Tuesday 3 January 2012

Shaping our Stories Trailer

This short film documents the experiences of the History Links Project members of West Tyrone and East Donegal. The entire film will be available on the History Links Project Website at the end of January.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Teresa Mc Laughlin - Childhood (Oral History Recording)

Click on the player below to listen to an oral history recording with Teresa Mc Laughlin from Manorcunningham. Teresa is a member of the Raymochy History Links Group and the Raymochy Historical Society. In this interview she speaks about her childhood growing up in nearby Glenmaquinn beside the old CDR railway line. Teresa recalls vivid memories of her family, school, immigration and the demise of Tom the rooster!

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Mark Caldwell - Irish traditional thatched cottages in the rural landscape

These rural cottages are vernacular buildings. This means they are not designed by architecture. This unique form of our built environment was built in the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s. Tradition and folklife are important themes of rurality in Ireland. The clachan was an important pattern of settlement in Donegal as well as many parts of rural Ireland and Scotland. They were built by tenant farmers. Typically they contained one or two rooms leading off a central kitchen and living area. Lime kilns in Donegal the white washed walls for these rural traditional cottages. A clachan can be seen at Lower Feddyglass and the Griffith’s valuation of the 1850s is our historical evidence of a small cluster of perhaps a dozen dwellings along with sheds and byres. The family held land in common land, known as the ‘Rundale System’. The hearth fireplace in the kitchen was one of the main features. Food was prepared and milk was churned in oak churns. Wool was spun in the main road and in the kitchen also. The kitchen also held a bed, possibly hidden behind a curtain or in a loft area above the kitchen. These vernacular cottages were places for social gatherings. People usually went raking (or in Irish ag √°irneail) to other rural homesteads in the locality in the evenings. A storyteller discussed the fairies and ghosts. People informed each other of local news, and traditional music was played. Singing and dancing also took place.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Web sites of interest

Now that the winter months are fast approaching and time turns to long evenings in front of the fire I thought I'd share these two links with you to while away the winter hours!




Tuesday 4 October 2011

Meal Memories - Raphoe Volt House HLP Group

The members of the Raphoe Volt House HLP Group have been meeting regularly and working on further themes which can be added to the Collective Memory Project. See below for some mouth-watering reading.

Heather Cromie

I grew up on the outskirts of Strabane. We had a large vegetable garden where we grew potatoes, cabbage, carrots, peas, beans and onions. We also had a large orchard where we had eating and cooking apples, plums, damsons, gooseberries, blackcurrants, strawberries and rhubarb. This produce fed our family very well and during the autumn the carrots and potatoes were put into pits to be stored for use during the winter months, the extra fruit we made into jam and bottled - there were no freezers to preserve food then.

The breakfast meal was always porridge with toast. Dinner was in the middle of the day. It was always potatoes with either bacon, mince (force-meat), sausages or a roast on Sunday with the leftovers for Monday, and of course a vegetable from the garden. Poundies (mashed potato) was very popular with milk, butter and scallions made into a volcano shape with extra butter put into the crater on top to melt and flow down the potatoes. It still makes my mouth water to think of this, whatever about the calories. Milk puddings were very popular, rice, cornflower, custard, semolina and even sago. These would have been served with some of the fruit from the garden or maybe a tin of peaches.

Tea (teatime) would have consisted of bread (homemade scone) with maybe an egg or banana or tomato. The house over the road grew tomatoes and they were so delicious in the summer. We would have got buttermilk from a farm nearby which my uncle loved to drink when he came home on holiday from England.

I had school dinners which comprised of a main meal and a dessert. In primary school they were brought in from a central kitchen, and were just about ok, but in secondary school they were made on site and I did enjoy them.

We had a bottle of milk at break time every day. With no fridges it was important to try to store in the shade, not always successfully. We didn't have a fridge in the house either, so a cold larder was very important. We obviously only bought what was needed at a time as storage was difficult - no big trolley full of food, and not as much put in the bin. My father was a keen fisherman and a good shot so we had a regular supply of fish, duck and pheasant when in season. Again as there was no freezers the neighbours got the extras when there was a good catch.

Jean Wray - The Diet of Childhood

Needless to say the diet one is fed as a child depends on many factors such as the availability of food whether brought home produced and the skills of the person/persons doing the cooking. Finances also play an important part.

My earliest memories of food date back to the late forties, early fifties in Scotland. We lived just outside a market town and had the advantage of a large productive garden. However food rationing was still in existence although it slowly was abolished as food supplies became more available as the UK recovered from World War II. The last rationing was not removed until the coronation year in 1954. During these years one had an allowance per week of 4oz of bacon, 4oz of margarine, 2oz of butter, 8oz of sugar, 2oz of cheese, 2oz of tea, one egg and two to three pints of milk depending on availability.

An allowance of meat to the value of one shilling and sixpence. People in cities were the worst affected as most had no alternative supplies such as garden produce. A campaign was started which saw public lawns and every available space converted to food growing. Yet it was said that the British public were never better fed. Children received malt extract and orange juice to supplement. Both were very tasty and no problem to swallow.

How today's children would manage on a sweet ration of 4 ounces a week I can only imagine. Then it was a great treat to be taken into a sweet shop and peruse the bottles and jars full of multicoloured bottles of sweetness. My sister always plumped for the thin exceedingly hard 'Highland toffee' bar and would suck and suck till long tendrils appeared before nibbling and swallowing a bit of toffee. I usually plumped for 'Smarties' and woe betide anyone who wanted one. I could glower.

A special treat was homemade tablet which was really a mixture of condensed milk and sugar which set into a lovely ultra sweet crunchy square. It took me into my twenties before I found that mixture just too sweet.

