Mary came in to see us just six days after heart surgery. She held a small piece of paper in her hand and he said that she came to have her brother Bill remembered. The piece of paper was in fact his little memorial card. Bill had downed in Spencer Dock Canal. He was a great little swimmer and like many of the other children in our area had learned to swim in either the canal or the Liffey. On the day he died, he was fishing off the side of the canal. The hook caught his jumper and as he struggled to free the hook, he toppled into the canal. He hit his head on the way in and was unconscious entering the water. He wasn’t found until the next day.
This event happened in the aftermath of Mary’s father’s death. Some months after her dad’s death her Mum discovered that she was pregnant and before this baby was born, her beloved brother Bill had died in this terrible circumstance. Mary reported that her mother was never the same again.
Tragically Bill was only one of the many children, mostly boys who drowned in the Canal or the river Liffey. The local belief is that both of these waterways claimed the lives of approx. one young life a year for twenty years.
Mary went on to recall the intense pleasure that was to be had in the window of the sweetshop. You could go with as little as one penny, halfpenny, or farthing and still come away with some goodies of sweatiness. It offered an oasis of pleasure in a life that could be harsh and tragic.
Bill’s memorial card is amongst the black and white photos of the participants as children.