29 January 2017
I grew up in Ghan in the 40s, 50s, and some part of the 1960s till it was time to fly the nest.The were 6 of us two of whom were girls,my mother, father, and “Auntie”.
I never really knew who ''Auntie'' was nor did it matter. She had arrived before me and from all appearance she had as much right to be there as the rest of us.I learned later from my mother that she had come from Liverpool to Ireland in the 40s to help her while she was expecting her second child.
She was to come for 2 weeks but stayed till God called her home at the age of 88 in 1961.She died with us in Ghan House.
''Auntie'' later turned out to be my mothers aunt,a sister of my maternal Grandmother whom I had never know. She was one of 9 children and was born in 1873.It seems extraordinary now that I had access to someone who lived so long ago and never took the opportunity to find out more about her life and that of her brothers and sisters.
She had worked as a shop girl in “Bunnies” department store in Liverpool.
Through the Woods Gavan connection and the boat links from Greenore to Liverpool she had met and fallen in love with John Connor from Lordship.
They married and had a son called Sidney.-Sidney died of T.B when he was 27.He himself had married before his death and had a son called “Young Sid”.When he was 17 and in the merchant Navy, the boat on which he was travelling was torpedoed and he was drowned.John Connor died, and some years later “Auntie” remarried a Phil Mc Grath from Hollymount Kilcurry who had a pub in Argyle St in Liverpool.She survived his death and it was then she came to Carlingford.
Though Ghan House was a big place, all 6 of us slept in the one room.It was a big room that was without heat of any kind.It was so cold in winter that if you needed to go to the bathroom in the night you would hold on till morning hoping for a thaw.If you couldn't manage that, you moved throught the frosty air with such dexterity that you didn't disturb the air less you freeze to death.”
“ Auntie” for as long as I can remember was part of our night-time ritual.
We would hear her coming up the back stairs at night never settling until she did.We became accustomed to every creek and squeek on the landing outwitting her every night and she tried to tip toe pass without notice.
“ Auntie have you any sweets” we would chorus. “AHHH” we would hear her say “Go to sleep” and then silence.Minutes later the door would open and each in turn had a sweet stuffed into their gob as she went round from bed to bed,the door would close and she was gone.And so it was every night until a sweet had lost its taste for something more substantial or she couldn't walk passed any more..
“ Auntie” acknowledged everyones birthday with a half crown,she picked up eggs from the “en pen” a throw back to her Liverpool accent.As the years went on she developed a sniff and a drop on the end of her nose.She would drive us all insane with the constant tapping of her wedding ring
on the hearth out of rythmn with the music.
It was only after she had gone to her reward that we discovered one of her best kept secrets.We were aware that each night, summer or winter she would go for a short walk right up to her last days. In the pitch dark on the coldest nights off she would go. Months after she had died we found a hugh pile of Baby Power Whiskey bottles that had been tossed across the garden wall.She had been a regular customer in O Hares and it seems that she must have felt the cold in Ghan House as much as we did.
My father handed me a letter years later that he had found in the chimney of the Ghan that had been left for Santa to read. It was a letter that I had written as a 9 year old and in it I had requested Santa to bring “Auntie” a canary in a cage,and a flashlight.I don't know now why I requested a canary,but I must have guessed why she needed the flashlight,it was a dark road to O Hares in those days.
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29 January 2017
My mother and father.More > (1 comments)
29 January 2017
Pastimes before the advent of Radio and TV.
The popular pastimes in the village in the 1940s and into the 1950s were football , standing at Bob Mc Garrell’s corner discussing world, national and local affairs; hunting rabbits and kibbing birds; chatting in Mc Shanes tea shop or, straight across from it, Rice’s; chasing (see below); competing in the annual regatta; attending, or performing in, concerts in the “Hall " as the Parochial Hall was commonly called ; playing billiards and playing cards, whist drives and Sunday night dances in the same hall; attending plays in the Wee Lane Hall and the parochial hall; badminton in the hall; first aid classes; Irish classes in Greenore: sports days in Wood’s field which usually included tug o war, the main rivals in this sport being Rathcor and Glenmore; drinking bottles of Guinness a minority pastime then; racing on four-wheelers (home- made from pram wheels and timber) down Mc Kevitt’s Hill, the Convent Hill and the Castle Hill, the roads during the war years being virtually free of motor traffic; robbing orchards; attending October Devotions and indulging in some larking about coming home in the dark; the occasional trip on Keenans buses to Dundalk or Newry to see a film and possibly treat oneself to fish and chips.
There was no TV, no video games, no CDs, no mobile phones and not much money floating about.
