29 January 2017
Gathering Winkles and Rasberries
There were a few places that you could get summer employment as a child in the 1950s in Carlingford. Gathering winkles and offering to sell them to Michael John Boyle on the North Commons was fraught with disappointment. The winkles could be too small or picked from the wrong side of the shore. You ended up with no money and having to throw the days labour across the sea wall where they often mysteriously disappeared.
We picked raspberries and strawberries at 2 pence a punnet in one of 3 field farms, Rogans on the North Commons,Vincent Kierans on the Greenore Rd and Callaghan’s of Mullatee who supplied raspberries to Fane Valley for jam making.
Most of us age 10-12 preferred working with Callaghan’s. They supplied mugs of tea and thick slides of cottage loaf sandwiches filled with ham and mustard at lunch time. I picked there with assorted Woods and Mc Kevitt families children, Bernie Mc Cann from the Grove, the Ryan sisters Ann, Pat, and Deirdre daughters of Tom the Customs man. Mick Sheilds a nephew of the Callaghan’s, Mc Cormack’s from the Greenore Rd, Marjorie Donnelly from the Central Bar. Anthony Delaney from the Post Office .A few Mc Ardles from Newry St, .Helen Keenan from Tholsel St who later left were her family for Canada, Roisin Sheilds from the Castle Hill,Oliver Connolly from the railway cottage at King Johns pier and others that now slip my memory.
The day began at about 9. You were given your drill to work with a corresponding worker on the other side of the canes. Mick Callagan left you 12 empty punnets in a tray to be filled. The prospect of earning big money stretched out before you - 2 shillings and 4 pence when the 12 were filled, in today’s money that equated to 11 cent.
About 11.30 a.m. concentration would wane and the first squashed up handful of Raspberries would hit the back of your head. It was difficult to ascertain where they had come from due to the height of the canes but it would not take long before the whole field became in embroiled in a full scale Raspberry fight. The thought of money flew out the window and before long you were bloodied from head to toe with raspberry juice. A roar from Annie Callaghan normally restored order.
As I remember it, Mick Callaghan had a wee gra for the girls that we “men” envied.He too would gather raspberries and when his big cupped hands were full he would head to the nearest girls punnet and drop the lot in there filling it to overflowing. Ann Ryan was a favourite. She could have made money without working but in truth was the best thrower of a ball full of squashed fruit in the whole field.
They were wonderful happy days. It was the time of the Top 20 and Radio Luxemburg.
“Around The World” was No1 for 12 weeks on the trot. Jim Reeves was singing love songs and the first boy girl relationships were beginning to bud.
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29 January 2017
Miss Quinn had prepared us well for our first Holy Communion. Over and over and over again we repeated prayers before and after until they were word perfect. We had practiced everything in the classroom for the big day for weeks on end . She was the priest and the large iron cast fire-guard that surrounded the coke stove at the centre of the back wall was to be the alter railings. If you who don’t understand the reason why there were railings its important to remember that they were in all Catholic churches until decreed to be removed after Vatican Two.
We would line up, hands joined- there would be no interlacing of fingers - straight fingers only and thumbs crossed over to hold the position. We knelt down in a row on the classroom side of the fire–guard in deep prayerfulness and desperately tried to ignore the swish of the Masters cane on the far side of the partition. The “priest” Miss Quinn took the “ciborium” with the “hosts” to the other side of the fire-guard. We knew from the bigger boys that had gone before us that this would be a moment of sheer ecstasy. I watched from the corner of my eye and could see the long black skirt and black flat shoes move ever closer. It was important that you got your timing just right. Reverence demanded that you close your eyes and put your tongue out to receive the host. It took me quite a time to perfect this. If you closed your eyes too soon and put your tongue out and nothing happened, you could open them again put your tongue back in just as communion arrived . Disaster! I got it perfect on this occasion, eyes closed , tongue out and Miss Quinn laid a dolly mixture right smack in the middle of it.Wow! We loved this part of the practice.
The big morning arrived for me. I was suitably prepared, my soul sparkling like the cleanliness of day of my baptism. I was word perfect the final dress rehearsal had been inspected by the Master himself from next door. We had made our first confession and I had told the priest that I had stolen more buns from my mother that she had ever baked. I just didn’t want to get the number wrong.
As for cursing, the priest must of thought that I spoke nothing else but curses when he asked “How many times”. I was so glad there was a curtain between me and him and that he couldn’t see me and even if there hadn’t been, he would only have seen the top of my head for I had crouched down just in case.
