Broadcaster, writer and – yes – grandmother Barbara Scully tells Sarah how she worried what her first grandchild would call her and why she didn't want to be called 'Granny'.
Writer Anthony Horowitz became a grandfather recently and insisted that his grandson won’t be calling him anything that begins with a 'g’. Broadcaster, writer and – yes – grandmother Barbara Scully told Sarah McInerney on Drivetime how her grandparent name came about:
"Having worried about it for all of my daughter’s pregnancy and probably for most of the first year of my eldest grandchild – my granddaughter’s – life, about what I would be called, in the end, it was my granddaughter who christened me of her own volition, and I am known as Bap and I’m delighted with that."
But, Sarah wanted to know, why was Barbara worried about what she would be known as to her grandchild in the first place? Having spent time writing about the ageist society we live in, Barbara found herself succumbing to the whole idea of grandparenthood and the nomenclature that comes with it:
"I was 55 when I became a grandmother – an enormous privilege and something I was really looking forward to, except for being called a granny. I just thought, ‘I’m only 55. I do not want to be called a granny. My youngest child is only 17. This is not who I am.’ And, as I say, I worried about it."
Fairly early on, Barbara determined that the name her first grandchild called her would depend largely on what her daughter and son-in-law called her in front of the child. So, if they referred to her as Granny, that’s probably what the grandchild would end up calling her.
She spent some time thinking about it and talking to people about it and finally, she came up with a plan:
"Having given it literally months of thought and looking for suggestions from all and sundry, I thought, Mamó. You know the old Irish word for grandmother? Mamó. I thought, ‘Ok, I can do that. I can do Mamó.’ So I issued an edict to the family and said, ‘I shall henceforth be known to my grandchildren as Mamó please.’"
Needless to say, Barbara’s first grandchild didn’t get the memo. Hearing her mother calling her grandmother "Barbara" (presumably before the memo came into effect), the child came up with "Bap" and the name stuck.
Talking to Sarah, Barbara got into pretty deep territory and confessed to something when it comes to the names that we call ourselves to our children as well as the names they – and their children – call us:
"When I became a mother, from early on I realised that I had a problem when it came to writing cards to my children – this is an awful admission, I can’t believe I’m admitting this on radio – and I found I couldn’t sign myself Mammy or Mam or Mum or Mummy or any of that stuff because when I thought about it, I kind of thought, ‘That is who I am to them, but it’s not who I am.’ So I have always signed their birthday cards and whatever the cards I might have got them ever since they were little as Barbara."
As a result, Barabra’s eldest is the only one of her three children who call her Mum, the other two call her Barbs. And that all fits in with the way Barbara thinks of herself and the way she fits into her children’s and grandchildren’s lives:
"I feel kind of, I suppose, that I am a grandmother, but it’s not just who I am, I’m a lot more than that. That’s just part of who I am."
Barbara’s original motivation for not wanting to be called Granny was entirely down to ageism:
"We see getting older as a negative – particularly for women. No one’s ever said, ‘Oh you’re a right old granny’ as a compliment."
Grandparent names don’t – or shouldn’t – define us, but our best laid plans for cool-sounding names may all be for nothing when the time comes.
You can hear Sarah’s full chat with Barbara by clicking above.