Sometimes I make a special journey to Carrickmacross. With both my parents deceased I have no reason to be there anymore. Indeed, I tend to by-pass it totally while travelling to Dublin. When I reach Castleblayney I veer towards Dundalk and end up on the M1 without even passing through my hometown. It’s a remarkable thing – I can by-pass it now without even a sense of guilt. That wasn’t always the case when my mother was alive!! But there is no home house there anymore – no headquarters. When I drive especially to Carrick it is usually to walk the main street in hope that I might meet someone that remembers my parents. Maybe someone will recognise me. I walk the street trying to get a sense of my childhood there. I am hoping to re-connect to it.
When I was twelve I was sent to boarding school in Monaghan town. After a year in the Patrician High School in Carrickmacross, my parents had enough of my appalling results. I remember enquiring about the phrase ‘absent-minded’ on my school report card and discovering that it was not a complement! Boarding school was an attempt by my parents to offer me the discipline to achieve results that reflected my ability. It worked. While it took me a few months to settle into boarding life I achieved more academically within that environment than I would have at a day-school. I have pleasant memories of my four years at St. Macartan’s College. However, it is only now that I realise that boarding school robbed me of my sense of home. It provided an artificially constructed community that evaporated when we all sat our final exams. Nowadays it is an empty building full of ghosts from the past! I know that we all move on after school but I lost my hometown through the boarding years. It was a price too big to pay.
Married and settled in Monaghan town for over twenty years, I never sense this fine town as home. It’s a place where I live but I tend to always look back to my Carrickmacross childhood. Both my father and mother’s families were rooted there. There are many good people that I’ve got to know in Monaghan over the years but it offers a sense of home that doesn’t run as deeply as Carrickmacross.
I always move to Sligo for the summer. It’s my favorite time of year. Walking on the beaches, visiting art galleries, basking in the arts and culture there eases my sense of homelessness. My first job as a teacher was in Sligo. One year there in the 1980s. It was the best year of my working life and I have an affinity with it ever since. Sligo can never become home but I love it there. Hopefully, someday I will move there permanently. I think there are many chapters in our lives and sometimes we are afraid to turn the pages. It’s never too late to start again. Indeed change is good for us. I think that our sense of home changes too. Indeed, it probably has as much to do with whom you are with than where you are. Probably the greatest sense of home anyone can experience is when they are at peace with themselves.