Life and times of Paddy Forde, Brackloon, Ballyglunin

Interview with Paddy Forde, Brackloon, Ballyglunin

Bernadette Forde for KHS

Paddy at the back door of his home in Brackloon, Ballyglunin
Paddy at the back door of his home in Brackloon, Ballyglunin
Paddy's grandparents' house in Brackloon.
Photo: Paddy Forde
Newspaper cutting describing the delicate work required competing the Nat West tower.
Newspaper cutting: Paddy Forde
Paddy's late wife Patricia in centre with family members.
Photo: Paddy Forde
Family members
Photo: Paddy Forde

Paddy Forde

I was born in Brackloon, Ballyglunin on 4th December, 1936. I had two brothers and one sister – Billy, Bob and Peggy.  Bob was the youngest.  My sister Peggy died at 9 months from meningitis and my mother also died when I was only five years old, from the same disease.

My youngest brother Bob went to live with relatives in Feigh, Abbeyknockoy when he was a baby. That was customary that time when the woman of the house died. He went to school in Abbeyknockmoy. He got a much better education than us.

Bringing home the body

My mother Delia died in the Central Hospital, Galway on the 26th May 1944. There were no hearses in those days, so the coffin was brought home from Galway on the top of a car. Two bags were laid out on the roof and her coffin was tied down with two ropes across it. The late Frank Burke brought her home to Killererin. My mother was Delia Fahy from Gurranebeg.


My grandfather was from Imanebeg and my grandmother was Mag Bane from Brackloon.  My grandparents went to America separately before they were married. The ship went from Galway and took nine weeks to reach America. If a passenger died during the journey, they were buried at sea.

They both went to Buffalo, New York, where they happened to meet. They were married in Kansas City and they returned to Brackloon where my grandmother was from, shortly afterwards.

I remember their house well. The walls were very thick and filled with mortar.  The roof was thatched. Children were afraid of old people in those times.  They would frighten you. My father heard the banshee and I remember well he telling us about it.

My father and the IRA

Before he met my mother, my father Martin was in the IRA and spent time in jail in the Curragh. He also spent time in jail in Galway between 1920 and 1923. His sister, who was a nun, used to visit him there. A man by the name of Cunnane was with him when he was arrested and he (Cunnane) was later executed on the site of the workhouse in Tuam. Before he died, he gave my father his coat, saying, he would have no further use for it. Most people around the area were involved with the IRA at that time. Pat Dunleavy was his O.C.

School Days

My earliest memory was of walking to school – a distance of about two miles – with no shoes on rough roads, (there were no tarred roads then). I was four years of age at the time. The school year always began on May Day. There were three rooms in the school and three teachers. Mrs. Conroy taught from Junior infants to Second class; Mrs. Corbett taught 2nd and 3rd class and Mr. Conroy taught from 4th to 6th. We were all afraid of the principal Mr. Conroy. He used a rubber tyre to beat us with. This was not unusual for the time.

My classmates

I remember most of the people I went to school with. There was Nora Donnellan, Joe Reynolds, Tom Dunleavy, Mary Dunleavy, Joe Reynolds, Nora Coleman, Frank Farrington, Joe Ryder, Billy Dunleavy, Una Dunleavy, Jimmy Curley, Phil Hession, Sal Burke, Ann Coen, Beasie Nalty, Chris Burke, Ballina and Sean and Peggy Bane.

I stayed in school until I made my confirmation at the age of twelve. I hated school. I couldn’t leave fast enough and wasn’t sorry to see the back of it. I left straight after my confirmation.

I was barely able to read or write when I left. It was my father that thought us our catechism and how to read and write. Mrs. Corbett who was a 2nd cousin of my father told him to use newspapers or any books he could get his hands on, to teach us.


I made my First Holy Communion and confirmation in Killererin church. Confirmation took place every four years then. I remember well what the Bishop asked me. He asked me what the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost were. I can still remember them today, they were: “Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord”.


There weren’t too many weather events that I remember except of course the night of the Big Wind in 1962 I think. Thanks, be to God, we had no serious damage. It took a cock of hay on us alright and blasted the sheaves of oats to the back wall of the shed. That was the extent of the damage it did to us.

I also have vivid memories of the snow in 1947. It was almost six feet. You couldn’t see the tops of walls or anything. It started on Stephens’ night and didn’t finish until 28th March.

Climate Change

The weather has changed since I was young. You had harsh winters and good summers. Now, it is like a mild winter all year round. Never mind all the talk these days about climate change etc. and “the Greens” telling you about emissions from cows etc. I never hear a word about airplanes and the energy that is needed to get them off the ground and the amount of fuel they consume.

I believe the change started when the Americans started going to Space and all the space exploration that followed. All this going into space, interfered with the atmosphere and this in my opinion, is the main culprit of our climate change.