I was suitably decked out for the big day with my new suit bought from Sean Burke in Earl St. Short trousers were the norm then with socks to the knees and black shoes, special white prayer book that included Latin, throw in a few aunts, Godparents, if your family knew a few nuns that would insure that you had enough rosary beads to last you a lifetime.
It is hard to image now but at that time my father had just bought a machine called a fridge. It measured about 3 frt. 3ft.It was used to store milk and butter.We had never seen the like of it before as up till this time these items were kept in “The Safe” in the scullery which was a number of shelves about 6 in all with wire mesh doors to keep the flies away. I loved milk. It came from the cow that we owned in Castletown. My Uncle Thomas milked it each day, we collected the milk, and he got the calves each year, a workable arrangement. On the morning of my communion I went to the new fridge door opened it and was amazed to see ice on the top of the jug where the cream should be. Without a moments hesitation I lifted the jug to my head and lowered the lumps of frozen milk into my mouth.It was at that moment that my brother Michael later to become a priest arrived on the scene. ”You broke your fast” he said “you can’t go to communion”.
At that time the rules were that you had to fast for 24 hours before receiving. Word spread around the house like wildfire. They all arrived to the scullery “ You broke your fast, you broke your fast”. I think my mother said that I shouldn’t been drinking out of a jug. We left Ghan House for St Michaels in silence.We arrived in silence except for the sobbing and sniffin of myself the sinner.The Master was there organizing everyone. I didn’t dare to raise my eyes to look at him. The saints sat in the front row of the church while I was in the middle of the congregation with my parents. The great moment came, the saints knelt the length of the rails, hands just right, eyes closed, tongues to receive, “Corpus Christi” and my moment was gone. The saints were congratulated on their great day and left the church for the customary group photograph. As a concession I was allowed to stand in.I have never seen this group photo in all that I have collected, it might be that it was torn up by everyone that had one for I must have looked a sight.
I made my first communion on the next Monday morning at the regular Mass, on my own with my family there. I am probably the only one that this happened to in the parish or maybe even the country. God made up for my disappointed that Sunday long ago, I got an extra day off school and no saint ever made as much money in 6d pieces as I did over the week as the news of my story spread. Thank you God.
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29 January 2017
I remember returning home with my father Anthony in 2005 to visit Glenmore where his own father John was born in 1905. I say returning home, as I had never been to Glenmore before, but when I was there I felt like a salmon feels when it finally reaches its destination after traveling thousands of miles across the ocean to where it was born. My father himself had only been back once before with granddad in 1938 when he was just 12 years old and they had walked the whole way from Dundalk station to Glenmore. My father stayed next door with the Donnelly family and remembers being very embarrassed at staying with a lot of girls! He remembers my Great Grandmother, Mary O'Neill (ne Reilly) sitting in the corner of the old house dressed all in black. My father also vividly remembers the old Glenmore church with it's arch and slabs of stone laid by his ancestors, so much so we spent hours driving round trying to find it! Only to discover it had been rebuilt and a car park was now in it's place. That's progress! He recalled to me walking to the top of Slieve Foy with two of his cousins, Jerry and Albert and remembered how he cried when he reached the top he was so scared. He felt he was on top of the world. When we finally made it back to the top together fifty five year later he laughed at how he had felt back then as a boy and also laughed to his cousins Jerry and Albert who were no longer there that he wasn't crying now! Instead he has brought me home, his daughter, Shelagh who had made my own special journey with him to be there. Home again. We went to see Mary Reilly who lived up from the old house and as soon as I walked through the door she said she felt like crying as I looked the image of my Great Grandmother Mary. I knew I had come home again. I had always felt so tied to Ireland but as my mother and father had separated when I was just three I had never known why. So many unanswered questions. Great Granmother Mary and Great Grandad Andrew had had eight children, Mary (Minnie), Tom, Alice (who died aged 8), Elizabeth (who emigrated to Australia), John, Andrew, Peter and James. All of the children were the best turned out children you could imagine and how Mary was able to do that in the little cottage they all live in will always amaze me. When I was taken to the house, now a just a shed, I stood and wept. How she must have felt seeing all of her children leave her and emigrate to find work must have broken her heart. I can't imagine it. I feel so grateful that I was able to make it back to Glenmore with my father and see where we came from before he passed away last November. We spent so much of our lives apart, but walking up that hill together we found not just each other but how our roots were so entwined with one another and with Glenmore which will always stay with me forever. More > (0 comments)
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
Coming Home 2001
Keller & Associates
St. Louis, MO 63118
Driving north on the road from Dublin I saw the soft peaks of the Cooley Mountains begin to take shape in the mist.
I was coming home to Carlingford, the first member of my family to do so in more than 150 years.
