growing up in ireland -- 3/23/18

Today's selection -- from 'Tis Herself by Maureen O'Hara with John Nicoletti. Maureen O'Hara (nee FitzSimons, 1920 - 2015), soon to be a Hollywood star appearing with such leading men as John Wayne and Tyrone Power, grew up in a strict family in Ireland:

"My favorite childhood memories are of all of [my family] together. 'Here come the beautiful FitzSimons,' the neighbors would say as our family strolled across Beechwood Avenue on our way to Mass each Sunday. We walked in rows of two, with heads high, Charles and Rita FitzSimons behind their six children, always in gorgeous clothes that Mammy had designed. Daddy always with his silver-handled walking stick and his spats, Mammy never without a mag­nificent hat and eye veil, we were an elegant family and we knew it and loved it and were proud of it.

O'Hara with her mother, Marguerite FitzSimons in 1948

"We were raised in a strict house. Daddy and Mammy were very old­fashioned by today's standards. We were shown great affection, but could also be disciplined with a strap when it was deserved. No nonsense was tol­erated. Church every Sunday, since God was at the heart of our family life. Impeccable manners and proper etiquette were expected at all times. Rude­ness or showing off was never appropriate. We were taught a strong work ethic. When Mammy or Daddy told me to do something, I was told with a smile and I accepted it with a smile. 'Give your best day's work for a day's pay,' they would say.

"We kids always ate in the kitchen, and were allowed to eat in the dining room with Daddy and Mammy only on certain holidays. They ate alone every evening; this was their special time together. They both had demanding careers. Mammy began as an apprentice to a local high-fashion couturier and eventually went out on her own. She opened a showroom and had four floors of workrooms where tailors, seamstresses, and millinery workers made the one-of-a-kind clothes she designed -- nothing off the rack. Daddy was also in the clothing business as the manager of the Irish operations for a large British manufacturer, mostly working in fine hats.

O'Hara (right) with sisters Margot and
Florrie in 1947

"Before dinner was served each night, we all had to line up in front of Daddy and tell him what we had done wrong during the day. We all squirmed in our shoes, trying to find the right words to use so that whatever we had done wouldn't sound so awful. It taught us diplomacy.

"But I loved our nights together most of all. Every night, just before we went to bed, the whole family would snuggle in front of the fireplace and lis­ten to Mammy and Daddy sing. Mammy sang classical music, German lieder and opera arias. She sang them in German, Italian, French, and English. My favorite was 'Den Hammer er Schwinget' ("'The Hammer He Swings'), about a blacksmith making shoes for horses. Daddy sang old, old Irish folk songs, like 'There Was an Old Man.' I loved it so much that I also dreamed of being an opera singer. Each night ended with us all saying our prayers be­fore we drifted off to sleep."



Maureen O'Hara with John Nicoletti


'Tis Herself: An Autobiography


Simon & Schuster Paperbacks


Copyright 2004 by Maureen O'Hara and John Nicoletti


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