There hasn’t been much change in this area with the same families still here today as there were when I was young, growing up. Of course there are a lot of new houses now in the area. There are four houses down the road from here, all with English people in them and that’s good too.

How I met my wife Patricia

My wife was English. I met her when I was working over there. She did accountancy but didn’t do her final exams and worked in Revenue. It must have been fate that brought us together, because when my friend asked me to go out, I wasn’t keen as I had to be up for work the following morning at 5.30 a.m. Eventually I relented and off we went.

Patricia and her friend were up in London for the weekend as they were doing a refresher course from work which they had to do every year. I met her in The Garryowen (a well-known Irish Social Club). When we entered the Garryowen, my friend spotted the two girls and said he was going to ask her friend for a waltz and I could do as I liked. I decided to ask her friend and the rest as they say, is history.

Patricia was from Worcester and we became great friends. We started going out together from then on. Patricia and I used to meet once a month in Chetwood Heath, Romford, Oxford, for about an hour and a half, which suited us both, as it was halfway between both our workplaces. I never met her mother as after a trip to Lourdes which she very much enjoyed, and during which she was in the best of health, she died suddenly, the day after returning home.

Our wedding

Two years later, in 1977, we got married in St. Joseph’s Church, Worcester. We went to a club after the wedding. It was just the two families. My brothers Bob and Bill were there and Patricia’s family. There was no drink as Patricia’s family didn’t drink and my brothers and I weren’t bothered.

The following day, we came back to Ballyglunin, as the land would be taken off me if we didn’t and there would be more agitation. There was no honeymoon but straight home to Brackloon afterwards.

Coming back to Brackloon

While in England, I received a letter ordering me to court in Galway as I wasn’t using my land at home. I was advised by my solicitor to come home for a year and I did, with my new wife. The plan was to go back when the year was up. I was told by all, that Patricia wouldn’t last long as she had no experience of cows or sheep and living in such a small place.

We settled down to life in Brackloon and gradually did up our house, and got a cat, a dog and a few sheep. After the year was up, I was all set to return to England but my wife had grown to love the place and wouldn’t leave. We remained in Brackloon.


Chores – When I was growing up, after we came home from school, we had to thinnow beet, sow potatoes, cut oats and so on, depending on the time of year. We didn’t come in, in the evenings, until the jobs were done. I remember coming home and going up to my father in the bog and all he would have is just a bottle of tea with him, with a stocking around it.

Fairs – We used to go to the Fairs in Tuam and Abbeyknockmoy. Peter Melia, Paddy Burke and I used to go together. We used to leave at 3 in the morning and we would arrive around 7a.m.

I remember when there were no houses or walls from Barna (Barnaderg) to Tuam. We would start back home around 11 or 12. It happened many times that you wouldn’t sell and you would have to walk your animals’ home again. There wouldn’t be any chat as one had to go on front of the animals and one behind.

We grew beet, praties and oats and of course we had turf which had to be turned and footed and brought home each year.

My First job

When I left school, my first job was in Mitchells’ shop. I spent my time filling bags of tea and sugar. Mitchells had two travelling shops and I used to go with them too. The shop served the parish of Killererin but also went to Annagh Hill, Abbeyknockmoy, Oakwood and as far away as Athenry.

Working in Kilgarriff’s in Corofin

I only stayed five months in Mitchells and then I went back to Joe and Emily Kilgarriff’s in Corofin who had over 300 acres and I worked on their farm. They had no children and I worked at anything and everything there. There were two Connemara men working there also, as well as Paddy Nalty who was the stock man and myself. The two Connemara men used to do the ploughing which was all done by horse. We stayed in the house and were well treated. The accommodation was good. I was paid IR£2.50 a week and I worked seven days a week. Christmas day was the same as any other day of the year. I came home to visit twice a week for a few hours but if I stayed the night I had to be back by 7.30 in the morning. We worked from 7.30 in the morning to 11 o’clock at night.

My father’s death

I left after five years when my father died suddenly. When I came home, my two brothers were here, and shortly after, they both left for England. Bill left straight away and Bob left later. Sadly Bill died recently but thankfully Bob still comes home every two years. My wife Patricia also died in 2016.

Ill health

I got Brucellosis in 1969 and was seeing Dr. Coleman for three years but it was very difficult to diagnose at that time. I changed doctors then and went to Dr. Tom Cunningham in Tuam. He took one look at me and asked me what weight I was and I told him around 11 stone weight. He put me up on the scales and told me I was 7 ½ stone. He sent me straight to the hospital and I was admitted on 16th December, 1972. I remained in hospital until 29th April the following year.

