Two little boys had a boxing match on top of Craughill many years ago. They were about five years old. Tom gave Aidan a black eye and Aidan got in trouble when he landed home to his mother. That was over 60 years ago! As Tom recounted this on the night of his 70th birthday, both men were grinning widely. When long-time friends and neighbours come together with family for a celebration, there is a special magic.

A unique space

My life had been revolving around hospital appointments. Everything depended on how I might be on a particular day. I tried to do nice things when I could with the help of my family and friends. Tom’s birthday party was the weekend before my surgery. It was just the tonic to keep my mind off the operation.

It was typical of Tom to be doing things in rustic style at his son, Fergal and daughter-in-law, Louise’s residence and refurbished hay barn with adjoining lean-to! The couple had their wedding reception there a few weeks back so the facilities were ready for the next celebration. Craughill Barn is nestled in a wildflower meadow surrounded by farmland on one side and mature woods on the other. Huge wheels of dried flower arrangements, handmade jute, square lamp shades, a trendy upcycled bar and many other quirky items, fashioned by Louise and Fergal, makes the barn a unique space.

Eyebrow panic

I had weathered my treatment fairly well and I was looking forward to Parlon hospitality. My eye pencil couldn’t be found! I needed my eyebrows! I found another pen thing in the make-up bag! I drew the eyebrows hurriedly. Tim took one look!

“They have to come off. They’re much too severe,” said Tim, who has guided me through all the tough days. I scrubbed my painted eyebrows hard, making one bleed. My skin was just so brittle from the chemotherapy. Tim went downstairs in search of my normal pencil and he found it. By now, I was close to tears and possibly even close to suggesting that I might not travel. Treatment can rob you of confidence. In a crowd of people, I feel very conspicuous and vulnerable. Still, I was going to a party where a lot of people would know my back story and be supportive.

We arrived at Craughill. The aromas of wild flowers and barbecue wafted through the evening air. Fergal was flaming chunky beef burgers. They were devoured quickly. There was wild smoked Kerry salmon with Martha’s brown bread and crusty baked potatoes. News spread quickly of the tasty duo. My taste buds could once again appreciate proper flavour so everything tasted magnificent. Several other dishes, cheese boards and Boulabán ice-creams kept us grazing through the evening. Barman Macdara and Tom’s son, Cathal and son-in-law Cormac were pulling pints and the Parlon girls, Deirdre, Niamh and Aoife, daughters-in-law Jane and Louise and their cousins were making sure everyone had food and drinks. We sat around outdoor fires. We danced. Yes, I danced a little, had to rest and danced a little more!


In his speech, Tom remembered our good friend Jimmy and his brother Joe that had died in recent times. It was a poignant moment for all present, especially for Jimmy and Joe’s families who were there. It is hard to balance loss, grief and celebration. Life goes on and celebration keeps us going. We raised our glasses to absent friends and remembered them with fondness.

Tom recalled his involvements in farming, IFA, politics, CIF and other interests and recognised that he’d had a wealth of good experiences and a charmed life so far. He remembered his late parents that gave him a wonderful childhood in Coolderry. He thanked Martha and his family for the brilliant party. There is so much more to come for Tom and the Parlon family. Tim and I had a lovely night rekindling connections with so many people that we hadn’t seen in a long time. As the elements of Tom’s life blended together, we had the opportunity to meet new interesting people too.

On this night, there were no fisty cuffs at the top of Craughill, only songs sung and stories told. Harmony, goodwill and friendship enveloped us all on a balmy summer’s evening.

I noticed no eyebrows and I guess nobody saw mine. We can get our knickers in a knot over simple things! Perspective is everything.