Delia Green was born Delia Newell at Balrobuck, Corrandulla, in the Parish of Annaghdown, on the 5th of February 1915. She was born at a time of great turmoil both nationally and internationally. The Great War (World War 1) was being fought out in Europe, while at home Ireland was trying to gain freedom from its colonial master Britain.
Delia’s father Tim was a blacksmith and the forge where he worked had been in the family for a number of generations. Her mother Mary was Mary Forde from near the present Corrandulla Barracks on the road into Corrandulla village. Delia was one of seven children. Mark, John, Michael, Delia, Nellie, Sonny and May. Sonny, who took over the forge on the death of their father Tim, Nellie (Nellie Lardner) and Delia are still alive and living in the Parish of Annaghdown.
Delia’s life story to date is a fascinating voyage, which took her from Balrobuck to Headford; to Galway; on to Dublin; returning to Mace House; to Greystones, Co. Wicklow; Headfort House, Kells, Co. Meath; Luttrellstown Castle, Clonsilla, Co. Dublin; Foxrock, Dublin; London; Northampton and back to Cloonleenaun, Annaghdown.
One of Delia’s earliest memories in Balrobuck was of the Black and Tans coming to the area one Christmas. She had received a fan in a Christmas stocking and she remembers her grandfather telling her to stop noising it, so as not to attract the attention of the Tans. On that occasion they stopped their lorry at the top of the hill opposite King’s house and they fired shots, ‘for all they were worth’. On another night, at about 11:30pm, her father Tim was on his way home when he saw the lights of an approaching lorry. He jumped into the field. However, the Tans saw the person and stopped their lorry, shouting “Come on! Get out whoever you are”. They made him say “Three cheers for the King”, before telling him to run. However, there was a policeman on board and he advised Tim not to run, as he knew that the Tans would shoot him. The Tans shot into the air and Tim’s life was spared. The policeman knew Tim because Tim’s sister Mary worked for Mr. and Mrs. Alcorn at Kilroe House, where there was a temporary barracks built to protect Mr. Alcorn. Policemen normally travelled with the Black and Tans, presumably because of their local knowledge of the territory and their knowledge of those that would have anti-British sympathies. The Black and Tans (so called because of the colour of their uniforms) were a British auxiliary army that terrorised the country in the years 1919 and 1920.
Delia also remembers hearing of a couple, Killileas from Shanbally, makign their way across fields on their knees, as they were too frightened to stand up for fear of being spotted by the Tans. She further remembers another occasion when theTans burned houses in Balrobuck and the people had to escape into the Cregg. Next morning her mother saw the smoke and could see that Malachy Hardiman’s house was burnt. She remembers going to the Cregg for water as people had wells there.
Delia went to school in Corrandulla G.N.S. and was taught by a Miss Murphy and a Miss Comer. At fourteen and a half years of age, Delia went to the Ivy House in Headford working for a Mr. and Mrs. Shaw. Her aunt Mary who worked previously for the Alcorns of Kilroe House was now working for the Shaws. Mr. Shaw worked in the bank. It was then the National Bank, which later became the Bank of Ireland. She thought it would be for a week as she was only replacing May the Nanny who had to go away for a week. However, she was with the Shaws for 6 or 7 years. In the early 1930s the bank building was knocked to the ground and a new building was built on the site. The Shaw family and Delia left Ivy House, which was below Bridge Street, and moved to the new building. It is still a bank to this day and is situated near the square in Headford.
After Mr. Shaw retired the family moved to live in Galway city, in a house called Anna Mór, which was situtated, at the back of the Warwick Hotel. It was while with the Shaw family that Delia had her first flutter on the horses, a pasttime that has remained with her to this day. Her first Derby gamble involved her betting on two horses. One was named Legran Duc and the other was called Midday Sun. Midday Sun won the race and Legran Duc came third.
