In the week that I met Billy Power, (see previous post) I also knocked on the door of another house in Leytonstone. Inside I discovered two retired gentlemen, Irish men and brothers. As they spoke to me I suddenly realised that I knew where they were from. I told them that I could trace their origins. You are Mayo men, I told them. That’s correct, they said. And you are from Erris, I said. That is correct, they replied. And you are from around Bangor, I said. Near enough, they replied. We are from the townland of Glenamoy: Just a few miles from my mother’s home in Glencullen.
They were very pleasant gents and they kept a clean and tidy house, and the house itself was a good piece of real estate. They had spent their working lives in London as labouring men, but clearly they had great discipline about themselves. They had not fallen by the wayside, as happened to so many who came over to England to work. They had not spent their evenings in public houses or been ruined by drink. They were very smart men.
As I got up to leave them I asked them if either of them had been married and the answer I received has stayed with me all these years for its pictorial eloquence.
Did either of you marry, I asked.
No, father, we didn’t. There are no petticoats in this house.
24 March 2022