summer of 1944 I joined the boat club in Waterford. The headquarters of this club was situated on the Kilkenny side of the river Suir, opposite the Adelphi hotel. It was a wooden building and it was painted white and green and it housed several outriggers. These boats would be approximately 60 to 70 feet long and could be carried easily by eight men.

The club could be reached from Waterford by walking along the quay, across the bridge and down on the Kilkenny side of the river – which would have taken a considerable length of walking time. But, for convenience sake, a member of the club could stand on the Waterford side of the bridge and whistle or signal to the boat club who would send a punt across the river to ferry the member over to the club.

In those years, my brother Dick, who was an expert musician, ran a small dance band, consisting of himself on the accordion, Ken McKinnon on tenor sax and Peerie White (The Gunner) on drums. They played for small club dances around the town. Well, my brother secured a booking to play at Sunday night ‘Hops’ in the boat club and, being a member, I always supported those dances for the joint reason that my brother was in charge of the band, and I was a member of the club.

About this time, I had returned from working in a timber gang, where I developed a considerable amount of muscle, I was also in the boxing club where I did not meet with great success, being too short in stature for my weight. Nevertheless, I stripped out at eleven stone and felt somewhat invincible.

In those days, anyone who had a respectable job went to work in a collar and tie, long-sleeve shirt which usually boasted some kind of cuff-links, and I was no exception. So, on attending the boat-club dance one particular Sunday night, I took off my coat and rolled up my sleeves until the fold was well above the biceps. This allowed me to show off my muscles and at the same time display my doubtful dancing prowess. I was at that age when, as they say, ‘a young man’s fancy turns to love’ and I had my eye on Joan Flanagan.

Now this girl was probably the best looking girl in the in the city and I liked the way she walked with a very straight back, and when she looked at you her gaze was steady, and I was quite smitten.

However Joan was three years older than I was and I felt that she was beyond my reach. Imagine my surprise therefore when at this particular Sunday night dance she walked into the ballroom accompanied by a fellow who had been my junior at school and I felt a surge of anger the like of which I have not had felt since or before.

She was still taking her coat off when I walked up to her and asked her would she like to dance. This was very rude of me, really, but she agreed and we had a nice couple of rounds of the floor. During that time I was racking my brains to think how I might “anchor” the conversation.

Joan Flanagan, 1944

Again, on impulse, I said to her “by the way, do you do the Tango”? Now, to be honest, I hadn’t a clue how to do the Tango but I knew that she was interested in dancing because her cousin ran a dance studio and had a very large clientele.

Anyway, she said, “No I don’t do the Tango” but I wouldn’t mind learning.

Well, I said, “I’ve been taking lessons,” which was a downright lie, “and if you would like to come to the Atlantic, in Tramore, with me on, let’s say, on Thursday night of this week, and I can show you what I know and we could practice together.

So, she smiled deliberately at me and she said, “Well, yes, that would be nice.”

“OK,” I said. “I’ll see you on Thursday.”

Now, that was okay and to some extent it was a bit of a victory for me. But from that moment on her escort guarded her as if she was Fort Knox, and I realised that I hadn’t made any firm arrangement where to meet her, or how to get to Tramore, or whatever, and I was at pains to get back to speak to her again and I couldn’t because he kept hovering over her and blocking my entrance. Anyway, the dance came to a close and I was in a corner there, getting ready to put on my coat and I turned down the sleeves of my shirt and my cuff-links were dangling off the end of the shirt. And as I saw her getting ready to leave I went the length of the ballroom and I confronted her and I said to her, “Joan, listen, could you help me with something?”

“Yes,” she said. “What is it?”

And I said, “Joan, would you ever fix my cuff-links, I can’t get them right?”

So she smiled at me and began to fix my cuff-links.

And then I looked her straight in the face, and she looked back at me, and I felt myself sinking into those grey eyes with the feeling that I never had before. And I’m sure the angels felt a bang when I hit the ground, because I fell for her hook, line and sinker.

So, I arranged to meet her at the train station – there was a train to Tramore on a regular basis at that time – and we went to the Atlantic ballroom in Tramore together on the train, and back again and we had a most enjoyable evening. I arranged a further date with her and that continued on for four years and at the end of four years we were married.

In all we spent 50 years together, the happiest time of my life and in all that time we never had a cross word. So, there you are, that is the story of How I Met Her.

