The Happy Irish Fiddler – story music and dancing make people happy, for age 10 to adult



‘The Happy Irish Fiddler’ told by an Irish nun.


There was a time in Ireland when many people were starving.It was the time of the potato famine. The very old and the very young were worst affected.Many died.Large numbers of young people who were still strong and healthy decided to leave the country.Thousands fled to America.

There is a story that goes back several generations in my family.They hailed from Ireland and several of them emigrated to America.One, who would have been my great, great, great uncle, was a fine singer and musician.He had no trouble at all making a new life for himself, for wherever there were the Irish, there was singing and dancing, and with out a musician there would have been none of quality.What the Irish like best is traditional music of quality.A tin whistle may suffice if there is none other, but when a violin appears and is well played, ah, then you have an evening to remember.

My uncle, they say, was given free board and lodging wherever he went.He was welcomed with open arms.When he took out his penny whistle, there were smiles all round.When he revealed his violin, there was rejoicing.

Now, ancient uncle, who was called Patrick, used to wonder about life.He noticed how music made people happy and dancing made them even happier.He noticed that beer seemed to make them happy, then after a while and more beer they could become angry, violent sometimes, or just sad and morose, missing the old country.

Patrick used to encourage people to dance because as he would say,

“If they’re dancing, they’re not drinking too much, and they’ll be feeling happy in the morning.”For sure a man who dances too much usually feels very happy the next day, but a man who drinks too much always feels bad the next day.

Uncle saw it as his duty to try to make people happy.In fact he had a nickname, it was Happy Paddy.He used to try to live up to his name.As he got older Paddy found he could not dance as he did when a young man.This did not prevent him from playing his fiddle for others to dance to.People used to come up to him and ask his advice about life.He was always smiling, always jovial; perhaps they thought he had the answer to the meaning of life.All his wrinkles curled upwards.His mouth, even at rest, seemed to be half smiling, and his eyes always twinkled at the world.

One day a young man approached my uncle.He looked rather sad.

“Can I ask you a question, sir?”

“Ask away, young lad!It’ll cost you nothing and if you don’t like my answer you can throw it away, can you not?”

“I’ve been watching you for several weeks playing your violin, smiling away there in the corner.What makes you so happy all the time?”

“Well,” replied the old man, “If the truth be known I am not always happy.When I do have a problem I know that if I sit quietly and think about it just a little, then play my fiddle or perhaps listen to someone else’s music, the answer seems to come to me.This is how I tackle my problems.I don’t let them grow and grow inside my head while I rush about doing things to forget them.I deal with them immediately by sitting quietly.I imagine that there is a part of me that is much bigger and much wiser than this ‘little me’.I feel that I can hand over my problems to that bigger part of myself.Perhaps it’s my divine soul, perhaps its God, I don’t know.I just know that when I do that the problem seems to solve itself.The answer comes to me or the problem goes away and doesn’t trouble me any more.Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking at the problem in a different way.

I’d recommend that to you, young man.I can see several furrows on your brow.Try asking for help and sitting quietly.Mind you, I do have a warning; you mustn’t spend too much time doing this.Ten minutes a day would be quite enough for someone such as you.More than that and you’ll start to go over and over your problem, and that never solves anything.After ten minutes go and do something else, something active.Will you have a go and tell me how you get on?

The young man smiled for the first time, “Thanks, old timer, I might just do that.”

Several weeks later the young man reappeared.Paddy was curious.He noticed the unhappy frown had disappeared,“Well, hello, young fellow, and who is this you bring to introduce to me?”

“This is my wife, Elsa.We came to thank you for your advice.I did sit quietly and my soul said ‘send for Elsa, you’re sad because you miss her. Marry her and start your tailoring business.’Well I just knew I had to do it, so I did.I’ve come to offer you a new suit, if you’d like one.”

“That’s extremely civil of you young sir,” replied Paddy.“I could do with a new suit for weddings and funerals you know.It doesn’t do for the fiddler to be too untidy. Now, does it? And I wish you happiness and joy in your new life together.Remember to teach Elsa to ask for help too, then I’m sure the two of you will always be happy.”




Abandoned at Birth (death of a twin)

Abandoned at Birth by a Twin

 On July 24. 2014 an item about woman’s hour was about the difficulties and feelings of parents who lose a twin baby at birth.  It explained why my story below was so helpful for the survivor twin.

