Donnelly Canada

Recording the memories

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Chapter 4     The Angelus Bell

“But the Angelus bell o’er the Liffey’s swell rang out in the foggy dew”[1]

 It is a long way from Drum-an-warra to Chicoutimi in the Saguenay-Lac St. Jean region of Quebec. But the church bells that ring at noon over Lac St. Jean on a clear day in June 2002 bring to new life some long-forgotten recollections of how the Angelus Bell brought a welcome break in the workday of the men in the fields of Greaghnadarragh more than sixty years ago.

It is Sunday morning on June 9, 2002 when I leave Chicoutimi to drive home to Ottawa. There is light rain all the way to Quebec City. Then it clears up and the sun shines as I drive along the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City to Montreal. Although the road is not far away from the river, there are only a few places where the St. Lawrence is visible. Near Trois-Riviere, it is time for lunch. I leave the four-lane Highway 40 near the village of Yamachiche on the north shore of Lac Saint-Pierre, and find a Quebec-style fast food take-out roadside restaurant named Casse-Croute Apollo, on the old highway 138. These Quebec roadside restaurants are interesting places to visit. The menu is fast food – hamburgers, hot-dogs, poutine, chicken, fish and chips, and all types of sandwiches. Prices are modest, and the restaurant is busy, late on a Sunday morning. The customers at the tables are mostly older rural people, but there are also middle-aged moms and dads with children out for a Sunday meal.

This is a Quebec scene. What is it that makes it a little different from Ontario? Perhaps it is the faces of the older women. To me, these faces say French and country. It is easy to visualize the same faces on their great-great-great grandmothers as they plucked the goose for dinner and smoked clay pipes with short stems instead of the cigarettes preferred by these women chewing on barbecued chicken wings here today.

The Casse-Croute Apollo is also a Sunday morning stopping place for a large gang of motor cyclists. They are all wearing leather pants, jackets, headbands and driving Harley Davidsons, but they don’t look like a motorcycle gang. No Satan’s Choice or Hells Angels here. They just look like suburban types on a Sunday outing. They find seats at the tables outside the restaurant and enjoy some cold beers, poutine, and ice-cream, while the warm sun shines down on the flat corn fields stretching back from the highway to farm houses on land settled by some of their ancestors nearly three hundred years ago. Does it cross the minds of any one of them to say “Thank you, great-great-great grandmother and grandfather? Thank you for putting me here in Quebec today with my motorcycle to enjoy a beer and an ice cream on this glorious Sunday morning”.

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1The Foggy Dew is one of many “Irish Songs of Rebellion”. This song is about the armed rebellion of Easter Week 1916 in Dublin against British Rule. The rebellion was led by Padraig Pearse.

The Eyes That Shone - from Ireland to Canada in the 1950s

But a word of warning! The Eyes That Shone is not a saga filled with horrible tragedy and dysfunctional relationships, but rather a celebration of family lives in Ireland and Canada, in other words, a happy story featuring:

  • Memories of life on small farms in Ireland before 1950 and before tractors and electrification, when growing food depended largely on human sweat and muscle
  • Recollections about people and events in the Department of Public Works of Canada where the author worked during the period 1957 to 1991
  • Intimate perspectives on living and dying, politics and religion, home and family