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Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

The Lord Mayor

On Whit Sunday morning, 1965, following a wet night, the sun shone brightly at Lacken. Outside the chapel, blue serge suits and brogan shoes were the order of the day. Some trouser legs bore the horizontal and tell-tale marks of winter storage. Polished hobnailed boots were very much in evidence and even pipe-covers seemed to give off an unprecedented lustre. On such a morning, it was easy to see what Anthony Cronin meant when he said that turf-smoke "...leaves a sweet, rich, poor-man's smell on cloth."

It was the opening of the Mission, the beginning of a week when fire and brimstone would rain down on all and sundry, until about Thursday night, when a tapering off would be noticed. The Retreat would close on the following Sunday with the renewal of Baptismal vows and Salvation for everyone.

On the Sunday in question, there was also a more mundane reason for a turnout however. The Lord Mayor of Blackburn, Laurence Edwards and his wife, Mary, the Mayoress, were guests of honour in Lacken.

This was not just a flying visit to the Wicklow mountains by the First Citizen of the Lancashire engineering town where James Hergreaves invented the spinning jenny in 1764. No. This was one of our own coming home.

Larry Edwards was born in England of an Irish mother. His father was killed in World War I, on Easter Monday, April 24th, 1916. Larry was then aged nine and his sister, Margaret, who later became a nun, was five.

Shortly after their father's death, their mother brought them to live in Shroughan, a neighboring townland of Lacken. They attended Lacken School.

When Larry finished school, his mother brought him back to England, to Bolton. There he worked in a solicitor's office until 1928. He then got a post, as a Managing Clerk, in a solicitor's office in Blackburn. He remained in that office, as a Legal Executive (F. Inst. L. ex) until he retired.

He was elected Mayor of Blackburn in 1965, bringing him further up the ranks of that little band of Irish people who left their stamp on English public life.

In 1965, Molly O'Higgins, from Dublin, who had worked as a "clippie", was elected Mayor of Southampton. Paddy O'Connor became Mayor of Camden --- although the English support of him could hardly be described as unamimous.

By the early 1970s the Irish occupied the office of Mayor in three British boroughs: LLuton, Derby and Kettering.

Mayor Edwards received a very warm welcome in Lacken. Speaking from a makeshift rostrum, consisting of 2 "four-inch solids," the Parish Priest, Fr. John Moynihan, regaled him with a most witty and heart-warming speech.

While a Telefis Camera whirred in the background, Wicklow County Councillor Jimmy Miley, a schoolmate of Larry's, spoke of their early days in Lacken and named some "outstanding scholars."

Larry Edwards, in his chain of office, spoke of his school friends and teachers, one of whom --- Mrs. White, was present --- with deep affection.

Larry was a Blackburn Town Councillor from 1945 to 1975 and Jimmy Miley, R.I.P., served for over 30 years as a member of Wicklow County Council, up to his death two years ago. Two Lacken schoolboys in whom their respective communities had confidence.

Larry Edwards died on March 6th, 1980, R.I.P. In a letter (27/03/84) his widow told me how he loved Lacken. How "often he spoke of Mr. Lambert (his headmaster) and all that he did for him."

Here was a man who spent his formative years in Lacken, who didn't lose the run of himself and who was descsribed, at his funeral in Blackburn as "a shining example to all -- especially to the young."


ASK

"You're not here to be asking questions. There are too many people wandering the world asking questions and that's what has us in the state we're in and if I find any boy in this class asking questions I won't be responsible for what happens." The words of Frank McCourt's schoolmaster, Mr. Benson.

Isn't it just as well Frank didn't pay attention to him? For while few enough people have answers, we all have questions. And why shouldn't we ask them? For isn't all great knowledge and most material possessions acquired by asking, in some shape or form?

When you are visiting a library, trawling the Internet, attending an interview or seeking to borrow a wheelbarrow, you are asking.

And, of course, when you are praying, you are asking. And in all of the above the answer is very often a satisfactory "yes."


BOASTING

"Children are great boasters, because they feel tiny and insecure, because the great world towers above them; and anyone who grows up so completely that he grows out of boasting will have a lot of adjustments to make before he is fit for the Kingdom of Heaven."

Those words written by John D. Sheridan more than fifty years ago. And I don't know about you, but I could do with taking another look at them. My attitude to those who boast is one of intolerance; intolerance without giving a thought to the fact that my prejudice might be contributing to the collapse of the only world that a person has.  

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