"No Worry" Share My Memories: Mary Kenny, née Farrell of Newcastle, Aughrim, Co. Galway
Making our own fun
The bridge near Crehan’s was a gathering place, with bonfires and dancing. Music was courtesy of Tom Flanagan and others. There were bikes all along the ditches and hedges.
Another place was Mills Maypoles, near to Garbally on the way to Ballinasloe, past the ‘four roads’. The ‘laners’ from town (from Tay Lane in Ballinasloe) used to come out to the Maypole too. The poorest of the poor of them lived near Portiuncula. We went there for an open air hop at a wooden platform set up for dancing, better than dancing on the road. There were Maypoles like it all over the country.
Nearer home we would get together at Faheys, the boiler house of the old Killaghbeg House. It was Paddy Fahy’s house. His sister Jenny was the life of the party until she married Dan Campbell, who was twice her age. There was card-playing and neighbours gossip, the neighbours being Johnny Murray, Frank Broderick, Dick Behan, Martin Crehan and our Farrells, Tom, Martin and John.
There was music at Fahys from the Aughrim Slopes, made up of Joe Mills, Paddy Kelly, Paddy Fahey and Pat Corbett. The Treacys family in Fahy played too. Nearly all of them played, including Marty (senior). People came from far and near. They played at Cappataggle and Killalaghton.
Larry Mullens’ was a house to visit
There was a melodian playing at Mullens’. Parents were Katie and Larry. There were often lodgers staying, threshers and other farm-workers. Dancing all hours with Joe Mannion, Martin Farrell, John Holloran, Eddie Stankard and others. Larry’s resident elderly aunt used to ask for tea while all the fun was going on. Larry’s answer to her was ‘you will get tea, but it’ll be tomorrow’, making everyone split their sides laughing.
Devilment and hooliganism!
My brother Tom Farrell in his younger days (along with others of his age) would dismantle a donkey and cart and put them together again inside Tom Dooley’s kitchen at night. They hid nearby to hear the outcome. No late night TV then.
Strawmen at weddings
These were uninvited people who would come to the wedding party dressed up and masked. Even their own family were not to know they were there. In return for the fun they would bring they would be given food and drink.
At Home in Newcastle
Newcastle, Aughtrim was a village then, with rows of bicycles up against the hedges. The Crehans nearby were another big family like ours. We had the family Rosary at 6pm, before anyone went out visiting.
It being wartime firs were used for the fire, turf was scarce. Shell Cocoa was another wartime commodity. It was deadly stuff, usually went into the fire.
Only three houses had a battery radio. Everyone would gather listening round a house with a radio, for a match or for an important speech. It would be a heavy job going to get the battery charged. It was a dry not a wet battery.
Farrells, a visiting house
Daddy (Martin Kenny) was very proud of his ‘His Master’s Voice’ gramophone. He used to keep it locked in its own cupboard for fear it would be broken. It was made of mahogany with green baize and a solid silver needle-holder. No wonder it was minded so well.
He used to take it out on the cart when he was visiting. On his way back he would have it playing ceili music out over the fields down towards Kilconnell, waking the cows. Eddie and Tom used to buy records in Dublin. Martin (senior) used to do the honours.
Tommy Halloran and Timmy Nolan were regular visitors. Michael Nolan used to have stories from the USA. Jack Naughton used to visit too, he was my godfather.
My brothers Eddie and Tom Farrell had their own building gang, including Tommy Halloran, Jim Murray and John Power. They built houses all over Galway.
My sister Delia was often not well, she had a bad chest but carried on as best she could. She loved playing cards at Crehan’s and she was a lovely, beautiful dancer. She used to sing around the house, ironing and baking. Annie Glennon did too. Sad to say she had an accident falling off her bike coming from a ceili in Killallaghton. There was no casualty unit then. She came home and was taken to Portiuncula Ballinasloe the next day and was plastered. What a fuss.
Church and School
These happened in spring or autumn. They were the excuse for whitewashing, painting, clearing out. Things were missing for weeks afterwards. There were two priests in those days the curate (small fry) and the PP (Big Chief). My brother Tom used to serve mass for the village of Newcastle, himself and Tommy Nolan.
There was no big evening meal and social in those days. It was only in the morning. There were boiled eggs in plenty. A lump of sugar was a treat. We had loaves of bread, currant cake, barn brac, jellies and other things like that.
There was a collection for the parish and a special table set up for the same. It was called the ‘dues’. They were sometimes hard to get. Sometimes people did not have it.
The teachers at Fahy school used to stay at Reynolds’ in Fahy. I used to hear the threshing machine halfway home from school. Used to pick sloes on the way. I had to run to avoid drains (ditches), bullocks, rams – how did we survive! Used to go with Nora and Christy, poor little Mary hanging behind.
Mrs Kathleen Pender and Miss Broderick were great with us, but when Mrs Pender wore certain clothes (red for example) it was going to be a BAD DAY.
My brother Tom took me to Cappy Church (Cappagh) in Tommy Nolan’s pony and Trap. A grand ride and a nice day. All the Holy Communion class had cakes, biscuits and lemonade and so on in the Hall afterwards.
