Down Memory Lane – John Keaveney

I was born in a place called Gloon – down where St. Patrick came to. Clooncun they call it now. There’s a hill down there and they reckon the tracks of St. Patrick knees are there yet where he knelt on his way down to Croagh Patrick. There were about seventy two people in that village one time ago and there are now three people or four. Well, in there where we used to be one time ago – and nearly in every village in Ireland it used to be the same way – we didn’t need to go out at all d’ye see. We had enough of our own gang for a dance or anything and we had our own music.

I remember when there were trees on the streets in Glenamaddy and there was a big tree growing outside where the National Bank is now and when they used to go to the old chapel in the old cemetery and after second mass on Sunday a lot old men used to sit around the butt of this ash tree smoking their pipes on a summer’s day. It was all clay pipes then. We had the Knockcroghery clays, I think it was Curleys that made them and we had the Galway clays and they were made by Hynes’.

Then some of the youngsters that would be at the last Mass, they used to wear frieze coats on them and knee breeches and they used to go over there to where there used to be a fiddler or a flute player playing every Sunday to get the price of a couple of pints. They used to go over there to Cruachán na Damhsa. That’s over beyond the workhouse on the right hand side of the road. Right across from the cemetery there’s a hill of ground where they widened the road and that was filled with trees. That’s where they used to be playing music and dancing at Cruachán na Damhsa.

There was no great respect for porter in them days and anyone that came to a funeral or a burial or anything ‘t would be an insult to give him porter, ‘t would have to be punch. When the porter came out first it was only tuppence a pint and a gallon for 1s and 3d and a pint filled for yourself while they’d be filling the jar.

They used to have the American wakes then and they’d get the half barrel or 16 gallons or whatever was in it and they get that for about 13 bob. When somebody would be going to America they’d go around visiting to the neighbours before they’d go and have a handshake. Of course, some of the neighbours wouldn’t be able to go out but then in the night time they’d come in and they’d collect a few bob and the porter would come and they’d be there till clear day light and in the morning they had no way to go out but the horse and cart bringing them into the station in Tuam. When I was going first I used to walk it to Ballymoe. There were no cars or bikes. I’d say there were only about two bikes in Glan in 1890. One belonged to Thomas Garvey, the teacher and one belonged to John Joyce, the postman. He used to go down to Corrys of Kilsallagh and bring up whatever post there was and the Post Office at that time was up at No.2 – where Jim Keavney is now. That was Tommy and Kate Reilly’s Post Office. John Joyce lived on the Dunmore road, beyond Jeffers and he had a place rented from a Mary Devaney and I remember them putting up the house for him at Kiltullagh.

The first motor bike I saw in Glan, it was a Doctor Costello that had it. He was from Dunmore or Tuam, I’m not sure which. He vaccinated me. The man that was before him was Dr. McDonnell and he lived over where Finneran’s new house in Barna is, where Gill used to live and I knew that old man and there was no one in the house with him only he used to keep a boy and sure the boy and the Doctor were starved in it. He had one of these frock coats and he used to go out on horseback going on sick calls. The McDonnells had nearly half all Ireland taken up with Mills, down Roscommon way and Rahara and they had a mill over in Boyounagh and they had property down there at the old bog in Cultifadda. The vault in the graveyard in Boyounagh belonged to the McDonnells. It was in Boyounagh nearly all the people were buried at one time and there was an old man telling me – he lived over the Dunmore road near where Marron was. His name was Farrell Morissey and he told me he was picking spuds down the back of where Malachy Mooney is when the first one was buried down in the old cemetery in Glan. Before that they used to carry them over to Boyounagh and bury them in mats. They used to mats of straw and put the corpse into the mats and four men would carry them to Boyounagh. Old Brown the landlord was a Protestant but his son was a Catholic and he had a pity on them carrying the corpses and he gave them the piece of ground for the cemetery.

When we went to school it was there near to Michael Geraghty’s house is – you remember Michael. God rest him. Thomas Garvey, Clondoyle, was teaching in it in my time and there was an old lady from Mountkelly teaching in it as well. This school, from the time of the big storm in Ireland long ago when it knocked all the houses, they built their houses down in a low place and there was a slope down off the road at the school and when the rain would come we used to be puddling there with old cans and saucepans trying to dry it up and, of course., they didn’t mind it that time they had no boots or nothing. There was only a small fireplace and the chimney was broke and the rain was coming down and the maps had to be rolled up in wet weather and the papers put away and the soot used to come down through the thatch. But I remember well ‘twas “Pencil’s” brother was learning me when I started writing and that’s a long time ago. I remember this Gormley having a hold of my hand and the slate pencil and he learning me to make A and B and everything. You had to do your sums on a slate and you got a lot of slate pencils for a penny and they’d bring the slate home with them in the night. They’d have to turn in the slate to keep that rain from washing off the sums. Off course there was no trousers on the lads them times. They had petticoats like scotch plaids and a linen bib outside it. Later on they’d get a corduroy jacket but they wouldn’t get a suit till they would be able to go to England.

