Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

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Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Gulliver » Fri Mar 02, 2012 1:05 pm

Lots of talk on this site about growing up and going to school in the 'boro..... but I am a blow-in.... I blew in in 1969. Before that there was a life in the midlands. Some years ago, I did a family history book about our family, and included in it a piece about the early life.

I'm putting an extract from the book to illustrate the different background. When my own children read it they openly laughed. I wonder what my grandchild will say when she first reads it:-

"Growing Up in Walderstown
I was seven when running water came. It was sourced from rainwater caught in a raised tank. Before that, all water came from a pump outside the back door, or from a water butt.

I was 10 when electricity came. Before that, we had Tilley and Alladin paraffin lamps, and had recently installed a bottled gas cooker to supplement the kitchen range. For ironing of clothes, we had a box-iron. One heated a special brick to red-hot in the fire before taking it out with a tongs and putting it in a compartment in the iron. Another iron had a firebox, which one filled with actual burning coals from the fire. In either case, ashes were always a hazard.

Although they had seen electricity in the town, many of the neighbours were amazed by the switch on. The idea of a light without oil, a fire without ash, a radio without wet and dry batteries was amazing. I remember one neighbour who plugged appliances in every socket all of the time, to ensure that the electricity did not leak out through the holes.

This was rural Ireland in the 1950's, in Co. Westmeath in the midlands, seven miles east of Athlone, seven miles north of Moate, seven miles south of Ballymahon, in the townland of Walderstown. A mixed farm, rearing cattle, and sheep and some tillage provided the main sources of income, and also provided bacon, vegetables, potatoes, milk, home-made butter, eggs, etc for the family of 6 plus mother and father.

Two horses, one black, one white, provided the motive power - no tractor. Haymaking was a major Summertime activity. Although we were never allowed near the mowing machine, a boy of ten or eleven could operate all other machines in those slower horse-drawn days. Winching up cocks of hay on to a 'shifter' (a form of low loader) was fun. Today's silage is not nearly so romantic.

In the Autumn the corn was cut with a reaper and binder, which dropped off sheaves as it moved. These were made into stooks, and later into larger stacks before being brought together for the threshing. The threshing machine was brought from farm to farm by a local contractor with a tractor. It was wooden, belt-driven, with lots of pulleys and cranks. A whole team of men had to be assembled for the threshing, and they were all fed in the evening. Then there was the sugar-beet, turnips, mangolds, and potatoes. Harvesting them was back-breaking work.

But the things closer to home stick more in the memory. Collecting the eggs from free-range hens meant attempting to find all of the hens' best hiding places in the corners of outhouses, in haylofts, and occasionally in hedges. Most hens had regular habits, but a few were unpredictable.

We had four cows - these had to be milked morning and evening - by hand, no milking machines. And we made country butter - the best prizewinning country butter.

The recipe:- while the milk is still warm, run it through a hand-cranked seperating machine. At the right speed, this separates the cream from the skim milk. In a cool dairy, the cream from a couple of days will thicken to the right consistency. This is emptied into a barrel churn, and warm water is added, to a precise temperature (my recollection is about 120 degrees Fahrenheit). The lid is bolted down.The handle turns the barrel over and over. Every couple of minutes, one checks the contents through a glass spyhole in the lid. Churning time varies with the seasons, but one knows that the process is completed when the glass is clear. Open the lid, and there is butter and buttermilk.

Then the butter must be processed in a 'butterworker', a special wooden table with raised sides and a frame which carries a roller up and down the table. A hole in the corner allows liquid to be drained off. The hand-operated wooden corrugated roller squeezes out some residual buttermilk, and water is used to remove remaining amounts. Salt is added. Further rolling ensures even consistency. One pound lumps are weighed out and shaped into rectangular blocks using special paddles. Families who produced a lot of butter had their own printed greaseproof paper which was ordered annually from Dublin. A number of regular customers, particularly the local policemen, called to buy each week. The balance was sold in a shop in the town - who had a regular clientele for hand-made butter.

But 'though it may seem romantic in retrospect, it was hard work with a relatively modest return in the economic conditions of the '50's. As they grew up, it seemed then that none of the family was interested in farming, and the parents did not encourage it. Accordingly, in the early '60s, the farm was sold and we moved into town. Thus ended a period of rural life for one family, and a new life began."
"Not all those who wander are lost" (J.R.R.Tolkien)
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Rocker » Fri Mar 02, 2012 6:45 pm

Gulliver,

Thank you for sharing this with us. What a wonderful record of a changing time.Your grandchild will be facinated at the knowledge and capabilities of her ancestors.We are all blow ins to Dublin. I am still trying to find out exactly when we blew in. We in the Boro missed out on the agricultural life, our milk came in glass bottles, eggs from the corner shop and bread from the bread man. Have to admit I never queried it and my townie parents never told us any different. My brother married a girl from the other side of Athlone near Ballinasloe and I went in my 20's to the country for the first time. An eye opener. I had only seen cows on the telly, Mart and Market ,and was agog standing in a big field!!Over the years I couldnt believe it when my young nephew drove the tractor to the Co-Op and milked the cows (by hand) etc Now I have grand nieces riding over ditches, a grand nephew playing hurling for some obscure Galway team and they will be equally agog when they read of Blackrock tenements, playing under streetlamps and night lines along the sea shore.
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Denis Cromie » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:39 pm

