Empathy Day stories
Published 03 Jun 2021

Local writing groups have been writing on the theme of empathy to celebrate Empathy Day on 10 June. Read some completed works by the Tandragee Scribblers below. You can also check out our recommended reading for Empathy Day.

Old
I am the salt of your existence
Steeped in the brine of experience
Chiselled from the rock of inheritance
Calloused by opportunity and chance
Honed by the measure of love and sorrow -
I am you tomorrow.

- Janet Maxwell, Tandragee Scribblers

Character Study of a Portrait

Born 3 miles outside the village of Lisnacarn in 1928 Patsy Conby was the eldest of five children. He and his sisters, Ellen , Marie, Elizabeth and May. They were all watched over by their mother Theresa who had struggled endlessly to provide for them given that their father , Barney had been lost in the war. The family never spoke much about what happened to him and Patsy only knew that he had died `on operation` somewhere in N. Africa in the early part of the war.
This had meant that Patsy had to grow up very quickly and help his mother look after the farm, his sisters and allow her to attend her other job at the factory in the village.
As he sits now, waiting for his photo to be taken, he thinks back to the early days of his life in the home place. A two bed room mud floor single storey home at the end of a long lane . This long lane eventually led to another long lane and eventually a mesh of lanes led to the main road which took him into Lisnacarn and school. School itself was a single room divided in two with a teacher at either end , each teaching a group of children of various ages in their junior years.
But school was not so much about learning as meeting some of the children who lived round and about on other farms much like their own.
When his father went off to war. Its something they weren`t supposed to talk about he remembers. When his father went off to war Patsy more or less left school and did what he could about the farm to look after the animals but then had to learn about cereal crops and how to grow them as part of the war effort.

He remembers too , the Tilly lamps the open fire and hanging griddle. He remembers nights when the wind blew and the hale spattered against the roof and door . They would all huddle around the fire, the girls talking about school and he saying what he had to do the next day about having to go into the village to pick up some seeds and his mother making sure everyone was sorted for clothes, something to eat and to drink for tomorrow.
Bed time came and the girls would all climd into the double bed in the next room. All except Ellen , the eldest, she had her own makeshift mattress on the floor in the corner. Patsy had the same in the main room which he shared with his mother.
Time went by so quickly. His sisters all grew up got married and moved away from the home place . They didn`t move too far as things were very local then. That is except his youngest sister May , she and her family migrated to Canada he recalls . He never seen her again. She never came home and some time after she moved his sister Elizabeth told him that she had died of Cancer she thought it was but no one was very sure,

He himself had never moved from the home place. Had never married nor travelled very far from his townland. He did eventually have electricity and running water connected and remembers of an evening sitting listening to the football on the wireless one of his sisters had bought him . He maybe had a bottle of stout he had bought in the village of an odd time.
He had never played football himself but used to enjoy , the Craic when listening to the banter in McDaids, the pub in the village on the very rare occasion that he ventured that far of an evening.

He looks now at his calloused hands . The result of many years of manual labour in the soil, with fencing and of hauling and heaving to get things straight or released. Of being open to the weather, battered by the wind and rain the hale and snow in winter. Bronzed by the gentle breeze and sun of a summers day.

He is thinking of this as someone takes his hand , a nurse perhaps. She says , ` Come on Patsy, your photos done . Boy you’re a handsome looking man. You’ve had your breakfast so we have to go and join everyone else in the lounge. The activity nurse is coming this morning to let you and all the others do some exercise.
Patsy thought of all the stooping and bending , the pushing and pulling he had had to do for over 60 years and asked her, ` why does she think I need to do some more ???

- Arnold Carville, Tandragee Scribblers

WINDOWS

Sun-sanded and storm-battered
and the leathering of his skin,
his eyes, at times frozen and watchful,
hint at secrets, secreeted deep within.
Secrets of longheld or lost ambitions,
or harsh things said, and things not meant,
of suspicions or superstitions,
or the resting face of one content?
Where is he now, is he still living
and was that secret ever shared,
were old wounds healed, perhaps forgiven,
was he mourned by those who cared?
In those eyes, the windows of the soul,
do we see the whole in part, or just a part in whole?

- Paul Gilmore, Tandragee Scribblers (14 May 2021)

Empathy Day 2021

Empathy Day creative writing

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