Nonie Hardiman, Doonane - (Part 9)
When an electrician was needed we went no further than to Joe Flaherty. Joe was a self taught electrician and knew something about everything. His mother Nellie and step-father Martin Samways had worked in Hutchinson’s House in Ballybane. Joe was always on call for Stations to do last minute fixing. The trouble with Joe was that he often left things until the very last minute and would arrive at any hour- but he always arrived and surveyed the situation carefully and silently before taking any action. This could be late at night on his way from Burke’s or Kelly’s in Monivea. He drove a Honda 50 in later years. He had his own honeybees and often gave us sections of honey. He made his own mead, played the accordion and enjoyed singing songs and writing new words to other favourite songs including his infamous song “Four Hungry Ewes” to the tune of “Four Country Roads”! Joe also enjoyed the delicacies of pheasant which he often cooked in the range. When Joe’s turn came for the Stations, the local women were on call to get the house in order and a great time was enjoyed that went late into the night.
Clothes and fashion:
Most men wore either a cap or a hat and these became part of the personality of the wearer! Willie Keary always wore a hard hat. He bought a new one when any sign of wear appeared on the old one and was very proud of his hat which was brushed regularly. He wore an old hat for everyday farm work. It kept the sun away in Summer and kept the head warm in Winter. Peter wore a cap and is forever remembered as a man wearing a cap. The cap was for everyday use with a newer one being kept for Sunday Mass or other occasions. Men always removed their cap or hat when entering a Church and often used the cap to kneel on when wooden kneelers in the Church weren’t as comfortable as they are today. Willie smoked a pipe and bought a half quarter of Nugget Plug tobacco regularly. Peter smoked cigarettes. For everyday wear women of the house always wore an apron. Older women tended to wear the navy blue cross-over apron while younger girls wore the apron which fitted around the waist. The navy blue cross-over apron is a familiar garment seen in many photographs. It was made of a cotton type material and had a pattern of small white and red flowers and varied slightly in flower colour. Women moved with the fashion of the times when it came to head wear. Scarves or a “binog” in various colours were worn. In by-gone days shawls were worn which covered the body from head to below the knee but by the 1950’s very few women around this area wore shawls. Hair nets were often worn to keep the hair tidy and, for special occasions, a hat was worn. Hats changed with the times from the trilby style to the tall high hats of the early 1960’s to the Jackie Kennedy styles of the times. Country women hadn’t much money to keep up with fashion but they liked to dress up and wear “the latest”. Maybe, once a year, a trip would be made by bus to Galway and to Anthony Ryans where a new coat would be purchased. Underwear was less glamorous and mainly made from cotton interlock and many women wore a corset which was a tight garment fastened with hooks and eyes and strings while the men wore the long johns and singlets or vests. The only face cream ever used was Ponds Cold cream which came in a white jar. A tube of red lipstick lasted a long time and was only used on Sundays and on special occasions. Visits to the hairdresser in Athenry were fairly frequent and the styles went from the “wash, cut and set” to a “perm” to the more casual “cut and blowdry” of later years. Curlers were often used and sometimes were very tight on the head at the hairdressers – but rarely did anyone complain!
Nylons were worn with high heeled shoes and the “seamed” nylons were in fashion for quite a while in the 1950’s to 1960’s. If a person had the good fortune to have a slender pair of legs this style looked very elegant with high-heeled shoes. For going to a dance or a wedding a dress would be worn or a “costume” (skirt and jacket with a blouse worn underneath). In the 1950’s dresses were long and mid calf length. The pencil skirts were also fashionable and women tended to be slim. The hems got shorter in the 1960’s and the young girls wore the mini skirts for the first time. Women began to wear trousers then also but some women never really took to trousers including myself. A “top coat” was an important item in the men’s wardrobe. A Crombie coat was kept for good wear. Peter also wore a light mac with a scarf inside the coat and outside his jacket. Tie pins were used to hold a tie in place and on occasions cuff-links were worn for a special occasion. Young girls wore frocks in Summer and sand shoes. Best of all were the plastic sandals which were left on while walking through drains, rivers and bogs. Some girls wore ribbons in their hair and lengths of ribbon were bought at the Drapery shop. The boys wore short pants in Summer. Wellingtons were worn to school in wet weather and around the farm.
Going to a dance:
When the local Carnival came myself and Peter always went out for a night’s dancing. I opened the “Cussons Imperial Leather” box in the drawer which held the pearls, the broach, a tiny blue bottle of perfume and the tie pin. Grandparents would remain at home to mind the house and family. We dressed up and off we went on the bikes. I always loved to dance. We danced the Sets, Siege of Ennis, Walls of Limerick, The Heel and Toe, Barn Dance as well as the Old Time Waltz. Later the singing lounges were crowded as local bands played. In Summer Burke’s used to be filled with locals and visitors home from America and England and on Summer evenings people would even dance outside in the yard. The Dubliners came to Barrett’s in Mountbellew and there was great excitement for this occasion. Going to the Cinema was a rare event but we did go to see “The Quiet Man” in 1952, part of which was filmed around Ballygluinin. Weddings, wakes and house parties were the other events where people got together. The wakes were in the houses in those times and the dead were laid out on a bed wearing a habit, brown for men and white for women. Children were also brought to wakes and they got used to seeing these major events of life happening around them.
Saturday night tasks:
Polishing the shoes and making jelly and custard were tasks that were undertaken every Saturday night. A tin of Punch Polish and a brush were used to give a great shine to all the shoes. It came in black, tan or neutral cream polish. When all the shoes were shinning they were laid out on the kitchen floor near the stairs for wearing the following morning to Sunday Mass. On Saturday night and every other night we got on our knees and recited the Rosary. My father often made us laugh – much to the disapproval of my mother. He might say “Holy Mary, Mother of God, go out to the garden and bring in a rod”. The children in particular found it hard to keep serious during the Rosary!
The bicycle and the cart were probably the two most important items in the shed. The women had the High Nelly straight bike or a “Ladies bike” and the men had the bike with a bar. A carrier was attached to the rear and sometimes a basket was also attached on the front of ladies’ bikes. The bike was used for getting to a neighbour with good or bad news, for going to Mass and for going to the bog and fields. They were vital in getting to anywhere including dances and matches as well as being used to go on “dates” or being left home from a dance “on the bar of the bike”! Two children could be accommodated on a man’s bike if a small saddle was attached to the bar. On frosty nights, the bike was taken out to go visiting or to a local play or concert or to the pub. A dynamo light was attached to the front of the men’s bikes and a flashlamp was used on the ladies’ bikes. There are stories of men, having had “ a few too many” in Burke’s pub, would end up in a drain near Denis and Mary Murphy’s thatched house in Cuddoo – to be rescued by Denis and transported home on the ass and cart! The woman of the house would not be pleased and that was the end of the “going out” for that night! Puncture mending was frequent. A basin of water was brought outside, the tube was taken from the tyre and the leak was detected by the hissing of the air from the tube. The yellow puncture kit was taken down. That small box held everything needed for mending the puncture, sand paper, “solution”, chalk, patches. A new patch was applied to the dried tube. The tyre was pumped and the bike was ready for action again. I visited neighbours and cousins on the bike – Gilligans, Fahys, Murphys, Lallys. My bike was often outside “Tessie’s” down the road where chatting, hearing the local news and drinking tea with other visitors kept us informed of all that was going on around us.