The following is a transcript of a recorded conversation between Mary-Kate Walsh (née Naughton) of Camp Street, Oughterard, Co.Galway and her daughter Tessie Owens (née Walsh) of Ferbane, Co. Offaly. It was recorded in 1981 in Ferbane, while Mary-Kate was up for a holiday. She was 90 years old when this was recorded and she reminisced some events and people in her life in Oughterard.
The recording can be listened to going to the following links:
Tessie: Well Mother, now that you’re here in Ferbane, once more, I’d like you to tell me a bit of history about where I came from; and all about our own people; and the neighbours in Camp; and who my grandmother was, so will you start off now and tell us a little bit?
Mary-Kate: Well, she was Maria Geoghegan, and she came from Rusheeney, and she married John Naughton at the age of 23. He was a driver by trade at this time. That was before buses or the east pass came, there was none of that in it.
Tessie : Only a trap and a sidecar, I suppose.
Mary-Kate: Yes, so that’s before the railway came from Galway to Clifden. So when that started, my father …
Tessie : You never saw your father
Mary-Kate: …No, he went to work on the sand pits that was laying the sand for the railway…
Tessie : The railway line, yes
Mary-Kate: …yes, so he was this day doing, my mother was just three months married and he went on this day and the man that had taken the contract of laying the rails, should have a man on the top of the sandpits as they went along
Tessie : Sort of a watchman to see…
Mary-Kate: A watchman and they were supposed to give warning to the men that were lifting the sand in their carts …
Tessie: If there was any danger…
Mary-Kate: Yes, as the carts were put in, they were sinking as there was no foundation in the sandpit. So my father went behind the cart to give a lift out to the horse. Because when it was sinking the wheels were going down. So he went back, and the horse and cart came safe but he was smothered. So I was three months in for that time, and I never seen him. Six months later I was born.
Tessie : Yes, and she lived there …
Mary-Kate: She lived on an acre of land …
Tessie : With her mother-in-law and father-in-law.
Mary-Kate: Yes, and they were advanced when they got married. They had only two boys, and the other boy Willie died just a baby, so John lived until he was smothered there. She could of gone to her people in America, all her family were out there. She had no place to leave me and she wouldn’t leave me after, both her father-in-law and mother-in-law were too old. They were in their seventies. So she stayed with them, and reared me.
Tessie : And then they died and how did she get to marry Mr. McDonagh, or Patsy McDonagh?
Mary-Kate: Well, she done work for them. She done the washing and cleaning up when himself and his wife lived in farther up the street. In the same street but farther up; and they had a shop. So the wife died and he said “I think I take back now to where I came from”. He was a native of Ballinasloe. And “I don’t like to be away from where Bridget is buried”, that was the wife. “Well”, says my mother “we have a big house down there, “but” says she “I cannot do your work anymore, people would talk”, which they would. “And if you like” she says “you can come down and we’ll give you part of our house, it’s too big”; because my father had built to go out in it and leave the old couple in the old house.
Tessie : Yes, and he’d be near enough to them just the same as if he lived in …
Mary-Kate: Well so, “and if you married me” says he “we’ll stop the talk.” So that’s the way she got it.
Tessie : And they had a little shop there then…
Mary-Kate: He had, he carried on his shop business all the time.
Tessie : And you grew then and married my father and he was from …
Mary-Kate: He was from Billamore. He was a carpenter by trade and great man to play the accordion.
Tessie : And he step danced.
Mary-Kate: And he step danced.
Tessie : And he could lilt.
Mary-Kate: He could lilt and step dance and drink a drop as good as any man.
Tessie : And smoke his pipe.
Mary-Kate: And smoke his pipe. So he done some repairs on our house. And of course, I don’t know, but they said he had an eye on me all the time! That’s to be told. But he proposed and mother said it was very suitable for me. I’d be with her. So I did marry and I reared six children.
Tessie : And the eldest was Mary Rose …
Mary-Kate: Yeah, Mary Rose was the eldest.
Tessie : And Delia …
Mary-Kate: Delia came then and Michael came then, Bernie came then.
