Monday, May 6, 2013

And now our Post Mistress!

In the above photo, Maura Moriarty in the blue dress, Myra Lyons from Beverly, Massachusetts, Fr. Edward Moriarty, and their cousin who was not named. Taken in Derrynane Hotel in August 1977. Father Moriarty wrote that they had a big party that night with more from Boston.

We have heard about Maura Moriarty several times - I visited her once but I went unprepared - I had no questions ready for her. Maura later gave my letter to Father Moriarty. And Father James Moriarty mentioned Maura singing at the end of Moriarty Reunion in Killarney. 

The following article by Deidre Walsh appeared in the Kerryman, but I don't have a date for it.

"She walks along the road wearing a bright yellow jumper, accompanied by her new dog, Rover.

On seeing the strange car rounding the bend near Caherdaniel Post Office, she immediately presumes it's the reporter who has travelled from Tralee to visit her.

And before the bemused reporter has time to take in events, owner and dog are inside the car, all chat and welcomes and giving directions to her house.

After five minutes in Maura Moriarty's company, it's easy to see why she thoroughly enjoyed her 25 years as the Caherdaniel post mistress. This is a woman who truly loves people,  regardless of their nationality, age, or religious persuasion. 

Maura has just concluded a long and distinguished career with An Post. Already, she's relishing every minute of her retirement, but she's anxious to reminisce on her days behind the counter.
However, her immediate concern is for the stranger in front of her who can't stop coughing.

'You shouldn't be out at all with that cough, let alone driving all the way down here to talk to me,' she scolds.

'Sit down there now and I'll take your coat. You need tea for that cough and I know I have a bit of fruitcake somewhere.'

So motherly is this woman that it's hard to believe she never married and never had any kids of her own. She's the type of person who would instantly adopt you and make you feel like one of the family. 

Two mugs of tea and several slices of fruitcake later, she looks back on her early days in Caherdaniel.

The only girl in the middle of a family of two boys, she originally planned to make a new life for herself in America, but found she couldn't settle there.

'I was in a beauty parlor in Bosie, Idaho when news came in about President Kennedy being shot.  All the hairdressers ran out into the street crying. I reached for my rosary beads straight away to pray for him; he was such a beautiful boy, it was such a pity.'

She found America didn't suit her.

'I found they had everything and they had nothing. Too much of good things doesn't suit me. There isn't a bit of worldliness here in Caherdaniel and people lead simple lives. I found that suited me much better.'

'I joined the post office in Caherdaniel as post mistress in 1968. In those days, you had to run the phones as well but, in the beginning that was easy enough.

'You had to work until ten at night and nobody made phonecalls after that,' she recalls. 'Then the hotel was built in 1969 and they demanded that the phones be available around the clock. That meant I could hardly ever get out of the house because I couldn't leave the switchboard.'

The determined post mistress soon got fed up of the primitive equipment she was forced to work with. Rather than go through the usual channels of writing letters requesting improvements, she decided to go to the very top with her complaint.

'About 11 years ago, Michael Smurfit was visiting the area and I asked him in to watch me for a while: he sat mesmerized for a half an hour watching me trying to cope with the primitive equipment. That was that problem solved,' she laughs.

Maura is fiercely proud of Caherdaniel and though she's traveled around the world, she thinks there is nowhere like her home place.
She walks to the window and points out at the beautiful view of the sea to illustrate her point.

'I'm always boasting about Caherdaniel. The Lord blesses us with great beauty here and it's gradually being discovered. I predicted years ago that this place would become another Devon and Cornwall, a sort of heaven for retired people, and I'm being proved right.'

Maura prides herself in being able to remember the same people coming back year after year. She speaks fluent Irish, reasonably fluent French and has smatterings of Italian and German. 

'It's nice to be able to greet people in their own language and to have a few useful words for when they want to post letters. French people, in particular, really appreciate it when you make the effort.'

'In a place like Caherdaniel, the post office doesn't just provide the postal services; it's like a tourist information office as well, and sometimes an estate agent. I've often had people calling in for advice on whether or not they should buy a property. I usually tell them to sleep on it.'

The tourists, she reckons, are sometimes more appreciative of the beauty of Caherdaniel than the locals. 'I often heard them describe the place as a little piece of heaven. Some of them come here for a holiday and finish up deciding to retire here.'

And speaking of retiring, Maura is looking forward to having more time to herself now that her career in the post office has drawn to a close.

'I'm good with my hands: I love cooking and baking and I do a bit of knitting and sewing as well. And I've been in lots of plays here, we're big into drama.'

Maura is also very musical - at the moment she is teaching herself to play the Yamaha keyboard and she's already an accomplished accordion player, although Rover the dog has been known to howl when she starts practising.

As a farewell, she picks up the accordion and sings a song called 'How can I Forget You.'

'Not you dear; An post,' she laughs mischievously."

Now let's see what brought Maura and Father Edward's uncle James Moriarty to Boise, Idaho.

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