©GeoffCronin 2008

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – February 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chapters of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/books-by-geoff-cronin/

 

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Milestones along the Way – The Saga of Selby and Snippets by Geoff Cronin


This weekend sees the last of the stories from my late father-in-law Geoff Cronin with the final chapter tomorrow. I am so pleased that you have enjoyed reading his tales about his life and also the history of Waterford for the last century.. If you have missed any episodes you can find them in the link at the end of this post.

I thought that you might like to read about the saga of the family home in Waterford where my husband grew up.

The Saga of Selby by Geoff Cronin

In the ’50s Joan and I were still living in Ursula’s Terrace. We had three children and even though I had built a kitchen on to the house, we were hard pressed for space. We badly needed a bigger house and our prospects of achieving that were extremely remote. The company which was parent of my employer would have given me a mortgage but it was limited to two and a half times my salary which worked out at £700. At that time the going price for a ‘starter’ house was £1,200–£1,500, so obviously the odds were stacked against us.

Being without a car meant that our weekend recreation was limited to a walk round the suburbs or to the local park and it was on one of these Sunday walks that we noticed the house. It was a four-bedroomed terrace house and the name on the gate was ‘Selby’. It was vacant and up for auction in a couple of weeks’ time. On enquiry, it turned out to have been vacant for three years and it looked a bit shabby. Sheer curiosity led me to enquire further and I discovered that the previous occupier had emigrated and the property was mortgaged to the Royal Liver Insurance Company, who had foreclosed and were therefore the owners. I rang the auctioneers who told me the reserve was £1,200. Now the house in my opinion was easily worth that money, but why was it unsold? What was the catch? On impulse I asked if I could have the keys for the purpose of viewing the property and having obtained them, I went to have a look.

I was in the act of opening the front door when a man who said he lived nearby approached me and putting his hand over my arm he said, “If you’re thinking of buying that house I would advise you not to because the man who lived there previously never paid the rates or the ground rent for years. And, as well as that he owed a lot of money elsewhere and whoever buys that house will be saddled with all that debt. I told several people about this and I thought I should warn you.” He departed and I was left standing with the keys in my hand.

Now I was never one to rely on hearsay or gossip, so I let myself in and saw that the place had been sadly neglected. Off the hallway there was a drawing room with a bay window which was connected by double doors to a small dining room and at the end of the hall was a kitchen. This was floored in old tiles most of which were broken, there was a tap dripping into a sink of sorts on the floor, one small window overlooking a narrow yard and a small pot-bellied stove – solid fuel – at the end wall. The ceiling was cracked and dirty and the remaining wall had been completely covered with wallboard which had come adrift from the wall and now lay halfway across the floor. There was a boiler house adjoining and it had no roof. There was a coal-house next to that.

Upstairs there were four good sized bedrooms and the master had a dressing room also. A bathroom was on that floor too and then on the third floor, which consisted of one large room with a dormer window and a small fireplace. The ‘piece de resistance’ was the heap of ashes piled up in a corner of the room.

Outside was a large garden which was completely overgrown and it had an apple tree in the middle. So this was Selby, a wreck for sure but the building was dry and basically sound and I saw the potential, given that a huge amount of work was required to make it habitable.

That evening I brought my wife to see it and when she saw the kitchen she literally wept and she said, “I wouldn’t want to live in this hovel and anyway you’ll never buy it for £700”.

At this point I began to believe that by some chance, I might possibly be able to buy the place and I knew I could handle the renovations. Next I found that the Royal Liver could be held liable for the outstanding rates and ground rent and there appeared to be very little interest in the forthcoming auction. So I went to my solicitor and instructed him to attend the auction and bid to buy on the very strict understanding that the price would have to include auctioneers fees and his own fees, and the total could not exceed £700 because that was all I had.

At first he refused quoting the fact that the reserve was £1,200 and while he was considering the matter, I told him to remember I wanted clear title as well. Finally he agreed saying the offer was ridiculous and that he didn’t know what the auctioneer would think of him on making such an offer. Well I arranged the mortgage at £700 and held my breath until the day of the auction.

So came the day and the solicitor rang me that afternoon. “You must be the luckiest man I ever met,” he laughed. “You’ve got the house.”

