About Me

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Typical Piscean, dreamer, story teller in the tradition of my country, I love to write. I'm not sure that I'm any good at it, but getting the words down has its reward.

08 February 2012

Of village life...

Reading Maddie Griggs wonderful blog set me thinking about village life and the little things that go to make village life what it is.  The pub, [well this is Ireland], the village shop, the people, and the post office, if we had one that, and Dan.

I grew up in this village, as did my Mother, her Father, his Father before that and I suppose you could say "we belong".  The family have been here since after the Famine which wiped out that branch of the family and resulted in my GGF leaving Sligo on the west coast and taking to the road to emigrate to England, at the age of 13 in order to survive.  He got as far as the Wicklow/Wexford border, having been taken on by a cattle drover in Dublin, as he sought to earn the fare.  He took work, as we say here, with the farmer whose cattle he had brought down from the markets in Dublin, and five years later he eloped with that mans daughter.  Suffice it to say that he got away with the elopement insofar as her brother maintained family ties as did her Mother, his Father in law always greeted him, and the twelve children they went on to have, with a shotgun loosely held in his arm.  Time and space were good healers it appears.

In the heel of the hunt the descendents became dairy farmers here, and four years ago I became the next in line to take over the old homestead.  Almost before there was a village, our family have been here.  In my childhood we boasted two shops, one of which sold newspapers and I still lick my lips when I remember being told by Mrs Margaret, as she was called, that I could put my hand into the biscuit tin of my choice and pick a biscuit.  As a member of an old village family she allowed certain privileges to my peers and I.  Mikado was a major favourite with me, my friend always went for the gingery ones, and her brothers always went for the Rich Tea.  We never could figure out why they didn't go for the sticky ones until Raymond admitted you could get two RT's and even three with a bit of luck whereas the Mikado's were big and Mrs Margaret would spot you had more than one if you chanced your luck.

Miss Imelda ran the local post office and one of my memories entailed being sent down with 10/= to her and being told to invest 5/= and I could spend the other 5/=.  The large, wide, brass railed counter was approximately an inch over my head, and I stood up on the rail, shot the post office book across the counter to Miss Imelda  squeaking at her that "Mum says five in and five out and please Miss can I have it in change so I can buy a book".  I was 7 years old at the time.  She looked across her pince nez at me and told me I was a good girl and handed me back 2/6 and told me one book would do me just as good and was it Enid Blyton.  Taking her for a mind reader, I dumbly nodded and clutching the 2/6 in a probably grubby paw, I stalked out the door and roared my head off all the way home.

Our other pride and joy in the village was the other shop where meat and veg was available and for many years there was stiff competiton between Mrs Margaret and Mrs Foley for custom.  The newspapers were the deciding factor.  The pub was owned by a man from Leitrim, 6'5" if he was an inch and we were all terrified of him; he owned a gladstone bag and we were never quite sure if the local men seen going into the pub after work weren't going in for medicinal reasons.  But, sure isn't Guinness good for you anyway?

Maggie Twohig was an elderly widow who lived in what would, by todays standards, be called a slum.  Indeed we were always, my friends and I, very industrious in our manner of walking past her house on the opposite side of the road.  Maggie always had her hall door open and anything could come flying out.  Broom handles, chamber pots [with contents], her mangy dog Bosco, or Maggie herself to spit her chewing tobacco out into the gutter.

Legend has it that my Great Grandmother was passing the door when Maggie was a young "gel" of innocent years.  Appearing with a pot in her hand, filled to the brim with cabbage, Maggie hailed GGM and asked her what was wrong with the cabbage she was cooking for her Daddy.  Her Mammy was in bed producing infant #2,345 or thereabouts, and she was chef for the day.  Taking a small bit, GGM spat it out and said "It tastes appalling".  Taking a bite herself, Maggie then announced in an astonished voice, "So that's where me chewing tobacco went to".  GGM continued on her way to the post office to regale her close friend and confidante Miss Imelda of the latest of the Twohig's tales. Indeed there were many to tell.  Maggie never married and had six strapping sons of her own and two of them were even able to share the same father.

Maggie was 86 when I was a child and had cleaned her act up.  She lived with her Granddaughter and had a bath every month without an R in it, cut her tobacco chewing back to Sundays and never in Lent and was rarely invited to assist Grainne with cooking the dinner.  She outlived her own sons and Grainne was generally considered worthy of nomination to sainthood for putting up with her.

The Bull Maguire was another character of my childhood, of whom legends aplenty abounded.  His proud boast that he could drink any man under the table was only challenged, and beaten, when Larry Pullen [5'4 and ferret like in feature] punched him on the nose, knocked him out and, when he came to, had six pint glasses in front of him.  This lead to The Bull staggering out of the pub, never to return.  He took the pledge in '36 much to the publican of the day's dismay.  He was that mans best customer.  Larry the Pullet Pullen never drank the six pints.  It was a stunt thought up to try to get the Bull to curtail his alcoholic intake.  The Pullet was the Bulls brother in law.  It worked better beyond their wildest dreams. I remember the Bull standing at the village pump, handing out leaflets for the Sodality and Temperance group and he was well in his 70's at that stage.

Today we have the same pub that was always there.  However, it is now decorated in contemporary fashion by people who were considered to be blow-ins.  The locals drink in the next village and each week end a designat


Maddie Grigg said...

IE, you stopped in mid-flow! What a wonderful heritage you have. I was going to say 'write it down' but you already have. I've been in this village, my own Enchanted Village for only eleven years but was born and brought up in a farming village about twelve miles away, just over the county border. It's a very special way of life. Someone once said to me: 'It's not what the Enchanted Village does for you, it's what you do for the Enchanted Village.' And it's so true. Villages are only as good as the people who live in them, people who are willing to get on and do things and get others involved.
With love from Dorset, Maddie xx

Cait O'Connor said...

It's wonderful that you are recording all this social history, it should be published.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Absolutely agree with Cait! Lovely to find you here blogging - how are you?

Pondside said...

Oh I enjoyed this and the one you posted to finish off. I hope there's more.

Sheila said...

I enjoyed reading your tales of village life and the characters who were a part of life. It's true that every man's story is a tale worth telling. thanks for sharing your memories with us!