Two pandemics later, there’s still no stopping Bandon’s drama queen

July 9th, 2020 10:05 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Sr Alphonsus’ poem called ‘The Virus’, was read by Cllr Gillian Coughlan at a recent meeting of Bandon Kinsale Municipal District.

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Jeyes Fluid got Sr Alphonsus through the Spanish Flu and her fighting spirit got her through Covid, and now, at just 103 years old, this feisty young lady is still fighting fit

THERE are not many people who can say that they have lived through two pandemics and survived to tell the tale.

However, Sr Alphonsus in Bandon can claim to that.

The well-known speech and drama teacher lived through the Spanish Flu in 1918 when she was just a baby, with the help of some Jeyes Fluid, and is now coming out the other side of cocooning her way through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having celebrated her 103rd birthday in March, Sr Alphonsus –  who is responsible for the annual Good Friday Passion Drama at St Patrick’s Church in Bandon and has put many a student through speech and drama lessons – has been getting through the Covid-19 pandemic with the help and wonderful care of the staff at Bandon Community Hospital.

‘The staff there made a big fuss of Sr Alphonsus for her birthday and while it wasn’t the way she had planned to celebrate it, she still enjoyed it,’ her friend Esther Sinnott explained.

As well as receiving numerous cards and calls from people all over the world, Sr Alphonsus also received a letter and medal from President Michael D Higgins and a special recorded message from Bishop Fintan Gavin.

‘She is keeping her spirits up and she even wrote a poem entitled ‘The Virus’ because she wanted to share her experience of the Covid-19 pandemic,’ said Esther. ‘Even at 103 and cocooned at Bandon Community Hospital she felt her poem could be representative of how many people her age and in her situation are going through.’

That very poem was recently recited by Cllr Gillian Coughlan at a recent meeting of Bandon Kinsale Municipal District held in Kinsale, much to everyone’s delight. Councillors agreed to write back to Sr Alphonsus to thank her for her creativity.

Esther said that at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sr Alphonsus shared a prayer to St Roch, who is the patron saint of infectious diseases.

‘She said that as a young nun back in the 1950s she remembers a Sr Aloysius used to pray this prayer at a time when viruses and infections were fatal. I actually shared this on the Bandon Parish Facebook page and it received a huge response.’

When the world was hit by the Spanish Flu back in 1918, Sr Alphonsus was just a baby.

‘She shared a story of her mother sending her father to get a nurse because baby Alphonsus was coughing and felt hot. When the nurse arrived she took Alphonsus into her arms and took a bottle of Jeyes Fluid from the mantle. She rubbed it into the baby’s lungs, which caused Alphonsus to cry even more but she feels that it saved her life.’

With restrictions being slowly lifted, Esther received what is probably the best news in months when she was told she will be allowed a short visit to see her dear friend at the hospital this week.

Meanwhile, residents and staff at Bandon Community Hospital have in recent months been treated to musical delights too and it’s something Sr Alphonsus has thoroughly enjoyed.

‘She loves when they come and play on the green outside the hospital and was very touched when Donal O’Mahony sang ‘Limerick you’re a Lady’ for her,’ added Esther.

Limerick may be where Sr Alphonsus’ story began in 1917, but Bandon is where her heart is now.

The Virus

By Sr Alphonsus

There’s a curve in the virus

So they say, so they say

It’s the same old story from day to day

We’re bored and we’re stiff

And we can’t wait to get out

They can’t see in but I can see out.

But dear Mother Nature

is here to protect

Each tin seed, each chick in its’ nest

Her presence is clear

Her magic is all around

Just see the wee daisies

Alive on the ground

The bees buzzing sound

Is music to hear

As she flies all around

In the flower box so near

So way with the virus

Away with our fears

God our Father, stand by us

To wipe every tear

He loves us and he cares

Each one has a call

The smallest, the weakest,

The least one of all.

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