A recent photo of the Boyne family, (back from left) Hugh, Leo and Christopher; (front) Evelyn, Marie, Pauline and Anne.

‘Meeting people and talking to them is a gift from God’


Marie Boyne was born at 1 St Laurence’s Terrace, Mullingar, almost 93 years ago, and has lived in the town ever since. “I was born in Mullingar on the 17th of May, of a Saturday night, at eight o’clock, in 1930… The house I was born in is demolished, it was a terrace of 16 houses, but now they’re all gone.”

Then Marie Holmes, she was “the youngest of six, four brothers and a sister”. “And now I’m the last of the Holmeses. My mother was from Mullingar and my daddy was from Kildare. He was reared on the Old Bog Road and I have great memories of the Old Bog Road. My grandfather died on my birthday when I was seven. But I remember him, which is wonderful. So, I have happy memories of the Old Bog Road, and I love the song of the Old Bog Road. Teresa Brayton was a teacher that taught my father. She composed ‘The Old Bog Road’.”

Marie Boyne as she approaches her 93rd birthday.

Marie’s parents, Mary Fitzpatrick and Hubert ‘Huwie’ Holmes, met in Mullingar when Hubert came to “work on the railway”, but they were married in Dartford, Kent. “Mammy went to London in 1912, the year the Titanic went out. Mammy was on the pier looking at the Titanic going out. She knew my dad before she went to live in London. And he then followed her. In 1915, they got married. After some time there, my dad wasn’t very settled in England, so they decided to come back to Mullingar.”

Marie’s brother Vincent was born in England in 1916, but the rest of the Holmes children arrived after Mary and Hubert returned to Ireland. Despite starting life in the UK, or perhaps because of it, Vincent became “very much about Irish as he grew up”. He worked in an Irish-language shop on O’Connell Street, Dublin, “where he used to sell books and all that” and married a teacher from Spiddal. “His children never spoke English till they went to school. They were brought up all Irish speaking.” Marie’s sister Liz became a hairdresser, working at Saunders on Castle Street until she married.

Two brothers, Willie and Tom, joined the army, while Packy, who was always “very ambitious” and “very positive”, had a few different businesses over the years. “He used to go on a lorry with milk and a van with bread part-time in the morning, before school.” Years later, Packy “used to do catering around the halls, and he’d go round the country with fruit and vegetables”. Packy managed the Hibernian Cinema for several years and Marie worked in the sweet shop there, a job she loved, starting her shift at seven every evening. “When the picture was over, you’d have to be there when they’d be coming out, and there when they’d all be going in. But in between it was quiet. I got free in. I used to be off of a Wednesday night, and I’d go to the pictures. I had several boyfriends on and off, and you’d have the privilege of bringing them with you!”

Marie and Christy in the 1950s.

In 1952, Marie left the cinema for Packy’s new furniture shop on Dominick Street, the aptly named ‘Holmes Sweet Home’. “It was a great title.” The same year, Marie’s sister gave birth to her son Adrian, and Marie met her future husband, Christy ‘Kit’ Boyne. “He was doing taxi for Dalton’s at the time. And he brought them for the Christening. And that’s how I met him, through the Christening. It was October I met him. And I got engaged January 1956, on Little Christmas, and I got married on the 25th of June of 1956… in the cathedral.” The honeymoon was brief. “Mammy got a heart attack the week before I got married. My neighbour next door, a Mrs Levitt, God rest her soul, looked after my Mam, and I was away for three days. I was in Dublin for three days, I couldn’t stay longer because of Mammy not being well.”

After they married, Marie and Christy lived with Mary so Marie could continue looking after her. Hubert had died in 1953 and Marie would lose Mary in 1964. Five years later, Marie and Christy moved to a new home in Dalton Park. “Mammy went in to live in St Laurence’s the 3rd of December 1929. She got the key to go in to live in St Laurence’s. And I got the key to leave St Laurence’s on the 3rd of December 1969. And I left Dalton Park in 1978.”

Marie’s third home was in Glenview, where she still lives. “I’m over 40 years living here, which is hard to believe; it’s gone so quick.”

Marie when she was in her 20s.

