Nonie Hardiman, Doonane - (Part 8)
Thunder and lightening & storms:
Bad Winter weather was a hard time to get through. There was a fear of thunder and lightening and high winds. In our house, at the first sign of thunder or lightening, the Holy Water would be shaken around the house! If it continued the Rosary was said. The men were usually outside working and, on a bad day, they sometimes gathered over at Fahy’s with Michael and James and the men had their hair “clipped” while the women and children were at home praying for an end to the storms! High winds brought worry, tying down the roof of the shed or barn or the cocks of hay in the haggard, worrying about the chimney going on fire or the thatch “rising” and the “light” going out. The paraffin lamp would be taken out and the wick and mantle prepared. Hurricane Debbie in 1961 was a very serious storm and the wind carried sheaves of oats and barley across the fields while we looked out the window at the spectacle. The men were outside tying down sheds and moving carts in to the barn. That storm brought down large trees along Corrandoo. The way to school was blocked and that was a happy day for some! Another time I remember was the big snow of 1945 when the snow covered everywhere to the height of the stone walls and we could walk over the stone walls to Mass.
Entertainment and pastimes:
Neighbours visiting or going to visit was a great pastime in years gone by. There was tea and chat and discussion of all the latest news. Stories were told and very often Ghost stories were told so that, by the time you left the house, you were afraid passing the graveyard or crossing a field! Gilligans, Fahy’s, Fahy’s/Warde’s of Corrandoo, Samways/Flaherty’s and Lally’s, Kilbeg were all houses I visited frequently and I would, in turn, walk with the visiting friends out the road and past the graveyard. These would be times when women would discuss “women’s matters” away from the ears of the men in the house! Once, a man who enjoyed a joke and a laugh, waited at the graveyard gate and jumped out – just as a few women were passing! It was harmless fun. If I was cycling at night, I made sure to cycle extra fast at the top of the hill and not look into the graveyard. The moonlight would light up some headstones and it seemed like there were people inside! The Lally’s often crossed through Kilbeg wood to visit our house and the bluebells growing were a beautiful sight in the month of May. Other visitors came regularly including Tom Glynn from Bengarra and he travelled by pony and trap. He often brought us to Moran’s pub in Monivea to meet the cousins. The women always sat in the tap room as women, in those days, did not frequent bars. Our house was a popular house and we had a gramophone and many records. His Master’s Voice was a label on many of the heavy 78 records. Great care was taken on playing them on the gramophone to avoid scratching with the needle. Delia Murphy and Bridie Gallagher were two favourites. I knew many songs and often sung “The Boys From the County Armagh” and “The Homes of Donegal”. A melodeon would be played other nights and the kitchen floor cleared and a set would be danced. I loved dancing and many of my friends including Mary Forde (who later married Ned Farrell) first learned to dance at our house. The first time I saw a tape recorder was at Gilligan’s in the early 1960’s and it was indeed a great invention to be able to play back what was recorded on rolls of turning tapes. Knitting was a popular pastime and many women knitted mittens and woollen socks during the Winter as well as jumpers and cardigans. Knitting was taught in school and it was necessary to know how to “turn the heel” in a sock and to sew and darn. The woollen yarn came in reams and was placed between the backs of 2 chairs and rolled into more manageable balls of wool for knitting.
“A Spraoi “ in the house & Yanks arriving:
My mother Nora would say “We’ll have a Spraoi” when she heard that special visitors were coming home for a holiday and would be visiting. Usually it was cousins from America (Morans of Monivea, Glynns of Bengarra and any of the Keary’s from Clooncureen). Ham, tomatoes, chicken or turkey and potato salad were all prepared. Very often the visitors would go to Burke’s in Colemanstown after the meal and arrive back after a long night and the singing would start. People had their own favourite songs and some would give a “recitation” or a poem.
Washing clothes was a hard job and was all done by hand long before the washing machine arrived. Large pots of water were boiled and filled into a tin bath, cold water was added from the barrel near the shed. Some people used a washboard to assist in washing. Rinso or Surf were the usual types of washing powder used. Lux flakes were used for more delicate items like ladies blouses or dresses. Sunlight soap was also used to scrub stubborn stains particularly on collars of men’s shirts and a scrubbing brush was used for this purpose. When all the wash was finished, the dirty water was spilled out and fresh hot water filled from more boiling pots. Rinsing took place until the water ran clear of suds. For white items a product called Rickett’s Blue was used. It came in a blue box and was a powder. It was added to the final rinsing water and made the white items look a bright blue white. It was always used on shirts and other items which needed to be gleaming white. Starching of table clothes and sometimes the collars of shirts was also done! Robin starch was used for the purpose and the result was a clean white stiff cloth or collar! Men’s shirts in those times sometimes contained a small narrow hem into which a white plastic tab was inserted which kept the shirt stiff when worn with a tie. The turning of shirt collars was sometimes undertaken. The worn side of the shirt was turned underneath and the underneath “new side” exposed and this prolonged the life of the shirt. A leather strap was hung in the kitchen which was used to sharpen the cut-throat razors. The men used a lather of soap and shaved over a basin of water. Great care was taken as cuts were common and pieces of paper were used to stop the bleeding. Baths were taken by filling a tin bath with water and finding a convenient quiet time to wash from top to toe.
The Foxford blankets were used in every house in those days. They were warm but heavy and were used over flannelette sheets and over that again a heavy bedspread was used on all beds. The blankets were cream colour and had stripes along the end in either blue or pink. These were washed when the Summer weather was warm and a good breeze blowing. They were very heavy when wet and it took two people to hold each blanket and squeeze the water after several rinses. The blankets were then taken to a clear field and left to dry on the grass. The garden in those days had no lawns as every available space was used for drills of cabbage, carrots, onions, parsnips, a rhubarb patch and a long clothes line. The blankets were far too heavy for the clothes line but people would spread them over a hedge to dry at times. On a fine Summer’s day you could see several blankets all laid out for drying. The term “there’s great drying out today” was a common phrase used with great delight. Later on the “twin-tub” washing machine arrived followed in later years by the automatic washing machine which was a wonderful help to us all.
Mending and fixing things:
Mending of items was carried regularly instead of throwing out items that were beginning to wear. When shoes began to wear on the heel or sole, the shoes were mended and a new sole or heel was affixed rather than replace the shoes with a new pair. Tips were often used to enhance the toe. The Last was an iron tool with three shoe shaped “legs” and it was used to hold the shoe in place for mending. Peter was handy with tools and good at mending shoes. An Awl was used to draw strong thread through holes drilled into the leather. He also did small carpentry jobs in the house. The heavy boots with their metal tips which were worn around the farm could be heard arriving outside before the person wearing them would be seen! Heavy woollen socks were worn so the feet were kept as warm as possible. Even old Wellington boots had their uses. When Cowboys and Indians was was a fashionable game to play, a holster was made by cutting the shoe part of the Wellington boot off and shaping the two “leg parts” to form what looked like a holster for holding the two toy guns. A belt was inserted by cutting two slits at the top of each holster. A roll of caps for the guns and the game of Cowboys and Indians could continue! Peter also made a “dancing master” toy by carving legs and body out of wood and using cords joining the limbs to allow the toy to dance freely by dangling the toy from a string! In the evenings there was very little time to rest but the radio was always on and the fire blazed continuously and the kettle sang. Cocoa or drinking chocolate was sometimes a late night treat.