The blood of the Irish

Several times when I was a boy I was told how my grandmother on my mum's side was born in Ireland - but she wasn't Irish, she was born in the barracks in Cork. It came of something as a shock, then, when I mentioned this about 30 years later and my mother casually commented 'Oh no, that was a joke. Of course she was Irish.'

It was like a sudden shift in my picture of reality. A part of me belonged to that wonderful, vibrant country. I was a quarter Irish. (Then I realized I'd been a bit slow in ever believing the tale about my Catholic grandma, whose name before marriage was Eileen Mulligan.)

It significantly changed how I looked at myself - I was delighted.

Perhaps what's most surprising is just how much attitudes had changed in a generation. To my mum's generation, being half Irish was something to keep quiet about. To me, having Irish roots was something to celebrate. I've been to Ireland a couple of times since (though not yet to Cork) - and a part of me knew it was going home.