Marie and Christy had six children. Evelyn, the eldest, was born in 1957. “And then I would have had a baby in ’59 but I had a miss[carriage]. I had Pauline in 1960, Hugh in 1963, Anne in ’65. Chris in ’67 and Leo 1970. So my youngest now is 53 in April – hard to believe… And they’re all so good to me. I’m really blessed.”

Christy drove a lorry for CIÉ and although Marie was often alone with the six children, she didn’t find it challenging. “I loved being a mother… But now it’s a different world. They’ve got to work and it’s difficult when they’re trying to have children and have being looked after. Whereas, I had all the hours that God gave me with my children. And it was wonderful that I could be with them at that time in life.”

When Anne was learning to walk, she kept stumbling, and Marie discovered she’d had a dislocated hip since birth. Anne was admitted to St Joseph’s Hospital in Coole at 18 months old. “We went to see her every week… We had no car and we used to hire a car from Harte’s. The children weren’t allowed to see her. They had to sit in the car. She was in it for a year and seven months.”

Anne was kept in for Christmas and Christy generously gave the hospital a turkey. It was a distressing time for the family, especially as another child in the hospital caught pneumonia and died after a similar procedure. Luckily, Anne’s operation was a success, and she was discharged when she was almost three.

In the 1980s, Anne would leave Ireland for London, as did Hugh, while Leo and Chris went to New York. “They had to emigrate. That time in Ireland, there was nothing. It was very hard to get work and I lost four to emigration.”

Evelyn and Pauline worked in the pencil factory and stayed in Mullingar. They are still in Glenview, in their own homes near each other, and Marie. “So, I’m lucky that I have the two girls here. But I was blessed having them in New York to visit them so regular. To visit them in London was another wonderful thing. It made me travel and I love to travel… When you’re young, see what you can when you can, because it broadens your horizons.”

On Marie’s first trip to New York, in October 1986, she also visited Disneyland in Florida with her nephew Michael and her daughter Pauline. A huge Disney fan since her mother had taken her to see Snow White in 1937, Marie “loved Mickey and Minnie”. At Disneyland, she saw them leading a parade, but couldn’t get their attention. “I kept watching and waving, and Mickey nor Minnie never looked at me. I got so annoyed! Michael said, ‘Isn’t that shocking; all you think about them, and they won’t even look at you!’.”

After the parade, Marie saw Mickey and Minnie again, and that time, to her delight, she got her picture taken with them. “They couldn’t speak but they hugged me!” Marie bought two Mickey and Minnie figures as souvenirs of Disneyland and still has them.

The figures of Mickey and Minnie from Marie’s 1986 trip to Disneyland, Florida.

She met another hero, Brendan Grace, when he appeared in the Greville Arms. “I loved Brendan Grace, and Pauline knew I loved Brendan Grace… she said to me, ‘Mammy, I’m taking you out on Tuesday night, to the Greville.’ ‘Oh, well that will be lovely,’ says I. ‘Now,’ she said, ‘I’m not telling you any more.’ I walked in the door and who was in the Greville only Brendan Grace. And I got all excited and all delighted. And when I was coming out, I bought his video. He was there and I’d a chat with him… And I said to him, ‘You didn’t do the priest tonight.’ And he said, ‘I did that so often,’ he said, ‘I thought I’d make a change. But he said, ‘When I come back, I’ll do the priest.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’ll look forward to that.’ So many years went by, and Pauline took me to the Greville, and who was in it… I was near as he walked in, and he said, ‘Oh, look at Josie! You never changed a bit. How are you, Josie?’ Calling me Josie! And I was all excited because he was so funny, but he didn’t do the priest!”

Another time, in a bar in New York, Marie saw a man she thought she recognised but couldn’t place. Her son Chris approached him when he was outside smoking, saying, “Excuse me, my mother thinks she knows you, but I don’t know how she could and you in New York.” “He says, ‘Where’s your mother?’ ‘She’s inside.’ Oh, and he comes, and he hugs me and he kisses me, and he sits down and he gets his picture taken with me… And I looked at him and I said, ‘I’m puzzled. You’re so familiar’. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘do you know where you saw me? I’m Ronan Collins that had a programme every week with the latest music.’

