Many years ago I used to visit an old lady called Miss Dunne who lived on Nicholas Street in Limerick city. She was in her eighties then and was one of the ‘old stock’ of the city, a lady who had never married and lived alone in a tiny two-roomed apartment in a building known as the ‘Widows Alms Houses’. As an energetic youth I was part of a team who visited the people who lived there on a weekly basis and did whatever we could to be of assistance, from painting and decorating to shopping or simply sitting down and having a chat. Many of the residents were great characters who had a repository of information on the changing face of the city and it was an education to our inexperienced ears , as we revelled in their tales of yesteryear and how tough it was growing up in the early 1900’s. Miss Dunne was by far the most endearing of the locals and was well known by passers by on the street as she was a familiar figure who always had time to engage in conversation and discuss the gossip of the day. As she got older and became confined to her house the visitors came to see her, and keep her up to date with all that was going on outside. Every time I called to see her she would have kept a copy of the ‘Ireland’s Own’ for me. The magazine was a pot-pouri of lightweight articles covering Irish history ,literature and culture with a special emphasis on short stories that were nostalgic and romantic. This little magazine has been a feature of Irish life since its establishment in 1902 and was a response at the time to the influx of British newspapers and magazines that were seen as dangerous to the morals of the nation!
A unique feature of ‘Ireland’s Own’ is that it is based in Wexford and not in Dublin giving it an authentic ‘country’ flavour as distinct from an urban sophisticated view. Of course it has long been a favourite with Ireland's large emigrant community especially in Britain bringing a little piece of home to those who were compelled to travel across the water to find work. I liked the magazine for its snippets of biography, poems and words of songs and also because it has an old-fashioned feel to it, giving it a timeless quality of enduring appeal. One of the biggest thrills of my life was having a short-story accepted for publication a couple of years ago, the buzz of seeing my name printed in the ‘Ireland’s Own’ - fame at last!
Miss Dunne faithfully kept every issue of the magazine for me and even when she had to go to a nursing home and leave her beloved home, each time I visited there was always at least one of the magazines waiting for me. My visits became less frequent and I vividly remember the last occasion as I entered the ward and saw her bed empty. The nurse explained that she had died some weeks before and as I turned to leave she called me back. There carefully tucked away inside the locker was a bag of magazines with my name on it, a magazine for every week that I had failed to visit!
The ‘Ireland’s Own’ is still going strong and I regularly read it ' remembering the kindness and faithfulness of old Miss Dunne. In fact there is a regular feature in the magazine called ‘Miss Flanagan Investigates’ which always reminds me of my kindly benefactor from Nicholas Street who fed my ‘habit’ for wholesome reading all those years ago.