Confirmation (1937 or ’38)
A big day for us: Nora, Christy and myself Mary. We went across the fields, carrying our ‘Good Shoes’ across Talbot’s land to meet the transport, which was often not there. At the teacher’s house, Mrs Kathleen Pender, we got a lift on a trap or a cart. Grehan’s cart lost a wheel one morning (going to Church?). No AA or RAC then. We changed into our confirmation clothes at nearby Nanny Campbells, distant relations.
St Martin’s Night
A cock was killed. While the blood was flowing the fowl’s blood was put on every door jamb. Why? It was to keep harm away. Pagan not Christian.
St John’s Night
A sod of turf from the fire was thrown into every field, especially the corn field. Why? They thought it would bring you a good harvest.
St Michael’s Day
29th September was St Michael the Archangel’s Day, the patron saint’s day at Cappagh Parish Church, our local church. By that time all the hay was to be brought into the haggard.
Country Fair Day
This was in Ballinasloe on the 1st Saturday in October. A Great Day. Buns and lemonade at Connors was a Treat. Uncle John from Fohenagh was always kind. There was a candy sweet called ‘Peggy’s leg’ . We used to sing:
‘Peggy’s leg, penny a lump, the more you eat,, the more you jump!’
On All Hallows eve it was ‘Pookie night’, after the mischievous spirits up to no good. ‘The witches are out!’ we would say. Lads used to steal gates that night. You’d find them next day in the wells. They had to do something with their time.
Killing a Pig
Something that happened regularly was the killing of a pig. A crowd gathered , usually neighbours. They tied up a pig which had been fasted for a day or so (to help the pudding), and put it on a cart. It was my father, usually, who killed the pig, cutting its throat. I sometimes held the pail to catch the blood. You never killed a pig in hot weather.
The blood was used for making BLACK PUDDING. I loved making these. It took a couple of days. Delia my sister used to boil the pudding, a skill in itself. She would prod it with a knitting needle to prevent bursting. It was a beautiful smell. I often used to cycle into Ballinasloe for a bucket of blood, carrying it home on the crossbar and afraid to spill it. I was the only one, come to think of it. I was the only one to go for blood or to get books from the library.
Boning the pig was another skill. After being killed the pig was hung from the rafters for about 24 hours, it was dissected and left for a day. The boning consisted of cutting up the pig. The bacon was put in a container between layers of salt. The bones were put in a barrel of salt. Most of the neighbours got a bone, some ribs, and a pudding. You got one when the other neighbour killed theirs.
After the boning you usually had a card game, a game of 25 for the pig’s head. We played in three sets of three, ‘a game of nines’. It was a great night. Maybe there would be a pair of cocks or turkeys for a prize as well. There was no TV to be a distraction.
At one with nature
Much time was spent collecting, cleaning, counting eggs. Setting (hatching) eggs was a skill, be they of turkeys, geese, or hens. We set snares for rabbits , ferrets, you name it! We sold them to get into McFaddens ‘magic lantern’ pictures (4 old pence) or for dance lessons with Mr Keegan.
My favourite pet
I’d never had a cat so I was delighted to carry a kitten home from school. It was from Tomas Lally’s near where the lads used to cut turf. She was a lovely cat with a ring around her neck. As animals were only allowed in the outhouse I left her there, feeding her on a saucer of the cows’ fresh milk;
There were nine cows, we had one each. The kitten lay down on the nice, warm straw and the cow lay down on her. Tragedy. She was flat as a pancake and died. I cried for a week.
Cycling to Knock
People would go to Knock on the 14th-15th of August. I went for the first time in 1943 with Sean (that I married), his serious brother Matthew (‘Ye’re on a pilgrimage!’), and their uncle Frank Kenny (who played banjo with a cooking pot). Also, Lena Kenny (later Sister Trinity), myself and my brother Tom. We had sandwiches halfway. These days I couldn’t eat a banana but those days: What a joy! Never mind the colour it had after a few hours! They were black but sweet.
We camped at Locht on the way and stayed in Knock too. It was usually raining. We had a chat with several crowds of travellers (tinkers) who were camped along the way. Frank Kenny knew most of them from the fairs, like Ballinasloe Fair in October. We had a nice day on the 15th then a good cycle ride home.
We were refreshed. We sang along in the rain. HAPPY DAYS.
My first bike, and Woodbines
It was in 1947 I bought my first bike for £8 when I was working in Ballinasloe doing housework and child minding. I was fed up with borrowing and having to do with solid tyres. They had rings instead of tubes. How they hurt your bottom and legs after a few miles! I left my bike at Cahill’s when I came away to England. It was well-used.
You wouldn’t believe how far I cycled for a few Woodbine cigarettes. During rationing you would only get five, so I’d go from Gleavy’s in Aughrim to Monaghan’s in Cappagh, to Finnerty’s in New Inn, sent by Delia, Tom, and Martin. They met me at the door with: ‘Did you get e’er a fag for me?’ No wonder my brother Martin, Martin Crehan and the rest of us smoked tea. It was better than the Kerry Blues – horrid stuff, I can smell them yet!
All good things come to an end
Along with my sister Nora I went to work with the sisters in Galway General Hospital in March 1944. It was a good experience and prepared me for 1949 when I went to train to be a nurse at Lambeth Hospital, London, and get the British National Health Service onto its feet with so many other Irish girls and lads, and others from all over the world.
Published in Christmas 1998 with love by my son John