When we went to school nothing went on our bare feet, we would have sand shoes and we would fire them off. They were old light shoes, slippers like. In the summer we often threw them away we would walk down the road in our bare feet.
Another memory is of the leaves on the road and the boys would have matches and we would light fires going home in the evening.
At the priest’s house where you go down, you know[i], we used to go down there to wash our feet in the river before we went home because we would have been all out playing. Boys had to stay in one yard and we had to stay in the other.I went to St. Catherine’s school – it’s a hall now, and we had a very cross teacher from Co. Cork. He sent out one of the boys to cut a stick in the ditch and that’s what we got slaps with, it wasn’t a ruler – an ordinary stick out of the ditch, and we would get slapped if we misbehaved. We weren’t allowed to play in the boy’s yard; we had our own. And as for the toilets – they were disgusting in those days; you couldn’t go near them with the smell!
It was hard – and he would give us a note going home if we were misbehaving. I enjoyed school mind you – we hadn’t a bad old time at all only the teacher was cross. There’s only one person alive from school that I went to school with, and she is in her nineties like me, and she entered at eighteen into the convent. There would have been about sixteen or so boys and girls in my class and there was well over one hundred and twenty in the school. Ah sure the lord save us we got loads of slaps, we did.
We had a fire in the school, just the turf, you would get your turn to bring the turf to school. My father would bring the load up and drop it above and that was for the year then. But some of them used to put the couple of sods under their arm and stay bringing it for a month. And we never got near it, the teacher was above warming her bum and we were down at the end, we never got warm and you would be perished when the frost would come. There was no electric or anything around that time, it was hard going. For lunch maybe my mother might fry rashers and put it between two cuts of bread and that would be for some mornings, and then we would have just wholemeal bread and butter and a bottle of milk.
I enjoyed school – I went to a technical school then for a couple of years after that in Ballinasloe, just cycled in and out every morning.
We would go to dances, Oh the ceilí just, and I used to have to ask my father, my mother would let us go but we had to ask our father. Easter Sunday, Patrick’s night and maybe once in the month of June there were ceilís up at the school. Then came along the dance halls which were further away but we didn’t go that far – we weren’t let. But I enjoyed it, it wasn’t bad at all! So that’s the way it went.
The griddle bread
As regards what my mother cooked at home, Friday was a fast day and we would boil potatoes and mash them and put an onion in on top of it with no meat. We always kept a pig and we would only have the fresh meat on Sunday, it was bacon every other day – lamb or beef only on a Sunday. The goose was always for Christmas, there was no turkey in my day. My mother made two or three cakes of bread every day, there were nine of us in it, and she would make brown bread. And she used to make the griddle bread – and we used to love the griddle bread she used to make. She would put no meal in it, only the flour. And she would cut it hot and let the butter melt into it – it was lovely. We were never hungry and the neighbours were never hungry.
We always had to do the turf and we would have it done in one day because maybe six of us would go down. We took it home in the horse and cart and we would sit on top of the load then. We got better weather then in those days to turn the turf. We would spread it first and then foot it, and then heap it and then leave it for a while to dry and then bring it home. We had also hay, Lord bless us the rain would come down on top of us after turning it. At the thrashing time my mother would feed everyone.
We used to play cards at night time. We had maybe nine gambling every night with the neighbours – we called it gambling but sure it was only a penny or two-pence. Cards were very popular because that’s all we had that time, there were no televisions.
We had two horses for ploughing and we had a pony. I often went up to Aughrim on the pony and cart for the big bag of flour. We also had a spring well, and we had barrels to go to the gullet we called it, for washing clothes. My mother used to play the accordion if there were any parties anywhere. She would play music for some of the locals and that’s how they learned to dance. We learned how to do the reel sets and the waltzing and all that kind of thing.
I met a husband. The wedding was in Aughrim of course and the meal was in the house and we had a bit of a dance, a party, that sort of thing, and then we went off to Dublin for a week, and that was it. I was twenty-eight when I got married. I had only four children; three boys and one girl. A couple of the local lads played at the wedding , they were great musicians.
I didn’t work that hard really but I had to do a certain amount no matter what, and we were happy I think you know that sort of a way. I worked at home all the time until I got married, but the rest of them all went, they had to do that in those days, there was nothing to be got.
Fasting from the night before
We never missed the mass. And you would have to be fasting from the night before that time or you couldn’t go to communion. I often tasted the child’s bottle to see if it was warm, I couldn’t go to communion then, that’s a fact! I remember my communion day, I had the white dress and it would be kept for the rest of the sisters when they got older. For your confirmation you could dress in your own clothes, but they would have school uniforms in places for the confirmation.
The family doctor was called the ‘dispensary man’ at the time.
I rode the bike up to not long ago at all. There was a local shop down there; Ryan’s, but that is closed a good few years. I never passed Ryan’s and I would go down on my bike and I wouldn’t pull that door when I would be going down to the shop down through the years, there was no robbing, no nothing. I rode a man’s bike several times when my own would be punctured, I did!
We had about twenty geese, turkeys and everything. My mother used to kill them; she would just twist their neck. I would never kill fowl, I would pluck them alright and clean them out but I never killed them – I couldn’t. My father used to go off fishing, he often used to come home with trout and he would go off to Kilconnell, there is a river in it. I never fished myself – it was the lads.
We never went to the pub. You might get some old woman who might go into the snug, as they called it, and have a bottle of stout. But I never drank in my life – I don’t know the taste of it.
We had a slated two-storey with two bedrooms. We used to go upstairs and open the window at the top and jump out the window down into the garden below, my mother might be gone somewhere. Now we were only about ten or twelve at the time and our parents never saw us doing it – weren’t we cracked too, Lord save us! But my mother never saw us doing it, or if our father saw us he would kill us!
We did speak Irish at School. We had too; we would get murdered for it too, a few words here and there, mind you, I liked it. The teacher had to go away to learn it correctly for three months but on my word I didn’t mind the Irish; I hated maths, that was not my subject. I have forgotten it all now.
[i] This location is an opening to the river between the Priest’s house and the school in Aughrim.