Monday 16 September 2019

We're ready again to pay homage to old Mr Jack

John Masterson believes his love of art and music came from the remnants of Mr Jack's life
John Masterson believes his love of art and music came from the remnants of Mr Jack's life

John Masterson

There are few certainties in our family but one is that the influence of one person, Mr Jack, always gets a mention at Christmas.

He casts a long shadow and it is probably only in the next generation that he will begin to disappear.

None of us has any recollection of the man, so all we have are stories and a few grainy black and white photos and a memorial to him in a church in Limerick that he loved.

He had an enormous influence on my mother as her own father died when she was four. I suspect he was always in love with my grandmother who was a beautiful young widow but no flame ever seemed to ignite. Her husband had been twice her age and they adored each other and she seemed to think the good memories were better than any attempt at replication.

'Mr Jack' Hayden worked in Guinness in Limerick. He lived in a room in my grandmother's house, despite having a house of his own and a Model T Ford. He sounds strict, conservative, serious, miserly (he noted every farthing spent in his life) but he doted on my mother and nothing was too good for her. He paid for her education.

He was an amateur painter with some ability, with RHA after his name, and we grew up with his paintings of Kilkee. He loved music and we grew up with his classical 78s and an old gramophone.

He died on Christmas Day when I was about four and my sister was an infant. I don't think my mother ever liked Christmas much after.

My father was not keen on him, or so it appeared to me. I think it would have been hard not to have been a bit jealous. He would never have thought anyone good enough for my mother. As it happened she chose well.

When I was born asking someone to be godparent was a big thing and Mr Jack was massively hurt that he was passed over.

The mistake was rectified when my sister was born three years later, just in time to be included in his will as a godchild which meant I was, of course, omitted. Few things ever rankled so much in my childhood more than the few hundred she had in the Post Office that was hers while I had the savings from my pocket money. This will no doubt be mentioned at Christmas as it has been every Christmas we have been together which is pretty much all of them.

My mother was blue in the face telling me that she would make it up to me and she did one hundred fold. And while we have no real memories of the man I am fairly confident that my love of art and my love of music came from the remnants of his life that were in the house when I was very young. When times were tight my mother would dip into his legacy to pay for my education.

He was a big influence and we owe him a lot.

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