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Philip Morrell

Interviewed by Shauna Maguire / Photos by Emma O’Brien.

Shauna: How long have you lived in the area?
Philip: Most of my life- since the 1960s.

Shauna: What’s a fond memory you have of living here?
Philip: There used to be an agricultural show in Ballymahon in the 1960s. It doesn’t happen now. It was in a big open field down the Ballymulvey Road, beside the Church of Ireland. There was even showjumping too, with national and international competitions. It used to have a carnival as well with a funfair and performers. The old showbands used to come: The Drifters, Joe Dolan, and many other bands too. I was only a child at the time. They used to have a big market, a marquee and all. There was no alcohol, everyone went there sober and came home sober. We were all friends, it’s different now.

Shauna: Have you seen this community come back from hard times before?
Philip: Probably when we had the financial crash about 12 or 18 years ago, around 2008, when some people I know borrowed too much money and couldn’t pay it back. The banks came and took back their properties. These could have been people who bought multiple properties, and the bank now owns them. Houses were hugely costly. Jobs were lost. These were people I knew well. But they are okay now, they’re all right. They have adjusted, the community has, and we’re much better off now.

Shauna: What are some things that have helped you through lockdown and what brings you joy?
Philip: I was always busy, but I missed the library downstairs. I love to read. I was fairly ok, I haven’t had a cold in 3 years. I take vitamin C and D every day, and you should do the same- Winter and Summer.

What brings me joy now? Music. Definitely music. Older music, not the modern stuff. I don’t like the modern stuff at all. I really like foreign music, other countries. Austrian music is lovely, very melodic. Croatian music is lovely. Very melodious. When I first went there I said “Oh that’s lovely music, who are these artists?” They wrote them down for me. It’s different to what you hear here. They have their own instruments too. And that gives me joy. I pick up new things to do on the phone, you can even read a book. I’m a regular mass goer. My faith gives me joy, at Christmas especially.

Shauna: What does community mean to you? What sort of things are you doing now to stay connected to your community and family?
Philip: To have a neighbourhood in which people know one another and to know that they’re there if there was an emergency. Community activities are good to do. We have Bridgeways, which is good for activities, and the Day Care centre too. So that brings people out to associate with one another. I think that’s good.

As I was saying, at one time, you knew absolutely everyone in the area. That’s generally what it would mean to me. I remembered there used to be a woman who lived opposite me called Mrs Sparks. She lived in an old fashioned house and she used to keep chickens that came in and out. I would collect the eggs for her and she would give me most of them. She was a lovely person. Now that to me is a real old fashioned representation of community.

Shauna: What message do you want to share for yourself and this community in 10 years time?
Philip: Protect your environment! I’ll give you an example. Last year I visited a field not far away from me and it was an absolutely magnificent site of wild flowers. Bees, flies, biting insects, everything. I was half bitten to death! I said to myself, this a great field, it’s such a biodiverse field.

Last winter, the field was flattened. It was rolled, and this year it’s got nothing- only green grass. No wild flowers, nothing. That’s what I mean now about protecting your environment, because if you don’t protect the biodiversity all you have is trouble. If you don’t have bees, your plants won’t be pollinated. That cannot be done by humans. We depend on the bees. Protect your biodiversity especially for the next 10 years, I would say to protect the biodiversity around us and watch the climate.

Pictured below are photos of Philip from a gathering in the Ballymahon library of the students and seniors who took part in the project, which took place on Ash Wednesday. Also pictured is Shauna’s creative response to their interview- a colourful painting of a biodiverse field.

Philip Morrell

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