One of the really nice things about being home in Ireland for Christmas is hearing stories from years ago. I thought I had heard all of them a million times over, but today my mother told me a new story of something heroic my Nana Murphy once did, which will leave a lasting impression on me.She was an exceptionally kind woman, who lived a tough life in rural Leitrim, but never let it wear her down. I remember her fondly from when I was a very small child and I recall my father often referred to her as a living saint. She raised seven children by herself, on a modest widow’s pension, after the premature death of her loving husband.

Murphy family pic
The Murphy family, c. 1945. My Nana, Frances Murphy, with her husband Michael and their five children. Clockwise from the back: Thomas, Mae, Frankie, Michael and Betty. My aunt Jenny and mother Patsy were yet to be born.

In the late 1950s, a neighbouring family of nine children was struck by tragedy when their mother was killed in an accident. The woman’s children were then evicted from their home and wandered the roads with their dog in the rain, looking for relatives and neighbours to give them shelter. A boy turned up at my Nana’s door and asked if he could stay the night. He was taken in and told to stay as long as he wanted. He lived happily with my Nana for three years. One day he didn’t come home and word was sent that he had left for England. He didn’t want to say goodbye, so he hid his suitcase in a hedge and just left without warning. He sent a Christmas card and a box of chocolates to my Nana as a token of thanks for looking after him, and off he went to carve out a new life for himself. The story really moved me. My mother recounted how Nana said she would never forget that miserable, wet evening when he came to her door. I could visualise the silhouettes of nine motherless unfortunates and their pet dog roaming the sodden roads, splitting up at different turns, and probably knowing they would never all live together under the same roof again. A heartbreaking scene that shouldn’t befall anyone, but sadly still does. It makes me hold my beloved niece and nephews that little bit tighter when I think about it.

For me, Christmas is usually a time of reflection on the year that is coming to an end, and I generally have nothing to complain about. Some of it is gladly consigned to history, some of it is relived and relished. 2015 was a bit of both, but I’m glad to say it was mostly good, and the last three months have been one of the high points of my life. I’m grateful that my major concerns are to do with continuing my jewellery training in Florence. I am fortunate to have a great home to return to, a family that loves me and amazing friends that make me laugh and keep me going. I have also been lucky enough to encounter some really special people in the past year, who have helped me more than they can ever imagine. I will never forget it and am so glad you exist to brighten up the world! And I am also grateful to those of you who don’t personally know me, but are following my blog nonetheless. I just want to express my sincere gratitude to all of you for your love, support and friendship, and to wish you a happy Christmas and joyous New Year!

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