Memory Lane – Part 1

I can remember back 85 years. Glan was much smaller and a much poorer place at that time. There were no street lights and the town was in darkness in the winter time. You’d see no one in town on Sunday nights. The pubs were the same as now – there was one new one but it closed down again – that’s where Bernie McDermotts is. That wasn’t there when I was going to school. I remember the pint was tuppence and a half quarter of tobacco was six pence. Every lad smoked a pipe and it was mostly clay pipes. There was no cigarettes but some of the well to do would have cigars.                      

At that time everyone walked to Mass. Of course, there was no bicycles. The first bike around here was owned by Thomas Garvey, Clondoyle, with a big wheel and a little one. I remember the first car that ever passed here. We didn’t know what it was. A man who had been working in England told us it was a motor car. We all wondered how it could climb the hills. I don’t know whose it was. Horses and carts were the only way we had for travelling and there were very few traps. Your grandfather, God be good to him, was the only one around here that had a trap – Sergeant Walsh – I knew him well.                                                                                                                                                                              

In the village of Gloon there were eleven houses where there are only two now. There’s eight houses gone in Clooncon and ten or twelve gone in Englishtown. Sure, Meelick is nearly wiped out altogether. The young lads used to wear petticoats made of flannel and the women wore long petticoats made of flannel and they’d have a shawl going to Mass and no hat. Dances that time were held in the houses – in the kitchen.   For Music they’d be a tin flute or a wooden flute or maybe a concertina and an odd fiddle. The musicians were paid nothing and certain houses were noted for dances. This was the only entertainment on Sunday and Holiday nights. Young boys and girls did not go to the pubs then, only the older people but they drink more then. A lot of whiskey and punch and they used to drink it at home as well as in the pubs. There was no poteen made here in my time but it was made and sold in my grandfather’s time but I never saw it. Matchmaking was a common thing then. Seraft started on the twelfth night of Christmas. The father and mother of a boy would ask a neighbour to go to the house of the girl they had in mind. If everything was alright they would agree to meet to settle the money question – you know, the fortune. The boy and girl had to be satisfied as well as the fathers and mothers before the match would be completed. Then the marriage would take place before Lent. There was no special matchmaker around here. The wedding was held in the boy’s house. A goose would be killed and a pot of soup and spuds and the sweet cake and plenty of porter and whiskey. Nine gallons of porter was eight shillings. There wouldn’t be any honeymoon.                                                                           

They used to have football on Sundays and week evenings in Keaveney’s field and they used to walk to the matches. Garret Kelly used to walk from Knickauns to Mount Bellew to play matches. I remember that the church was against football – why I don’t know but I remember a big row at a football match in Keaveney’s field when a Father Waldron tried to stop it. Another game we played was alley ball. Fair days in Glenamaddy used to be very, very cross. Everyone at the fair had a stick and when I was a young lad I used to go in to look at the rows. Sometimes they began at Keaveny’s corner and they end up at Martin Garveys and there would be blood spilt. I remember seeing eleven men being brought to the Barracks for being drunk and disorderly.                                                                    

At that time, they used to have games at all the wakes.  I was the first man in the place to put them down. Forty-six years ago, my mother died. She’d be 71 or 72 and we were in the old house at the time. I never liked it. A gang would come in and after a while they would have a round of slapping. Another game was, ‘Le hais an stóilín. A lad would sit on a chair and call a girl and start to kiss her and she wouldn’t want that and they would run into rooms and run everywhere – I never liked it. And they used to have pipes for everyone at the wakes – long shanked pipes and clay pipes and there would be a barrel of porter. They’d end up dancing and singing songs. The there was the keeners. Girls had to cry for the person overboard in the kitchen and the boys would all go on their knees and say prayers and then the devilment started. They carried the coffin on their shoulders but from Stonetown they used a horse and cart. Before they put the remains on the cart they had to take the horse out three times.                                                                                                                      

When you visited a house that time the man of the house lit his pipe and passed it around to the old men and if you didn’t take it, it would be an insult. People didn’t eat creamery butter then, but we’d have a churning every week. There was a three penny, four penny and six penny loaf. The six penny loaf would be enough for a family of 4 or 5. It was all American bacon then and it was 4d a pound. Big fat bacon which was wonderful for dressing cabbage. You would drink a mug of cabbage soup before your dinner and it was good for you. People didn’t kill pigs then. A few might be killed at Christmas and sold at the market for pork.  Around 1935 or ’37 the American bacon was stopped and it was scarce and they began killing pigs. Families would kill two pigs in the year. Markets in Glan were big then. You’d have oats at 11 pence a stone and potatoes at four and a half pence. I used to deal in corn. I’d buy it at the market and sell it to the millers. Men would be out ploughing from mid February to mid March with the horses. They sowed a lot of oats and they used the double wooden harrows with iron spikes. The spring harrow was a new thing. Then at the harvesting the old people wouldn’t allow scythes. You’d lose the grain. It was done with the hooks and the women worked at it too. Forty five years ago I had four Irish acres of oats – a good crop it was too and I threshed every sheaf of it with the flail. I did it all in the long winter nights with a lantern for a couple of hours each night, then tied it up in bundles and the next day made a stack of the straw outside in the garden. I’d put the seed up in the corner of the barn and riddle it with a wooden riddle – you wouldn’t remember them. There was two doors in the barn and when the wind was suitable I would winnow it and the chaff would blow out the door. Then the threshing machine came along. At first, some didn’t like it but at last everyone had it. Cutting turf took nine days. Wages at that time was one shilling a day and it would be a good man that would get it. Mowers got a half crown a day and a gallon of porter but there were not many able to mow. There was story tellers out then that told nearly all fairy stories. The old people had little education and they’d believe anything. I went to England in 1921. It was easy to get work, if you were a good man, with farmers. You’d be paid eighteen shillings a week and feed yourself. It was all piece work – so much for the job. I worked for a farmer, who had 600 acres, filling manure. We worked from 8a.m. to 4.30 in the evening and I got two pence a load. There were six carts working and I filled forty eight carts and got eight shillings a day and ‘t was great money in them days. I knew the workhouse in Glenamaddy and I was in there with a patient once. Ah! It was mostly old tramps they had there – fellows that spent their best days in England and spent their time boozing. There was a church in Boyounagh about 250 years ago and then they built a small church in Glan. It had no seats and the people stood during the sermon. A Fr. Walsh of Ardeevin built a big addition to it. When I was a young fellow there was a lot of mitching from school and the Curate, Fr. Walsh, used to go round on horse back after them. The big lads used to go to school in the winter time. There was a night school held in Glan about the year 1918 by a teacher called Killoran. He had the school full and he taught grown-up boys who thought a lot of him. The school in Stonetown was opposite Timothys with an upstairs and a downstairs in it. A new school was built after 1900 – the one that was burnt. There was dances held in a hall in Ballinastack during Fr. Heaney’s time but before that Thady Quinn had an old barn in Englishtown where he charged four pence for boys and nothing for girls.

Author: Michael Murphy, Clooncon, in an interview with Tiernan Walsh

Source: Glan To Glan, March 1976