The Galway Review

Galway's Leading Literary Magazine

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Margaret Kiernan – Choir Outing

Margaret Kiernan writes poetry and short stories. She is published in both.
She is part of the Thursday poetry workshop at Galway Arts Centre, 47 Dominick Street, facilitated by Mr Kevin Higgins, Poet.

She has a background in Public Policy and Social Justice. Margaret enjoys painting in watercolour and in acrylics.

She has four grown-up sons. She lives in Mullingar.

Choir Outing

By Margaret Kiernan

The choir outing was planned with a lot of attention to detail. Or, so was said. An annual event for my school. The Choir mistress was the School Principals wife. Rehearsals in choir practice formed part of our activities during the school year. Culture and music combined. Mrs Principal was a trained singer and organist. She was a member of a local family noted for their beauty and their music.

The church choir outing was a subject of conversation in my school and at home for weeks before the event. Singing in church and other places were going to be rewarded. 1960’s rural Ireland was a place where visiting a city cinema was rare, and tea at a Café almost unheard of for a child. I was the only member of my family that was getting this opportunity.

My best-friend was also going. She lived down the road from me. She told me her father would collect us on our return from the city and drop me at my home. This information was told to my mother and to my teacher. Finally, the outing day arrived

Heading away in a rickety diesel bus to Galway city, aiming for the three o; clock matinee.

A Bond movie was showing. Quiet scary stuff for a small girl.

Scenes from the movie would stay with me for ever. And the music.

The Russian Cossacks with their shiny horses. Fur coats and wraps worn by people to keep out the cold. Their amazing horse-drawn carriages to carry people over packed-ice and snowclad ground.

Glamorous Actors and their clothes from another era. Love scenes not understood by a child.

Afterwards we all sat down to have our tea at the GBC Café in Shop Street. The café was large and covered two floors. The tables had white cloths and a menu was taken to you. The speciality was the pastries. The cream buns were to die for. So fresh and so sweet.

The large windows overlooking the street below were steamed up and foggy from all the heat. A great babbling noise arose from the crowded room. Rapid conversations, some bi-lingual ones too.

The waitresses wore black dresses with white bibs and hair bands of white broderie anglaise. Looking very smart and stepping lightly as they lifted and served. Chatter everywhere and tinkling cups.

Eventually it was time to load up the bus and start for home. Another year and the outings are almost over. The bus headed through Shantalla, with the houses in rows emitting smoke from the chimneys, past the city cemetery with high crosses showing above the boundary wall. Past the pink shop at the edge of traffic and crowds. Motoring on and bouncing over boggy roads, to the smell of diesel fumes on the road back to Cong. When we arrived in the village, it was very dark. My friend then told me that she was staying over-night in the village, with her grandmother. No one was coming to collect me.

I found myself standing on the footpath, alone. No one in sight to help, and the only sound was the rushing water of the river in Autumn spate. What was I to do? Dark trees and forest surrounded the village. I looked down at my light red shoes. My London aunty had sent them to me. They were highly fashionable in that city. Thin leather soles and bright red uppers It was going to be a tough  two-mile walk.


Heading out of the village alone, I walked as quickly as I could. Trees stood tall each side of the road and high stone walls. I tried to pound the road as hard as I could to create the illusion of a bigger and weightier person. If anyone were lurking ,my childish thinking informed the notion that I was an adult. On I walked and when I arrived at a spot where there was a break in the wall, a relic from a previous storm from a large fallen tree, I nearly fainted. A breached wall could hide a lot. My heart beat a loud tattoo and the blood in my ears crashed loudly too.

Eventually I came to the end of the Woods and climbing a small hill, fields and houses lay ahead. A yellow orb of light was coming towards me. Quickly stepping off the road, I hid and waited. A person spoke out loudly. I stood under an over-hanging ivy clad bush. I waited. Doubts about who the person was and how safe was I? My ears were thumping very loudly. A woman’s voice called out,

“ Is that you Margaret ? the person asked, loudly.

I realised it was my mother. She had come to find me. Joy of joy.

I learned my lesson. Some people will always be there for you.

Mother might not always be beside me, but she would always be with me in my heart.

That was my last choir outing.





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