Scholars and Gypsies: An Autobiography

Scholars and Gypsies: An Autobiography

Scholars and Gypsies: An Autobiography

Scholars and Gypsies: An Autobiography

Excerpt

I came into the world on August 9, 1894, and my earliest memories are of the house where my parents lived the first three years of my life. Harrow House, within its attractive garden, is situated on the Killiney back road near the village of Ballybrack and has a free view of the Dublin mountains. I remember sitting for long periods on the bony knees of various female relatives, gazing fixedly at the sunlit sea in the distance and, at other times, of rolling about on the grassy slope at the back of the house.

The most mysterious being in my world, as a child, was my father, or, as we always called him, Pater. Perhaps the mystery was due to the fact that he was less approachable than my mother. Some mornings I would walk down with him to the gate and watch him collect his mail from the post-box in the tree before setting out on his bicycle at 7.30 a.m. on his ten-mile ride into Dublin to give his nine o'clock lecture at Trinity College. I would see him again for a fleeting moment in the evening after bathtime when he would come in and sit at the end of my bed listening to my mother reading to me Alice in Wonderland or Sinbad the Sailor . Then, after she had recited aloud my prayers, tucked me into bed and departed with my two friends Mick, the Irish terrier, and Puss, shutting the door, my anxieties would begin.

The house seemed at night to grow in size and the space around my bed seemed to expand. The stillness produced upon me an overwhelming sense of loneliness, and the longer I remained in the dark the more conscious I became of hidden presences. Even the slightest sounds startled me. The furniture in my room began to creak and the floor crackled as though someone was creeping stealthily towards my bed. I longed to cry out, but I knew from experience that my father would come up and abuse me for being a coward. I would then bury my head beneath the sheets and try to go inside my head, but, alas, in my dreamland the groping figures grew even more threatening. The only . . .

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