Tessie : And me then …
Mary-Kate: And Tess came then, and Moira came then. And there was no pay going that time, because if there was I wouldn’t have so many on the side of the road, because work was very scarce.
Tessie : Only chance work …
Mary-Kate: Chance work. He had his papers out for being a good carpenter, but there was no work. And if they got work themselves it was only about £2 a week. So I always done fancy work since I was 11 years.
Tessie : Carrickmacross Lace …
Mary-Kate: Carrickmacross Lace. And I kept at the lace. And between all and my mother used to get Christmas and Easter money from her people, her sisters in America, and we had a nice little life.
Tessie : And you had a bit of land …
Mary-Kate: And a bit of land. So we lived along.
Mary-Kate: Comfortable at the time. Things were very cheap that time. You’d get a nice chop for 6 pence, 12 pennies at that time.
Tessie : So they got married then: Mary Rose in Craughwell …
Mary-Kate: Yes, got a big farmer, and I thought it was a hard life for her because she was at office work in the Post Office. And I told her, says I “marry someone who will give you an easy time” because farming was very hard in that side of the country. But she didn’t, she said she liked him and love is supposed to be one of the biggest things. Love or hatred, them two conquers.
Tessie : So the next …
Mary-Kate: So next then was Delia and she married her own choice: Andrew D’Arcy from Maghera. And they reared their family. So then, Michael. He married an Offaly woman. Bernie then married …
Tessie : What was her name?
Mary-Kate: Kitty O’Leary. And then Bernie married.
Tessie : One of the Lees from down …
Mary-Kate: From down from Pollough. And he came in for a farm of land from the Noones, the father’s side. And he reared a big family.
Tessie : And then I came next and went up to Offaly too.
Mary-Kate: Then my next one went up to Offaly, Tess, she married Johnny Owens. He’s from Geashill.
Tessie : And Moira went back to where my grandmother came from and married back in Rusheeney. She was the same name as Granny.
Mary-Kate: Yes, she was Moira and she went back to Patrick Connolly. (Conneely)
Tessie : Well who was the neighbour next door to you?
Mary-Kate: Mike Heraghty .
Tessie : Oh yes, that’s the man that used to have the apples and we used to get the few …
Mary-Kate: Yes and he’d bring a few apples. And the biggest curse he ever said was ‘Billy Oath’ and ‘Paddy Conscience’. And he fished on Lough Corrib, that’s what he used to do.
Tessie : And he had a lame leg I remember. How did he get that?
Mary-Kate: Oh, he got that later on in life, but he hadn’t it always. He married a girl who was great from her youth and she went to America and made a bit of money and came home. Margaret Gill.
Tessie : And that’s how John Gill is in it today now.
Mary-Kate: John Gill is in it today then, his nephew.
Tessie : Oh I see, and then Mannie Flaherty, no?
Mary-Kate: Races that time was two days in Galway. And Tom Flaherty lived in next door to him. And Tom went in to jarvey the races when the crowd would gather, they’d stand in the square in Galway. “Salthill or the dogs! Salthill or the dogs!” and they brought you to Salthill or the dogs for 10 shillings. And they made a few pound. And came out home. The whole lot of them would be coming from Galway, 10 or 12 cars from Oughterard would go in for the race week. And poor Mike Heraghty used to go in with Tom’s wife in the last day to be out with him. They have the day in the Galway Races. And poor Tom Flaherty got a bit jarred.
Tessie : One too many …
Mary-Kate: And he was driving coming home. And Mike was one side and the wife on the other side he was on the ‘deckie’ …
Tessie : Oh yes.
Mary-Kate: The centre I used to call it. But he pulled the car against the wall and Mike’s leg got caught,
Tessie : And that’s how he …
Mary-Kate: And the leg got broke.
Tessie : Oh I see.
Mary-Kate: So that’s it for life.
Tessie : And who is next, where did Mrs. Jordan come in?
Mary-Kate: Mrs. Jordan then: Tom Flaherty built a new house down farther and Mrs. Jordan went in his old house. She was from Westmeath. Mary Anne Ward was her name.
Tessie : And she married Peter Jordan.
