Hat in the Hall. A journal entry by Aoife Maguire

I never met my maternal grandfather, John Hackett. He died on his 64th birthday, two years before I was born. But I know this:

• he worked for CIE,
• he voted Labour,
• he loved his greyhounds,
• he liked a quick Mass,
• he lived on this street all his life, moving only three doors up when he got married,
• he enjoyed working out the odds of the football pools,
• he did Spot the Ball and all the other Sunday papers competitions,
• he polished everyone’s shoes every evening
• he was forever drinking cups of tea,
• he was a devoted and loving son, husband, brother, and especially father,
• he was down to earth, warm, and had a wry sense of humour.

And his hat still hangs in our hall.

One of my favourite stories about my grandfather is that one time when my mother dared to walk down the street in a pair of jeans, she was planning to go on a hike later that day, her own mother walking the other way refused to look her in the eye. However, her dad turned and gave her a wink.
I was reminded of this yesterday.

Because yesterday, had things been normal, we would have attended a funeral. We would have paid our respects in the normal way; turned up, shook hands, brought sandwiches, drunk cups of tea. We would have gone through the motions of the ritual of an Irish funeral, and while acknowledging the grief of the bereaved, would have hoped that our presence could have brought even the tiniest bit of comfort.

Now I understand that when all this is over, there will be other ceremonies to replace the ceremonies which haven’t taken place. There will be alternative christenings, naming ceremonies, graduations, weddings, and memorial services. But yesterday, this was of little consolation.

I do want to say this, though: “you won’t be forgotten.”

Because nearly fifty years on a hat can still rest on an old coat stand in a hall. And even though I never met the wearer, every time I pass I can feel his warmth, hear his wry sense of humour, and see the wink that said, “you’re grand, this will all blow over, I love you.”


Hi, my name is Aoife Maguire. I write poems, plays and screenplays. I teach English as a foreign language. And I am currently training to be a counsellor/ psychotherapist. I blog here – this blog began in lockdown, and is my own personal response to the Covid-19 crisis.

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