Billy Gallagher

Page Four

 Eithne more or less gave up work on having Patrick and became a full time mother of immense patience.  Her contribution to our marriage would cover perhaps 80% of it; my only job was to earn the money.  I went out to work, she ran the house and children.

In 1974 we had Maighréad (The Queen), 1975 Rebecca (Ms World), 1978 Eithne (Superwoman), 1983 Síle (Rosie after The Rose of Tralee), and in 1987 Áine (The Hen).  The house was small but we were never cramped even when 3 girls shared the same room (we had 4 small bedrooms).  In 1989 we bought the other half of our semi detached and made the two into one.  That was probably the only sensible business decision I ever made and it wasn’t about business at all.  That house cost us £72,000 and we bought direct from the previous owner who was living abroad and anxious to move “up”.  We escaped all advertising and auctioneer’s fees, saving about £5,000 in the process.

During the 1970’s we expanded the family and business in tandem at speed, Eithne had no bother running the house and children and leaving me free to create a business.  By 1979 I had a considerable asset and bought a factory in Galway from an Italian crowd, Pancaldi & B.  It was one of those “eat your dinner off the floor” clean and efficient places that didn’t turn out exactly like that.  I invested £176,000 in buying Galway and lost it all in the first year.  The factory struggled on until 1987, we did everything to keep it afloat and in particular borrowed from Foir Teoranta, the government “bank of last resort”.  This was a difficult time for me as the breadwinner facing bankruptcy.  Eithne suffered and never showed it, I spent a year in a state of depression but never sought or got help other than from Eithne who had the ability to keep the ship afloat even without water.

The children had been going to a small private school, Avoca and Kingstown preparatory school.  The teachers were quaint old ladies who spoke both nicely and kindly.  I was paying by post-dated cheques to Eithne’s great embarrassment but all the bills were paid and the cheques never bounced.  In 1983 this school closed for the last time and the children had to go into the ordinary National School (Hollypark in Foxrock).  We discovered after a few months that this was infinitely superior to the private school, the standard and spirit of education simply wonderful.

From national school all gravitated to Newpark Comprehensive, a free, comprehensive, interdenominational, co-educational, Church of Ireland school.  Seemingly there was a preference for Church of Ireland students, which our children were not.  Our family was always looked on as the “Irish” family there and would be chosen to speak at any Catholic or Irish event.  They got a wonderful broad education that has served them greatly in the world they participated in afterwards.  They were perfectly at ease in the company of anyone, boys; girls; Jews; Holy Rollers; foreigners; disabled people; black; yellow; Goths; gays.

Again it was Eithne’s foresight and energy that got them all through Newpark.

Some years after leaving Newpark young Eithne (Superwoman), living in Romania, had adopted 5 children (all siblings).  The eldest of these, Nico, aged 12 when she met Eithne (then 24) had no visible signs of education whatever.  Young Eithne decided when Nico was 19 to ask Newpark if they would take Nico into transition year to which they readily agreed and Nico and Newpark had a wonderful success together.

All graduated from Newpark with adequate qualifications, none spectacular.  Síle (Rosie) didn’t quite get the points she needed for primary school teaching and went to St Laurence’s in Loughlinstown to do 7th year.  That, to my amazement was spectacularly successful. Being educated in Newpark, living at home (where they all did French exchange at least once), where visitors called incessantly from all over the world and from all disciplines allowed everyone the ability to think outside the parish.

Eithne the mother was and is the cornerstone of all the family, she wanted nothing and got nothing but seemed comfortable.  In latter years she developed her music skills and teaches piano at home.  She developed her computer skills and is very efficiently involved in various charities mostly in a secretarial capacity.  She cooks and cleans, knits for the grandchildren (10), reads and hikes but never rests.  She makes jam and cooks the old way (her recipes) and would never ever buy shop cake, ready made meals, shop jam or any shortcut to the healthy diet.