Mary-Kate: Peter Jordan was born in Oughterard and he lived with his mother, his father was dead. And he was a while, I think, in the industrial school in …
Tessie : Letterfrack?
Mary-Kate: Letterfrack, in his youth. But he was a great step dancer and he married Mary Anne Ward, when they were down in Galway with her people that employed her for the sea for the summer. She came down a girl working.
Tessie : And she was great at the dressmaking.
Mary-Kate: She was! She was a dressmaker by trade, when she came. When she joined then, worked for them, they had a family and she used to make all the clothes for the children and all. What they aren’t doing now, they don’t do …
Tessie : Oh there’s great changes alright, but sure there wasn’t Penney’s or Dunne’s Stores out that time.
Mary-Kate: No there was nothing out in that time. So anyway they went to America and they came home after years. And there were no going pensions going for them for America that time either.
Tessie : No.
Mary-Kate: They came home and they done managers for the gentlemen around when they’d be gone to England back for a holiday I think, they’d go out and stay in the house, look after it and keep in order while they were away. And then they’d come back to our house, where we rented to them. And they stayed there and she’d dress make again.
Tessie : And who was next to Mrs. Jordan then?
Mary-Kate: Mamo Donnellan .
Tessie : Was it not, where was Nellie Flaherty?
Mary-Kate: Nellie Flaherty was in it, that’s Tom’s daughter.
Tessie : And Mary Ann, and Mary Ann …
Mary-Kate: And Mary Ann.
Tessie : Mary Ann was Tom’s sister.
Mary-Kate: Yes, Tom, Margaret and Brendan lived in the next house. And she lived with her father. They lived in Tullyvrick. And when they used to be jarveying, they all came over to be nearer the town…
Tessie : Oh yes.
Mary-Kate: … there was more trade.
Tessie : More business and trade.
Mary-Kate: You’d get more calls. And Mary Ann was there.
Tessie : So she took in Nellie when he married …
Mary-Kate: Oh yes, when he was married and as the children was growing up she’d take in one until it was fit to go to America. That all went to America, but Nellie stayed with her. The rest went on to America.
Tessie : But then there was Mamo Donnellan.
Mary-Kate: She was next. And Mamo Donnellan was married to a butcher by trade, but his father before him was a butcher, Johnny Donnellan. Johnny Donnellan had Patsy: one son; Jack: two sons; James another; I think there was another one Willie.
Tessie : And you were friends with Maggie …
Mary-Kate: I was! And I was. Pat then worked in Roy’s where the mother worked. As he grew up and he went to school. But he was a self taught man. His mother was a wonderful Irish speaker. She had more Irish than he had English and he came out to be an Irish teacher. And he went over to Tourmakeady where the college was. And he met De Valera, Eamonn De Valera in it. And he brought him over to meet his mother, because Mary Rose was very interested in Irish. So he brought him over this day and I came in. And Maggie was my chum and she says “do you know who’s in the room with Pádraig?” “Who?” says I. “Eamonn De Valera!” Well she hadn’t said when I was out, until I landed home, because I didn’t know him and I wasn’t acquainted with him. So he stayed night and they went over again, crossed. And Pádraig married Father Flanagan’s sister. And Father Flanagan’s father was a tailor in Dublin, he had a great business. He employed people. And he had the only daughter Sinéad, she married him. And a priest, two in family.
Tessie : And there was another old man down there: Ollie Carr. He was a great man for the history.
Mary-Kate: Oh he was an old man. I’d say he came with some Protestant family to Old Chapel. And they came up from Old Chapel to Camp to live with his father and his mother and his brother who was a gardener by trade. And they used to come up to the big stone; there was a big stone out in the wall.
Tessie : Pat Finnerty ’s?
Mary-Kate: Finnerty’s stone we used to call it. After Finnerty’s stone. He come up every evening and my mother, Mike Heraghty, and Mamo Donnellan would sit there.
Tessie : And I used to be up with them too listening to them chatting.
Mary-Kate: And all the children would gather around them to hear them talking.
Tessie : Well they were great times weren’t they?
