I can confirm that the distance from our home to Kiltullagh NS is exactly three miles. I know this because I have travelled that road thousands of times, and as an adventurous child I couldn’t wait to make that journey by whatever means possible. My first attempt now forms part of our family’s history.
It was a beautiful summer’s morning, azure blue skies, furze bushes blooming gold, with my wonderful Granny Cannon pottering about her farmyard. I was the eldest child and with my mother on teaching duty, I was fortunate to have my Granny babysitting me every day. The previous Christmas I had received my dream present, a gleaming red tractor with pedals and all I could think of that morning was “where can I go today?”
It was 1969, I was three years old and due to start school that September. Being somewhat impatient, the idea suddenly occurred to me to cycle my little red tractor to Kiltullagh, to see the school and of course, my precious Mammy. While Granny was busy with farming duties I made my getaway and pedalled furiously out her front gate.
I just kept on going, made it over a mile, full of wonder about how far one could actually go if one could evade capture. My three year old legs were giving it their all when I was stopped in my tracks by Michael Duane, our local Council worker, rightly concerned about a little guy on a toy tractor pedalling like his life depended on it. He asked me where exactly I was going. “To see my Mammy”, was my response, with a little hint of indignation as to why anyone would question my right to go see my Mammy. Is that not a perfectly logical thing to do?
Michael being a very kind man (and having none of my excuses), he put my little tractor in the back of his Council van, bundled me into the front seat and returned me to Granny Cannon. As you might expect, Granny was tearing her hair out at this point, thinking of ways to explain to her daughter in law that her precious first born had just disappeared into thin air. At the end of the day all was well and my escapade became the subject of much laughter in my latter years.
Down through the years I travelled that same road in my mother’s car, on a series of bikes, and on my first proper “racer”. I cycled it on balmy summer nights to meet the teenage love of my life for late night trysts, not a light to be found between us. I travelled it the day I married that same wonderful woman and today we both cycle it to visit my Mother who has now inherited the coveted title of “Granny Cannon”.
I know every inch of that road to school, every fall and rise, every twist and turn. It has woven a never ending thread throughout my life, and it’s the reason why these words from Kavanagh resonated so deeply with me when I first read them as a student.
“A road, a mile of kingdom, I am king
Of banks and stones and every blooming thing.”
Ciaran Cannon is married to Niamh Lawless and they have one son, Evan. Ciaran is a member of Dáil Éireann representing the constituency of Galway East. He still cycles the roads of East Galway, and sometimes further afield. He also plays piano and composes music.
On behalf of the Museum of Childhood Ireland, and Robert Burns, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of our wonderful participants for their time and their stories. We are thrilled to be presenting this project and we hope you will enjoy following along with us.
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