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Monica Boyle

Interviewed by  Conor Harrington / photos by John McNultey

The House:
Before moving into her house at Carrick View, Monica Boyle had previously lived at Finbarr’s Terrace with her husband Tom and their three children, Tom Jr., Maria and Deirdre (oldest to youngest). The house was built in 1969 on land belonging to Tom’s father on the Shercock Road, Carrickmacross, Co.Monaghan. They moved in the same year, and Tom and Monica have lived there ever since. According to Monica, it was easier for people back then to own their own home than people today. Not to say that money wasn’t scarce or that there was no need for employment but simply that no one was under the pressure of mortgages. People only bought what they could afford and saved their money to buy things instead of borrowing money from banks or institutes, as is common today. This has been a source of stress for many especially younger people starting their lives independently.

Memories: My grandmother has very fond memories from her early years at her house. As there wasn’t easy access to technology like today, people, family and friends socialised more together in their spare time. Most of her memories of those days are that of her family, aunt and uncles, gathered around on a hot summer’s Sunday, when they would gather every week at her house to play cards and chat. She recalls the yearly event of the Eurovision Song Contest, and how she would spend the day making sandwiches and cakes for family and neighbours who hadn’t televisions that would visit her house to watch it. This was a great source of excitement. Another event that gathered family and friends together was listening to the GAA matches on a Sunday afternoon on the radio. Holidays for my grandmother and family were always in Ireland. She had an uncle who was a principal teacher in Laytown and another in Bray, Co. Wicklow. This was where they would spend their summer holidays. Granny recalls these times as very free and happy days. My granny, aunts and uncles would stay for weeks at a time with my grandad visiting whenever he wasn’t working. My aunts and uncles always got special treats while on holidays and would be brought regularly to Butlin’s, which was popular at the time with families. Granny now feels an awful lot has changed in Bettystown and Laytown since then, as they’ve become very commercial and built up since then, as have many towns across Ireland.

Hard Times in the Community:
Granny recalls when she was small how tough times were for a lot of people in the community. She remembers watching people walk down to the workhouse on the Shercock Road. Most people relied on bicycles to make their way into town to get their humble provisions. Her father owned the local grocery shop on Parnell Street and my grandmother can remember after the war the novelty of getting a mere orange, as supplies of many food we take for granted today wasn’t available. She recalls how children walked for miles from country areas to attend the schools in town and most kids only having a little bottle of milk and some bread to last them the whole day before returning home in the evening. She can also recall how people gathered twigs and coal to light their open fires as most people didn’t have central heating or convenient ways to heat their homes. Changes in the Community Now Carrick is a completely different place to when Granny was younger. She has seen a massive change in her community. Carrick has gone from a small-town dependent mostly on a farming community to a well prosperous town with several large companies over the years. Companies for example like Rye Valley foods, Bose and many more. The town has tripled in size and the population has tripled as well. Going back to my grandmother’s time everyone in Carrick know most families in Carrick and there was a great sense of belonging to your community but now its not so personal. People would meet regularly going to Mass on a Sunday or the Bingo during the week but there seems to be less and less of the local activities for the community.

Joy During Lockdown:
While being stuck inside her house these last two years due to the pandemic, Monica has found that what brings her the most joy in lockdown have been staying is contact with her different communities and family. One way she has been doing this is through keeping in touch with religious events and practise, watching the local Mass with the use of her tablet. She says it builds a sense of community and routine with others like her. Another way she has been keeping in touch with people is through her families visits to her home, when they often deliver help in the form of groceries, setting up her electrical devices, caring for her garden and seeing how she’s feeling. Granny also appreciates the fact she is surrounded by nature in lockdown, giving her a beautiful view whether she’s sitting outside or gazing out from the window.

Hopes for the Future:
While Granny feels that people have an easier life these days, we are often riddled with pressures and worries for our future, with mounting debts, climate-change disasters and natural world disappearing around us. She believes that we are responsible for our planet, our future and for how we shape our community for years to come. We need to focus on family values, time spent together and to slow down. Less time glued to a screen and more time appreciating the w orld around us. We must recognise that climate change is not a coming disaster but a present threat and we must combat it to protect our planet for future generations.

Below are some of the slides from Conor’s Creative Expression which was a compilation of images and excerpts from his interview with Monica and some extra photos from Monica’s shoot with photographer John Nutley

Conor Harrington Creative Response 1
Conor Harrington Creative Response 2