HAVIN’ A LAUGH THE BOOK 2020
Moments when an act of kindness or beauty lifted you or another from darkness
The Outstretched Hand:
I had been struggling on my own with guilt and anxiety for years. I decided to go to a community mental health meeting. I started to cry during a music therapy session when the therapist played ‘Let it Be’.
For the first time in years, I just let the tears flow.
A woman next to me reached across from her chair and gently held my hand. It touched me so deeply to think that although she was battling her own demons, she had enough compassion and empathy left somewhere inside to reach out and try to support me.
That simple act of kindness allowed me to start on the road to self-forgiveness and healing. Mental illness does not define a person. Somewhere behind the illness is a worthy human being.
Extremes people have gone to do something uplifting for others.
Vigilante Sweeney Spirit Story
How positive life endeavours can triumph through dark times.
This is a story my dad tells of what my grandad got up to during the Second World War. Living in Donegal in the 1940s was a serious time and meant heavy restriction were in place. There were travel restrictions, fuel restrictions, trade restrictions and food restrictions, all subjected to formal rationing that required the use of ration books. These were times when women wore long skirts to hide their stash, not their modesty. Bags of sugar were smuggled across the border by women who customs men were not brave enough to search.
Grandad was the chemist in Glenties. He also owned the hotel there, and the petrol pumps in front of the hotel. As the chemist in the town, he was also the primary medic, and if there was an accident or a plane down, he was the first responder. All of this meant he had access to a higher ration of fuel than most. It was a great responsibility during those serious times and as it is told, it seems grandad and his cronies took ‘having the craic’ very seriously too.
Here is my dad’s account of my grandad’s personal mission to help build the town’s very first public dance hall:
In 1941 or 42, there was a Greek cargo ship carrying timber from Canada that got torpedoed off the coast of Donegal by a German U-boat. Word got out and the Arranmore Islanders went out and salvaged the timber. Now, under maritime law, salvage was supposed to be given over to the state, but grandad, amongst others, decided he needed that timber.
So one night, grandad went down in an old model-T truck, in the middle of the night, with no lights on it (due to potential air raids with a war overhead), to Burtonport to pick up the timber and bring it back to Glenties. That road is lethal now and was doubly lethal then.
Fuelled on the return journey by their own homebrew, they managed to get themselves, the truck, and the timber back to Glenties without coming to harm. The timber was put to good use, fitting the floors and joists of the roof on the St Dominic’s Hall – the first public dance hall in Glenties!
So that is how the timber got to Glenties for the first dance hall, which was completed while the war was still on. On 5 May 1945, the day the war ended, my dad was born. All the more reason why he loves this story, as he was born out of true vigilante spirit.
You couldn’t write it, stories of life that you couldn’t make up and cause you to laugh out loud.
The Wedding Story
The 9th of June, 1990 – the day of my wedding. This was back in the day where no one had a fake tan or got someone to do their makeup. So there I was with my pasty skin, covered in freckles and my bright blue eyeshadow, wearing the biggest dress you could imagine. I looked like a cross between a giant meringue and a reject from an Abba tribute band.
When I got to the church there was a huge crowd of people. My mother had invited a whole congregation of Irish cousins, most of whom we’d never met before. It was also my husband Andy’s birthday so I walked up the aisle to the vicar singing happy birthday to Andy.
After the ceremony, we headed to the reception but when we arrived there we noticed the cousins were missing. This was in the days before mobile phones but eventually, a call came through on the landline. The cousins had followed the wrong white car and ended up in Birmingham which was around an hour and a half away from the reception!
In the middle of the speeches, the cousins arrived. Instead of making a quiet, low key entrance one of them missed the steps and landed flat on his face in the middle of the hall, he was grand – thankfully!
Our wedding was quite low budget so our DJ was really a dustman and was doing the music as a nixer. We told him we wanted Endless Love as our first dance but as we were invited to take the floor the dulcet tones of Engelbert Humperdinck singing Please Release Me serenaded us. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this point.
The rest of the wedding went without any memorable events until we got to our hotel. We were in the bridal suite of a very fancy hotel that boasted a jacuzzi in the bathroom. I was very excited to try it out only I didn’t realise that the drain cover was missing and my backside got sucked into the hole! Andy, my husband of a few hours, had to drag me off it and I had a bruise for weeks.
So that was my wedding, surely a day we’ll never forget!
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