Nonie Hardiman, Doonane - (Part 6)
We had two bogs, one above the house towards Tiaquin on our own land and one in Corrandoo bog (formerly belonged to Mannions who were cousins next door and who had gone to America many years before). The bog at home was quite near the house and there was an old cart road leading towards the bog. The remains of an old house stood near the hill (Sean Teach Lally they used to call it – it seems Lally’s may have lived there). A track lead to “Chis Mhor” which was a manmade bridge of scraws, logs and heather constructed across the drain for access to the bog. Cutting with the slean was the way turf was cut then and I used a wooden barrow to spread the sods out on the bank when they were thrown up by the man cutting the turf. It was a hard job and the barrow when full was very heavy. After footing the turf and when it was well dry, the turf was brought home and made into a neat reek. I always liked to work in the bog. In Corrandoo we made tea in the bog at times by lighting a small fire and boiling a kettle. Later on the turf cutting machine arrived but the turf still has to be turned, footed and saved.
The Turkey’s Romance:
When we wished to breed turkeys at home, and there was no male turkey, the hen turkey was brought in a shopping bag on a bicycle to Maggie Jordan’s house about a mile away in Tiaquin. Great care was taken to make sure the turkey was safe and that its head would not get caught in the spokes of the wheel so the bag was hung on the front handlebars. It seemed an odd sort of a journey with a live turkey in a bag. I was given this job by my mother and it continued on with my own children. The hen turkey was taken away out to an outhouse by Maggie while I was given lemonade and a biscuit in the kitchen at Jordan’s. After a certain time elapsed the turkey was placed back in the bag and I headed home again. It was a mysterious journey but we never asked why we took the turkey to Jordan’s!
By Christmas the turkeys would be very large. Card games were played in our house for some of the turkeys and the remainder would be brought to the Mountbellew market. A crowd would arrive for the card games, 2 nines were played some nights. My mother and myself would have currant cake or sandwiches made. James Corbett from Newcastle and John Costello from McGivern’s Mill in Monivea were great players and all the neighbours came as well. It was a great night but costly if you didn’t have a turkey going home. We always had clucking hens and hatched out our own chickens. 12 eggs would be placed under the hen in a nice cosy bed of hay and straw. It took 3 weeks to hatch the eggs and we had lovely little chickens. For turkey and geese it was 4 weeks hatching. We also bought day old chickens from Heneghan’s in Ballybane. The boxes of chickens were sent by bus and collected at Killaclogher bridge and brought home on the carrier of the bicycle! These were often kept inside in the heat at first. The hens on the farm produced all the eggs necessary and the surplus was taken in a basket to the shop and sold. The cockerels were killed during the year for Sunday dinner. The money for the eggs often paid for the few items bought at the shop or from the travelling shop on a Saturday evening. Killing the turkeys was done by twisting their necks and they were then hung from the rafters in the shed. There was a practice of pulling out the sinews and this was usually a job for a man! It was said the sinews tainted the meat. The turkey wings (or quills) were very handy and used as brushes to sweep the ashes.
“Buying” the Christmas:
Buying the Christmas was a day out to Burke’s to stock up on supplies for the Christmas season. Shops were closed around Christmas. It was the only time, apart from Station time, that the groceries were delivered in a box, and it was usually a tea chest that was used. In the tea chest were the usual groceries – tea, sugar etc but many extra items as well as ingredients for making fruit cakes and stuffing. Two or three tall red candles were also purchased to light on the window over the Christmas as well as bottles of whiskey and sherry. The Christmas “box” from the Burke’s was eagerly awaited too. It usually was a bottle of whiskey or a fruit cake. A week before Christmas the “fairy lights” were put on the window and Christmas Eve was a day of making stuffing and preparing the turkey for the Christmas dinner. The turkeys were hanging in the shed, sinews removed. Then the work began. Pots of boiling water were used to scald the bird which was then plucked. The bare turkey was swung over the fire or the opening of the range and singed to remove all remaining down feathers. The bird was gutted and giblets kept safely for boiling later in soup or to eat. They consisted of the neck, heart, gizzard, liver and the sweetbread. The Christmas dinner was a special occasion. Treats not normally in the house were enjoyed by all and Santy had come on Christmas Eve.
Every family took a turn to have the Stations and it took a few years to come around to every house. We seem to have ours in the Autumn usually. I seemed to be on call for many Station houses – from whitewashing Catherine Fahy’s house to helping at Mary and Denis Murphy’s (they were in Athenry Parish) and then to Joe Flaherty’s and to Lallys in Kilbeg where I used to help out with wallpapering and painting ahead of the Stations. For months before the big day preparations were going on. The outside walls and gates were painted. The wallpaper and paint inside were all changed. The dresser and chairs were newly painted. Joe Flaherty used to do the painting on the dresser, first a coat of cream gloss paint and then he used a hair comb to “grain” a pattern into the paint which created a wood effect on the dresser. Burke’s would arrive with the order of ham, tomatoes, grapefruit (for the priest only), tinned peaches and pears and jelly and, of course, bottles of whiskey , sherry for the women and stout for the men. A turkey and chickens would all be cooked the day before. Making the stuffing was a very important part of the preparations, peeling of several pots of potatoes, chopping of onions and tasting the stuffing to see if it had the right amount of seasoning were all part of the ritual. More potatoes were boiled for the potato salad. This was a great favourite and everyone seemed to have their own way of making it. Our potato salad was made with a layer of beetroot in between layers of mashed potato flavoured with salad cream, onion, pepper and salt. The best china was taken from the cabinet and the table set. The home churned butter was shaped into rolls and twirls and placed in bowls. Sugar cubes were even used for the stations instead of normal sugar in a bowl! The day before the Stations, the women in the village would all arrive with homemade fruit cakes, sponge cakes and bowls of trifle, potato salad or stuffing. There would be great admiration of the various cakes and sponges. Peter’s sister in law Mary-Ann from Clough was a wonderful baker of cakes and confectionery and used to send a beautiful caraway cake for the Stations. The last thing to do before bed was to make the jelly and trifle and, finally, to raise the kitchen table on 2 chairs for Mass. The priest said Mass in Latin in those days with his back to the congregation. The large white Irish Linen tablecloth was taken out of its package. It was a wedding present from Tommy Coppinger . Two candlesticks and a crucifix were placed on the table and a jug of water and bowl and sprinkler made from straw for Holy water.
The big day arrived and the Curate and Parish Priest arrived by car and they were met at the door by the woman of the house carrying a lighted candle. One priest heard Confessions in the Parlour before Mass. The custom then was to collect the Harvest dues at the Stations. When the Mass was over, the two priests were fed first. The priests were given grapefruit and boiled eggs and toast. There was a lot of fussing over the eggs in case they cracked! The priests ate alone in the parlour and the people didn’t feel relaxed making conversation with them usually. All this changed, of course, in later times. When the priests left, everyone sighed with relief and all the men and women were taken into the parlour in turns to have their meal. The crack and conversation was good and soon a bottle would be open for anyone who would take a drink. The local children from the National School were expected after school and they all looked forward to coming to the stations for a meal, a mineral and dessert and sweet cake. In the evenings the family relaxed and a few neighbours or relatives not in the station area arrived. The next day was a great day as there was always food left over and all the fussing and worrying was over for another few years.