Are You Going Home For Christmas?
In a little pub in London, John Murphy drank his pint and recited lifetime stories of his ups and downs far and near,
Now an Irish song said old man Doyle from the Curragh of Kildare, Let’s give best of order for the Corkman from Bere Island,
And Murphy burst into song and sang for them his own national anthem The Banks Of My Own Lovely Lee
There was cheering and clapping at the finish and they shouted Encore; Encore But Murphy told them “ Lads I can’t sing anymore”
And then he stood there looking sad and forlorn and supped at his pint. Suddenly his eyes glistened and his tears fell to the table, and then the Irish barmaid strolled out to hug him saying
“John Are You Going Home for Christmas”.
Murphy eyed her up and down and in a faint whisper said, Cáilín óg, its thirty years or more since I’ve been to Bere Island, My poor mother would hardly know me now if I stepped up to the front door.
I was born said Murphy on an island off the coast of Cork in 1920. The last place God created but the first place that he blessed.
We were poor and happy in our simple little ways and sometimes over here in London, I wish I was a lad again back home in Bere Island roaming round the shorelines.
My fifty year old father, a fisherman, was drowned one awful night as the mighty waves of the sea closed in.
And my poor mother, now a widow, was left all alone and lonesome with me to rear.
So when my schooldays were over at the tender age of fourteen, I bade my broken hearted mother goodbye and Dónal O’Suilleabháin and myself to London we did come to earn an honest pay.
Oh, I promised my mother that I’d soon be back in Beara, but the curse of drink and emigration enslaved me in its bondage,
And sure I haven’t seen my mother this thirty years or more, She’s still in Bere Island listening for my footsteps at the door.
Suddenly a Corkman started to sing Beautiful City and it was like Murphy had never left his native shore all those decades ago.
Murphy pushed his glass away – that’s me last one – I’m going home to Bere Island for Christmas.
He scraped up every blessed penny and just three days before Christmas he took the train to Fishguard.
And in the dark of night the old Innisfallen steamed away for the port of Cork,
And Murphy said - it won’t be long now till I’ll make me second crossing to me native shore.
In the sky the stars seemed to hang over his island home calling him ashore.
‘A great night for the crossing’ said the young man on the oars and where might you be going on the island, said he.
Then the boatman heard Murphy say - Glory; Glory; I’ll be home for Christmas Day.
And as the boatman rowed ashore he asked Murphy was he going to the funeral.
Son – Tis a lifetime I am gone from Bere Island. And then the boatman quietly said –
Mrs. Mary Murphy was waking in the chapel there yonder and she’d be buried here on Christmas Day.
And at the same time in a lodging house in London a message on the table lay unread – It said
Your poor mother passed away – She’ll be buried on the Island after mass on Christmas Day.
Note! This nostalgic story was rewritten by Derry JF Doody.