That's great to see such documentation of farmlife Gulliver. Your grandchild will be rightly proud of you. And it seems to me that the old crafts are making a comeback. I like Rocker am a townie, and growing up, the only farm that I was aware of was Monkstown Farm .
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Sinead » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:58 pm

Nice piece Gulliver. Life was hard for people in the early days of the State. There was little or no crime but I think that was because people had so little there was nothing to rob.
Like Dennis, I was born and bred in Dun Laoghaire and had no country cousins. My parents had friends in Tullow and we thought it was great to be brought to visit, that was the country for us.
My own children often cried because they had no country cousins to spend the summer with as did lots of their school friends.

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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby grammer » Sun Mar 04, 2012 1:28 am

Brillant piece of family history there Gulliver-
and probably a near forgotten way of life know -things change so fast--

what a great idea-to put it in book form and hand it down--
congrats
Sinead » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:58 pm

Nice piece Gulliver. Life was hard for people in the early days of the State. There was little or no crime but I think that was because people had so little there was nothing to rob.
Like Dennis, I was born and bred in Dun Laoghaire and had no country cousins. My parents had friends in Tullow and we thought it was great to be brought to visit, that was the country for us.
My own children often cried because they had no country cousins to spend the summer with as did lots of their school friends.

Sinead

yeh we were the same Sinead-

and great post there Rocker :D :D :D :D :D
now WE go to the country to visit our young :D :D :D :D :D
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Gulliver » Sun Mar 04, 2012 2:29 pm

grammer wrote:Brillant piece of family history there Gulliver-
and probably a near forgotten way of life know -things change so fast--

what a great idea-to put it in book form and hand it down--
congrats


Did the book with Aldi http://www.aldiphotos.ie/. Very good system. Very easy to produce a high quality book, assuming that you only want to produce a couple of copies.. Very important to put your family history in a book. If you just collect it up and file it, it will inevitably be lost or thrown out by your descendants.
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Strum » Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:09 pm

Sinead wrote: My parents had friends in Tullow and we thought it was great to be brought to visit, that was the country for us.
My own children often cried because they had no country cousins to spend the summer with as did lots of their school friends.

Sinead


My parents had friends in Ballinasloe who they met in An Oige and I always considered them "cousins" and the parents were my "aunt" and "uncle" even though they we were not related.
I spent all my Summers down there in the 60's and I absolutely loved it. A two bed single story Cottage on the main road into the town.
7 boys and two girls + me and the parents so there was about 6 of us in one bed covered in overcoats and blankets.
Happy happy days I spent down there. :D
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby jaytee » Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:08 pm

lovely memories Gulliver, made me remember a time when we brought english relations to athlone to visit aunty Mena. She kept telling them she had 3 bogs. Of course the english cousins thought she meant toilets. :D
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Rocker » Mon Mar 05, 2012 1:05 am

Jaytee,

We might have met your Aunty Mena on the bog. When I encountered the country in the 70's I got stuck in and we used to go down to help with saving the turf. Back breaking but the best craic. Everyone from around Athlone gathered and it was all hand cutting youd toss the sods on the side - they would be heavy with moisture, then they would be laid out tdry in the sun and turned every few days till dry enough to collect. the stink off those fires in the winter!!. Bring you right back to your roots. They are not allowed cut at will on the bogs now its just a contractor and a certain amount can only be taken at a time. Your man Ming Flanagan is always raising the issue in the Dail.
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Gulliver » Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:14 am

Mentioned earlier in this thread that I documented the family history for the benefit of grandchildren.

The second one was born last night in Holles St - a girl - name yet to be selected.
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Rocker » Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:00 pm

Congratulations Gulliver,

That is marvellous news. I'd say you will all be heading in to Holles Street today. There is nothing as special as a new baby.Smyths toys here you come!!. |was in there the other day and wanted to stay the day to play with the toys myself.
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Holla » Mon Mar 05, 2012 5:41 pm

Gulliver wrote:Mentioned earlier in this thread that I documented the family history for the benefit of grandchildren.

The second one was born last night in Holles St - a girl - name yet to be selected.


Congrats Gulliver.....more little people in your life :)
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby grammer » Mon Mar 05, 2012 5:57 pm

Congrats Gulliver
Hope you sailed thru it all :D :D :D :D
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Gulliver » Thu Mar 08, 2012 9:35 pm

Just came accross this on YouTube - we had an old wind-up gramaphone in Athlone with this record on it which I loved and played endlessly...probably aged about 3 or 4 ..... The gramophone has a wooden case, and shutters in front. To raise the volume you had to open the shutters. It needed a new needle every few weeks - or more ofte if you valued your 78rpm records. Also had lots of records of John McCormack (local Athlone lad..... later lived at Glena, on the Rock Road) which I hated.

