Advanced level English
you need is Love - A
(true) Celtic Fairy Story
by Leanne Meyer
Ashes, the autobiographical novel by Irish writer Frank
McCourt, was a runaway
bestseller; McCourt told of the terrible misery and suffering of his
childhood in the poor district of Limerick; but was it really as bad as
Here writer Leanne Meyer tells the true
another large Irish family, and how they coped
first thing you notice is the fire. And then you realise that this has
more to do with the family than the outside temperature. Their father
the fire each morning to warm them up before school, and this was also
where he would toast the bread which would blacken their faces and
their father died a year ago. But as we speak "Mammy", at sixty-five,
walking to town to buy the goodies
her boys need for the weekend.
makes their mother remarkable is that she bore six boys, four of whom
live at home, along with 12 girls, two of whom are also still at home.
Yes, Mammy was pregnant
for 18 years of her life and almost produced a child a year. All the
arrived naturally with the smallest weighing a good seven pounds and
the biggest, registering a whopping 13 pounds on the scales
the birth of Susie (the youngest) however, Mammy moved out of the
bed and into the "girls room." As committed
Catholics, who ensured that their family went to confession every
and mass each Sunday, this was the right and only way.
eighteen children still live in Waterford, Ireland. Not one child has
lost. Twelve of them have their own families, making Mammy a
forty-eight times over, with three great grandchildren as well. One
claimed that she would break Mammy's record. Not surprisingly she gave
up after the birth of her tenth child.
on the other hand revelled
raising her brood
even the assistance of a disposable nappy
were cooked in
a pot "big enough to bath a baby in", using all four plates
cooker. The twelve girls shared
room and the six boys shared another. Each room had a double bed, where
on average six kids slept. If you were small enough you slept in the
of drawers which has only recently been sold. Otherwise you had to find
your own spot somewhere between the bed and the chest. When it came to
personal hygiene, you just made sure that you got into the bath or sink
(depending on your size) first. Understanding
the scale of what it means to have twenty people in the house, had to
to the question, "How did your father afford it?"
stops the conversation immediately.
was a block layer (a builder) which was a very good job in those
truly believe that they were blessed
that they did not
anything. Yet they tell stories that fellow
written books about, lamenting the conditions in which they grew up.
there was the food. They reminisce about how their father used to make
the most delicious chicken soup. But how all that changed when Carole
the rabbit carcasses in the shed. Their father also later admitted to
when no rabbit could be found. "You know testicles form part of
of laughter are the only response to what some would consider a
there had to be the pig's head. These girls, however, are quite
about how pigs tongue really tastes like corned beef, and then proceed
Susie because their father used to give her cooked pigs tails to suck
as a baby, and she apparently "loved it".
in midwinter when building work was scarce and there often wasn't
money for electricity, they spent time in the upstairs room telling
stories, which in retrospect, they point out is quite silly as they
all be terrified but could not switch the lights on. When sleep came
was always a fight about who would sleep in the middle, as this was the
warmest place to be.
only thing the children say they missed while growing up was being
or Daddy's "pet
There was never space for one child to be treated differently from
but that, no doubt, was actually the key to this abundant family's
this joy in living may sound the stuff of fairy tales; but this is the
story of a real family that is solidly anchored in reality, with
of drama and pain.
the children missed out on school trips as there was not enough money
pay for the outing. In fact, daughter Carole was once so keen to go on
a trip that she encouraged her teacher to come and speak to her
Proud Mammy told the teacher that Carole was ill and would not be able
but. unfortunately for Mammy, Carole was listening upstairs and shouted
down that she was not sick. She went on that trip and still remembers
as "one of the best days of my life."
is still recovering from the loss of her fiancé at sea.
recall the horrors of the convent she was sent to when, unmarried, she
announced that she was expecting a baby. Yet it seems that it is all a
question of attitude and approach to life. It this family, it was all a
matter of love, with no room for self-indulgence
. All you need is love.
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either answer these
questions in writing, or the teacher can ask them orally, for oral
was Mammy when she spoke to the writer?
many children did she have?
many grandchildren does she have?
many sons does she have?
5. Who is
the youngest child?
heavy was the heaviest baby at birth?
town does Mammy live in?
8. How big
was Mammy's cooking pot?
many bedrooms did the children have?
did the smallest kids sleep?
was the father's profession?
12. How do
the children feel about their childhood?
did their father make his so-called "chicken soup" with?
did Susie do with pigs' tails?
did the girls tell ghost stories in the dark sometimes?
did they fight after telling ghost stories in the dark?
did the children miss most about their childhood?
else did they regret?
did Carole ask her schoolteacher to talk to her Mammy?
did Mammy tell the schoolteacher?
was Carole sent to a convent?
tragedy affected Susie's life?
Replace the missing relative -or nominal relative - pronouns
(that, which, who, whom, what, how) in the following sentences. These
sentences are very indirectly modeled on examples in the article.
My brother is a computer expert, _________ is a
well paid job.
2. I told them about __________ we found
our way home again.
3. Many Irish writers are among the great
names of ________ is known as “English�? literature.
4. They could never agree about ________
would use the bathroom first.
5. __________ I can’t
understand is ________ he made chicken soup using rabbits.
6. I have four brothers, one of _________
is in the navy.
7. This is an exercise ________ is not
8. I told them _________ I thought about
their ridiculous proposals.
9. Read the instructions if you want to
know _________ to do.