When we in the Women's Group were initially asked by Treasa to each think of some of the women who had inspired us, I immediately thought of names such as: Mary Robinson, Nell McCafferty, Nuala Fennel, Mary Kenny, Germaine Greer and Susie Orbach. All of these women enlightened me; guided and moulded my thinking as I morphed from teenager to young woman in the late 1970s.
So yes, I could have picked any one of the aforementioned women; truth be known, probably the reason I haven't is I would find it quite difficult to single out just one of them. For they each helped me to 'cut my feminist teeth' and for that I am eternally grateful to each and every one of them.
Instead I am going to pay a tribute to a woman called Mrs. Alice Connolly.
Mrs. Connolly- ( I always did find it peculiar, in my childhood, how all married women were addressed as 'Mrs', even by a close female friend-but I digress ). Mrs. Connolly lived one field away from my home so growing up I spent a lot of time in her house. She was a lovely jovial woman and possessed that rare quality of never appearing to be in a hurry. Nor do I remember having ever seen her angry. She had no children of her own, which was a pity as I feel she would have been a superb mum.
Some of my fondest memories of her were the times I spent in her company as she allowed me to help her with her latest craft endeavour. I didn't know it at the time (it only dawned on me years later) that dear Mrs Connolly was making things up as she went along.
She loved to keep me in suspense, and so I remember spending what I recall as a very long afternoon simply cutting up old pairs of tights into thin strips of material. We then tied all of these pieces end to end. In reply to my umpteenth time to ask what it was that we were going to make, her response was always the same; "You'll just have to wait and see". This answer was generally delivered with a mischievous grin. Then alas, the magic part; I sat and watched in awe as she skillfully crocheted the most unique fireside rug that I had ever seen in all my then eight years on this planet.
Then there was the time that she told us that she was collecting ice-lolly pop sticks, and could all seven of us children also collect them. So we all saved our own sticks after a maybe once a week treat; no ice-lolly or sweets treats for us children every day back in the 1970s! After many, many months of us all collecting the sticks Mrs. Connolly announced to myself and my younger sister, Patricia that she was going to help us make a jewelry box for our mothers' 40th birthday. Then under her guidance and supervision we crafted a most exquisite jewelery box, complete with a hinged lid, lined with beautiful red satin material, and encrusted all over the outside with tiny pieces of green, blue, brown and clear glass which she had us carefully embed into the putty.
As an aside, after my mum passed away five years ago I discovered that same jewellery box tucked away in a drawer. It goes without saying that it obviously meant a lot to my mum.
There were many more delightful craft projects me and my sisters (we were seven girls in a row and then two boys) completed under the excellent tutelage of our beloved neighbour.
All of what I recall here may appear mundane and run of the mill to some of you younger readers. As nowadays we only have to go on YouTube and when you search 'Crafts' hundreds of instruction videos will pop up. But what I find fascinating and inspiring is that Mrs. Connolly thought up most of these craft ideas herself. Sure she would have gleaned some of them from Women's magazines and newspaper articles, such as were available and read by her. However what really inspired me, and has in no small way influenced my own dabbling in crafts, was her resourcefulness and ingenuity in reusing waste materials to create beautiful one of a kind craft