Nonie Hardiman, Doonane - (Part 7)
Years without “the light”:
The electricity was switched on locally in this area in the 1950’s. Before that people used paraffin lamps of varying styles. The Tilly lamp usually hung in the kitchen. We always had good lamps. Two are still in the house and gave great light throughout the kitchen with the mantle style lamp being the most effective and was used many times when there were power cuts during storms. The stations were being held at Catherine Fahy’s in Doonane when the ESB men were seen in the area and news spread that the “light” was being turned on. There was great excitement and glorifying of the wonder of the electricity when the “light came on”. There is a story that a person locally thought they still had to stand on a chair to light the bulb – but thankfully it was explained that this was no longer the case! The light brought a whole new way of life to rural Ireland and prolonged the brightness into the dark nights. It helped in every way with the arrival of the electric kettle, the iron and later on the fridge and washing machine.
The Radio in our house is set high on a shelf in the kitchen beside the parlour door. It is a Bush model. Before that, people used the old crystal radio. The radio opened our world to good and bad news and to the music that cheered us up every day. The turning on of the radio in the mornings meant that, for the next fifteen minutes at least, a tune was played like a “gong” sound and it repeated the tune” O’Donnell Abu” several times over. This sound was the start of the day and in Winter it meant getting up from cosy beds to face the outside and begin another day – whether it was caring to animals on the farm, cycling seven miles to work in Peter’s case or the family cycling to meet the bus for school in all kinds of weather. Peter knelt on a chair and looked out over the garden while saying his morning prayers . Then it was off to school or work. When news time arrived there was a “shh” uttered and everyone had to stay quiet while we listened to the latest happenings from home and throughout the world. It laid the foundation of our interest in current affairs. The voice of Charles Mitchell was familiar to us all – as was Andy O’Mahoney, Maurice O’Doherty, Don Coburn and David Timlin. There were sponsored programmes in the 1950’s and 1960’s which everyone enjoyed. “Birds Custard and Birds Jelly Deluxe” sponsored one programme, “Prescotts Cleaners and Dyers” or “Cadbury’s” sponsored another. A daily drama series called “The Kennedy’s of Castleross” was broadcast every day and the women in the house followed it with great interest. Frankie Byrne came on around 2:00 p.m. and she played music following the solving of problems sent in by listeners “it may not be your problem today – but it could be some day”. The sounds of Frank Sinatra filled the kitchen. The Walton programme also told us “If you do feel like singing, do sing an Irish song”. Music was always a part of our daily lives and still is today. From The Seekers singing “The Carnival Is Over” to the Jim Reeves ballads and to the voice of Larry Cunningham singing “Lovely Leitrim” – it lifted our spirits and sometimes sent us waltzing around the kitchen.
On Sundays “Take the Floor” presented by Dinjo was broadcast and great music was played. Dancing was also performed and, although we couldn’t see the dancing, we were able to imagine the dancers hitting the floor from the beats heard on the radio! Joe Burke, a brilliant accordion player from Kilchreest, was a great favourite. Maureen Potter also provided many laughs on a Sunday when her show was broadcast. “Ceili House” was broadcast late at night and brightened up the darkest of nights. It was only when television arrived that we saw all these personalities and some were very different to what we imagined they would be. “The Foley Family” was broadcast at night and it was an amusing programme centred around a family who always seem to have a trauma going on which was usually very amusing. “Dear Sir or Madam” was a programme of listener’s letters read out for which there were small prizes awarded. Occasionally we would turn the knob on the radio to other “foreign” stations and would be amused at the foreign voices in the kitchen speaking languages we didn’t understand. Radio Luxemburg, however, brought new sounds to our ears and we quickly became familiar with the new trends in music. In 1963 the whole house was thrown into shock when the news came on that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. My mother and I sat down at the fire, we decided we would have to have a “fag” (neither of us ever smoked regularly and we never inhaled the smoke). Tears flowed as we remembered the handsome President from his trip to Ireland only five months before. My father Willie had travelled to Galway to join the crowds who came out to greet him only five months earlier. We took down the newspapers we had kept of his trip to Wexford to the Ryan cousins and looked at them all again. It was the story on everyone’s lips for the rest of the week and for long afterwards. Burke’s shop in Colemanstown had a television installed and it was the first time many people had seen live television pictures when the funeral from Washington was broadcast. Jacqueline Kennedy in her black veil and two small children at her side was an image we never forgot. The stories of Lee Harvey Aswald and Jack Ruby further added to the drama. Politics was always an interest in the house. We bought the Sunday Press and we were a Fianna Fail house! Mick Kitt from Casleblakney was our local TD and my father canvassed for him at Election time. Rolls of Kitt stickers and posters would arrive before the voting day. Willie would be in top form on Election day to make sure Dev’s party was returned. Bob Lally, Kilbeg on the other hand was a Fine Gael man and Willie took great joy in passing on the bike and shouting at the gate “Ah Haa – Dev’s men will rise again!”. It was friendly banter. The Candidates stood on a box outside the Church and told us what they would do if elected! On Election day the important thing was to get everyone out to vote and to tell them how they should vote and, in this, Willie Keary did his best. Cars would arrive at the houses to bring people to vote in Monivea in more recent times. Voting in the 1960’s took place at Clancy’s house and they had a phone in the house at the time. They also had a piano and Molly Clancy sang at Masses in an operatic style that was probably unusual at the time in a country Church. She had a lovely voice.
