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Family Fortunes: I took a fall for Pope John Paul in 1979

I was eight years old when Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in 1979. Earlier that year for my birthday, I’d gotten a Holly Hobbie doll and a pair of red rollerskates. My memory of the pope’s visit is inextricably linked with those two toys.

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I remember standing in the back garden in a brown corduroy dress, wobbly on my skates and clutching the Holly Hobbie doll. The lilac tree was in perfect bloom and Granny said the pope was going to Clonmacnoise, and he’d be flying right over our house on his way and we should wave because he’d see us. I believed her, even though like many a good story she told us, the truth was embellished to be a little more magical

I wanted the red stuff because it stained the skin dramatically, and at least I could wear my grazes like a battle scar and get a little mileage out of how brave I was. She cleaned my grazes and applied the merbromin and I watched the half-eejit dog run after the shadows in the apple trees. That evening, we all sat down to watch the RTÉ News, the highlight of which was the pope in Clonmacnoise. Little did he know of the fall I’d taken for him in a Coosan back garden.