Remembering Chris (Dec 4th 1922 - Nov 11th 2013)


My mother, Chris (seen here at her communion with brother Jim, sister Marie and father John), was born as the Irish Civil War escalated in 1922. On December 8th, the day of her baptism in St. Josephs Church, Berkeley Road, the four reprisal executions of Mellowes, O’Connor, McElvey and Barrett – one selected from each of the four provinces - took place across the road in Mountjoy Jail. In the months leading to her death the Decade of Centenaries was under way as the 1913 Lockout commemorative events commenced. Her life was bookended by history: born as the State was founded; dying as its achievements were celebrated.

   In life, Chris was wise, good fun, practical in everyday things, and stoic in the face of adversity. She was a good-looker for sure and at an early age she worked in the Greenmount and Boyne Linen Company in Harolds X, before she married my dad, Denis.


   It was not until about eight years before her death that she spoke openly about troubling life events and secrets. The death at an early age of her paternal aunt Pauline, caused Pauline’s infant girl to be placed in an orphanage. Chris’s own mother, Christina, from Talbot street had mental health problems that commenced following the death of one of her own infants, Joseph. Her condition ruled her out as a replacement mother for Pauline’s girl. At a relatively young age she was admitted to hospital, never to be discharged.

   I always knew that Chris’s father, John (in  the photoshopped image below with his wife Christina), born in Liverpool, and raised in Tipperary, trained LDF volunteers during the Emergency. However, like thousands of others who fought in the Great War, his service remained unacknowledged, unspoken, forgotten. More recently, I’ve also been informed that he served in Egypt, Palestine and on the Somme, and was awarded three military medals.

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   I find the silence about his service, and that of so many others, harrowing. I am sure there were other things in Chris’s life that remained unspoken and will never be known. My own generation too had difficulty acknowledging life’s unspoken pains and realities, and thankfully recent events - religious, political and constitutional - have changed that. When I become exasperated with the randomness of  contemporary youth, I nonetheless acknowledge their confidence, their self-assuredness in opening up on matters, that previous generations hid and kept secret. I’m thankful for their openness.

   My mother, Chris, died on November 11th 2013, at 11 o’clock, exactly 95 years after the signing of the Armistice that marked the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front. 

Barry Cullen © 2018 |Admin:| Banner photo -  Wild garden, Marrowbone Lane, Dublin 8.