Nonie Hardiman, Doonane - (Part 3)
I met my husband Peter from Clough at a dance in Tiaquin National School. A few years later we got engaged in Hartmann’s Jeweller’s in Galway and my ring was a gold band with three stones. On the 29th April, 1953 we were married in Menlough Church when I was twenty-seven. Teresa Keary, my first cousin (later to marry Johnny Lally) was my bridesmaid and Tommy Coppinger, a first cousin of Peter’s, was his best man. Kathleen Burke (The shop, Colemanstown) drove me to the Church. Peter had a Ford Eight car at the time and we all returned afterwards to the house in Doonane for the celebrations. There was food and drink and wedding cake and it was a great day. The barn was converted into a dance hall for the day and Mickie Byrne, Cuddoo, played the accordion. Photographs were taken outside with the Kodak Brownie camera and we have them all still. We drove to Ennis and stayed in the Old Ground Hotel for the beginning of our honeymoon. From there we headed to Kerry and stayed in Scott’s Hotel, Killarney. We toured around the Lakes and to Kate Kearney’s Cottage and took many photographs. We then headed towards Dublin, parked the car in Naas and we took the bus into Dublin City to the Spring Show.
We then settled into married life with my mother and father. Four children were born between 1954 and 1967, with one still-born girl born in 1964, which was a big upset. In those times babies were kept and buried by the hospital. I used to cycle to Monivea and back for my appointments with a nurse and the neighbours were summoned to drive me to the maternity hospital when the time came as we didn’t have a car then. I wrote letters home to Peter from the hospital and he would visit as often as he could. Men were not allowed to attend the births in those times and women were kept longer in hospital then. After each baby, except the youngest, the “Churching” took place before I went back to Mass or the Sacraments. It is a ceremony no longer performed but we accepted without question in those days.
We had a barrel style churn. Some others in the village had the stainless steel churns and Mary and Denis Murphy in Cuddoo had the dash type churn. Our churn was a wooden barrel hinged on a wooden frame with a handle to the side. The lid at the top had a small round window and was closed tightly and a there was a lever to let the gas escape. There was a tap to allow the buttermilk to flow out when the churning was over. We often drank the buttermilk as it was a refreshing cool drink and it was used to make the bread.
The milk would be stored in basins after milking and the cream at the top would be skimmed with a saucer into another container and that was used in the churning when enough was gathered. It took quite a length of time turning the handle and occasionally checking the glass on the lid to see if it was clear. That was a sign that the milk had churned. The butter was a deep yellow colour and people nowadays would find it very strong to taste. If a visitor came to the house while the churning was in progress they were asked to turn the handle. There was a belief that it was bad luck not to help and that the milk would not churn.
When churned, the butter was emptied out and rinsed over and over again with fresh cold water. Salt was then added. Two wooden platters were used to pound the butter into “prints” of rectangular shapes of about a 1lb in weight and it was then wrapped in greaseproof paper. For special occasions like the Stations, the women made more ornamental shapes and formed small circles or whirls which looked well on the table. Butter and milk was stored in a press called “the dairy”, it had mesh doors and was in a cool part of the kitchen.
When all the cultivation was done by horse and plough and harrow, it was time to sow the seeds. My father was great at this work and he used a special sheet to shake the seed which held about 2 stone of oats or barley. He would walk along the land and, when the 2 stone was sown, that is when I came into the picture and carried a big bucket of seed to him. This continued until the field was sown.
Sowing the potatoes was a big job. Firstly the “slits” had to be cut. Every farm had a big pit of potatoes. My mother would go out and sit at that pit for hours cutting the slits. She taught me how to do the job by leaving at least one “eye”. One potato could make 3 slits. In later years I took over this job. I usually got help from Teresa Lally and I would, in turn, go to Lally’s and help out with Teresa and Johnny.
The day of sowing was a hard day. A praiscin was used to hold the potatoes. It was like a closed apron wrapped around the waist. The slits were laid at the bottom of the open drill and placed about a foot apart, if bigger potatoes were needed – more than a foot apart. It was hard work and hard on our backs carrying the praiscin and bending down to sow the potatoes.
Spring was also the lambing season and a very busy time for the farmer. It was lovely to see the young lambs arriving and leaping around the field. In bad weather late at night the mother and her lambs had to be brought into the barn away from foxes and dogs. Sometimes a mother might not have enough milk or might die and the lambs were reared on bottles of milk. It was lovely to be able to feed the small lambs and see them thrive. Sometimes people brought the small lambs inside to the heat of the kitchen. We had 4 pet lambs one year and when the time came to take them to the market it was a very sad day indeed.