Do you ever look back at your childhood and your upbringing and realise you have turned into one or both of your parents? For me, it is not necessarily a bad thing. I grew up with the most wonderful parents and it wasn't until I had a child myself did I realise what they did for both me and my sister throughout the years. They shaped us. I would not be who I am today with my parents and their massive influence.
We weren’t from a wealthy background, very much working class, but both my mother and father are work horses - my father in particular. I do not know any man like him; he is my hero in so many ways. Let me tell you why.
Our house was built in 1825. It was an old school that my grandfather bought when the new school was built in the 1960s up the road. It had two classrooms and two fireplaces and that was it. We grew up on a demolition site all our lives. My dad worked in a hardware shop in Tullamore and every spare minute, he was doing something with the house. When I mean we were living in a demolition site, I am not joking. At one stage all four of us were sleeping in one room, while scaffolding was holding up the new roof he had put in. We usually had a hole or leak in part of the house, and there was always an extensive list of jobs that had to be done. It is finished now, although my mother would tell you otherwise. She has a keen eye for interior design, so she will never be finished with it. But to me, it is perfect. It was a labour of love for all of us.
All of my childhood my father worked at our house, he replaced the roof slate by slate, made the kitchens (one of which was reclaimed from his fathers work bench in our shed), did all the rewiring, all the plumbing, lay the timber floors, poured the concrete, made us dollhouses, welded back together our go karts and replaced our punctured tires. When we were little kids, we would go hiking up the Slieve Bloom every Sunday and he would carry us (usually me) on the way back when our little legs gave up. He read us bedtime stories, real stories, not fairy tales where the woman was always saved by the man, real stories that my sister and I starred in, and we were explorers or inventors. He drove us around to shows and cheered us on over the kickboards when we competed in the local show every Friday night.
During this time, he also started up Tullamore astronomical society, which later became the biggest astronomical society in the country. He built telescopes and taught us all about stars, planets, and how to identify constellations in the sky. He also built his own darkroom to develop his own images of the moon that he captured in the observatory. In later years, he built a new observatory, engineered a rotating dome that looks like something out of Armagh planetarium. He also made rockets, casted aluminium, and gave lectures in schools and universities, all this from a man who left school after his Intercert (Junior Cert). That’s my daddy. A man of many talents. Sure how could he not be my hero?
My daddy put a big emphasis on being yourself and following your own journey, like he did. I always say they broke the mould when they made him. His primary goal was to ensure we were happy and to equip us with as much knowledge in as many areas as he could. My dad is one of those people that helps people wherever he can, always volunteering, raising money, donating blood, helping our elderly neighbours, you name it. I like to think I get that sense of community from him; it was instilled in us, and it is ingrained into our very being. We know nothing else, and I am grateful for him shaping me into the woman I have become.
My daddy showed us how to weld, how to use the bandsaw, the lathe, the key cutting machine, the difference between a Philips and a posi drive screwdriver, and how to bring back an old wood wormed piece of furniture to its former glory. He has a massive passion for preserving the old and he certainly passed that trait on to me, too. I laid all the concrete in the yard with him and screeded it with him every Saturday until the yard was complete. I helped him reroof the sheds as he tried to teach me maths equations, (ever the optimist). The man has taught us so much over the years about world history, inventors, engines, dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. He did not treat us any differently because we were girls. I vividly remember people in school thought it was unusual that when I was 8, I got a big yellow tipping dumper for Christmas rather than a Baby Born. In our family, there were no male/female toys and no male/female jobs. I never thought it was unusual that we learned how to use tools and spent our summers making stuff out of old bits of timber or making swimming pools out of polythene. My mother and father instilled in us that if a person wants to do something, their sex should not be a deciding factor.
My dad never saw us as girls, he saw us as his children, and he wanted to impart his knowledge on to us, and he still does. He is still the first person I call if I need to know anything about so many subjects. And he still amazes me every day. He even made my first stable and built Sam his first crib.
That is why Equitas is so important to me. Our industry is full of limitations for girls. I spent my whole childhood/teenage years not understanding these limitations I faced because I never faced them at home. I know my dad is not like too many others. Their generation isn’t as inclusive as him. He is a maverick among men, but I hope that in the future it becomes more common, more inclusive. Unknowingly, he made me want equity and fairness because that is what we witnessed our whole childhood. So why would I now, in my adulthood, strive for anything less than the standards my parents set for me as a child?
The Ordinary Equestrian