“And the price?” I asked.
“£700 plus the auctioneer’s fees,” he said. “Withdraw the bid,” I said, “the offer has to include the fees as I told you, I haven’t any more money.” There was a moment of silence and then he said.

“For God’s sake man, how am I supposed to do that?” “I don’t know,” I replied, “but I gave you my instructions and you better see the auctioneer immediately.” He hung up the phone!

About midday the next day he rang me at work. “I don’t know who you have been praying to,” he said, “but he’s delivered the goods, the house is yours clear and free and the price agreed is £700 including auctioneers fees. Incidentally, only one guy came to the auction and he left before I made my bid.” I could hardly believe my ears and left the office and went to tell my wife the news. “Don’t you worry,” I told her, “when I have finished with that house it will be fit for a Queen.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it,” she replied.

A day or two later I was on my way down town when the manager of the Provincial Bank accosted me. “Mr. Cronin,” he said, “I want to congratulate you on your purchase of Selby and could you stop by my office for a minute.” I did so and he then said, “You will be aware that my bank holds a second mortgage on that property and you now owe me £180.” I replied that I would be in touch with him and left. I went straight to my solicitors and asked him to confirm that I had clear title to Selby.

“Indeed you have.” he said.

“Well now, tell me if I’m right in thinking that when there are two mortgages on a property which is then sold for a price less than the first mortgage, then the second one is null and void?”

“Correct.” he said.

“Well,” I said, “would you ever ring the manager of the Provincial Bank and tell him what to do with his bill for £180 which he asked me to pay on foot of a second mortgage.”

“Consider it done,” he said.

Late that day I was passing the bank when the manager saw me and stepped out to meet me. “I’m glad I met you,” he said, “I’ve been on to my head office and I’m happy to tell you that they have agreed to waive the mortgage charge of £180.”

“I know,” I said, “I was listening to that conversation and by the way, I have a small current account with you – close it! Good day”.

There is a further chapter to this saga… A week later I was in the house when there was a knock on the door. I opened it and there stood a man I had never seen before. “Are you Mr. Cronin, the new owner of this house?” he asked. I answered in the affirmative.

“Well, “he said, “I’m in a difficult situation. I’m a solicitor and I was instructed to bid “£1,200 at auction for this property but when I went to the auction I saw nobody there but your solicitor and I panicked and left without bidding. I have now to offer you the £1,200 if you’ll sell me the house.”

“No,” I said, “I don’t want the money, I want the house.”

He repeated the offer and I again refused and he left expressing deep disappointment.
Well, subsequently, I managed to squeeze another £100 from the company to “redecorate the home”. I got £126 for the back kitchen at No. 30 St Ursula’s Terrace from the incoming tenant and with that money I was able to do all that was required to turn the wreck into a lovely home where we lived happily until 1964 when another chapter began involving a home in Wexford. But that is another story.

One abiding memory of the renovations at Selby remains. I couldn’t get any charlady to tackle the cleaning of that top room with its pile of ashes and had to do it myself – it took a hundred and fifty three buckets of water to complete the job.

Selby today.

*****

Did you know that a song thrush has a favourite meal, which is a common snail, but in order to get it out of the shell the thrush will seek out a stone or even a kerb of just the right height. He will then bring the snail to the stone and picking it up by the soft part, he will swing it up and bring it down on the stone in hammer fashion until the shell is no more and he can then enjoy his meal.

If you watch out you may see a stone with a number of snail shells littered about it and this is ‘The Thrushes Anvil’ – not many people know that!

*****

After a certain funeral, the following conversation took place:-
“So, how did the funeral go?”
“Oh, there was a big crowd there, but still it wasn’t great.”
“How’s that?”
“Well, at the graveside Jimmy Walsh tripped on a kerb and fell and broke his leg and spoiled the day for everyone.”

©Geoff Cronin 2010

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – February 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chapters of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/books-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the way – The American Connection by Geoff Cronin

Status


Welcome to this week’s story from my late father-in-law’s memoir of his life as a boy growing up in Waterford Ireland.

The American Connection by Geoff Cronin

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.

Richard Condon, Chicago 1909.

Their programme was to go to Glasgow to meet her family, which they did and then do 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”!

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.

Extract from Richard Condon’s Will, dated 9th March 1937

©Geoff Cronin 2010

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – February 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/