The unforgettable Josie Branagan

The amazing Josie Branagan.
The amazing Josie Branagan.
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Last Sunday my grandmother would have turned 106.

She was a wonderful lady who had a striking influence on me during the short eleven years she was part of my life.

Josie Branagan, nee Black, was one of those unassuming ladies who, if she thought I was writing an article about her in the paper would turn bright red with embarrassment.

My daughter asked me about her this week when her birthday passed.

I was so close to my granny that I called her ‘Mother’, and today I proudly wear her wedding ring on my left hand.

Mother was the woman who first led me into a career in writing when I won the Derry Journal writing competition in 1990 penning a story about her entitled ‘One Smart Person.’

Mother never lived to see the story in print but I dare say she’d be delighted to know the story has pride of place in my parent’s hall.

She was a fantastic person. But physically she was as much a granny as you could imagine, with curly white hair and always smelling of Yardley’s Powder Puff. When I see a compact these days. I always think of her.

She was always chomping on a bar of Fry’s Peppermint Cream and would get confused when she went into a bar in Derry and asked for red lemonade - only to be given a glass of Raspberryade. She would often make us raw onion sandwiches (yuk) and used to make an odd concoction of a Dublin recipe for stew (coddle) which involved boiled sausages.

She gave the tightest hugs that would take your breath away and she used to read my teen fiction books before me and tell me what happened in them.

She was from Dublin but lived the last year of her life with us in Derry.

It’s never easy to lose a person you love, even though my granny had a long and happy life and lived to the ripe old age of 82. But I was only eleven when she died and I feel robbed that she never got to go to my wedding or meet my children.

It’s often the people that we only spend a short time with that make the greatest influence on our lives.

Like the teacher who took the time in primary school to dry your tears and ask what was wrong when you were being bullied. She may have only taught you for a year but the kindness she showed you that day will never be forgotten.

There are people who come in and out of our lives who may only spend a short time with us but shape the way we think about things.

I’ll never forget my granny, for her strong Dublin brogue, for the trips she took my sister and me to in Howth to buy shellfish, and for the countless hours of fun she packed into the time we had together.

I’d do anything to have an extra hour with my granny. If you still have yours make time to go and see her this week.

*Ellen Barr is on holiday