Out of the Blue - A Little Book of Inspiration

70's and 80's Recession

70s and 80s Recession.

Frank and I lived in during the recession of the 70s and 80s. We were fortunate to have jobs teaching. Nevertheless rearing seven children was expensive. I gave up teaching for a number of years when my children were very young. Salaries were low. We paid 62 pence in the £ in tax, 16% – 18% interest on mortgage and other loans. I often wondered if we would ever see our bank statement in the black as every bank statement was in the red. We paid full college fees for our four eldest children – which was an enormous amount of money at the time. Rearing seven children these fees proved expensive. Even though we were paying P.R.S.I we were not entitled to any medical or dentistry benefits. Thankfully my children were healthy so the cure for most ailments in our house was early to bed with a cup of hot milk or soup!!

Everyone did their best to eke out a living. I took in a lodger to supplement the family income when I was not working. Clothes were mended, socks were darned, sheets, pillowcases and tea towels were made from flour bags, and shoes were soled and heeled by the shoemaker. My mother made bundles of hankies from flour bags for my children. She made a special bundle for each one of them tying them together with different coloured ribbons. Clothes were passed from one child to the next and clothes were exchanged between families and friends. The eldest child got new clothes nut the child at the end of the line got all the hand- me downs and only the occasional new garment. I made my own maternity clothes and dresses and some dresses for my girls. We made curtains, rugs, cushion covers, stools and many other household items. As money was scarce we improvised always before thinking about going out to buy. Anything that could be fixed was fixed if at all possible. We didn’t dispose of goods lightly. Our motto was “Waste not want not”.

Our children’s wardrobes were limited. They had two pairs of shoes as well as basketball and football boots, a winter jacket and a summer jacket, three pairs of jeans, t-shirts, a warm jumper and perhaps a fleecy. When they came of age they had summer jobs – we did not allow them have jobs during school/ college terms as they needed time to study and play their games. The older girls went to America during their college years and earned good money. This helped to defray college expenses. My children cycled most places. We hadn’t time to ferry them by car – petrol was expensive and scarce so you walked or cycled wherever you wanted to go. We had a station wagon so we packed seven children and two adults plus luggage into that car – there were no seat belts!! If seat belts were compulsory as they are now we would have needed a bus!! We did have vehicles but my car was a “banger” – you could see the road through the broken floor and more often than not the silencer was broken – you could hear me coming a mile off!! How embarrassing for my children!!

We sowed vegetables and potatoes. In our small garden we could produce enough food to last us until Christmas. We had fruit bushes of gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries and black currants. Summer was spent picking fruit and making jam. My children hated topping and tailing blackcurrants and gooseberries. I would always choose the Wimbledon week to entice them to sit and watch the tennis matches as they performed this task. Three apple trees gave us enough apples for the year. I blanched apples and froze them using them during the year to make apple tarts. Rhubarb was also frozen. Surplus food was shared between friends and neighbours. We often bought a side of beef or a lamb and the local butcher would butcher the meat. Meat was cheaper by buying it whole. Neighbours gave us eggs and honey and we got the odd bag of potatoes from parents of the children we taught. I was fortunate that my brothers owned a dairy so 8 litres of milk was left at my gate every morning. I didn’t have to pay for it so that was like manna from heaven. I was always so grateful to them.

Meals were substantial and nutritious. We had porridge/ cornflakes for breakfast, a large pot of homemade soup with toasted sandwiches after school and always a good dinner with lots of different recipes that were cooked in large pots or baked in cabbage, meat balls with tomato sauce, burgers and mince dishes with pasta. Fish was cheap so I cooked white fish in a white sauce topped it with mashed potatoes, cheese and streaky rashers and baked it in the oven – that was a favourite dish. A pot of creamy rice with a spoon of strawberry jam was always welcomed. I baked twice week- bread, scones, tarts, sponges, chocolate cake, ginger bread, tea bracks and other cakes in my large roasting tin. I purchased a large bag of flour for this purpose as it was cheaper than buying the small bags.

We bought a caravan when we had four children and later as the family increased we bought a tent. We couldn’t afford to go on holidays or eat out in restaurants so I reckon buying the caravan was a great investment as we had wonderful holidays in Ballyconneely – just an hour drive away. The children spent the summer holidays fishing in rock pools, swimming, walking the beaches and playing golf. This period of our lives was one of the happiest long carefree happy days enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

We led a simple life – a happy carefree life. We were always involved in a voluntary capacity in the community. We shared our talents and skills as did so many others within our community for the betterment of Oughterard.


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This page was added on 26/06/2012.

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