Nora’s Earlier Days in Clifden
I was born in Belgawley, near Clifden. My father was a boiler-man and worked at nights stoking boilers at the Marconi wireless station outside Clifden. Myself and some older friends used to love going there after school where we could have tea in the canteen, it was very exciting. I remember the “Tans” coming to Clifden on the train. There were British army soldiers too. I also remember Alcock and Browne landing their plane in the bogs near our house, after flying the Atlantic in1919. I remember the Marconi Station being burned down during the troubles in 1922.
Nora’s Family Move to Oughterard
My family left Clifden in 1925 when we went to live with my granny in Magheramore, Oughterard. I went to school in the Convent of Mercy in 1926, and made my First Communion in 1927. There were large families in Maghera then and we all went to school together, a distance of about 31/2 miles altogether.
Education in Oughterard
My first teacher was Mrs. Walsh and later I was taught by Srs. Albertas, Gertrude and finally Enda. Sister Paul was the Reverened Mother, (she was a sister of J.H.Joyce, a local shopkeeper). If we went to school with dirty feet we were sent to the river nearby to wash them. There was a ‘slapper’in the school and if we got an old slap I’m sure we deserved it. The nuns wore belts hanging from their waists but they didn’t use them on us. There was a short catechism when we started school. Later on when we were preparing for Confirmation we had along catechism and catechism notes and a Bible history with parables and stories that we had to learn by heart. There was no money given to us at that time. We might get 6d on Race day that was about it. Jo Callaghan was our postman and he carried a stick. He was a great walker and we used to love walking along with him on our way home from school listening to his stick tapping the road. If there was a funeral the nuns used to send us out to the church and we walked with the remains to the graveyard. We loved watching the men fill in the grave and used to wait until they tapped the last few shovels of clay on the grave. We thought that was lovely. We listened to the women crying over the dead before going home.
Later on I delivered milk to Darcy’s Hotel (now the Lake Hotel) and to Hallorans and Ferris’s. I was 141/2 when I finished school. I used to do odd jobs in the hotel. I even bottled a half barrel of porter now and again. I put the bottles on a machine which filled them and then they were corked and put into cases and left at the back of the range to heat and mature them before being drunk. I remember the cooks and the fishermen coming in during the fishing season. There was great excitement. I had a lovely time there. There were three hotels in the town then; Darcy’s, Anglers and Sweeneys, (The Corrib Hotel now). The anglers and boatmen all had to walk to the lake. They often stayed for three weeks at a time – these would be the English anglers. The Misses Murphy and Davoren were the first owners of Murphy’s Hotel until Andy Darcy and his wife bought it. They eventually sold it on to Eddie Sweeney who already owned Sweeney’s (now the Corrib Hotel who sold it shortly afterwards to the Mc Mahon family from Dublin. The Mc Mahons sold it to Mr Philips just before the war. He sold it to Egans Butchers, Frank Egan took charge of it. Frank died in 1942 and then his brother Jim and his wife Sheila took over the running of it. Mary and Gerry Mc Donnell the present owners bought the hotel from the Egan family after Jim’s death.
Sweets of the Time
When I started jobbing I was able to buy sweets and things. In the early 30’s there were only can sweets going, like bulls eyes, also drum sticks, and a small stick with a lump of chocolate on it. There were strings of liquorice too and “Peggy’s Legs” which was something like the sticks of rock nowadays but thicker. The old people loved it. With the first 2 shilling I earned I went into Nanny Gill’s and got 24 drum sticks and brought them home with me. (Nanny Gill was the Gibney’s grandmother, a lovely lady).
Mode of Travel
I went to Galway once on the train when the school children had to have their eyes tested. It was very exciting. The Omnibus as it was called took over after the railway was closed down in 1935. A few years later Ferguson’s truck started taking passengers to Galway and on other outings such as to football matches and even to Knock. He also delivered goods anywhere. Then he bought a proper bus, later on it was called “The Connemars Bus”. The trip to Galway cost about 10p in to days money. The first bike in our family, a Raleigh, was bought for my eldest sister. When she went away to work I got the bike. I used to carry two cans of milk to town on the bike every day. We also had donkeys and I used to draw the turf home from the bog with two donkeys with straddles and baskets on their backs. It was 2miles there.
