I will begin with the fact that I drove past the country chapel where Mrs. Rooney's funeral was being held as the lone lonesome bell tolled inside the gray spire. I did not stop because I had no direct connection with the passing of the retired local schoolteacher.
I was thinking, though, as I passed on my way, about the reality that folklore is an organic living thing, not like history at all. New layers are always being added.
I heard some details about what occurred during the ceremony later, but already I knew so much about the entire story.
Dillon was a past pupil of Mrs. Rooney until he was 14 years old. He left school then because his farmer father was ailing. That was probably to his benefit.
Folk born and bred in the high mountains of the west often have brightly different brains. He had one of those. I have heard it argued that higher education often blunts the sharp pragmatic edges of such brains.
That may be so. Leaving education early certainly did not hinder Dillon's walk through life. In addition to helping out on the farm he also was apprenticed to the local electrician and was always briskly busy after he qualified.
But let's go back to his schooldays under Mrs. Rooney. She had been married to Rooney seven years at the time, having arrived into the parish from the next district. She was a tall angular lady who was hugely respected by all.
Rooney was a respected local farmer, a decent, quiet man, and it would have been said it was a good marriage. But let's venture into folklore again.
Rooney was a twin whose married sister in the town had three children, and the old folk's folklore often strongly holds that one twin has a high chance of infertility. After seven years for whatever reason Mrs. Rooney was still childless. That was perhaps why, from the very first classroom day, she was so obviously fond of Dillon.
He was a bright, handsome little boy, always well-behaved. More than that, he had brown eyes exactly like those of his teacher. He probably resembled the son she would have liked to mother.
She told the priest's housekeeper more than once how much she would have wished for children. It never happened and there were no fertility clinics back then of course.
Classmates knew quickly that she always looked very fondly upon Dillon when he was in class. Sometimes she would stand behind him in the classroom with her hands on his shoulders. That was remembered.
He left school. He became the local electrician. He married one of the Quigley daughters and they had two children in the first four years.
When rural electrification reached the parish Mrs. Rooney booked him to wire their home for the new era. During the three days it took to connect the house to the power grid the two of them were seen sitting chatting easily over tea and sandwiches on the porch.
Nobody knows what the conversations were about, but they were clearly close. This was proven the following September when Dillon's third child arrived, his first daughter.
He deviated from local tradition when that happened and asked Mrs. Rooney if she would come to the baptism ceremony and act as the child's godmother. The child, too, was given the teacher's Christian name of Susan. I have viewed a black and white photograph taken outside the chapel after the christening. Mrs. Rooney is beaming widely, serenely, as she holds the godchild as if she was the birth mother. A striking shot in more ways than one.
In the years that followed the whole parish knew she was a model godmother to the child, especially in the years after her retirement from teaching and the premature death from a heart attack of Rooney. She was especially helpful to her godchild when she went to university with the intention of becoming a teacher.
I said earlier that I heard details of what happened inside the chapel at the funeral. The priest and people present, many of them her past pupils, paid warm tributes to their old teacher.
The climax of the ceremony was when Susan Dillon, with a voice as clear as a silver bell, sang "Amazing Grace" into what one could call a very special silence.
That, too, will go into the folklore.