Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a very special Irish dad who always read his young daughter bed time stories and finished with a prayer, his name was Gerry. Gerry had 5 children, but as the other children had grown up or left home, his youngest Hazel was a real spoilt daddy’s girl and followed him around whenever she could.
Now Hazel's dad was often away for months at a time at sea, being in the merchant navy and his daughter always looked forward too and counted the days, weeks and months... eagerly awaiting his return, when special times and treats would be given to her by her Dad...there was always a sweet left for her in his coat pocket for her to search and find.
Each time Hazel’s Dad began packing his suitcase, she would know it would be a few months until his, sometimes, brief return - before going back to sea, but each time, his young daughter would ask “where are you going and when will you be back” and each time the reply would be;
“I’m going to ‘Tim-buck-too’ to see how far it is and to get you some buttermilk”
In his lovely Irish accent.
On each farewell and on the click of the front door shutting, he would say “see you soon, be good and we will go to the cathedral and the Irish Centre when I get back” and we always did.
Each Sunday when her dad was home, her mum would dress her in her Sunday best and off they would go to catch the bus into Liverpool. The cathedral was magical in her young eyes and she would try to keep up with the Latin Mass, but would often be caught gazing around the beautiful Cathedral, when her dad would correct her and point to the Mass sheet.
After Mass, her Dad always treated Hazel to the Cathedral Cafe, down the stone steps where she would excitedly see her Aunt Mollie, who would tell her to sit quietly, behave and not be mischievous as she was working and busy..."but she was always chatting to Dad" Hazel silently thought.
After the cafe treat and chat, Hazel would impatiently pull on her dads jacket sleeve to go to the Irish Centre, in a jiffy her dad would say, in a jiffy. The Irish Centre was a minute away from the Cathedral and Hazel knew it was a special place and would remain so in her heart. Her dad would buy her a drink and whatever she wanted. He would be talking at the bar to his friends, or anyone really, as everyone just seemed to talk to everyone. Hazel would often wonder off and talk to other grown ups, but would always keep her eye on her dad...just in case he nipped off to sea again!
Often there would be Irish dancing and a ceili and Hazel's favourite was when they stood in a line of 4 and Irish danced forward with an Irish spin.
Hazel loved her Irish dancing and times shared with her dad in the Irish Centre, it felt special, safe, familiar and accepted.
Years rolled on and when Hazel was 16 she had a little boyfriend named Mick, Mick was from an Irish family so she thought her dad would approve....hmm. Her dad asked to “meet this Mick” before she was allowed out of the door. Poor Mick was sat terrified awaiting the Irish inquisition from Hazel's dad, when Hazel said “when he asks where are you taking my Daughter” in his most Irish questioning fearsome tone he could make, “Just say we’re going to the Irish Centre” and so Mick did, and so we did, and all was ok and on to another journey in life and another memory of the Irish Centre made.
Over the years the special visits to the cathedral and the Irish Centre lessened as her Dad retired and became ill but even today 50+ years on from that young 8 year old, The Irish Centre still holds special magical memories of times with her dad in a beautiful Irish Centre. So to all the lovely Irish dads out there, keep making those special memories for your daughter, son, grandchildren in your lovely centre, it may not be the old Irish centre I knew, but I’m sure the soul and Irish spirit has not missed one Irish step.
One day, I will visit when I’m over from Isle of Man, but even as writing this, tears flow at the beautiful special memories... so I’d have to brace myself for stepping into an Irish centre without my dad in person, though he's in my heart. Love and thoughts to you all Hazel Kirby