I had read what little is available about the town but, if it is a town that time has forgotten, it is equally an afterthought among travel writers. None of their adjectives "small," "charming," "a nice day trip out of Dublin," the usual favorites, had prepared me for the magic of Carlingford.
It is an ancient town, perhaps the most wonderfully medieval of villages I have experienced in my limited travels. Its narrow streets terrace upwards from Carlingford Lough, an inlet of the Irish Sea. At midday, brightly colored boats of all description wait on their silt perches or bob in distant shallows for the return of the tides.
There’s an old saying that goes: "In Europe 100 miles is considered a long way; in America, 100 years is considered a long time." In Carlingford, more than anywhere else I visited in Ireland, there is a sense that time is an unending and unbreakable thread, and all of us who go there are beads on that thread. I cannot know exactly how the village looked 150 years ago but feel certain that it is simply faces, not structures or spirit, that have changed in that time. Perhaps I am an incurable romantic; perhaps I have been overwhelmed by the fantasies of walking where my ancestors walked; and perhaps I have been caught up in the magic of Carlingford.
My father’s grandfather, Terence McBride, left Carlingford in 1848 with his brother Peter to seek their fortunes in America. Terence married late and lived to be very old, telling and retelling the stories of Ireland to anyone who would listen until he died at the age of 95 during my father’s 15th year. Dad and his siblings, two of whom are still living, heard the stories of the Famine, and of the brothers’ flight from Ireland on a ship that foundered, leaving them to be rescued by a passing vessel and brought to harbor near Boston. He didn’t know, so we didn’t learn, the term "Coffin Ship," for many years.
The young McBride brothers eventually helped arrange passage for nine of their 12 other brothers and sisters, along with their mother, Mary Donnelly McBride, and several members of other Carlingford families. One of these, Anne Rice, became Terence’s wife and my great-grandmother. They scattered across the vastness of America seeking whatever fortunes awaited them. Gradually, as they settled in such diverse settings as Massachusetts, Wisconsin, California and, of course, Missouri, the threads that had bound them in Carlingford came undone by the thousands of miles that separated them here.
But Terence told stories that would eventually be passed along to me, and like many Irish-Americans, I came to long for Ireland. This was assuaged somewhat by learning the music and history of the country, but the ache to go there and see it for myself remained, nurtured through years of tight budgets, young children, developing careers.
I believe there is a reason as to why Irish-Americans seem more nationalistic and drawn to our homeland than any other group save possibly for our fellow Americans whose families came from Africa: we didn’t want to leave in the first place! We had no choice, but the uprooting left a longing that I sometimes think is imbedded in our genes.
And now I was back, along with my husband Tom, a great-grandson of Cork and Kerry who’s sandy hair and freckles mark his origins as surely as the black hair and pale skin of the northeastern Irish do theirs. As I walked among the townspeople of Carlingford I saw—or at least fancied I did—the faces of dear ones long departed as well as my own 21-year-old Danny back in the ‘States. I thought of a spot so far away from Carlingford, in a tiny Catholic cemetery in Missouri, where Terence and Anne, all of their children and grandchildren down to a great-great grandchild rest together. Someday I will join them in this place where my family sleeps, but for now I was back where my family began.
We took a room at McKevitt’s in the center of the village which put us in a perfect position to walk down to the marina or "down the street and up a wee hill" to St. Michael’s Catholic Church. Between those points were shops selling first-rate crafts and Irish goods at very reasonable prices, and the Carlingford Heritage Center (which, to our dismay, was closed because of Foot and Mouth precautions that were in place throughout Ireland.) There are also the ruins of an ancient abbey and remnants of stone walls that once encircled the town.
One of the many delightful surprises of Carlingford is its ability to feed and bed its visitors with a level of comfort and sophistication that exceeds all expectations. We ate a fine meal at the Marina and another at McKevitt’s where we met up with some young women from Belfast down for a holiday. Although still relatively unknown to the outside world, its location just over an hour’s drive from both Dublin and Belfast, makes Carlingford a popular weekend getaway for people from both cities. They come for the food, which we barely had time to sample; for the craic at McKevitts and the Oyster Catcher Bistro; for the vast array of water sports; for the gentle mountains that beckon the walker; for the sheer beauty of Ireland at her best.
Like so many first-time visitors to Ireland we tried to do too much and drive too far in our 11 days there and, much as I treasure all my memories of the trip, I feel I barely touched the surface of the magic of Carlingford. The longing is still there…the ache to go back. Only next time it won’t just be for Terrence and Anne. Next time it will be for me and I’ll stay as long as I can.
Janet McBride Keller
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