Her name was Roseanne McLafferty. She was the 10th child; born to a woman who was already 42 years old. She had 10 children of her own. One of them was my dad, Denis. Her husband James Gibbons was a farmer and he was killed by a horse when he was 50. I imagine life was hard for her but I also think her boys looked after, especially my Uncle Hughie who built a house for her after her husband died. He told me a funny story about how the worst thing he ever did was to buy her a TV. After the TV her neighbours, who visited her every day, stopped talking because they were watching TV instead. But I think she would have enjoyed the cosy thing of watching TV with her neighbours in that little cottage every day, living next to her eldest son who took over the farm, and she had an inside toilet and a bathroom too.
I didn’t meet her till she was in her 60s. I was three. She was still on the farm then, though it was after Grandaddy died. Visiting Granny Gibbons is my earliest memory. She was a tiny woman and she wore a black dress, the kind old women all over Ireland wore. Cotton with tiny flowers on it. I can still see the flowers in my minds eye. Granny wasn’t glamorous like Granny McAteer, who wore lipstick and looked in the mirror a lot. Granny Gibbons wore flat boots. Her dress might have been a pinnie that she wore over her dress.
The thing I remember most about the visit was the toilet. They didn’t have one. I must have been horrified. My mum showed my to the byre where they squatted in the trough that ran along the floor that was also full of cow dung. I couldn’t stand the smell and insisted on going out in the field instead, much to the amusement of Granny. She could have thought I was a proper little madam but she didn’t. And she didn’t get cross either. She laughed! I remember her laughter. The fun of it! She probably told her neighbours the story for years afterwards about her granddaughter from Manchester who refused to go to the toilet in the byre!
I never saw my granny again after that. After mum and dad split up and my mum didn’t want to see my dad. I must have asked to go back but she told me that granny was dead. Which was so crazy as we went to stay with my mums parents every year for weeks at a time. Mum must have been afraid to go to see her. Maybe she was afraid that they would judge her for leaving her husband, or maybe she was afraid they would try to persuade her to go back to him. All I remember was whenever we drove past the road that led to Aughadreena, I felt sad.