Out on licence from Goldenbridge to 11, Boyne Street

boynestreetflatsdublin2 3Boyne Street (off Westland Row ),- Named for the battlefield on which William of Orange secured victory for the Protestant establishment. During the 1920s, Dublin Corporation built a number of houses here alongside stables used by coal-carrying dray horses.

The building to the left (where cars are parked) is a Christian Brothers School.

Number 11 and 12, Boyne St. can be seen in the block to the right. The maroon and red door. The sun is shining on number 12, where a Boyne relative still resides.

When I was a child of nearly six or so, two young women who worked together went to Goldenbridge to take out two children for the day. They would have read adverts placed in the national media by the head nun at Goldenbridge calling upon kind people to take out ‘orphans’, as we were called, and duly responded. I was allocated to Esther Boyne and another bi-racial girl was given to Pat Gately, who was the girl-friend of Esther’s brother, Tony.

I remember being very afraid of Esther because she wore thick glasses. When she bowed down to my level to say hello, I was confused, as I saw this smiling face, but also the thick bifocal glasses, and didn’t know where to look. I did not understand why she was wearing them, as I’d never seen anyone wearing them before.

The other girl went out with Pat. The latter was of such gentle disposition. She radiated of sheer kindness. I found out as an adult that she was madly in love with Tony, who was twenty four, and they were engaged to be married. Alas, Tony was in a car accident and died. Tony’s  brother (who was training to be a priest with the Oblate Fathers) faith was dwindled by the fatality of his brother. He went on to leave the priesthood before ordination, and became a successful accountant instead and married an air hostess.

The young girl who went out with Pat in all probability would not have even remembered going out with her, as it was for such a short spell. Pat was too much in shock after her fiancé was in a fatal car accident. So it was to the detriment of not only Pat and Tony’s family, but also to the little girl who could have got a chance to stay with a nice person. I can still see Pat holding on tightly the hand of the child, as we all went Christmas shopping in O’Connell St. It was a lovely sensation being part of warm company.

I remember in later years the same girl hiding in a cupboard when a doctor’s wife came to Goldenbridge. The latter had wanted to adopt her and take her off to America. She had become too institutionalised and wouldn’t hear of it at all. What a pity, it could have been a missed opportunity. Children in general who had no families were very overstressed with having to contend with making friendships with Ladies whom they were allotted to for weekends. They were absolutely terrified of strangers. I know for certain that I was indeed. The ones who were most adaptive were those who already had family visits. They took to the Ladies far easier. Ironically, even men were called Ladies by children. ‘Did your Lady come to visit you this week?’ was normal Goldenbridge spiel. Sure children were clueless as to gender issues.

Esther started taking me out on Sunday afternoons; then weekends; then that graduated into Summer and Christmas holidays. That lasted for nigh on two years. It eventually culminated in me staying with Esther’s mother for 10 months. Esther in the interim had married a Scots-man of Irish descent, and had moved permanently to Glasgow, Scotland. Her husband, Gerry, was the kindest person ever to me. His face always lit up whenever he saw me. He would play a game that entailed pretending that he’d taken half of my nose away, and then show it to me in the shape of his half hidden thumb. Then pretend to fix it back on. It never failed to make me smile. He really knew how to cheer me up. he tickled me all the time in glee, till he got me smiling, as I was a very serious child. I felt utterly acknowledged by him. He was always filled with infectious laughter and gaiety.. He clearly liked children. Meeting Gerry was so very short-lived. I always remember him with affection. I also adored his Scottish accent. He went on to have a son who is now a Redemptorist priest. He told me that they had wanted to adopt me and take me to Scotland. That obviously never happened. I guess in hindsight now there would have been complication on the adoption score, as papers would have had to have been signed by my mother. When I told her about the Boyne’s, after I had encountered her in Birmingham, it was the only time I ever saw her get angry. She simply saw red. Whatever it was she did not want me ever to be adopted, which I think was not right if she was not to be had in the picture.

Esther had never at any time, for the whole duration of my stay, herself, resided at number 11. I would not have been obviously aware of the odd dynamics surrounding that at any time when I was out on license with the Boyne family. Esther was the one who had sole responsibility for me from the perspective of the management at Goldenbridge, yet I was left with her mother, who really found it hard to look after me. I got the impression that I was too much for her, as I recall her always chasing after me with the deck brush to get me to stay indoors. She told me so often that I was a ‘scourge’, and that she declared to god that she would ‘crucify’ me. I guess, I was beyond control. Esther told me as an adult, that she felt that there were too many family members telling me what to do, and that I didn’t know who to listen to at all. I particularly remember the youngest member of the family always calling ‘Mammy’ to sort me out, but it just went on deaf ears. I was far too much to handle. I remember always playing outdoors, and never wanting to come in when I was called in the evenings. I delighted in getting up to all the shenanigans that children get up such as knocking on neighbours doors and darting away before anyone came out to investigate.


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