Daniel Sammon recently graduated with an MA in Writing (Hons) degree at NUIG. He is the author of four books including a book of poetry. He has Certificates of Distinction in Legal Studies, Accountancy & Taxation and Creative Writing. He lives in Renvyle where he is currently involved in the tourism business, taking visitors on history and heritage tours all over Ireland, especially Connemara, Cliffs of Moher, Killarney and Dublin. He is presently working on his first novel, and immediately it’s finished he’s ready to start his PhD studies for a research programme at NUIG.
Maggie Ellen Died
By Daniel Sammon
After a long stagger Maggie Ellen passed away peacefully aged 103. She had lived on her own in a whitewashed thatched cottage overlooking the sea, for about forty years since her husband died; they said it was gastroenteritis that killed him. He was so young at the time neighbours said if he hadn’t died, he’d have lived for a good while. Before he passed away he did a bit of fishing from his curragh in the summertime and kept a few sheep on his few acres, as well as on the commonage on the hill at the back of the house, where he was one of about twenty farmers who had grazing rights there.
In the aftermath of his untimely death Maggie Ellen found the going very tough, trying to eke out a living on her own as she was left childless. Her neighbours helped out whenever they could but they hadn’t much to spare for themselves. Her nieces and nephews were all gone to America and England except for one nephew Paudge who lived about ten miles away. His mother Delia, while she was alive and her sister Maggie Ellen were on cool terms after they fell out twenty years earlier, so Paudge didn’t visit her often. Her other nephew Michael and two nieces, first-cousins of one another Emily and Josephine were in Boston, where they were settled for nearly twenty years. Her only other niece Lyla was married to Joe, an Englishman in Ormskirk, not far outside Liverpool.
It was rumoured that Maggie Ellen had a fair few bob stashed away but she was keeping it a tight secret what she might do with it in her will. When she was around eighty four she decided she’d pay a visit to the local solicitor George A in Clifden to make her will. In it she bequeathed £2,000 to each of her nieces and nephews, and £2,000 to the undertaker to give her a decent send-off. She requested her solicitor to pay whatever funds were required for any other outstanding lawful debts she might have. When all that was taken care of, she indicated she would like to give the balance, a few hundred pounds she assumed to Fr. Gregory McShane, a lovely young priest who used to visit her every month on the first Friday.
Though contacted a number of times subsequently and advised to, she never updated her will as she felt she had done her duty and solicitors were very expensive, she thought, apart from charging poor people in guineas that her father told her many years before, were replaced by the pound as long ago as 1816. With her will made, there would be no trouble after she drew her last breath and went to meet her maker or so she thought.
The minute she closed her eyes Lyla and Joe were on the way back for the funeral. Eusibius the local hackney man was hired by Paudge to go to Shannon to collect his three first-cousins as soon as the plane landed from Logan International Airport. There was hardly room to park outside the thatched cottage when they arrived from Shannon, where they found Lyla and Joe had beaten them to it in their blue Vauxhall Viva.
The wake went on into its second night with no end to sandwiches and bottles of whiskey and cans of beer, some of them, obviously from the labels, brought back across the Irish Sea from Ormskirk. On the following evening the pubs in the village were packed after the removal.
At second Mass on Sunday ‘How Great Thou Art’ was sung at the Consecration and ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ was intoned as the remains were carried shoulder-high out the church by her two nephews, Paudge and Michael and Lyla’s husband Joe and a near neighbouring sheep farmer Martin. After the grave was back-filled by neighbours Martin sang ‘Come By The Hills’ while a young girl played the fiddle. After flowers were secured with fishing net on the grave, the crowd adjourned to the village pubs. Maggie Ellen had left five hundred euros in each pub for a good send-off, which she duly received. George A had arranged to read the will the next day at twelve.
Having expressed condolences to all concerned the solicitor proceeded to read out the will. They nearly passed water on hearing its contents, including the £2,000 they each inherited. What infuriated them even more than the £2,000 was Martin had already purchased Maggie Ellen’s cottage eighteen years earlier with a proviso that she could remain in it for her lifetime. But what happened the proceeds, they dreaded to ask? They went straight into the same bank account with her weekly pension that had by now accumulated to well over £100,000. With each person receiving £2,000 and her legal bills of £3,200 and her send-off, amounting to £15,200 an inheritance of £112,000 would be due to Fr. Greg.
Many years earlier Fr. Greg left the priesthood and took off to London with a young lady, before she ditched him for a fellow from Nigeria and the ex-priest took to the drink. He was apparently unaware of the will and its contents and nobody knew where he was or even if he was still alive.
‘That can’t be a valid will. The woman must be mad to make a will like that’ said Lyla.
‘I’m going back to America tomorrow. I shouldn’t have come over at all’ said Patrick.
‘We’ll be the laughing stock of the parish’ said Paudge.
‘I, for one will not be contributing to a headstone for her. Let the grass grow over her now or let her get someone to cut it’ said Emily.
‘These are her wishes and anybody who doesn’t want their inheritance, can give it to charity or do whatever they wish with it but each person will be receiving from me their bequests’ said George A.‘The amounts I have referred to are quoted in pounds’ he continued, ‘since that will was incorporated, our currency has changed into euros. Therefore the £2,000 each person receives will now be €2,540’.
‘On that basis’ said Lyla ‘can you tell us how much Mc Shane will inherit?’
‘Just give me two seconds now and I’ll tell you’ said George A.
From his calculator he was able to tell them almost immediately: ‘the amount due to Gregory McShane is €142,240.
‘Let me out to the toilet quickly please’ said Lyla ‘I want to go to the washroom. I feel like I’m getting sick’.