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The year is 1960 and I’m seven years old sitting with my mother, father and six siblings in Billy Diggins' taxi.

We are driving from Thurles in Tipperary to Tramore in Waterford.

My father doesn’t drive so we rent this taxi to take us. There are no seat belts. Billy Diggins doesn’t talk.

He wears a battered fedora hat even while driving.

But it is bedlam, the excitement like something out of "Arabian Nights." We are off to an exotic place. It is only 70 miles but might as well be in Africa.


The guesthouse we are staying in is full of kids and we are in heaven.

There is a grove nearby name of Murphy’s Grove where we play Cowboys and Indians.

We walk to the Metal Man, a big statue looming on a cliff looking out to sea. We are on the beach all day. We fight a lot.

We pick periwinkles and eat them; my mother takes solitary walks on the beach, probably the only time she gets to be alone in her adult life.

My father reads. He is always reading and listening to news on the old radio set in the digs. The dial is set to Athlone.

Nothing ever happens.

We are in heaven.

A year later we are in hell. We are due to go to Tramore.

I am now eight and it is the highlight of my life.

My sister Derval takes ill and we can’t go.

I go to the girls' bedroom as it is known and I abuse her at the top of my voice.

She is dying of a sore throat.

I am extremely mean to her. I have never been so disappointed in my life before or since.

Next year we don’t go to Tramore. We go to Annestown also in Waterford also on the sea.

It is more remote. There is no grove to play in.

On Sunday the taxi does not come to bring us to mass. We are a few miles outside town.

We are too many to walk.

The idea of missing mass would crucify my father, my mother less so.

So we climb into Delaney’s car about 14 of us, including the Delaney family from Dublin.

We go to mass.

Next year I am bored.

It rains. We sit on the beach, nine of us with a picnic while the rain pours. We have one warm day, but my father, who was petrified of wasps, was chased by one and stung.

We go home.

The next year we move to Drogheda near Dublin where my dad has a new teaching job.

Our summers are never the same.