This one is Henry Hall & his orchestra's "Teddy Bears Picnic" ......

nostalgia ain't what it used to be.....

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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Rocker » Thu Mar 08, 2012 11:17 pm

Gulliver,

That took me back and I knew every word. Havent heard it for years. We were a great singing family whether you could or not you had to stand behind the curtains you would be announced and then come out to great applause and sing your piece then retreat behind the curtains !! Many a time I sang that but not as well as your man. Hang down your head Tom Dooley was a great favourite!! Things aint what they used to be.

I am just returned from a great day in Moore near Athlone - confirmation of grand niece. Wonderful day had by all. The sun that does be on the bog was gorgeous - still no camera!
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby grammer » Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:32 am

thats a real throwback Gulliver
when we were kids on the aunts gramaphone we were allowed do the winding every :D :D so often
the songs were of the type

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzA8gwfJr9I&feature=related[/youtube]
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C03LizD_E8g&feature=related[/youtube]
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Gulliver » Tue Mar 20, 2012 10:08 pm

Went to the cinema last night to see Stella Days, with Martin Sheen, Stephen Rea, Tom "Benjy" Hickey, Amy Huberman and many other Irish actors.

It's set in a village in Tipperary in the 1950's, but it echoes events in my parish near Athlone to a disturbing level. Rural Electrification, religion (in latin), the power of the clergy and local politicians, deference to authority, are all prominent themes, but it is done so well (cringingly well... when we think about it, we were really gullible). Great to see the old Ford Prefect and baby Austin, as well as the green bus with the flying wheel logo

A full house in the small cinema
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Rocker » Sat Mar 24, 2012 11:38 am

Thanks for this tip Gulliver,

Looking forward to seeing it. We used to be great cinema goers but for some reason we put it on the back boiler - time to get going again.

You might have been describing Blackrock there, so it will be interesting to see - we were all so beaten down by the church and crippling scruples.
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Gulliver » Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:18 pm

Went down to see the auld sod in Athlone this morning.
In the wonderful Spring sun, both the countryside and the town looked great - from a distance, as can be seen from this pic (from my new phone)
Image

But when I walked down the main street (Church St), it is devastated by the recession.
Must be close to 50% of the shops closed and abandoned. One large good shop stands out - Burgess's (mens and ladies clothes) - it had a makeover with the help of Fergal Quinn on an RTE program last year, and it has maintained a high standard - but there was not a single customer in the shop at 11.00 this morning.

Went to see the various family graves and the old homestead - which is no longer habitable, but could be repaired - its a sorry looking sight so I won't show it
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Holla » Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:36 pm

[quote="Gulliver"]Went down to see the auld sod in Athlone this morning.

But when I walked down the main street (Church St), it is devastated by the recession.
Must be close to 50% of the shops closed and abandoned. One large good shop stands out - Burgess's (mens and ladies clothes) - it had a makeover with the help of Fergal Quinn on an RTE program last year, and it has maintained a high standard - but there was not a single customer in the shop at 11.00 this morning

sorry Iam little off topic but your post reminds me of the time a few years ago i went to Athlone with a workmate to look at property he had his eye on, later we went into Burgess store I and purchased a shirt it was a before the makeover and the staff were wonderful old style plenty of time for a chat and the tape mesaure out to check your collar size
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Gulliver » Wed May 02, 2012 6:45 pm

Ahlone becomes a new province of the Peoples Republic of China.

They are building The Great Mall of China at Creggan and a new railway station.

A friend of mine went to China with the Travel Department.
The Chinese guide explained
"Potatoes are round, rice is long and narrow
Irish people eat potatoes, Chinese eat rice
Irish eyes are round, Chinese eyes are long and narrow"
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby keeper » Wed May 02, 2012 8:23 pm

Indeed Gulliver, it won't be long before the whole country belongs to China :roll: in fact, it won't be long till the whole of Europe will be Chinese, just as well we got there first, but sure if it brings employment and some life back to the midlands, what harm. Now, back to my Rickshaw restoration, well you never know ;)
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Re: Once upon a time - in a land far away (near Athlone)

Postby Denis Cromie » Thu May 03, 2012 11:25 am

I say let them eat potatoes,I'm partial to a bit of rice meself. China is now the principal economic power and if we can get them to invest and create well paying jobs, lets not be sniffy. We have very little manufacturing going on in this country at the moment and we badly need to address this shortfall. What I'd love to see is investment in industry i.e Biscuit Making, Car Assembly,PublicTransport,Confectionery,etc..These are all industries we had until recent years but unfortunatey all our investment went into non productive property speculation and we can now see where that shortsighted policy has left us.
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