There was no window in the school, only the track of one, and ‘twas a shutter that used to be put up there in the night. There was a hole in the wall for the caps. We all threw our caps in the hole.  There was no law that time about school and you’d be kept at home as soon as you’d be able work but if the priest met you he had a big whip and ‘twas him that would come at you. There was a school then down at Dockerys and you went up steps outside to that door upstairs and they moved some of the girls down there from the old school and there was a teacher there named Miss Kerr. I don’t know if I was in first or second class when I went down to the new school on Ballymoe Road. There was a teacher named Killoran who came from Tubbercurry and Thomas Garvey was put second in command. That was in 1900.

Well, in 1905 then the new church was built. I was at Mass in the old one. It was in the cemetery; about ten yards down from the gate (at Mooneys end) and it went down to where there are two priests buried near Martin Joe’s (Donlon’s) garden. It was Fr. Conway that built the new church. He was a fellow with big whiskers. They used stones out of the old Church to build the Town Hall – St Brigid’s Hall – and that was set around 1908 or 1909.  When all the people of the parish heard about the town hall they thought that it would be a great big hall with a big clock that would be ringing at 12 o clock. Well then there were dances and all sorts off carrying on there and concerts. Before that Fr. Conway used to have concerts down in the school. Killoran was a great man at making up plays and some of the local lads and Fr. Conway were very interested in Irish at the time. Douglas Hyde who was later our first President was up here visiting to Fr. Conway. Fr. Conway got to like him and sure he was a nice man. When the hall was built they got out of having concerts in the school.

There was a Father Dan O’Hara in Glenamaddy before Father Conway. He lived in a house beside Jeffers beyond the church on Dunmore road. I think the old house is still standing. Then there was Fr. Stephen Walsh and he was living down in Ardeevin and a Collins man from Bushtown – that would be Willies father – was a clerk for Fr. Stephen Walsh that was in it before Fr. Conway’s time. He was able to serve Mass and everything and he used to drive Fr. Stephen up winter and summer to say Mass in the old church in the pony and trap. He was a very old man and he wasn’t very steady at the lapping it up (at the end) and they used to be throwing in medals and fancy buttons at the collection. ‘Tis him that christened me and ‘twas below there they used to go if they wanted to get married or baptised.

When Fr. Conway came he had no house so he took lodgings with Mrs Owens, where Dockerys is now, and later on he built the house where the nuns are now. The first fair in Glan was on the 5th of November 1888 and I’ll tell you how I know about it. There was a song about it and I knew bits of it but I forget it now. I remember the big fairs in my young days but it was for fighting a lot of them went, and ash plants and blackthorn sticks to them. It was in for faction fights they used to go. A gang would come from say Ballyhard or Knockmaskehill and maybe a gang from Patch or Leitra or up there. A fellow might spot a girl and they’d have a bloody fight to see who’d take her out and there was blood flying with the blackthorn sticks and kicking but still I never heard of anyone being killed. The old Police used to stand at Keaveny’s corner and they could watch the four roads and dammit if things were quiet they used to spur someone to create trouble to keep their jobs. There were four of them and a sergeant here then. A lot of the big farmers too that would be at the fairs and they would ask how much you’d wanted for cattle and if you didn’t sell at their price the next thing you would get the stick at the back of the head.

There wasn’t a lot of football around Glan in my young days because it wasn’t allowed. The priest would go out and take the football from them. They didn’t want any football or hurling for fear the people would get organised. There were these White Boys and Fenian men knocking around and the priests didn’t want that. They used to go around at night and be outside the windows of the houses of the White Boys or the Fenians.

Old Brown was there at the time and they were out to shoot the landlords and when he was in bed they reckon that a bullet went within a hen’s kick of him through the window and he having men minding him.

Before the time of the old school in Glan there was a hedge school over beyond Fahys on the Dunmore road – opposite the Parkroe road. Sometimes they used an old shed but mostly they got behind a good, sheltery hedge. The teacher was an old man named Owen Hussey from Scotland and he charged them one penny or a penny halfpenny a week. Of course it was all Irish he thought and he started them off with the alphabet. Some young lads then got free education in Munster if they went and worked for farmers and went to Protestant schools.

Glenamaddy has changed a lot and I can remember if you take the Kilkerrin road – you had Pat Raftery’s father was a tailor. Where Norah Keane lived there was Tom Keavney who was a nailer. At Glynns there was Lyons the blacksmith. John Mulrooney the butcher was where Gleeson is and there was a dressmaker where Dillons are. I remember James and Hugh Timothy, they would be Pake’s father and uncle. They were great carpenters and they made that dresser there and you can see for yourself what they could do. A fellow tried to buy it from me a few years ago but I wouldn’t sell. James was a great musician and had a band here at the time. I remember the big banner they used to carry with a picture of Robert Emmett on it. They had a nice turnout. There was John Smith the shoemaker where the hotel is at Raftery’s and I remember a fellow working there who was very fond of a pint. The RIC were very exact about closing time and this fellow used to get a box and put it under his arm and walk down to Collin’s pub – where Mannions is now. They had two half doors and they would open the top half and this fellow would pretend to be delivering a pair of shoes and he’d put his head in and they’d have a pint filled for him and he’d drink it down and the Police watching him. They would be standing at Keaveny’s corner and they couldn’t see the pint.

Author: John Keaveney, Kiltullagh

Source: ‘Glan to Glan’. 1977. An Interview with John Duggan