Books and papers read:
The Old Moore’s Almanac was bought at the beginning of the New Year. It contained the Fair Days and forecast many events and contained many entertaining articles. The Far East arrived from the schools and educated us about lands in Africa and people we hardly knew existed. We had never seen a black person. We also had the St. Martin Magazine. There is a story that a woman used the red dye from the cover of this magazine as rouge – and it worked very well! The Tuam Herald, The Connacht Tribune and The Sunday Press were read weekly. My mother often read the paper to my father and he particularly enjoyed the articles written when Galway footballers had won a big match. Mattie McDonagh and Noel Tierney and the “three-in-a-row” football team at their best provided him with great entertainment . Although he may have been at the match in Croke Park with Michael Flaherty, it was still important to re-live the event again through the newspaper reports.
The first Televion in the house:
Our house did not immediately welcome the arrival of Television. It was felt that the school work would be neglected if a television arrived and Peter in particular wanted the homework done well and the “lessons” finished. However, the Kelly’s next door had a television and every Sunday evening we trooped over the see the “The Riordans”. Looking back now it must have been an intrusion on a young family with six children, parents and a grandmother in the house – when three or four more arrived! However, we were always welcomed by Chris and Tom. It was a lively house and we loved going over across the hill to Kelly’s. On the way Mannions old house stood derelict for years. We climbed three stiles to get to Kelly’s back door. There was, however, one delay before we marched into Kelly’s kitchen. The Rosary was sometimes being said and we would wait outside the back door until it was over. Just when we thought it was over, with the reciting of the “Hail Holy Queen”, the Litany would start followed by the prayer for emigrants and for the Souls in Purgotary! We seemed to think we had a shorter Rosary in our house! We all sat on forums in the kitchen and waited eagerly for the “ads” to finish – Esso blue, Lyons the quality tea, Virginia blend cigarettes, Bass porter – “Ah – that’s bass”. Then the familiar tune of the Riordans took us from Doonane to Kilkenny to another world of Tom and Mary, Benjy and Maggie and all the various stories told over the years of this lovely programme. After the programme ended Chris would make tea for everyone. On occasions we might stay for an extra long visit and “The Virginian” would be shown. James Drury on his black horse with Trampas back in the ranch became so familiar. It conjured up an image of America in our imagination and we all got a taste of cowboy life. The Eurovision Song Contest was another show that was eagerly awaited and we all gathered to watch the show and cheer on the Irish song. The first television set we got at home was a Bush model and Peter insisted on renting instead of buying. When a visitor asked why he was renting he said “because there will be coloured television in a few years” and everyone laughed as if this was impossible! The first film we watched at home was “Elephant Walk” starring Elizabeth Taylor. From then on, the “lessons” were done after school in the parlour before television was allowed. Hawaii Five O was a favourite as well as Mannix and other detective shows. The Late Late Show and all the Current Affairs shows were watched with great interest. I always loved the Wildlife programmes – in particular “Amuigh Faoin Speir” which was presented by Eamonn De Buitleir with drawings by Gerrit Van Geldrin. It brought the natural world into the kitchen although we had it ourselves outside our door but it broadened our knowledge of wild animals and birds.