I gave this story to a young man with severe mental problems who was living in a therapeutic community for young people. The manager of the community told me about him. My objective at the time was to find out if my stories were helpful to ‘counselling clients’. I asked him to tell me as little as possible about the client, just the main issue which was creating problems for the person. He told me that the client had been abandoned at birth by his twin, who had died, and that his mother had a section in the freezer for his food, and the rest of them ate nice stuff. At that point I asked him to stop immediately. I did not want any more details. That was literally all the information I had of him. I had had no background whatsoever in these matters.

I wrote the story which came to me through the usual rapid channel. I asked the manager to vet the story to see if it was appropriate for his client. He told me it was uncannily like the lad’s story, and entirely appropriate for him. Two months later on my seeing the manager again he told me the story had brought about a turning point in the boy’s life. He was now nearly ready to pass his driving test, was out in the world and looking forward to his future for the first time.



You may be forgiven for thinking that abandonment by your own twin would mean very little for a person. It is true that for some people who experience this event there is no particular sense of regret or longing. They feel complete in themselves and although they inevitably wonder what their other half would have been like, they go through life in much the same way as any other person who has perhaps lost a brother or sister at birth. There is a little sadness but not much.

For the mother too there is always sadness, always a sense of loss. Some mothers bear it more easily than others. For some there is always a small gap in their lives, a small ache in their hearts. For a few there is a deep longing for the absent person. They may blame the surviving twin in some subconscious way for the death of the other. They may feel that the survivor has been too greedy for life and has taken the life of the other for himself. He may be perceived to have taken too much sustenance from his mother’s blood, too much space, too much air, or too much time during the birth. The misguided mother may feel a sense of failure and wish to project the blame of failing to bring two babies into the world on to the one left behind. This usually happens when there are no other brothers or sisters in the family. The mother perhaps had only one chance to produce her children and she failed one of them.

My sister was one such woman. It was very sad. First she had a girl, successfully. There were no difficulties for her. The girl was much loved and treasured, and my sister and her husband hoped for a boy to follow her soon. It was seven long years before she became pregnant again. Such joy! She hoped and prayed for a boy. When she was told she was carrying twins she felt she had been doubly blessed. She would care for them so well. She planned how she would manage her twins. She sought out women who had had twins and discussed it at length with them. She prepared two little cots and two sets of clothes. Everything was ready for her two boys, for this is what she was convinced she had kicking bravely away in her belly.

The time came for her labour. In those days husbands did not attend their wives’ delivery. My sister was attended by her doctor and a midwife. Her husband and I waited downstairs. We heard the cries of one baby and then we waited. He paced the floor up and down. Water was fetched, the first baby was welcomed, and we waited. Finally, three hours later my sister delivered the second twin. He was smaller and blue, she told me, and he was dead.

It was such a strange time. Although they had their longed for son they could not be happy because they had lost a child. They were weighed down with their sense of bereavement. No one could convince them otherwise.

The child who survived was very hungry. He cried and sucked and cried and sucked. In my sister’s mind this showed her that he had taken the available food from his brother in the womb. She needed someone to blame, as her sense of failure was so great that she could not bear the burden of it alone. She had to share it so she shared it with the surviving twin. Gradually, in her eyes, he became the cause of her loss. Instead of rejoicing in the fact that he had been born and survived, and was strong and healthy, she saw him as a parasite. She knew in her heart that this was not so, but in some twisted turn of mind she relieved herself of her guilt by blaming the living twin. Her husband was drawn into this way of thinking too. For reasons of his own he colluded with her shame and guilt and was content to put the blame on to the survivor whom I shall call John.

And what of John? How did all this affect him? As a young baby he became aware of a distance between himself and his parents. They did not hold him and love him in the way that his needful baby heart desired. He cried a lot and only food seemed to comfort him. His sister soon grew impatient with his crying and looked on him as something of a nuisance. He had taken his mother’s time and attention off her more than she was prepared to accept. John grew up with a deep sense of aloneness. Something was missing from his life and as a baby it felt like a lack of love. When he was old enough to understand, he learnt about his twin, and began to long for him with a deep yearning which, of course could never be satisfied. His mother’s resentment of him became deeply ingrained and he himself felt in some way responsible for her disappointment. He felt apologetic about his own existence. He wished his brother had survived and not himself. He wanted to give up his own life, as it seemed so meaningless, lonely and empty without his ‘other half’ to share it with. The family took to giving him his own food; it was kept separate and was different from theirs. They felt he ate so much, and was such a good survivor anyway, that he could eat cheap junk food. They needed careful nourishment, as they considered they were more sensitive than he was. He would watch them eat delicious meals while he had to manage on beans on toast or sausages.

