My Memories of Days Gone

Interview with Mick Courtney, Imanemore

Interviewed by Bernadette Forde and Seamus Morrissey, August, 2018

Mick and Annie Courtney, Imanemore
Photo: B. Forde
Old School, Barnaderg
Killererin Heritage Society

The Early Years

Born in Imane, I have lived there all my life except for a few short years in my early 20s when I emigrated to Birmingham, England.  My parents were Patrick and Margaret.  My mother was Branelly from Coolourty and was an aunt of Evelyn Branelly who owned Branelly’s pub in Killererin which is now closed.  They were farmers but neither of them ever talked about their childhood.  They worked hard and life was tough as it was for most people at that time.  They reared eight children:  6 lads and two girls:  Jimmy, Hugh, Johnny, Joe, Paddy and myself and my sisters Rita and Mamie.  I was born on 3rd September, 1932 and have seen many changes during my lifetime.

School

My friends and I walked to school through the fields barefoot.  Now everybody takes a bus or is driven to school.  I started school at 6 years of age and stayed until I was about 14. To tell the truth,, I never liked it.  We went to school from September/October to summer time. I well remember my first day in school in Barnaderg.  We went through the fields and the first thing I noticed was a big crack in the wall at the gable end of the school.  I often wished that crack would widen and the wall would fall down.

Teachers

The principal was Florrie O’Sullivan.  He had two daughters Mena and Florrie who were also teachers.  First to Third classes were taught by Willie Hanrahan.  Ms. Delaney also taught in Barnaderg NS around that time.  We were taught English, Irish, sums and cathechism.

Friends

Johnny Potter and I were good friends in school.  I remember others too, like Agnes Fahy, P.J. McGrath Nellie Mannion and Christina Kelly.

The School

The school was heated by turf fires with the children providing the turf.  The toilets were outside.  We had to buy our copies and books.  At the end of the school year, we used to get our copies back and we brought them to Mrs. Fagan who had a shop in the village.  She used the pages of the copies to make a funnel to hold the sweets that she sold in her shop.  In return, we would get a few pennies for ourselves for cigarettes etc.  Cigarettes were 2 1/2 d (old pennies) for five.

Games we played at school

The games we played were hopscotch and rounders and we used to play out the back of the school.

Employment

After leaving school, I worked at home on the farm for a few years and worked in the Sugar factory in Tuam on five or six campaigns.

The Sugar factory was a great source of income for local farmers.  I remember getting a suit made with money which I earned working in the Sugar factory.  It was made by a lady in Athenry Road.

However my first job was with the Council in 1955 doing the road.  We worked from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening five days a week and a half day on Saturday.   The ganger was Pat Mullins from Knock, Barnaderg.  Johnny Cunningham also from Knock and Mick and Pete Joyner (uncles of David who now runs the pub with his wife Ann) and John Keane from Abbey also worked with us.

My job was to bring a load of sand in my horse and cart from a sand pit owned by Jack Byrne, Castleview to Poll a Chapaill where we were making a road.  I had to supply the horse and cart myself.  We used to get 8s 6d a day and were paid fortnightly.

One day the horse lost a shoe and his foot became tender.  It was a Saturday, so, as I was passing Monaghan’s forge, I asked Mike Monaghan if he could shoe the horse and he agreed.  While we were there, Pat Mullins, the ganger, who was passing, saw the cart and came in.  He asked me who gave me the authority to shoe the horse on Council time?

We also worked on tarring the road in Clogherboy.   The tar came from Galway Co. Council and they used to crush the stones at the Grand Gates in Cahergal.  I recall Tom Kilkelly from Garra used to draw water and bring it to the Grand Gates (Entrance to Barbersfort House)in barrels on an ass and cart.

Emigration

When I finished working with the Council I left home in 1955 to join my brothers who had already emigrated to Birmingham.  I travelled to Dublin by train and took the boat from Dun Laoghaire.  I had two brothers in Birmingham and went over to them and stayed with them for the whole time I was in Birmingham.    I worked on putting in power cables the whole time I was there.  I stayed for about five years.

Taking over the farm

Then my parents asked me to come home and take over the farm.  I wasn’t the oldest as was the custom to inherit the farm. An older brother had previously emigrated to Australia   He was doing very well for himself over there but sadly, he died tragically in a car accident when trying to reverse his car in a remote area after getting lost.  Being on his own and not being able to see behind him, he reversed too far and went over a cliff.

nother brother thought about taking over the farm but after a short while, said the farming life was not for him and he emigrated to Birmingham.  It was then my parents asked me to take over the farm and I’m still here to this day.  I’m retired now but my son Kevin continues the farming tradition.