Marie is often recognised herself while out and about. “When I was becoming 90, I went to Mass and I got confessions in Multy.” She was with her daughter Pauline, who was approached by a man. “And he said, ‘Excuse me, I want to ask you something. Is that Mrs Boyne that’s sitting down there?’ ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘that’s my mother.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I’d love to say hello to Mrs Boyne. I haven’t seen her for over 60 years. I wonder will she know me.’

“And imagine, down he comes, and I knew him, and he couldn’t believe it. He was a shop boy in Dan Mullaly’s, the grocery. He worked behind the counter, and he used to keep country butter for me of a Saturday and homemade brown cake… And imagine, after 60 years, I knew him… There was another lad that used to be in Mullaly’s, and he used to bring my messages… I used to give him a cup of soup when he’d come. And he used to leave me the last, so he’d be able to have his cup of soup. And years ago, I met him out in the dance hall… And imagine he said, ‘You were a second mother to me.’ It’s amazing.”

Music and dancing have always been important to Marie. “Mammy played the melodeon, the accordion, and the piano. And not one of us took after her. She was very gifted. She was a beautiful singer. It wasn’t that she was taught or went to learn, but she taught herself. My husband and I danced every weekend. We used to go Saturday and Sunday. We used to go out to Ballinafid. There’s a pub out there… and there’s a dance hall. And then we used to go a lot to Kinnegad as well. On Sunday night, there’d be a dance. It was a great outlet and exercise; you had great exercise with it.”

Marie saw many showbands in the County Hall, “a famous place for dancing”. “I used to love a hop. And the hops were in the County Hall and they were a half a crown. And I used to have the bicycle, but I’d leave it outside the cinema against the wall, because I’d go to the hop in the County Hall. And when I’d come back the next morning, it’d be there exactly where it was left. But not any more… Everything is so different now. You can’t leave nothing any more! Everybody was so honest… But then, it takes all kinds to make a world, and that’s life. It was a lovely time. When you’re young, you’re so full of life. And I was very outgoing, and I used to love meeting people. There was a group of us when I was young, before I ever married, and we used to cycle to Lough Ennell. We used to go out and they used to entertain with mouth organs and singing, the summer evenings. We used to have bumper times.”

Despite her busy social life, Marie didn’t break her Confirmation pledge until after she was married. She was invited for a drink by Mrs Dalton, the mother of taxi driver Billy Dalton for whom Christy did relief work. “There was a bar over Sean Murray’s. And she said, ‘Come on,’ she said, ‘and you’ll have a drink’. ‘No, Mrs Dalton, I don’t drink.’ ‘What?’ she said. I said, ‘I never broke my Confirmation pledge.’ ‘Ah, for God’s sake, you’re a married woman,’ she said, ‘you’ll have to come in and drink to your health and happiness.’ And I went in and I said, ‘I haven’t a clue what I’m going to drink. I’ve no idea.’ And she said, ‘Well, what do you think you might like?’ Well, I’d heard about port wine and I said to her, ‘Sure, I’ll have port wine.’ And sure, it was the most depressing drink you could have!

“The next day my neighbour, when she came out, I was hanging out my washing on a Monday… and she said, ‘How are you enjoying married life?’ ‘Ah,’ I said, ‘I’m not well today.’ ‘What?’ I said, ‘I took a drink for the first time in my life last night.’ ‘What?’ she said, ‘the first?’ I said, ‘Yes, I never drank. I never broke my Confirmation pledge.’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘You’re very rare!’.”

Packy was involved with the group that had the diving boards built at Lough Owel and Marie remembers when that was. “They used to have festivals every year and swimming lessons and everything… It meant so much to the town.” Packy once swam from the shore of Lough Owel to Church Island and back with Dr Winckworth, and one of Marie’s greatest regrets is never learning to swim.

“It was one thing in life I would have loved to have done… My family were all great swimmers, and my children are all swimmers, and I would have loved to have swum, but I never had confidence. I lacked confidence with the water.”