After a short time with the Shaw family in Galway city, Delia moved to work in Captain Waithman’s house, which is now Merlin Park Hospital. There were 365 windows in the house. It was at this time that the David Copperfield film was first showing in Galway. It was also during her period of employment in Captain Waithman’s house that Delia had her first, but not to be her last encounter with a ghost. One day while doing the beds, Delia was in the main bedroom. It had a bedroom off it, which was the bridal suite. Delia opened the door and saw a shadow with her hair flying back. She closed the door faster than she opened it. Later, on telling Nurse Burke from Grange, who worked for Mrs Alcorn and Miss Ryan in Mace House about her experience, Miss Burke said that “quite a few people had seen that ghost”. Needless to say, Delia left Captain Waithman’s house in Merlin and returned to the Shaw family for a little while.
She next worked for a Mrs. Murrough, who ran a boarding house. This was hard work. Shortly afterwards Delia took up the job of cook/receptionist for Dr. O’Donnell and his wife and family in Nile Lodge. She talks fondly of her time with this family. Dr. O’Donnell’s wife was a sister of Joseph Mary Plunkett, who was shot for his involvement in the Easter Rising of 1916. Her next employment was in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, for a retired Brigadier. Delia remembers sitting out on the lawn listening to a hurling match between Galway and Cork, where the players got involved in a terrible battle after the match, and proceeded to hit each other with their hurleys.
Dreams have always had a significant meaning in Delia’s life. While with the Brigadier she dreamt one night that he collapsed and died and it came to pass some time later that his death was a carbon copy of the dream Delia had. She had another dream relating to the death of her brother Mark. Mark died on the 8th of March 1935, aged twenty-six and a half years. This was during Delia’s time with the Shaw family. One night Delia dreamt that she was sent out to Lowry’s bakery, which was beside the Bank, for bread. On her way back Pat Divilly sympathised with her on the death of her brother. About a fortnight later Mark died. Delia went home and after a week returned to Headford and the exact scenario she had dreamt about concerning the bread from Lowry’s and receiving sympathy from Pat Divilly on the death of her brother happened.
Dream also had lucky results for her. One night before some big race she dreamt she saw a man in a ‘báineen geansaí’ going across a bog. Next day she read in the newspaper that a horse named Bogscar was running in the main race. Delia put her shilling each way on the horse and it came in at odds of 66 to 1. However, there was a limit to what the bookies would pay out and Delia had to be contented with a 16 to 1 payout.
Delia used to visit Mace House where her Aunt Honor worked for forty years for the Ran family. Mr. Ryan, who was a gentleman farmer, lived in Mace House. A Mr. Bush who was a judge was staying next to Mace House in the big building, which is now knocked. He was waiting on a visit from a boy in the area that was accused of some misdeed. The boy and his mother were on their way to see Mr. Bush, however, on passing the Church in Corrandulla they saw the priest outside reading his missal and they stopped to talk to him. He advised them to stay for the Mass that he was about to say. They did and as a result they were late for their appointment. This annoyed Mr. Bush so much that he decieded to go on horseback to seek them out. However, the horse shied at Cnoc Nápla, where Byrne’s Shop is now. Mr. Bush was thrown off and died. His wife who was an English lady came over and ended up marrying Mr. Ryan of Mace House. She converted and became a Catholic. They had two children, Emily and Marcella. Marcella married Alcorn of Kilroe House, while Emily never married. Mr. Alcorn ran a mill at Kilroe House. After Mr. Alcorn’s death, the mill was taken over by the Furey family and Mrs. Alcorn came to live in Mace House with her sister Emily. They bought Carnsore House in Monkstown, Dublin, and Delia went to work for them there. The sisters Emily and Marcella were in Carnsore House when World War Two broke out. They went back to Mace House for what was only supposed to be a month. However, Miss Ryan took ill and died. She is buried at the back of the Church in Corrandulla. Mrs. Alcorn stayed on in Mace House and employed Delia’s two aunts, Mary and Honor and Mr. Arthur Potter as chauffeur. Delia remembers the great gardens at Mace House where strawberries, raspberries, pears and apples were grown. The sisters sold the fruit to augment their income.