Family

I met my wife Annie who is Mitchell from Cloondahamper in 1961 and we were married after two years in Killererin church on 23rd February, 1963 by Fr. McGauran.  Annie wore a long white dress and I wore a suit. As was customary then, our wedding reception was held in Annie’s house.  We had a great night.   We went to Dublin on our honeymoon and stayed in a hotel and went from there to Birmingham for about ten days.   When we came home, it was back to reality and life went on.

We were blessed with eight children: Mary, Caroline, Kevin, Deirdre, Pauline, Noel, Veronica and Nuala.

Mechanisation on the farm

I have seen many changes over the years from manual labour in the early years to all the mechanisation of the present day.  I remember my first tractor was a Zetor 2511 which I bought around 1961.  I was so proud of that tractor.  I also had a mower, a hay turner and a tractor sprayer for spraying the potatoes.   Compared to the manual labour, these were great advances at the time.

Going to the Fair

One of the main events of the farming year was going to the Fair.  When we went to the fair, we used to start off at 2 a.m. in the morning as the animals had to be walked to the fair and would need to be rested on the way.

We used to go to the fair in Tuam. People came from all over the country particularly from the North of Ireland to buy the animals.  The Northerners would stay in the Imperial Hotel (now the Corralea Court Hotel).  If they bought animals off you, they wouldn’t pay you until the following morning.  In the morning, there would be a queue of people outside the hotel waiting to be paid.

When I was paid, myself and my friends used to go across the road to Francie O’Connor’s butchers in The Square, (where Duffys pharmacy is now) and buy steak and black pudding.  This was a rare treat and we’d take these down to what was a guest house of sorts in Shop Street and the owner Mrs. Fahy would cook them for you and serve it up to you with tea and bread etc She charged you just a few bob (shillings) for the bread etc and the cooking.

Daily chores

We had to cut the turf with a slean and spread it.  We also had to thinnow sugar beet and we had five acres of spuds that had to be picked.  We grew two acres of fodder beet with which we used to feed the animals.  We had to put the fodder beet on the cart and take it to feed the animals.

We worked hard all our lives both in the home and on the farm.

Big Events

There were a few big events that stood out in my life and that I well remember such as:

Rationing

Rationing took place during World War 2 and affected everybody.   I remember going to Tierneys’ in Lavally for paraffin oil.   We had two horses and we used to walk to Lavally with the horses and get a gallon of black market oil (paraffin oil) for £1 a gallon.  This was a time when there was no electricity and the oil was used to light the lamps in the house etc.

Hurricane Debbie

Hurricane Debbie in 1961 was another big event I remember well. The sun was shining at midday and then suddenly the storm came.  It was as quick as that.  I had just bought a new car and with the force of the storm, timber fell from the roof of the shed but thankfully landed on both sides of the car.  We were lucky that none fell on top of it or it would have been destroyed.

We also had stooks of oats in the field but with the force of the wind, they disappeared never to be seen again.

Climate change

I remember the snow in 1947.  The snow was high on the roof ‘til the month of April.  In 1963 too, work was scarce as there was frost a foot deep on the ground.  It was the same in England.  Weather was much different then.  We used to wear no shoes and I remember during the summer, we couldn’t bear walking on the tarred roads as the tar would be melting with the heat of the sun.  The seasons were much more defined, the winters were colder, and the summers were hotter.  No doubt about it, the weather has changed…

Entertainment

We used to go dancing to Comers in Barnaderg until 4 in the morning.  Delia Murphy, Brendan Garvey and Des Kelly were some of the stars I remember dancing to in Comers.  If I had £1 in my pocket, we’d go to Cortoon to the dance hall there.

My friends and I used to go to Joyners when we had a bit of money and have a few pints.  I remember you could get 3 pints for 2shillings and 6 old pence 2s 6d.  I remember a poster that was on the wall in Joyners advertising a pint at 10d (ten old pennies) Cigarettes – Woodbines were 2½ d for 5.