Good news and Bad news – One morning, three junior doctors came to see me (one of them was Dr. Day who practised in Turloughmore). They told me they had good news and bad news for me. The good news was that they finally had a diagnosis and their boss (the consultant) would be down later to tell me the bad news. He duly arrived some hours later, accompanied by two other doctors. He asked me, who was my next of kin which didn’t give me much comfort. I told him my two brothers were but they were in England. He told me they would have to be contacted and come home. He didn’t tell me anymore and when my brothers arrived from England, the consultant told them that they would have to replace every drop of blood in my body. This was the first time this was done in Galway and that it could be touch and go as to my chances of survival. They said they had no choice but to go ahead as if they didn’t do it I was doomed. They wouldn’t proceed until one of my brothers signed his consent.

The procedure – First of all, I had to drink a pint of this stuff which tasted, for all the world, like Milk of Magnesia and you know what that was like. It was awful. The doctor stayed with me until I drank every last drop. Later, they drained the blood which was black.

My brother Bob was married and had to go back to England but Bill stayed a fortnight and got accommodation in Galway city. He didn’t even go home. The procedure was a success and when I was finally ready to leave, Bill and I got a taxi to the station and went straight to Dublin and got the boat to England from Dun Laoghaire. I don’t remember the journey.  Brucellosis is a life long illness so I still suffer bouts of it every so often. It is a nasty disease.

Arrival in England

When we arrived in England, we went straight to Bill’s house and I stayed with him and his wife for the whole time I was in England, eight years in all. I couldn’t work for a full year after arriving in England but eventually I got my first job there with a construction company called Ffrenches. I worked for them for two years doing all types of labouring work. I worked 6 ½ days a week.

I then moved on to Mowlam’s who built Nat West tower, Bishopsgate in London which I worked on. Bill also worked there on the pumps and my brother Bob was in the office.  Contrary to what you might believe, Health and Safety was taken very seriously there and we were all looked after very well in that regard.

We started at 7.30 in the morning and we used to go up and down the building on outside lifts. I didn’t mind this and we had a great view from the top of the building as we worked. I worked as a general labourer. I left the house at 6 a.m. and took the train – Chadwell Heath to Liverpool Street station. There were about 700 people working on the tower at any one time. My brother Bill worked on London Bridge before this for a year where he was trained as a pump man. His job was, to look after generators for concrete mixers, jackhammers etc. It was a tough job, but you were your own boss and he liked it well. He started some mornings at 3 a.m. as everything had to be ready for the workers when they came on site at 7.30. He sometimes worked until 10 p.m. at night. He was as strong as a horse.

I stayed at Mowlam’s for five years until I had to come home or the land would be taken off us for non-use.

Local customs and traditions

Halloween – I remember some of the traditions such as Halloween when we would hang apples from the ceiling and try to eat them with our hands behind our back.

Christmas: At Christmas, we never had a tree and there were no presents. We used to go to Mass at 7.30 in the Monastery. Everyone around here went to the Monastery that time as did the people from Garra. Fr. Dermot Maloney was the priest there at that time. We used to walk across Blake’s land to Mass in the Monastery. Christmas was a happy time and there was no drink and no pubs.

Blakes’ Estate

When I was growing up, there were about fifteen people employed in Blake’s., who were the landlords in the area. John Blake was the man in residence at the time. He was a nice man.

Filming ‘The Quiet Man’

I also remember the filming of The Quiet Man in Ballyglunin. The actors John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and others were there for about a week. The actors and crew fitted in well but we were kept away from the area during that time.


We went dancing to Keaveney’s in Cummer once a month on a Sunday night. I remember some of the bands that used to play there such as Quicksilver, Des Kelly and Paddy Cole who had their own bands that time. We are talking about the 1960s. I had no interest in horse-racing so I never stood inside the Galway racecourse..

Fóidín Mara

Mickey McCabe and I experienced the Fóidín Mara. We were coming home one night and it took us three hours when it should have only taken us a few minutes. It was like there was a hedge out on front of us. We walked and walked. We could see trees. It took us a long time to come around. We felt like we were walking through walls.


Everyone around here emigrated to England, America or even Australia.


15th August (The feast of Our Lady – also known as Lady’s Day) was a big day around here. All you had to do that day was milk the cows.

Good Friday –  we went to the Stations in the Monastery.

Missions – I also remember the Missions in Killererin. The Dominicans came first and then the Redemptorist priests used to come. One great priest Fr. Flannery was made to leave. They’d be shouting and roaring from the altar. They’d frighten the life out of you.

I was very interested in Dog-breeding – Collies of course. We had some lovely dogs which I trained myself and we also used to breed them for sale.

Follow the link below for an interview with Paddy which appears elsewhere on this website.


 How I got into Dog Breeding

This page was added on 14/09/2023.

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