Delia worked for Lord and Lady Headfort, Kells, Co. Meath. Half of the house was let, as a school for young gentlemen students. She found herself on occasions trying to comfort young lonely students. Lord Headfort always saluted a sweep, as he believed this to bring good luck.
After this Delia went to Dublin and got a job in Luttrellstown Castle, Clonsilla, which was then owned by the Guinness family. They came to stay in the castle on three occasions each year. They came for Christmas and into the New Year, for the Spring Show and the Dublin Horse Show, both of the latter being held in the Royal Dublin Society grounds in Ballsbridge, Dublin. They employed 18 staff. There was a butler, footman, hall-man, pantry boy, cooks, and housemaids. The New Year’s Eve Ball was a big occasion in the castle with lords and ladies in abundance. A detective was hired for the night to protect the jewellery and valuables. During her time in Luttrellstown Castle, Delia cooked for a nephew of the Queen Mother and received compliments from his wife for her cooking.
While in Luttrellstown Castle, Delia heard of the ghost, known as the Grey Lady, that haunted the castle. One night Delia had a dream and in the dream she saw army men in full battle armour dragging a little boy up the stone stairs. There was blood dripping from the boy onto the stone stairs. On enquiring the next day about the history of the Grey Lady, the butler told her that some believed that she was coming back to find her little boy, while others say it was her sweetheart. Delia’s dream would lead her to believe that it was the former.
Delia worked for a short period of time in the castle. She then found employment with an English family in Bray. However, because the family went away to a warmer country for the winter from October to February, Delia returned to Luttrellstown Castle on two other occasions. It was during her third and final visit that Delia had a frightening experience. One night she heard a terrible screech in her room, which was overheard by the maids sleeping above her. Next she felt a great weight come down upon her and she thought she would suffocate. It passed and next morning Delia told Tim the hall-man of her experience. He replied that he had experienced the same thing and that it would never happen again. “It won’t”, said Delia, “because I won’t be here any longer”. The housemaid reported seeing the ghost several times. She was called the Grey Lady because she was reupted to wear a grey skirt and a grey blouse. Later, Delia saw an article in the Sunday Express newspaper which offered £5,000 to anyone that would get rid of the Grey Lady from the castle.
After her mother Mary died in 1959, Delia decided to move to London. She worked for a number of different employers from a Fleet St. Editor and his wife to Lord and Lady Ulick Browne. Delia’s cousin Nell Wynne worked in the Royal Free Hospital in London and they had memorable times together. Nell’s mother and Delia’s mother were sisters.
She later moved to Northampton and worked for a number of employers before taking up employment on Yew Tree Farm, Upper Harlestone, Northampton. On the 1st of January 1970 Delia became a farmer’s wife when she married Mr. Sam Green. Sam was very friendly with the Spencer family and one of the first people to come to lunch, after Delia’s arrival in Yew Tree Farm was Lady Spencer, the grandmother of the late Princess Diana. Indeed Delia met Diana, the late Princess of Wales when Diana was about 14 years old.
Delia had a very happy time in Northampton and she still speaks lovingly of the man she was happily married to for seventeen and a half years. Sam died in 1987 and a little over two years later Delia returned to Ireland. She bought a house, which she now lives in, back in her native Parish of Annaghdown. Delia was in high praise of all the people of Annaghdown and wishes to record her gratitude to them for the kindness they have shown to her since her return.
I wish to thank Joe Gardiner (Annaghdown Heritage Society) for introducing me to Delia. I thank Delia and her nephew Michael Lardner for inviting me into their home. Delia’s life story is a truly remarkable one. This article is just a little taste of the memories that Delia shared with me. Her sense of humour is refreshing and I wish her many years of good health. I thank Delia for giving so generously of her time. Go méadaí Dia do stór – John McGagh.
This article first appeared in Anach Cuain 2004. Delia Green died on 7 November 2008.