Mrs. Joyner (Cecilia) was a great lady.  At the time the pub wasn’t going so well as people had very little money.  As a result, sometimes, she would have no Guinness and a few of us would get together of a night and buy a cask from Jim Fahy’s pub next door and Mrs. Joyner would let us drink it on her premises.  However, it would be near closing time before we would get the cask as pubs used to close early on a Sunday night. This meant that we would end up at the back of Joyners after closing time drinking our pints before going to Comers dancehall to hear the bands etc.  Mrs. Comer (another great lady) used to let us in late for 1 shilling.  If you went at the right time, it would cost you 3s and 6d.

Pitch and Toss

We used to play pitch and toss in Imane and on Sunday nights in the Ball Alley in Barnaderg. Some of the people that used to play were Sonny (Pat Monahan), Tommy Rooney, Vincent (Vincie) Kelly, Johnny and Paddy Burke and the Treacy brothers, Mick, Tom and Jim who were all from Imane.  From Barnaderg, Ger Morris, brothers Mick and Martin Dolan and Mike Melody to name but a few also played.  The aim used to be to make enough money to go to Comers.

Cinema and Drama

My friends and I used to go to the pictures in a mobile picture house which used to park beside the Ball Alley.  We also went to plays put on by the local drama group in Comers Hall.  Maureen Stephens nee Kelly, Togher was a brilliant actress as was Ger Morris, Barnaderg.

First car and /first radio

The first car in the parish was owned by Connolly’s in Barnaderg.  Maggie Farrington bought the first radio. Maggie’s sister-in-law Biddy was blind and this was the reason, they got the radio.  We used to gather in her house to listen to GAA matches on the radio. They were great times

Visiting houses

When I was growing up, eight or nine people used to visit my parents’ house regularly.  It was mostly men and they would spend the night playing cards and discussing local affairs.

Halloween

At Halloween on 31st October, we used to tie an apple to the ceiling with a hook and with our hands behind our back try to bite it.  This was great fun.

Christmas

At Christmas, we used to have currant cake and a goose for Christmas day.

Religion

There was a certain hierarchy In the church for Sunday Mass etc., People were seated in the Church according to their social status.  For instance, the richer you were, you were seated nearest the altar.  In order of priority then, came the teachers and so on with the ordinary people sitting in the aisles.

I remember Fr. Sweeney used to go purple on the altar preaching about company keeping.

We made our First Communion in Killererin Church when I was about 7 years of age.  We used to go to Church to practice beforehand. Fr. Curran used to give us a sweet to practice taking the host.  I remember one day, Paddy Treacy ate the sweet which we were not supposed to do.  The priest wasn’t happy.

Children made their confirmation in Killererin church.  I made my confirmation when I was 12 years of age and the Bishop along with Fr. Curran performed the ceremony.  Classes from 3rd to 6th made their confirmation together as Confirmation used to only take place every few years.

Doing chores for the priest

Fr. Curran used to ask the kids to save the turf for him.  He’d come to the school and pick a few lads out.  They would then go and work in the bog for him.  One day, I remember him asking Jimmy Treacy have you an ass and cart?  Jimmy said he had.  He asked him to draw a load of sand to Cloondahamper school and he would pay him.  Jimmy said he would.  The same day, Fr. Curran asked Jimmy Nolan (who had a horse and cart) to draw a load of sand.  When they arrived and they tipped their loads side by side, Fr. Curran said there was more in Jimmy Treacy’s ass and cart load than Jimmy Nolan’s horse and cart load.

Sport

We used to play football around at home with the neighbours.  We were around 10 or 11 years of age then.  Our neighbour John Burke was a very good footballer.

Tuam Races.

My friends and I used to go to Tuam races.  We had one bicycle between four of us so we used to rotate it.  One of us would cycle a mile and then start running and then the next one would take the bike and so on until we arrived in Parkmore for the races.  It was a great day out with large crowds and used to cost 2s/6d to get in.

Piseogs

Many Piseogs were part of life back then.  I can only remember a few:

  • Sheds shouldn’t be cleaned out on New Year’s Eve
  • You should not give anything away on May Day
  • Never put an umbrella up inside a house or you wouldn’t grow
  • If you broke a mirror, you would suffer seven years bad luck.

Banshee

I remember a story my father told me about the Banshee.  My mother and father were working together in the field stooking oats.  They were working away together until my father told my mother that she had better go back to the house as their two cows needed to be milked.  He said he would stay to finish stooking the oats.  He lost track of  working until he heard the banshee calling and telling him to go back home.  It was after midnight.  He was so scared he ran back home immediat

Local Dance Hall

 

Hurricane Debbie

This page was added on 22/08/2018.

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