Donegal, July 1997 by Mary Gorman

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Mary Gorman

Mary Gorman

You couldn’t see the house from the road. In fact, if you didn’t keep a sharp eye, you would drive past the entrance to the driveway and miss it altogether. At the top of a winding, rutted drive, it appeared, a modern chalet bungalow with a steep sloping lawn at the front, bordered by thick bushes and trees. No-one ventured up there, no-one except the family so it was a quiet, peaceful place where you could sit out on the front patio on a nice day and feel at one with nature. Birdsong and other more unusual sounds, to my northern ear anyway, broke the silence and now and again, a fox would come creeping out of the bushes before scurrying away again.

The house had been built into the mountainside, on a ledge blasted out for it. At the back,   it nestled into the rough gorse -covered stone which rose up a further couple of hundred feet to the mountain top. Standing at the kitchen sink, you could almost reach out and touch the prickly thorny shrubs and coarse undergrowth which grew on the stony mountain face. Left to its own devices, nature would surely reclaim the ground the house stood upon, cover it up with tendrils and then fingers, snarled and strong, knitting up into the dense carpet of forest which had been there before the diggers and the dynamite came to assault and wound.

There were no pools of sunlight on floors in this house nor dappled shades of anything. It was either light, or dark, and more usually dark. If you sat in the front room, large windows all around, there was too much light, the sun flooding in over the tops of the trees and making it necessary to draw the blinds and squint if you were reading, while at the back, the lights had to be on all day. It was heavy and sombre there, under the disapproving look of the Sacred Heart which hung on the wall overlooking the dining table. Still, this is where I was usually to be found, pondering the cryptic crossword but more often just following my own thoughts wondering where they’d lead me. Like sunlight in this remote, northern part of Ireland, they tended to slip towards a greyness, opening to a landscape of pain and loneliness, silence and despair and yet, it seemed right to follow them. There had to be a bottom to it for it didn’t come out of nowhere and nothing could exist in a vacuum. Sometimes, I felt suspended in a half-life, the sounds of my children playing outside the only precarious link to life but even then, their little voices were muffled by the silence in my head. At night, it was worse. Set back from the road up the twisting driveway, cut off and telephoneless, the house became a prison for my fears. I moved into the front room to keep vigil while my children slept. When the clock in the kitchen chimed 11, I would close my book and slip quietly upstairs, another day over.

(c) Mary Gorman

About the author

My name is Mary Gorman and I was born in Derry in 1957. I grew up there till leaving at almost 18, to go to Belfast and Queens University. I always wanted to write. I kept a diary from 1968 onwards, so have an authentic record of growing up through The Troubles’. I was an introspective child who listened to everything around me and thought deeply about things.
My father had a business at the bottom of William Street where everything happened, so I was witness to it all , especially through the terrible effect it had on my family. I have written about this and many incidents which occurred at that time. My emphasis has always been on the personal, the way my family suffered and the complications endured. I suppose it was inevitable that I became a Psychologist; initially an Educational Psychologist, later retraining to become a Clinical Psychologist and also, a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist. I worked in the NHS until 2014 when I retired due to ill health. I’ve worked in private practice ever since.
Regarding my writing, I attended a Creative Writing course at UUJ with Medbh McGuckian, poet. It was she who encouraged me to keep writing. I have never had anything published, though an option was taken out on my 1972 diary to make a film. I have the script. Unfortunately the monies were not raised before the option ran out. I received £1,000 at the time. What I’ve submitted is just a few pages from the huge body of work I’ve completed. The earlier one is my mother’s story. It continues through her career, marriage and into my memory of my early life. The later one is a true account of Bloody Sunday, experienced by me at 14, from the street parallel to where it happened. I’ve written about coming to Belfast in 1975, and living in that city during the awful years of atrocity there, again from the personal perspective of a young adult and student. In total, Ive written up to around 2015, and my ( second) wedding in Italy. I am planning to keep going, to include my current life in Belfast with my three dogs and four wonderful grandchildren.

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