The First Radio in Maghera
The first radio we heard belonged to Harry Stewart of Railway Cottage. The whole village would gather there to hear the broadcastsof football matches. It was great. It was the early 30’s.
Kennedy O Brien was the local doctor and he married Katie Joyce, J.H. Joyce’s sister. They had a large family and we were at school with them. Nearly all of them are dead and gone now.
Entertainment in Oughterard
There was no hall or entertainment locally until Edward Sullivan built a dance hall where Teddy Mc Gauley had a garage. The hall opened with 4d hops in the late 30’s and before the war. The grownups and over 18’s went to the dances. The locals didn’t know much about dancing, other than half sets and old time waltzes until the army construction corps came to Cloosh wood in 1941. They introduced fox trots and slow waltzes to the Hall. For the younger ones we looked forward to Yanks coming home on a visit. There would be parties in the village with currant cake and jam for the kids and maybe music and a dollar or two floating around.
The Yanks would go around to say goodbye to the old folks before going back to the States. On the morning of their leaving we would gather around to see them off. There would be more crying or tearful goodbyes.
We enjoyed the fun of it all.
Weddings too were something to look forward to as they broke the monotony. We used to have a great time going around with our parents and there would be more currant cake, jam, music, dancing and craic. That’s all the entertainment there was then, except card playing. The melodeon was about the only musical instrument in the 20’s and 30’s except for the old gramophone. The first gramophone I ever saw was in Willie Clancy’s house in Clifden. It was a little cabinet with two doors on it. Mouth organs and Jew harps came later and also a couple of violins and tin whistles. Teddy Mc Gauley used to play the flute.
Oughterard Car Owners
William Keogh owned the first car I ever saw in Oughterard. Other owners were Michael J. Mc Donagh, Teddy Mc Gauley and James Maloney. Mr Natin was the first one to own a hackney car. James and Martin Darcy, retired yanks, bought two Ford Cars and brought a gang of us to Knock in 1927. We went at night.
Croagh Patrick and Knock in the early 30’s
There were no lights in Knock other than the lights of cars bringing pilgrims. There was a small church and another house in another big field where we walked around as we prayed. People were walking on top of each other in the darkness unless there was a moon. My feet were very sore and Willie Clancy of Clifden picked me up and put me on his back for safety. You had to bring your own food too because there was no restaurants in the area at all. We all felt privileged to be able to go there. I still go there once a year. I climbed Croagh Patrick several times, the last trip was in 1969. It was a night vigil in those times, and there were fires lit along the way to guide you up the mountain, There were cups of tea on sale for anyone who wanted one. The dawn on the top was very beautiful and you could see 20-30 miles in all directions. It is now climbed in daylight for some time past.
Food Rationing During the War 1939-1945
The war broke out in 1939, and there was rationing of some foods and coupons were needed for our rations such as flour, tea, sugar, parafin(1/2 gallon p.w.) and petrol. We bought an ass cart which was made by the monks in Galway and I used to take my parents to Mass and shopping in it. On a cold day we would have a bit of hay for the ass to chew on while we were gone. The old age pensioners at that time only collected their pensions once month and I used to take old Mrs Osborne to town in the cart to collect it and to do her shopping. Mrs. Joyce or Nan Collins who worked in Joyces used to give her a cup if tea. I also milked the cow for her and delivered the wet battery for her radio to Michael John Mc Donagh who used to charge them. I used to get messages for many of the old people during the war. John Donnellan , a school teacher, had a pony and trap to take him to school in Loughwell, Moycullen. He used to give them to me to take Mrs Egan (Jim Egan’s mother) to visit her brother Percy in Maghera. She also called to see some of the neighbours there too.
I was married in 1942. But before that when I went to meet my parents in law, I was introduced to them as “The Champion Messenger of the West)”- this was because of all the messages I did for so many people. It was a great pleasure for me to be able to help anyone in need. I never regretted it.
NOTE: Can anyone identify “Nora” as we don’t have her surname.
Oughterard Newsletter May 1997
Many thanks to Nora’s daughter for contacting us and giving us Nora’s name and they she passed away in 2002.