Portlaoise family's sweet story told in RTÉ radio documentary

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

A lovely story about a Laois family was told to the nation last Saturday August 3 in a radio documentary.

The RTÉ Radio 1 Documentary on One story is centred around Clonad and Portlaoise.

Called “I Hope you will be home soon”, it tells the story of the Delaney family through a series of letters found after the passing of Nan Delaney (nee Whelan) from Clonad.

The documentary is delivered through the reading of letters written by her children that were carefully kept by Nan in a wooden box.
Her surviving children are Dick, Phil, Mary, Teresa, John Joe and Catherine. The documentary is made by Phil's daughter.

Nan Delaney was born in Clonad, Portlaoise in 1916 and travelled to Manchester as teenager with her sisters for work. A childhood illness meant that her lungs were weak and her ill health meant that she had to return home.

She married Johnnie in in 1944 and together they had eight children. Her first two babies died near birth.

Clonad is a small townland that is now bisected by the main Cork to Dublin road. If you are travelling down the M7 their old farmhouse is just visible over the hedge.

The family had a small-holding and the children went to the national school nearby. But in 1962 Nan’s lung troubles returned, coughing blood she was brought to Peamount Hospital in Dublin, then Ireland’s largest sanatorium for TB.

Her children were aged 15 years to 9 months, and to them, Peamount was a million miles away. They wrote to their mother with news of home, of country life and how their baby sister was faring on a diet of cows' milk and Marietta biscuits.

“Dear Mammy, Catherine is well and she wore her good pink cardigan Sunday. It fits her lovely. Sheila's ducks are laying and she can't keep them off the road,” one such little letter reads.

The children didn’t know if their mother would return, and neither did Nan.  However she did return after six months having had a lung operation.

The wooden box was kept private by Nan, and also included details of when each of her children as they grew, as well as newspaper clippings, and locks of hair. It was only opened by the family after Nan's death in recent years.

Listen to the full documentary on the RTE website here.