Erica Madden, Commended Entry, 5th/6th class category.

Primary Schools Competition: In my grandparent's time....

Erica attends Esker National School, Athenry, Co. Galway.

Bernadette (my grandmother) is part of a family of fifteen brothers and sisters, a mother of six children and a grandmother of eleven grandchildren and I am number seven of that eleven.  She is fondly known as Mama because the eldest grandchild couldn’t pronounce granny so he called her Mama instead. She was born in 1933 and originally from Balinabanaba outside Ballinasloe. 


 Her first holiday was a day trip with her mother to Salthill, Galway along with some of her brothers and sisters. They did this a few times and brought all their own food and drink.  They had great fun on the beach.


She went to national school in the local school.  They had to walk to and from school all year long even if the weather was terrible. She went to secondary school in Naas, Co Kildare because her eldest sister was married and living there.  She remembers playing tennis for her first time with her sister there. Her hero was the Pope at the time and Mother Teresa.

Rabbits and ferrets

She remembers her father having a gun in the home house.  Her brother shot a ferret with the gun to lure the rabbits out of their burrows to sell in the local town to raise money.


At Christmas time they might get a hankie if they were lucky but usually their present was an orange, a pencil or two or three sweets.  Once when she was three years old, she got a doll that someone else didn’t want anymore.  She loved having this doll and knew she was really lucky to get it.                       

Becoming a nurse

Her first job was working in a Spar shop but she hated it, so went training to be a nurse instead.  She was sick during the final exams but still did them because she really wanted to be a nurse. She trained in UCHG.  Anytime we drive by there she talks about her training years and shows us the old building beside the hospital where she used to live. She is most proud of qualifying to be a nurse as she always tells me.  She got her picture taken with the rest of her group when they qualified.  This was the only time she remembers being mentioned in a newspaper.

Exotic Fruits

At the end of World War II, she remembers hearing peace on the streets. During the war there were no imports of exotic fruits like bananas, tomatoes or oranges. She had cabbage and bacon for dinner most days or sometimes roast chicken with boiled spuds and turnips were popular as well.

Met at a dance

She met her husband at a dance and got married in 1961.  They went on their honeymoon to Kerry and got a lift from a cousin.  They settled down in Derrydonnell and still live there in the same house.


They first got a television in the family home in 1961.  She was 27 years old and remembers it being the first one in the locality.  She remembers Willie (her husband) bringing his friend over to watch the Sunday match on it.

Cousins in America

She often got photographs in the post from her cousins in America.  She said they were great for taking pictures.  She still has these pictures at home. The clothes they wore as children had been the same for years until they got parcels of new clothes from their cousins in America.  She always wanted to get a blouse with puffed up sleeves, but never got around to it.