Putting the world to write!
This photo was taken in 1997 and is of myself, my dad in the middle and my youthful grandfather who is waving to the camera. It is the last picture I have of him and the one that has been printed in several newspapers over many years.
For eighteen years ago this bank holiday I lost my grandfather. He died in horrific circumstances, as he was the victim of a burglary gone wrong. A gang broke into his house, beat and bound him and left him alone and only took £200 for their effort. Sadly despite his cries for help, which some people did hear, no one came to his rescue. As you can imagine it was a traumatic time for us all as we had to deal not only with his death, but the police, officialdom and worst of all the press intrusion. It has taken its toll on all of us, but life has to go on. As the years have passed, the pain has subsided, although not the anger at the injustice as the Irish police has bundled the case, planted evidence, got caught, had a tribunal and yet still not charged anyone! But I do take comfort in that it is still an active investigation. It has taken me a long time to accept what has happened and that there is not much I can do to change it.
So now I want to remember Eddie for who he was, not how he met his end. My lovable, cheery, funny grandfather, who always had a story for you. Even at 83 he was a very robust man, who wouldn’t so much stroll but would power-walk despite it making him a bit breathless. His complexion was amazing for a man of his age. His cheeks were permanently ruddy as he liked being outdoors and working hard. He ran a shop, what he called a drapery, but what would best be described as a quaint outdoors clothing shop full of wellingtons and wax jackets. It was his pride and joy and in his younger years he also ran a mobile shop which he would take out to the remote villages and hamlets in the Mayo and Sligo region of western Ireland. I remember one day going out to another town for the day with him and we were in a bar “having a jar” when a man opposite called out: “Are you Eddie Fitzmaurice, who use to run the mobile shop?” Of course he was delighted to recognized and remembered. “Well I remember you so clearly,” said the chap. “I got my first pair of long trousers from you!” It is a silly little story but one that he was dead chuffed about as he saw his business as more than just a way to make money.
Often on a trip to Ireland, I would have a very late night out – rules about pub closing times didn’t seem to affect this part of the country at that time, and I would crawl back in in the early hours. I’d awake late morning to the sound of loud laughter beneath me as Eddie and a customer shared a funny story. Once his wife, my grandmother Rita died, we worried how he would cope but the shop was his lifeline. He loved how I would go to a street market in Hong Kong where I used to live and buy up boxes of silk ties for the equivalent of £1 a tie and send them to him so he could sell them for a handsome profit, silk ties from the Orient being a bit different! He took a great interest in world affairs and the news and used to enjoy chatting to younger people to keep up to date with what was going on – I doubt he ever saw himself as old.
Another time he too was in a bar way past closing time and during the Christmas period when there are quite strict laws in Ireland about the sale of alcohol. Everyone in the bar was summonsed to appear at a magistrates court after the new year and fined a small amount. But when Eddie took the stand, he was asked his age. The judge was outraged: “What is a man of this age being brought before this court?” The case against him was duly dismissed, and creating another of his sagas to recount.
Another favorite yarn of his was the day he met the hugely successful rock band Oasis in his local bar and discovered that the grandmother of Liam and Noel Gallagher had worked for him in the shop! The Gallaghers were from the same town as my grandfather and often go back there. But what chuffed him was that I was a huge fan of Oasis and he’d met them not me! They also mentioned him in a book written by another of the Gallagher family.
One of the last stories he told me about was when he had a collision on the road and his car ended up in the ditch. “Sure, I thought I’d met my maker, when I saw that face looming over me.” I was confused – had he imagined the face of God? “No!” exclaimed Eddie. “I saw the blooming face of the local undertaker. He’d crashed into me coming back from a funeral!”
When it came to his actual funeral, he got one almighty send-off. The entire town and beyond came to pay their respects, the road was closed off for the funeral procession with a police salute as his coffin was carried across the church threshold and a bishop came to give the service. Outside the cameras and journalists from all the newspapers and radio were waiting as his murder was headline news. In fact reports of the investigation and his funeral on the main RTE 9 0’clock news were the main story for many days in a row ahead of updates on the northern Ireland peace agreement. To think how much Eddie loved the news, it was ironic he became the news!
So this weekend I shall raise a “jar” in his memory and remember the good times we shared. Cheers, Eddie x
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