Mary-Kate: They were not too bad, but no one had anything better than the other, we were all on the one level.
Tessie : Grand old simple ways.
Mary-Kate: Very simple.
Tessie : And great religion and fasting.
Mary-Kate: I remember when Bid McDonagh and ColmanMcDonagh lived out in Leam, that’s 5 miles from Oughterard. She’d get up every morning for 8 o’clock Mass, hail, rain or storm, come down fasting when she was going to receive. And rain shaking out of her cloak, her shawl when she’d come to the chapel and she shake it outside. And go in, kneel down and receive and walk back then four miles or five again.
Tessie : And all the women had shawls that time.
Mary-Kate: They had. The Galway Shawl of grey.
Tessie: And some of them of them black and some of them Paisley.
Mary-Kate: Well when they got married long ago in Oughterard, you weren’t respectable woman if you hadn’t a mantle and …
Tessie : And a Claddagh ring?
Mary-Kate: And a Claddagh ring and a Paisley shawl to put inside it. You were respectable then. Otherwise you were only a tinker. And when my mother got married, she was only a few days married, when my grandmother said to him “now John you must go into Galway, and get a mantle for Maria, and a Claddagh ring, and a Paisley shawl, and she’d be respectable then.
Tessie : And you saw troubled times too. What about the time you were evicted?
Mary-Kate: Between Ireland and England? I did see that time well. Little Michael, my youngest, he was the youngest at that time, was only about a week old when the trouble came between the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. And they were expecting a raid. The Fianna Fáils were expecting a raid from Headford. So they got big blocks of trees, put them across the road at our gable. And they took our gable. And we were put out and had to go to Mamo Donnellan’s for that night. No raid came but that didn’t safe us! My husband stayed in the house, that’s all that was in it. He said if anything comes or any trouble “I can hop in or hop out” but the children and myself had to go out. So that’s what! But I remember afterwards then, when they used to have dances with the Fine Gael when they won, that the public was put out and they left any amount of debt to be paid. And Fine Gael came in, and there was as much bills sent to them whether they were taken or not, they demanded payment. They had to put good price on everything in shops and all to try and meet all…… when it was cleared up again the Fianna Fáil won and knocked them out. And I remember and the Fine Gael time, and I was on the Fine Gael side that time, I used to take the, what’ll I call it, the papers they used to have for the winning of the elections ……
Tessie : Oh yes.
Mary-Kate: The election papers and I used to distribute them on the road. And the people would take off them if they coming and I often went down as far as the auld chapel with them and then up again. And I remember Johnny was coming from working at the Minister’s and he had a saw on his tool bag and it was out that way. And the Black and Tans were going around and they put the shot over his head thinking it was a gun, do you know.
Tessie: So times were as bad as they are today in Ireland!
Mary-Kate: There was very bad times.
Tessie : There was always violence there!
Mary-Kate: But I remember when there was a raid on John Geoghegan’s house.
Tessie : Where did John Geoghegan live now?
Mary-Kate: He lived in Moycullen, a bit outside Moycullen. He was a cousin of your father’s. There was a raid over in the Ballinasloe side and he was supposed to be in that hold up. So he was told by the Irish at the time that they were to come, the Black & Tans was to come for him this night, the two younger brothers said “you go now tonight John, there’s a raid on this house tonight.” “Well if I went” he says, “one of ye will be taken and as they put me down for it I’ll stand my ground, as long they take me from the door and not shoot me before my mother. That’s all I care about and is all that’s troubling me”. So when he heard the knock come to the door that night and they were all in the kitchen: the two brothers and himself and the mother. “This is for me now” says he waking out. And the mother heard it and she went out to the door with him. And she said to them “What’s bringing ye here?” “Leave the way woman” says the … “is John here?” John stepped out. “I’m here” says he, “but bring me now” says he “down the road, don’t shoot me before my mother”. They done nothing but drew the gun opposite his mother and shot him.
Tessie : So that was a sad sight for her to see.
Mary-Kate: She never done a day’s good until she died. And the brothers lived there, it nearly killed one of them, the other fella went to England a carpenter. But them were times.
Tessie : They were hard times.