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  • Southside

Nostalgic items preserved for life

Monday, 17th December, 2018 1:00pm
Nostalgic items preserved for life

Ellen Gunning and Majella McAllister at the handing over of the books at the Museum of Childhood in Dún Laoghaire.

Nostalgic items preserved for life

Ellen Gunning and Majella McAllister at the handing over of the books at the Museum of Childhood in Dún Laoghaire.

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DID you ever find yourself wondering what you would do with ‘old things’ that had been in the family for years? That was the dilemma I faced when we moved to a new house earlier this year. 

I suddenly found myself looking at things and trying to decide if they should go to a charity shop, be given to family members or just be binned. One of the ‘things’ I had, which I really wasn’t sure what to do with, was a collection of 18 old summer annuals (1930-1950). The books have been in my family for years and were handed down.

The family were the Nicholsons. Ellen (Byrne) and Edward Nicholson married on 29 April 1924. They lived at 11 Brighton Terrace, Ringsend Road (which later became 85 Ringsend Road) in Dublin. They had four children: John (Jack) was born in 1925; Ellen (Nellie), my mother was born in 1927; James (Jimmy) arrived in 1929; and Marie, the baby of the family, was born in 1933. 

They lived in that house in Ringsend all their lives and the annuals were in the house from the time they were given them  as children. Ten of the annuals are inscribed: four to my mother (Nellie) from Auntie Eva (Christmas 1937, 1938 & 1939) and one from Uncle Charley. Five are inscribed to her brother Jack; one from Auntie Cissie (Christmas 1937); one from Auntie Eva (Christmas 1939); one from Carmel (his cousin); one from Uncle Charley; and one from Jim McCourt (don’t know who he is!). 

Jimmy definitely owns two of the books (his name is on them) but only one is inscribed, from Auntie Eva. The others were most likely bought second-hand. Some are dated (1927, 1952 & 1953).

In time, they all grew up and all got married from that house. My mother and father lived in Sandymount and Donnybrook, but returned to Ringsend when they bought the house from my grandmother (my mother’s mother) about five or six years after they married. My grandmother (Ellen Nicholson) continued to live with us until her death in 1967. 

My mother, Nellie, and my father, Michael Whelan, had four children, of whom I’m the eldest – Ellen, James (Jim), Julie and Gerard. Like the previous generation, we were all married from that house. My mother continued to live there until her death 30 years later in 1997. The books passed to me on her death and the house was later sold when my father remarried in 2006. He is now happily living with his second wife in Wicklow.

When I moved house earlier this year, I found myself looking at the books and wondering what I would do with them. I saw no point in keeping them  – I don’t think I’ve ever opened them in the 20 years since my mother died. None of my brothers or sister had an interest in them. I didn’t think a charity shop would want them as they’re too old. But I couldn’t bring myself to throw them out; I was in a right pickle about them. 

Then, out of the blue, I was leaving the Bank of Ireland in Dún Laoghaire one day and I spotted a pull-up banner for the Museum of Childhood. It was my lightbulb moment. I contacted Majella McAllister and asked if the museum would be interested in them. She immediately said that they would love them. I was looking for a good home for the books – and I’m absolutely delighted that I’ve found it.

Ellen Gunning is director of the Irish Academy of Public Relations, a private college providing corporate training and online education in PR, journalism, event management, radio and television skills. 

Ellen and Michael Whelan’s four children: Gerard on Ellen Gunning’s lap, Julie (beside her) and Jim (behind), taken in Wexford in  1969 .

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