Julia Power, Dublin
Julia Power was born in 1936, her father was a Stokes from Longford, and her mother was a Joyce from Mullingar, but she and her brother, Michael, and sister, Bridget, were orphaned at a very young age when her father (at the age of twenty-eight), and then two years later her mother (at the age of twenty-six), died of Tuberculosis. Julia was only six years old when her mother passed away and she was reared by her grandparents with a very strict upbringing, ‘good but hard’. She remembers how to her young eyes, ‘they were as old as the hills, my grandpa and my granny’. Julia is the last one left now, as her brother and sister have since died. But her family remember Michael as being a great singer.
Julia is first cousin to Molly Collins. They grew up together and are very close. Julia speaks with great fondness about Molly and says that they’re still ’pals’. She remembers how Molly’s mother was a great singer. Molly’s people were from Leitrim and she used to go up and pick up songs, then come back and sing them for Julia so she could learn them. Julia remembers that she and Molly would sing ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’ when they were little girls. Julia is also a niece of Tom Stokes, another fine singer and story-teller from her father’s family.
Julia met her husband, Sam, when she was twenty-four and working in the Queen’s Hotel in Piccadilly in Manchester. She remembers how many young men would ask her to marry them, with her head of red hair, and she would put them off. But then she finally met and married her husband, Sam, and she used to love singing for him. Julia and Sam had nine children together and shared many wonderful times together, but also suffered personal tragedies. We were lucky enough to meet two of her sons, Sam and Willie, when we visited. Her husband, Sam, died suddenly four years ago and Julia misses him terribly. She says she used to sing a lot but now she can’t so much, as the singing brings back many memories, both happy and very sad, and she can’t help from crying. But she says she likes being around someone singing and good-humoured. Julia’s family now call her ‘Big Mommy’ for Grandma.
Willie Power, a very fine singer himself, told us how Ronnie Drew from The Dubliners would come out when he was a baby to the campfires and learn songs from the families gathered round. Willie also remembers being told stories about his father’s granny, Annie Ward, who they used to call ‘The Storyteller’. A school teacher wrote a book about the Travelling Cant language with her help, but sadly it was lost when the writer died. Willie tells of how Annie Ward also saved Seán Mac Eoin’s life in the early Twentieth Century during the conflicts. To add to Annie’s fame, the family think that Pecker Dunne may have written the song ‘Sullivan’s John’ about Annie Ward, who was a Traveller, and her husband, John Power, who was from a settled family but chose to marry her and join her on the road.