Lily Of The Valley

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From top: vintage image of Coal Quay market, Cork; Dan Boyle

Lil Underhill was an atypical supporter of mine. She lived in Corporation Buildings, near Cornmarket Street – Cork’s Coal Quay market.

These three storey red bricked buildings were an early, and successful, attempt at providing social housing in Cork. In this 50sq metre patch Lil lived most of her life.

Near adjoining doors led on one side to a ground floor apartment, with the other door leading, up a near perpendicular stairway, to a duplex overhead apartment.

Lil’s mother had been a shawlie, one of the women who were the heart and soul of Cork’s Coal Quay, and for many the city itself. As a young woman Lil worked on the stalls with her mother, making her a last link with a now vanished part of Cork life.

Lil would have been in her eighties when she first cast a vote in my favour. My office had responded when Corporation Buildings had been badly flooded. Lil, and other residents, appreciated the effort.

In fact, Lil was the most effective community worker at the time, making sure those less capacitated (although frequently younger than her!) were looked after.

This also involved many visits to Lil’s home. There were found few concessions to modernity. Most of her photographs were black and white, including a gorgeous picture of her in her twenties as a flapper.

Her concerns were centred around her local community. She never asked about the banking crisis, never expressed an opinion on any social issue. Her only expectation was that effort was put into meeting what was needed in her community.

She expressed support in the most affectionate way. Standing at less than than five foot tall, she would reach to pinch my cheek, saying ‘Danny Boy’ as a friendly greeting. Then I would know I had done something good for someone who was good.

She died, aged ninety one, a few weeks after I had taken her to vote for 2011 general election. While I valued the vote as I had always valued the support, I would have been aware that the vote would make little difference to my electoral fate. Nevertheless she exhibited on that day, the same effervescence and joie de vivre, she always had done.

Having had one Lil Underhill in my political/public service life, was worth far more to me than the thoughts of any number of anonymous critics, with their unrealistic expectations, who only ever sought to diminish.

It’s easy to categorise all politics as being about self aggrandisement, doing over political opponents, or seeking vanity projects on which to hang a legacy. But that isn’t all politics.

To have known someone like Lil Underhill made life in politics worthwhile for me.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

 

28 thoughts on “Lily Of The Valley

  1. Hansel

    “Yiz are a pack of me bollix!”

    Masterful trolling from you once again in this one Dan – you’re on a roll!

  2. nellyb

    “Lil Underhill was an atypical supporter of mine. ”
    “It’s easy to categorize all politics as being about self aggrandisement, doing over political opponents, or seeking vanity projects on which to hang a legacy. But that isn’t all politics”

    Aint ‘supporter of MINE’ a good example of self aggrandizement’? Should it have been ‘supporter of Green party’ instead? the Freudian slip if you like – ?
    Or did you engage with local community projects in individual capacity, outside the party?

  3. ahjayzis

    Her concerns were centred around her local community. She never asked about the banking crisis, never expressed an opinion on any social issue. Her only expectation was that effort was put into meeting what was needed in her community.

    You’ve summed up our utter mess of a democracy.

    158 parliamentarians looking after the Lil’s of the world, sure there’s no votes in national issues or timelines beyond the next election.

    1. BobbyJ

      Couldn’t agree more.

      I’m sure Lil was a lovely lady but sustainable communities arise from tackling social issues and ensuring a fair economic system. I would have expected you to know this Dan.

  4. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

    I have just thought about this. Not what Dan wrote, obviously, but how I pronounce Coal Quay. Coal Kay, not Key.

    I’m a ferocious bogger, and never knew it.

    #FurCoatNoKnickers

  5. dan

    Dan;
    I never had you down (nor the Green Party) as a supporter of the Parish Pump, I am genuinely surprised.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Nothing Parish Pump about it. Part of being a member of the Oireachtas is being a local ombudsman.

  6. phil

    Hey Dan , Lil didn’t speak to you about propping up FF in Government so that you and FF could destroy all of our futures , did she have any opinion on the 2 fat pensions you will receive? No? well I have an opinion on that , would you like to hear it ?

  7. ahjayzis

    “Having had one Lil Underhill in my political/public service life, was worth far more to me than the thoughts of any number of anonymous critics, with their unrealistic expectations, who only ever sought to diminish.”

    This entire post is a wah-wah moment. Oh I wish people would stop expecting me to improve the country and get back to wanting me to support the Tidy Towns while the hospital A&E implodes. Why do some people want meaningful change and prosperity, a decent home, job security when they can have potholes fixed and my presence at a raffle.

    Which unrealistic expectations irked you, Dan? That our government wouldn’t mortgage generations to buy banks and put all their effort into restoring the pre-2008 status quo of inequality and speculation, with the same winners and losers, perfectly lining up the next crisis?

    That finally, after all we’d been through, the government would decisively remove speculation and the tilt in favour of landowners from our housing system? That we’d thank you for putting us back to square one, when what we needed was a break from the mindset that’s broken up families, driven suicide through the roof, decimated the life chances of generations?

    This kind of poor me muck is infuriating. You have your pension for life, Dan, I’m sorry we’re not grateful enough that you did absolutely fupping nothing to improve the country, but there you go.

    You’ll always be your number one fan, ignore us peasants you did absolutely nothing for and our unrealistic expectations that the people who promise to change things have no intention of changing anything.

    Noughties politicians really are toxic.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Have you got that off your chest now? Your deliberate misinterpretation of what I write is not my problem. That’s all yours.

      1. ahjayzis

        Condescension and evasion, another quality of your generation of political empty spaces. Where’s the meaningless soundbite though?! We pay you good money for this sh1t, Dan.

          1. Dan Boyle

            The one and the same. I’ve produced a vignette about someone I was privileged to have in my life. You”re the one projecting your anger onto it.

  8. Prince Rupert

    I enjoyed this piece about a voter who cared about her community and exercising her political rights.

    We could do with more Lils.

  9. Frilly Keane

    Could you not just say “The Marsh” Dan
    Which is what Lil would’ve called Corporation Bild’ins

    FFS

    And Shawlies came from all over the city
    Blackpool, Barrack Street, Shandon Street not just the Kay

    1. Dan Boyle

      Marsh adjacent. The Marsh is between Grattan Street to the Mercy Hospital and from Sheares Street to the river. And I never said shawlies were Coal Quay specific.

  10. ahjayzis

    Why was my post about Dan’s government pension modded out of existence? It’s on the public record.

    Dan will get more than 20k a year for the rest of his life for doing no work. Daddy, what’s a retirement age?

    http://www.rte.ie/iu/pensions/

    I suggested we might top that up if it makes him feel better about us lowly units of banking income having too high expectations of the people we make financially secure for life for working for us. He and his mates did so much for us all, after all.

      1. Harry Molloy

        I’ve been trying to find the name of it since, it’s the one where he saves his dad from drinking by getting drunk himself and smacking his head in front of all the auld shawlies.

        God, I loved them stories. Need to buy a collection.

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