He left school aged twelve and attended the Technical School in Skibbereen for two years before being apprentuced to a master plasterer in Clonakilty. This meant living with the master craftsman's family during the week and spending the weekends back home in Brú Lao.
In those days it took seven years to become a master craftsman. This usually included a day each week at a technical school.
So it was that in his early twenties he left home and went to live in Cork City where he was employed as a plasterer at the Cork Mental hospital on the Lee Road.
While working there he met and later married a nurse, Eileen Manning from Ballinagree, Macroom, County Cork.
They had five boys and three girls. Three of the boys and all of the girls are still alive.
In the early years they lived at Hollymount on the Lee Road, Cork.
He had bought this former mansion as a burnt‑out shell in the late 1930s and had restored it in his spare time!
There, where we sported and played, our very own Garden of Eden overlooked the River Lee. This wonderful place had five fields, a rockery, an orchard, an avenue, a lodge, many wonderful trees and shrubs and a whole cast of rabbits, weasels, foxes, rats, mice and a chorus of birds big and small. What life-long memories this paradise in the Lee Valley gave to his older children!
In 1944 they took over ‘The Apple Market Tavern’ in Barrack Street, Cork and ran it until 1948. They took their young family to live there until in 1946, to the unrestrained (and still in 2005 remembered) delight of the children old enough to recall living there once upon a time, they returned to Hollymount..
Today I can still remember the famous ‘Barrack Street Band’ practising in the loft above the former carpenter's workshop out in the yard. I used to be so proud to be allowed to sit there, a seven-year-old, honoured among kings.
Though now known as ‘The Brown Derby’, the old ‘Apple Market Tavern’ is still there, a little nook in the very heart of the real Cork.
The family moved to Dublin in 1950. In 1960 the family moved again, this time to Cardiff, where Stephen worked as a plasterer until five months before he died in October 1988.
He is buried in Cardiff in the same grave as his son, Brian, who died in 1973 and his wife who died in 2003.
May all three rest in peace.
By Barry Tobin, July 2005.
2. With his wife, Eileen, in O’Connell Street, Dublin, about 1955.
Taken by a street photographer, now an extinct species.
3. At Clare Street, Cardiff, in 1968.
4. At Partridge Road, Cardiff, about 1984.
The food on the table and the broad smile suggests it must have been at or near Christmas.
Old Words my Parents Used