My grandad, plastered all his life, though he never drank alcohol. He plastered walls and ceilings. And a master plasterer he was too. Bill Magner was his name, a tall thin bald man, and to my childhood eyes, always seemed to be stooped, as he rummaged his pipe bowl – which always seemed to be going out – with a small penknife.
He lived at St. Annes down a small booreen near the top of the Mill Road in corbally. We walked out there every Friday afternoon and most Sundays or took the bus from Athlunkard Street.
His passions in life were his garden, his shotgun, that sent many a duck to the pot for dinner, and his workshop. He took great pride in his garden which produced his tomatoes in a small greenhouse and his flowers growing in a garden that was full of fancy flowerpots and big shells. All made from plaster in his workshop.
Then there was his apple trees. I think he never forgave me, for, as a child, one spring day, I came running into his house with a huge bunch of apple blossoms for my mother from his beloved apple tree. And I remember a roar, TAKE THAT CHILD HOME, as my mother beat a hasty retreat with me under her arm.
In the late 30s my grandad secured a contract to supply plasterboard for an estate of houses that was to be built. At that time plasterboard was a new product never before seen in the construction of houses in Limerick. So he set about building an oven which was needed to dry the plasterboard but, try as he may, he could not get the paper to stick properly to the plaster until he finaly found the chemical needed to make this happen in England. He placed an order for what he needed to a company in England on September 1st. 1939. World war 2 had started and nothing came from England and he lost the contract.
But for decades he made from plaster such things as models of the treaty stone and the set of flying ducks that adorned many a sitting room wall around Limerick and the big seller was always the holy statues. All went to Cuddihys at the top of William Street and provided him with the funds to back many a gee gee – horse – for he liked a little flutter.
My aunt Mary, who never married, looked after Bill and their house faced fields, and beyond, the abbey river and Kings Island.
I can remember as a child while visiting hearing the bang of his shotgun in the evening time as he had a go at some passing ducks on their way up the shannon river for the night. And sometimes he would come into the house with the dinner for the following day and I’m sure it made a change from the beef stew my aunt made for him every day.
I had a dog called “trixi”. I bought him for 4 old pence when I was 5 years old. He was a clever mongrel and knew when we visited my grandads house and often,when we took the bus to corbally, the conductor would say: ” your dog is already gone out before you”, for the dog knew where to get on and off the bus and the conductor was happy to let him hitch a ride.
There was a timeless air about my grandads house. Nothing changed. His big chair, next to the fireplace in the kitchen, where it was forbidden for anyone else to sit and next to it, on the wall, his rack for his collection of pipes. A knife to cut his “plug” tobacco and a long strip of what I think was leather,where he sharpened his cut throat razor. The smell of plaster, his shotgun standing in a corner of the kitchen waiting for some poor unfortunate duck who might pass his way and from every october, the linen “football” which hung from a corner of the ceiling containing the christmas pudding matured to perfection with whiskey and time…the ticking clock on the wall , the card games every saturday night when his neighbours called around and the gloomey parlour that i never saw used.
Then it was all gone. For he died in 1963 and my aunt Mary moved into the city and lived in Thomas Street until she died last year.
The sights and smells of a bygone era…..may they rest in peace..