A “madly in love” Frank Marshall was very happy in his home town of Clonmel in the 1950’s.
His affection for “a redhead who was just gorgeous” named Kitty, and sporting commitments including competitive table tennis with the Boys Club, rowing with the ‘Island’ (Clonmel Rowing Club) and playing football with Clonmel Commercials made him “less than eager” to pursue a career in Dublin.
Seven months as an assistant proof reader at ‘The Nationalist’ with the late lamented Peggie Hickey were “an inspirational introduction to the newspaper world”, to the extent that Frank would have “swept the floors” if he was allowed to stay at the then Market Street based newspaper.
However, a lack of vacancies for a reporter at The Nationalist, followed by success in the written examination for clerical officers in the civil service changed everything. Frank departed his Queen Street home for the capital in 1957. “It was a huge adjustment moving to Dublin with which I struggled for quite a while. The tedium of the early day in an office that was seen as a well-run asylum was not easy, but I adjusted with the help of sporting activities and involvement with voluntary organisations,” the former High School student tells South Tipp Today.
Recollecting his lifetime experiences, Frank’s conversational and intuitive book ‘Grandad, You’re Not Painting between the Lines’ takes the reader on a journey which begins to blossom in County Tipperary. His grandfather, a Kilkenny man named Francis Marshall, was posted to Clonmel with the Royal Irish Fusiliers in 1892. He served twenty seven years including three periods in India and one in South Africa.
Frank’s maternal grandfather, Fethard man Paddy Kenrick, worked as a steward in Grove House outside the town and drove HI-1, the first registered car in South Tipperary, in 1906. Paddy was also an extremely talented photographer and produced a collection of photographs, some of which were presented to the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin and to Tipperary County Museum in Clonmel. Glass plated negatives were later discovered in the old Kenrick home and developed by Paddy’s grandnephew Joe Kenny – a photographer currently based in Fethard.
Frank’s father spent all his working life in the Post Office, while his mother Peggy [née Kenrick] hailed from Fethard and worked in Woolworths before she married. She later ran a small shop at the family home at 2 Queen Street in 1940’s.
As a series of fascinating short chapters packed with an emotional punch continue to unravel, the reader becomes engaged in the experiences of the County Tipperary man. But why has Frank decided to shine a light on the events of his life as a boy and as a man now?
He explains: “Writing this book and recalling the lives of my extended family is a matter of great joy. The decision to produce the book only emerged after the broadcasting of a total of twenty-seven short scripts on RTÉ Radio 1 and Lyric fm. They ranged over a wide spectrum of subjects in Clonmel in the 1950’s, the scourge of emigration, the appearance of the Teddy Boys returned emigrants in flashy Edwardian gear, the teenager activities of the time and some eccentric characters”.
However, despite unravelling some poignant family stories of joy, illness and emigration, Frank still questions how he will be remembered.
“The ‘lines’ were encountered in the attitudes of others in many arenas. Always these were engaged with a questioning independent minded attitude. The civil service had an almost universal tradition of slavishly following precedent. I found myself regularly at odds with officialdom. On another level my refusal to join both the Knights of St. Columbanus and Opus Dei, both of which had some honourable members, but were both exclusive and used by some to further careers.
“My legacy is an imponderable one, and how I will be remembered is really for those I leave behind. Apart from my family who I believe will remember me benignly, all of us fade in the collective memory eventually and often very quickly.
“Maree and I are 50 years married this year, and we’re blessed with Kevin, David and Niamh and three grandchildren; that’s immeasurably satisfying but all that will fade as this is a transient life. I’m blessed that I accept the unconditional love of God with its promise of eternal life. By any standard totally irrational but I don’t have to prove it or convince anyone, and it’s there for all and does not have to be earned as we were once taught”.
Frank also believes today’s younger generation can learn some important lessons by reading his memoir. He added: “I would urge young people to see the necessity of following their own choice of career irrespective of pressure from others. That is my main regret, but in hindsight it was seen as pointless long ago. Awareness takes time, but young people are now better at assessing situations unlike previous generations.”