Carlingford in the 1940s was a TV free zone as was, indeed, each of the 32 counties. Only a minority of homes had wireless sets in the early 40s and crowds gathered the radio (powered by wet batteries) in the Parochial Hall on Sundays to listen to Michael O Heir’s dramatic broadcasts of big games in Croke Park and in various provincial centres such as Thurles. Next door the front window in Danny McKevitt’s front room would be opened to allow those gathered outside to enjoy O Heir’s lively commentaries. A point of interest here: wireless sets made in what was then the Free State listed a station under the title The Six Counties.
In 1948 a group of business men M. J. O Rourke, coal merchant, was one and the then head of the Kearney family of Wilville - JP or, if he was dead at that stage, his son Donal - was another) opened a cinema in Newry St. on a site created by the demolition of Kearneys store. Photos/stills of Hollywood stars adorned the lobby (June Haver was one of the stars on show) and the admission price for the body of the hall was 1 shilling and 8 pence with lower prices at the very front and higher prices for the few raised rows at the rear. The opening film, as far as I recall, was Wings of the Morning featuring a Sunny Tufts and horse racing and the voice of John McCormack.
The cinema was a big success for a number of years. Bill Boyd playing Hopalong Cassidy entertained the younger element and some senior citizens too, practically every Sunday. The operator was, as far as I recall, Leslie Adamson and possibly also, his brother the late jack Adamson. Others involved at the box office and as usherettes were, as far as I remember: Doris Hanlon, Margaret Boyle, Laura McKevitt and Billie Cunningham
Telafis Eireann opened on New Years Eve 1961, President Eamon de Valera presiding at the inauguration. UTV was available in the North East of the country somewhat earlier having come on air on 31 October 1959. The 1940s was a TV free decade and sometime in the 1950s UTV and BBC Northern Ireland were available to those few with TV sets but reception tended to be poor and clarity was denied by a more or less perpetual drift of snowflakes.TV sets were few ( later on Des Boyle abandoned his bicycle business â?" where Michael Thornton and Eileen now live on Newry St.- and got into the more lucrative business of selling TV sets as demands for them rose rapidly). Hugh OHare’s father of the late PJs had a TV in his bar and many gathered there to see the sad scenes shot at Munich when the Manchester United team lost many fine players in the air disaster in 1958.
Some of the pastimes mentioned above merit a separate short article each. Suffice here to explain about “Chasing”. This was an activity for after dark and involved the young participants separating into two groups: one or two did the chasing and the rest shot off to hide. The chasers tried to locate the various hiders. The game ender when all were located but as that was a rare enough event it was deemed advisable not to drag out the game pointlessly and the chaser/s would signal a new round, entailing new chasers/hunters by calling loudly “All in” “All in”. This sport nearly always began outside Rice’s shop (between the Centra supermarket and the Carlingford Arms or, at the time, Wood’s butcher shop and Bob Mc Garrell and those hiding did so within an area not more than roughly 200yards from this starting point.
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29 January 2017
Catching Trout in the River Lane
Just across from the home of Patsy and Eithne Mc Kevitt on the River Lane there was a pool that had trout in it in the 1950s.They were small when we first spotted them. We would get into the river in our bare feet and catch them, trapping them between hands fingers and the wall.They were light brown in colour speckled with bright red and black spots.After catching them we would release them back into the pol
A year passed by,I was 11, and to us they now looked liked they had doubled in size.This time we caught them and brought them home to the pan.By the time they were topped and tailed there was pretty well nothing on them- barely a mouth full.
Looking back it seems extraordinary to me now that there were trout there. God knows where they came from and He also knows where they went to.50 years on the beauty of them in the water far outweighs the memory of what they tasted like.
There were also trout in the steam at Mountain Park when we were children. They were more elusive that the River Lane ones.We could never catch them though someone must have for they are gone too and only God knows to where..More > (0 comments)
29 January 2017
We were playing football in the school yard in 1955.The yard was in that area that is now the Church parking area beside the Parochial House.We had been fortunate today that we had acquired a cows bladder from Woods' butcher shop in Newry St.It was blown up and tied at the top with string.Two teams were picked and the match was on. The football's origins added to our hilarity as the game ebbed and flowed across the school yard.
Lunch time had another 6 minutes to run.The game slowed as the players moved to the southern wall to look towards the bottom of the hill.
Many prayed silently that this was the day when the teachers house door wouldn't open.
Every day we prayed but everyday on the dot of five minutes to two the door opened and Master Mc Grath proceeded on his onward march towards us up the hill.In what seemed like seconds his soft felt hat boobed up and down along the perimiter wall with each menacing step.He was at the gate,turned and without looking left or right proceeded to the classroom door.Wheeling round to face us I knew our time was up as we lined up two by two. "Istigh"(In) he said as every gut in my body churned in anticipation of the afternoon to come.More > (0 comments)