Although she initially lacked confidence with driving too, Marie learned when she was 34 and eventually got her first car, a Suzuki Alto, in the 1990s. “And I’ll give you a better one; Liz was 64 when she learned, and she got her driving licence when she was 66, when she was getting her pass for free travel. And she drove everywhere in Ireland. She was brilliant.”

Marie feels the world has changed a lot. “I used to go to the town park with my children when summer came and they were on holidays. And days used to be lovely way back; you’d have lovely summers. And every day, I’d give them dinner at 12.30, and at two o’clock, I’d get a picnic basket. And I’d have sandwiches and fruit and minerals, and we’d go to the park. And the park that time was so different. There was a tree, a big tree, in the centre, and there was no pool… It was just a lovely, beautiful park. And they used to play there and made new friends down there and it was a lovely outlet for them, and it kept them occupied… At that time, you had to go outside to be entertained… And now, the way they entertain themselves is with these machines. It’s very different. Sure, children aren’t children any more; they’re growing up too quick altogether… The mobiles spoilt everybody because they’re all engrossed in mobiles. There’s not much conversation; it’s so different. Oh, it’s a very different world I was brought up in. My world was very simple. The simplicity of it! You knew everybody.

“A lot of my generation are gone, the light of heaven to them all. And that’s life. As you live, you die, and that’s it. It’s very sad, death, and very final. But it’s a fact of life and that’s it… Every day tells a story. I’m here and I’m delighted to be alive.”

Almost everyone in Marie’s wedding photo has now passed on, including Christy, who died the day before his 69th birthday in 2003. “My cousin that’s still alive was 90 on the 8th of April, and I went to her party in Bloomfield and stayed overnight. It was very enjoyable. Four brothers and my sister are dead and I’m the last of the family, and it can be very lonely. They were great brothers and a great sister. I would love to see them again. And my brother Packy… he was 98 and he was a wonderful age and he died of old age. And my sister lived to be two months off 96. They were great ages, and Christy is 20 years dead now in May. It’s hard to believe all them years have passed.”

Although “as you age, age brings problems”, Marie believes there are benefits to getting older. “As I aged, I learned to live with things. You learn a lot as life goes on. You change as you age, really; you get more confident about life. And what you’d see as a crisis younger, you’d look at it in a different light.”

Marie feels the years have gone by quickly. “I even said to my mother, way, way back and I so young, ‘I’d love to see the millennium.’ And she said, ‘Of course you’ll see the millennium!’ ‘That’s years away!’ I said to her. And imagine, it’s over 20 years gone. And, I mean, it’s hard to believe. We’re over 20 years into the millennium. It’s going so quick. It’s flying! And as you age, it goes faster.

“I have 11 grandchildren, and I have five great-grandchildren. And that’s a great honour, to live to see your great-grandchild… I had 12 [grandchildren], but I lost a grandson three years ago in April, my son’s son. He was 19 years of age and he died of epilepsy, Christopher was his name, Christopher Boyne. It was very sad and unexpected… It’s something very hard to come to terms with.”

Through all life’s ups and downs, Marie has found prayer “a tower of strength” and she watches Mass on her television at one o’clock every day. “Prayer really is wonderful. I’ve always said that it’s the answer to everything, to pray. And count your blessings every day.”

Years ago, while holidaying in Connemara with Liz, Marie visited a chapel and saw a prayer on the wall. “And it was a penny… and it was a prayer for old age. And I bought the prayer and I say it. And it’s a wonderful prayer and it’s that God will give you your faculties until the day He calls you. And it’s wonderful; I can correspond with people and know people. There are so many younger than me that have a lot of problems with Alzheimer’s, which is very sad… Life is lovely when you’re young. And as you age, you’re lucky to be able to converse with people, because there’s nothing as nice as to be able to meet people you know and talk to them. It’s a wonderful gift from God… Of course, there are so many different religions in the world… everyone has their own beliefs.

“But I believe in being faithful to my religion and I was brought up as a Catholic. And thank God, to this day, I’m doing well at 93. I’m lucky. I’m blessed from heaven.”

A recent photo of the Boyne family, (back from left) Hugh, Leo and Christopher; (front) Evelyn, Marie, Pauline and Anne.