Posted on July 8, 2012 - by MG
A few weeks back I received some very sad news that MaryD, the mother of a close childhood friend, had died. This post is dedicated to Mary and all the memories I share with her son Eoin of our years growing up in Manchester.
Mary and Eoin moved into the street, almost exactly opposite to our house in Didsbury. Like many of the other kids in the road, they were Irish and Catholic, so we would often troop off to Mass together. Eoin and I played football with a family of three boys from Cavan who were also neighbours. Mary was immediately an influence on me, in that she was an adult who loved football and Manchester United, and also TV. In my musician household of Southern England and Mexican interlopers to Manchester, neither football or TV were thought to be fit subjects for interest. But Mary was the TV critic for a major national newspaper. Supporting Manchester United was a long family tradition – she knew all the history of the club and was a season ticket holder at Old Trafford. I was immediately drawn to the company of Eoin and his mother.
I can honestly say that I spent most of my happiest days of childhood at MaryD’s house. Watching TV with someone who actually worked in the media was an amazing thing. Mary would often bake us delicious lemon or orange buttercream Victoria sandwich cakes and we’d eat them watching Doctor Who. Mary told Eoin and I, ahead of time, that the Star Wars phenomenon was about to be overshadowed by a huge new film called ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. We watched ‘Dallas’ from the very first episode, informed by Mary’s audience interaction of exclaiming at the TV comments like ‘God help you Sue Ellen, but you’re an eejit!’
They would be trips to the local book shops to buy Eoin the latest Asterix books, and on Saturday afternoons when United didn’t play at home, we’d sit upstairs and read Roy of The Rovers and 2000AD comics. Mary was always handy with unsolicited advice when we started making home movies. (Exactly like in ‘Super 8’.)
Mary’s job sometimes gave Eoin and I rare opportunities, like the time that she took us to watch the new ‘Seaside Special’ show being recorded and we went to lunch with our heroes, The Goodies and a friendly man called Bill Cotton. Later, Mary told us that Bill was in charge of BBC1. My ten-year old daughter was in awe when I recently told her that at her age, I’d met The Goodies!
When my mother went through horrible marital problems, it was Mary who cooked for her and made sure that she didn’t waste away. Both Mary and my mother suffered from quite serious depression during the early 1980s and even if we couldn’t always be enough support for our mothers, Eoin and I were able, in some sort of gruff, unexpressed teenage way to support each other. Not so much ‘hugging and learning’ as blowing off steam writing spoof rock songs and obsessing over Blake’s 7, Dallas and Manchester United.
From the age of eleven, both Eoin and I were the children of single mothers. We saw at close hand how much stress it put on our mums. I was always impressed with how positive Mary managed to be in front of me, even if it was an effort. I don’t know if she realised how much of a haven their home was for me. To be able to escape from a pressure cooker environment across the road was sometimes the main thing that made life bearable. Not that it was always a picnic at Eoin and Mary’s either – we all had our problems.
When Mary and Eoin moved back to Ireland, I was devastated. Mary had always encouraged both of us to write (stories, screenplays), so Eoin and I kept in touch. I remember those letters as pretty melancholy. If Eoin and I were angsty teens when together, we suffered even more when apart.
In 1993 my husband and I took our one-year old daughter to visit Mary and Eoin in their home in West Ireland. Eoin’s daughter was seven then. This is the only video footage I have of Mary, and it’s a typical scene – Mary cooking one of her classic Irish breakfasts. Sunday breakfast with Eoin and Mary was my favourite way to spend the day after Mass. It’s a fitting memory.
Today in Loughrea, friends and family of Mary’s will gather for a party to remember her. I’m there in spirit, Mary!
With thanks for all the good times, lots of love and prayers.