Carrying on the tradition
PAT VANCE TELLS MARY FOGARTY ABOUT A FAMILY HISTORY SPANNING GENERATIONS IN BRAY, CHANGES IN THE TOWN AND WHAT IS IMPORTANT IN LIFE.
PAT Vance’s family have been in Bray for 200 years, he reckons, and his children and grandchildren have all stayed close to home.
Everyone has moved out, but himself and his wife Mary haven’t had a chance to suffer from ‘empty nest syndrome.’
‘ There’s always someone coming!’ he said, adding that theirs has always an open house with visitors coming and going.
The couple met at ‘ The Brew’ dance in the Little Flower Hall in Bray.
Pat was a player with Bray Wanderers until he retired from the game in 1984. A year later he ran for office with Fianna Fáil. He was re-elected to Wicklow County Council this year, and was with Bray Town Council until its abolition.
Pat and Mary spent two years in Canada when they were first married and their first daughter was born there.
It was an opportunity to make money. Pat, having been raised up in shoe repairs, worked making shoes in a factory.
It was ‘piece work’ meaning he got paid more the more work he did. ‘You were getting rewarded for hard work.’
He and Mary then bought a house in Bray’s Seacrest and came home. They spent 12 years in that house before moving to the Putland Road.
The family business was, and is, of course, making and repairing shoes.
It’s a traditional business, passed down as it is from father to son or master to apprentice.
The nature of it is that success comes and goes in phases.
‘You could have five years of doing very well and another five treading water.’
Pat’s father started working when he was just eight, and worked right up until three weeks before he passed away at the age of 82. In his prime, he worked ‘phenomenal hours.’
As well as his craft, he passed his work ethic on to Pat.
His son can’t see himself retiring either and thinks, in fact, he might be bored without work and indeed his council work to occupy his time.
When he started working, it was the days of just two weeks holidays, six day weeks and long days. That was normal enough at that time, and in a way great training.
‘I became a great believer in incentivising people after Canada,’ said Pat. ‘People who work hard should be rewarded.’
In the same way, he believes that someone who earns a salary of, say €100,000 or more, has earned their position.
‘ They’ve been through the education system to get there and have worked hard,’ he said.
Pat is dad to three sons and one daughter. He has six grandchildren – three boys and three girls – with another due any day.
They range in age from 12 down to twin girls of six months, and Pat’s eyes light up when he talks about them.
‘ They all have their individual personalities,’ he said.
‘As you start to get older, you realise that money means nothing,’ he said, however, he won’t be easily persuaded to change nappies like he did with his own.
And he wouldn’t even bother trying to engage them in politics. ‘Kids wouldn’t be interested, they’ll just go out and be kids!’ he laughed.
When his own were young, they would spend summer holidays in a rented cottage in Mayo, with no mobile phones and no council business.
There was no television either, but the children would get to go out playing on the beach, on a nearby farm, and of course have uninterrupted time with their father.
‘Kids grow up far too quick now,’ said Pat. ‘ They’re not kids for very long.’
The world has changed an awful lot since Pat was raising his own children, and his own youth in Bray.
He lived with his three siblings and parents in a two-bedroom artisan cottage on Ardee Street in Bray.
Those six people didn’t even have an indoor toilet.
But People’s Park was their playground and from the time he could manage it, Pat and the others were outside with the neighbours playing, until their mother would come to the corner.
‘Someone would come and tell us it’s time to go home,’ he recalled.
‘ There’s no way I could imagine letting my grandchildren off like that.’
However, Bray was much smaller back then. Most of the outlying estates hadn’t been built yet and the population might have been a third or less what it is now.
‘My father knew everyone in the town,’ said Pat. He recalls going to school at CBS Dun Laoghaire, on the bus, at the age of nine. That simply would not happen now.
‘We had a freedom then that they certainly don’t have now,’ he said. ‘ The world has certainly changed but in some ways for the better.’
Children now will have a longer life expectancy than ever before, technology, higher IQ, better living conditions and more.
So there is a lot to be said for progress, despite the loss of certain aspects of a time.
As for whether Pat will run again in 2019, he won’t say at the moment. ‘Five years is a long time in politics!’
Cllr Pat Vance.
J&P Vance Shoe Repairs in Bray.