Brenda Fricker in 'My Left Foot'

Our Irish-based correspondent Paddy Clancy recently reported that a study carried out at the department of psychology at the University of Limerick by lead researcher Elaine Kinsella said parents, particularly mothers, were regularly cited as heroes.

Batman, Superman, and the entire Justice League were also mentioned on the list, but were no match for the Irish mammy at the end of the day!

Kinsella said, “Traditional descriptions referred to heroes in masculine terms and often described those who risk their own lives to help others. But we found that although many types of heroes exist, the most frequently mentioned hero is one’s mother.”

When the research participants were asked to define heroic characteristics, they emphasized the need for evidence of self-sacrifice and moral integrity, qualities found in parents and mothers.

Had I been asked to partake in the survey, the definition of hero as described above would have probably led me to pick my Limerick-born mother as well.

My mother has made sacrifices too numerous to mention in this limited space for the sake of her sons.
Though we had an excellent school system in our town, my mother took extra shifts as a waitress to make sure there was enough to send us to the premier Catholic high school in the county.

We didn’t go out for many meals or have maids clean our house.  Mom did all of that herself so that we could save money and see our way to Ireland every few years so that we didn’t lose touch with our culture and the family we had there.

I’ve never met a more honest woman and to be sure, you have the best fighting chance in life when you have my mother in your corner.

Though you don’t always want to hear her advice (and quite often you got it even when you didn’t ask for it), her judgment is rock solid, and the direction she gives is from a moral compass steeped in her deep Catholic faith.

Even after she leaves this earth, it will be her voice inside my head that will keep me on the straight and narrow with a mixture of no nonsense common sense and a pinch of Irish guilt for good measure!

Speaking of that little voice inside your head and the pinch of Irish guilt, I’m wondering if that was behind the overwhelming number of Irish sons that picked their mammy as their top hero over Batman.

You can almost hear that voice go to work on the poor fella as he filled in the circles of the survey with his number two pencil.

“Batman is a fine choice for a hero I suppose. He’s a bit dark, though, isn’t he? I remember ye being afraid of the dark and sure, I don’t remember Batman or Robin signing up to strip the sheets when yeh wet yer bed when I shut out the lights...”

The pencil would drift away from the Batman choice in favor of Superman instead. Not so fast!

“Jaysis, I coulda used a Superman around the house when ye were growing up! He could have flown to the supermarket before it closed at 11 when you sprung on me at bed time that you needed supplies for an art project that was due the next morning.

“He wasn’t flyin’ around the house when ye needed him most--that choice is almost as odd as yer man with the utility belt.”

I suppose an Irish mammy might be able to live with Batman or Superman, but God forbid you put another woman over her.

“Wonder Woman?! Funny, I don’t remember any girleen swooping in to rescue yeh with her invisible plane and lasso when Matthew McCabe was set to beat the stuffin’ outta yeh when we lived on Liberty Avenue, but if that floozy really is your choice, fair play to yeh.”

Batman had his gadgets, Wonder Woman had her lasso, and Superman had that strength and x-ray vision. But when the lead hit the paper on the survey, none of those super powers are a match for an Irish mother’s guilt!

(Mike Farragher’s book and blog can be found on