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Maureen Mallon writes...

On our life journey we come to many forks in the road as in Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road not Taken’ and we make decisions which will have a major bearing on our futures. We may reflect on how our lives might have been if only we had.......but then I would not have met and made the wonderful friends that I have.

I was born in a thriving mid-sized rural town in Northern Ireland, which had a good protestant ethos of ‘hard work killed no-one’. I had two older brothers and one younger sister and enjoyed a very happy carefree childhood growing up in the 50s. I was a bit of a tomboy, exploring the great outdoors and climbing trees. I was also a voracious reader, annoying our local librarian for the latest book and reading by torchlight under my bedclothes late into the night. My mother’s family lived about one hour from us and most Sundays we headed off for fun on their large farm and a chance to meet our cousins, as in my home town, fun and laughter was much frowned upon on Sunday, the day of worship. I have wonderful memories of summers spent in the countryside, free as the wind - Seamus Heaney landscape - I never met him until years later while at a function in Trinity College, Dublin

When I was 12 years old my family made a permanent move to Belfast, - a bit of a change for me and requiring some adjustment. At secondary school I was sport mad and ended up as the school’s Games Captain in my final year and was a reserve for the Northern Ireland Netball team. I toyed with the idea of going to Queens University, Belfast (QUB) but after parental pressure I ended up attending Teacher training college. ‘A good steady job for life ‘was the overall thought process of most parents in that era. I enjoyed my 4 years of student life, representing my college at a University Athletics Meet in Glasgow and travelling to Margate as one of the Student Union representatives for my College, A lasting memory of that event is of singing On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At with fellow students from many parts of the UK. It was at this stage of my life that I met my husband, Pat, who was an engineering student in QUB and it was he who introduced me to golf in those early days, although I wasn’t interested as I thought that it was a game for ‘old people’ and only started playing when I came to Limerick.

Teaching in Belfast during the start of ‘The Troubles’ in the early 70s was a true eye opener for me as a majority of my pupils came from deprived areas where their lives had been badly disrupted and I had no firsthand experience of this. But for everyone, Belfast soon became a fearful and dark place with buses being commandeered and burned at random, security gates with soldiers doing bag search, the building of the famous ‘dividing wall’ between Catholics on the Falls Road and Protestants on the Shankill Road and bombs exploding without warning. John Hume had great political foresight and aided in bringing about the cessation of the strife and needless bloodshed in my birth land.

A lot of my fellow teachers decided that Northern Ireland in the 70s was no longer a pleasant or safe place in which to settle and they scattered to many parts of the Commonwealth and I’ve lost contact with them. (no internet or wifi then). At this stage there were many forks in the road in the form of job offers for my husband - the road we took led us to Hertfordshire. My teaching experience in Hertfordshire was in sharp contrast to my previous one. I taught in a private school where my pupils were from very privileged backgrounds. One of my pupils was Felicity Crosland’s daughter Lorina, Felicity being the 2nd wife of the late author Roald Dahl. During this time my husband and I made lifelong friends and I even got to see Chris Evert and Evonne Goolagong play in Wimbledon – so glad that I took that opportunity.

Moving to Ireland and the Dublin suburbs in the very early 70s I was already pregnant with our first child, and our second child followed within 16 months. Our 3rd child arrived 4 years later. Living by the sea in Howth, I was busy raising our three children, playing squash competitively and supporting Tuppaware Parties which were all the rage at that time. It was however the days of Charles Haughey and the crippling bank interest rates, not easy for a young family on one salary. We then moved to the west of Ireland. Fourteen joyous years spent living by Galway Bay and an added bonus was the arrival of our fourth and youngest child. During this time we took a sabbatical year to Delaware and traverse large tracts of the US, up to Canada and down to Florida. Our final move was to Limerick when my husband set up the Aeronautical Engineering department in the newly formed University of Limerick.

I found that this move was the most difficult for me as I was getting quite tired of moving to new places. In 1992, we rented in Kilbane and while there I met a neighbour, Rosemary O Connell, a founding member of the wonderful IWO. Rosemary brought me to a craft morning and introduced me to Bridie Culhane and many members, busy preparing for the annual Christmas Craft Fair and Lunch in Dromoland, a magical event. I was made to feel so welcome and the IWO became an oasis for me in a city where I literally knew no-one. I eagerly embraced the friendly exciting, colourful atmosphere that the international membership of the club exuded, and have so many photos of the wonderful talented people I got to know. We had boat trips on the Shannon, trip to the Aran Islands, an artisan cheese factory in Kerry, Kilkenny city and Waterford Glass factory being but a few.

Over the years I held many offices on the club board and hosted craft mornings, Bridge classes, cookery demonstrations, Progressive Dinners and ‘Going Away’ parties. Many tears were shed when good friends departed. I continue to this day to enjoy and hold dear my time in the IWO which has given me a wealth of warm and happy memories. Long may the IWO continue to thrive and flourish.

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