Somehow most of the other relatives had been drawn into this myth of the greedy, tough twin. They did nothing to change the situation. I did express my opinion about the unfairness of it all, but I was talked down.

Eventually, fortunately John met a lovely girl who was able to see through the mistaken thinking and who gave John back his sense of identity. He realised that each person is a separate individual, worthy of love and attention in their own right. Each person has their own path to tread and their own lessons to learn.

I am pleased to say that John now has a family of his own, and each member is loved and appreciated for what they are. I am now a Great Aunt to one set of twins, and strangely enough to a single survivor of twins. This one is a girl and she was treated with great love and affection from the day she was born. She does sometimes wonder about her dead sister, but does not need her to complete her life.

The Pebble (A story about the meaning of life) for age10 to adult


.The context of this story is of a young boy who lived many years ago in India. His family were Brahmins and they lived and worked in and around the temple.

In the old days when my father seemed like a god to me and I was perhaps seven years of age, a young man came to stay with us. He was a distant relative and father had told his parents that he would be welcome to live with us for a while to discover whether he liked the work in the temple. He would go in with father every day and be introduced to all the other temple workers. Father would instruct him in calligraphy, the careful writing of the scriptures, and would explain the meaning of the verses to him. He would be with us for six months.

Now I had two ‘gods’ in my household. This young man was so clever it seemed to me; so beautiful and so funny. I followed him everywhere hoping to learn a trick or two perhaps. When he smiled I felt that I would melt. His face became radiant like the sun. Everyone loved him. Father had great hopes for him. Not only could he write beautifully, he could also draw. When he had finished his writing he would often draw a beautiful design at the bottom of his work. On his days off he would take pen and paper and sit in some corner of our grounds and draw the flowers and the trees; sometimes he drew us, the children in my family. He gave me a beautiful picture of myself and my sister sitting by the well. How I treasured it. I asked one of the workmen to make a frame for it and I displayed it in our house for all to behold.

Late one evening a messenger came to call the young man away. His father had died and he had to return home to look after his family. We were all distraught. Our lovely visitor was leaving. How we would miss him! My little sister didn’t really understand that he would be leaving forever. Maybe nobody told her, but they told me. I wanted to cry. Perhaps I did cry. There would be a large gap in my life. Who would teach me all the games and jokes now? Father was too busy, Mother didn’t know many games or jokes and the servants’ jokes never seemed very funny to me.

Father had told us that our friend would be leaving early the following morning. I ran away to hide my sorrow and wondered what I could do to show him how I loved him and to make him come back. I couldn’t think of anything at all. I couldn’t think of the words or any present that I could give him. Then I remembered a story he had told us. It was about a stone in the stream that ran past our stables. It was a lovely smooth stone and he told us that when it started life it had been rough and ugly. Through its life it had learnt many things and its rough edges had been worn away by all the other stones it had met. Gradually it became more beautiful. The smoother it became the more its lovely colours shone through and when it lay at the bottom of the stream with the sun shining on it, it glowed like a jewel.

I picked up a very smooth stone out of the stream; it had amber and red stripes running through it. It was very pretty. I decided to give it to our friend. I wanted to tell him the truth about what I felt for him, but I couldn’t find the words. The stone would have to do it for me.

I shyly gave it to him before he left. His eyes lit up. Thinking of his story he said, “I shall keep this to remember you by, Ramu. To me you are already like this pretty stone. Many lifetimes have already rubbed the rough edges off you, but there is still much to learn. Unlike this little stone you will grow bigger. It would be dishonest of me to say that you will have no rough edges to be rubbed off. Every boy of seven has a whole lifetime of experience ahead to polish him up, but I think you will not find the polishing process too painful as you are quite well rounded already.

I didn’t really understand the truth behind my friend’s words, but I always remembered them. Now looking back I see that my struggles were not as difficult as those of many I encountered and for that I was grateful.

When troubles came to me I would think of that stone and think of the troubles as another step in the process of being polished up to a beautiful finish!