Jottings of my Life in Tyrone, Ireland – My Sister Nora and Aunt Aggie

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My Sister Nora, Aunt Addie and The Rock of Cashel

Apropos of Dublin, my sister Nora amused us very much at home one evening when she told us about her calling on Aunt Addie, who was staying at the Gresham Hotel for a few days. Nora, who had just inherited a legacy by the death of her grandmother La Hiff, thought that she and her cousin, Lilly Lambert, would enjoy some of the city life by themselves, and then go to London for a few weeks.

Now, at the period of which I write, what Nora did was considered very improper: First, she had her beautiful brown hair cut off boy fashion; then, what was left of it was curled all over her head by some famous French hair-dresser, a man named Phrost. Then she used cosmetics to make her appearance look smarter; in fact, when she was through with all sorts of makeups, her friends could hardly recognize her. She knew that she had to call on several relations who were in the city, and then came the visit to Aunt Addie.

Aunt Addie, being one of the old school, was very much shocked at her niece’s appearance (which I suppose was not so awful) and her first consideration was to rescue my sister from the snares of wild city life. She induced her to leave town and stay with her in Tipperary where she had a beautiful home called Knockinglass. It was considered one of the finest residences in that part of the county, and was surrounded with trees and lovely rose gardens.

One of Aunt Addie’s greatest pleasures was distilling perfume from roses and verbena. She had a laboratory built and spent a lot of leisure time at this hobby and then gave presents of it to her relations and friends. Her eldest daughter by her first husband died and she was buried in the back garden. Over her grave was erected a beautiful summer-house where Aunt Addie would sit and read the family Bible during the mornings. She would see that this sacred spot was carefully attended to by the gardeners. Although her first husband left her very wealthy when he died, it was not long before she was married again to another rich man, by whom she had three sons. Here death stepped in again and took the eldest son and later her second husband, leaving Mrs. Langley richer than ever.

Except for being a little narrow-minded – when advertising for servants, she was careful to say “No Catholics need apply – she was a very kind mistress and treated all in her service with consideration. She was the same with the tenants. She always encouraged them to keep their cottages nice and helped them in every way. Also, she saw to it that anyone who was ill was well cared for. No matter how many calls she had to make, or visitors to entertain, she never neglected her pet charities, and would keep busy making all sorts of warm clothing for the poor. ‘

County Tipperary

To me, Tipperary is one of the most beautiful counties in Ireland and the excellent hunting it afforded brought large crowds of sportsmen and women from all parts of the country. My people seemed to spend half their time coming and going from there. The county is blessed with a very fertile loamy soil, especially in the Golden Vale.

The charming Knockmealdown Mountains in the southwest, and the Galtees a little farther north with picturesque dairy farms nestling in the sheltered valleys, convey an appearance of contentment not found in many other parts of Ireland. No other place can boast of such deliciously flavoured butter. And what lovely corn, oats and barley fields! What crowds of crimson poppies to be seen through the corn fields, and how lovely they looked when a strong wind was blowing, the waving corn making such a contrast to the crimson poppies!

No matter where you go in Ireland, I am sure you have often wondered at the beautiful old ruins of cathedrals, castles and churches to be found in the most unexpected places. Ivy-clad ruins mellowed with age nestling among the trees, or ruins, stark and dreary, resting their towers on some barren hillock. What stories lay enshrouded in their forbidding walls! The Rock of Cashel, crowned with the ruins of a cathedral and chapel is no exception. And while Nora was staying with Aunt Addie at Knockinglass, they decided to pay it a visit. So, in case you have not heard the story of the sexton of Cashel, I will relate it here as best as I can. It seems that a fine-looking lad named Paddy O’Sullivan fell in love with a very sweet-mannered girl called Nora O’Moore, both of County Clare. Now, those two were really in love with each other, and their mothers‘ consent was instantly given. But the girl’s father, a drunken squire, would not hear of it because he had already made plans with a farmer named Murphy to marry his son to Nora.

The Rock of Cashel – Wikipedia

This would relieve the old rascal O’Moore of considerable debt and most-likely save him from prison. So, he and farmer Murphy decided to get the girl to think that her father would take her to Ennis and then she could be married to her sweetheart there. However, he had no such intentions. So, he turned off the road to Ennis and took the way to Tipperary. He intended to hustle her into a church there and get her married to the farmer’s son before anyone could stop them, but this dirty deed did not work out as he had expected. They had only gone a few miles when Nora saw that they were on the road to Tipperary. ‘”I know it,” said her father, “but I just want to call on a friend over here, and then I can turn into the Ennis Road again.”

So, they went on much further when Nora said, “Father we are not on the right road.” “Hold your tongue,” said he, “I am taking you to Tipperary to marry young Murphy.” Poor Nora said, “I do not love young Murphy,” and then she tried to spring out of the trap. Her father held on to her with a grip of steel, and in the confusion, he missed the cross-roads and discovered he was on the wrong road. But he would not stop for fear Nora might try to jump out and at last, on turning a corner, he found he was going into Cashel. He had gone too far to turn back and it was raining hard, so he stopped at a little inn to put up for the night.

Old O’Moore left Nora sitting by the fire while he went out to attend to the horse, but when he came back Nora was gone! The waiting maid saw her hurry out, so the old rascal rushed out after her. He saw her running beside the river as fast as her feet could carry her and, of course, he ran after her. No one knows what happened but they were both found drowned. Her father had her clutched with one hand around her neck and with the other, he was holding on to her clothes which were nearly torn off.

Well, they were both buried in the Cormac Chapel grounds on the Rock of Cashel. When Nora’s sweetheart heard about it, he never spoke again except to tell his mother that Nora had called him to come to Cashel to stay with her. So, he went to Cashel and spent the rest of his life in the graveyard among the tombs or in the church. As he kept himself in hiding all day and only came out at night, the folks of Cashel seldom saw him but they left something for him to eat every day. Because his Nora was buried there, he kept the churchyard lovely and tended to the flowers and grass. At night he would sit by his sweetheart‘s grave and talk to her for hours. He kept this up for sixty years when one morning someone found the poor old man’s body cold and stiff atop Nora’s grave. And now he and Nora rest together in the cemetery on the Rock of Cashel.

Aunt Addie and my sister Nora went to this place for a visit. There must have been a bond of sympathy between my aunt and the poor old sexton. She had lost her daughter and he, his sweetheart. However, Aunt Addie took her grief in great comfort while reading her Bible every day in a beautiful summer-house built over her daughter’s grave, whereas the poor old sexton sat beside his loved one’s grave every night to keep her company, fair weather or foul. What a contrast!

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About this record

Written by Elizabeth La Hiff Lambert

Published here 09 Sep 2022 and originally published 1979

Page 0103 of the Athenry History archive.

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