Everyday food was dominated by what one grow. Hence the daily tea ritual of an egg. One of my earliest memories was sitting in a high chair having yet another boiled egg force fed to me. I duly was sick - enough said.

Like in many present day homes breakfast started with porridge. It was unlikely that we would not meet oatmeal in some form or another during the day. It was used to expand mince and to make stuffing's for poultry, game birds and rabbits. Even the Christmas turkey had its tail end duly stuffed. Having said that I loved these stuffing's and so did my friends many of whom have asked me for the recipe and even a demonstration. Alas, my efforts do not match that of my mother. Herrings were also coated in oatmeal before being fried. In Scotland the mealie pudding has long been a favourite - it is simply a sausage like pudding stuffed with oatmeal, fat and spices. Oatcakes are eaten with cheese and also as an accompaniment to a delicious onion stew that was a usual Sunday tea meal. Once the garden onions were finished, onions were bought from the French Onion Johnnie who came to the door on his bicycle - the said vegetable hanging from his bicycle bar in strings. Many families would make skirlie which is done in a frying pan - again oatmeal, fats and onions stirred together.

The humble chicken was once a treat and boiled before being put into the oven to tenderize it and also the source of stock for a good broth. Any maturing small eggs found on cleaning the bird was popped into the soup. Beef stews were expanded by big fluffy doe balls light as a feather. The small meat ration did not go far but for the most part offal was not rationed.

Tripe and onions were occasionally produced but was not appreciated at all by us children. No matter how carefully cooked tripe is always tough. Sweet breads were another matter. Gently cooked in milk with shallots and cloves to flavour the resultant meal was delicious. Half cows heads were cooked to make what we called 'potted-meat'. Once cooked the meat was removed from the bones and put into small containers with the stock poured over. This set to a tasty jelly and again was delicious. The downside was the awful smell in the kitchen while the head was cooking.

Likewise the smell of a hare being prepared was quite horrible. I never stood by long to watch. However the resultant hare soup was not only nutritious but very tasty.

Another Scottish favourite is stovies which is basically potatoes flavoured with onion, gravy and left over scraps of meat. Traditionally eaten with the ubiquitous oatcake and a glass of milk.

Like eggs we had a plentiful supply of milk. We also had a bottle of milk every day in school for elevenses. We were expected to drink this third of a pint - but it could be a problem. In winter the milk could be frozen but once it was almost palatable. In summer the cream on top could sour and warm milk is not the easiest to drink. Supplying school children with milk continued for many years until Mrs Thatcher became prime minister and stopped it.

At home excess milk was made into what we called 'crowdie' but now retails as cottage cheese. it has little taste but added to an oatcake or salad is pleasant. I have very vague memories of butter being churned by the kitchen window but must have been stopped fairly early on in my life.

During the berry season we ate masses of fresh berries with the cream from the top of the milk which was always skimmed off once it had settled on top. At other seasons puddings were often custard with some of the many bottled fruits from the garden. Many of the puddings that can now be bought ready made were on the menu such as steamed ginger, eve's pudding and various fruit crumbles.

By the end of a fruit season cupboards were crammed with homemade jam and bottled fruit in kilner jars. You might wonder where the sugar came to make these - there was a thriving barter exchange system in operation known as the black market. this was the main supply but relatives abroad also sent food parcels. I remember an awful lot of cans of tinned peaches.

Perhaps the one memory that I can date was the glass tank of water which was still being maintained for the storage of eggs into the 1960's, these were for use in baking once the hens went off the lay.

Perhaps it is no wonder that ready made food has been such a big hit since it gradually moved its way into our lives. Women must have spent an inordinate amount of time cooking not to mention baking.

Harry Wallace - Daily Menu


Porridge - two kinds, oaten porridge (ordinary porridge), Indian maize (Indian porridge)
Boiled eggs some days
Home-baked bread – soda, corn (fruit scone) and wheaten

Tea was tea leaves

Dinner – 12.30pm

Potatoes – pinks
Bacon and cabbage (home grown)
Carrots, onions and lettuce for the garden

Tea – 3.30pm

Bread, butter and jam
Jam - whatever fruit was in season, not much raspberry – more plum, gooseberry, blackberry and rhubarb

Tea – 6.30-7pm

Same as above


Porridge before bedtime made fresh and left until morning

Eva Coyle - Foods from our Childhood

Oatmeal porridge was called stirabout in Longford and Leitrim and I clearly remember a pot stick not a wooden spoon. All farmers grew oats wheat and barley, potatoes, turnips, carrots and parsnips, onions cabbage and mangold for the pigs. The oats was sent to the mill to make:
  1. crushed oats for the animals
  2. pin head oatmeal for stirabout for the family

The oatmeal bin had to be washed and very carefully dried and aired before the new meal was put into it. Flake meal was a real novelty when you were used to pin head oatmeal.

There was no savoury or long grain rice when I was young; however pearl rice or pudding rice was very popular with lots of big raisins in it. Jelly, custard and trifle were very popular desserts as was apple and rhubarb pie.

Bread was always home baked and the housewife was very busy depending on the size of her family or the number of extra men to be fed. Currant and raisin bread was much enjoyed as was caraway seed bread and treacle bread. Potato bread was made from a mixture of cooked mashed potatoes, flour and salt and rolled out thinly and cooked on the pan while boxty was made from grated raw potatoes, flour and salt and cooked similarly.

Killing the pig was a routine affair when we were young. The pork steaks called grishkens were divided with the neighbours possibly because no house had a refrigerator. It was a very busy time for the housewife making black puddings from the blood with the addition of pearl barley or some kind of meal. The pig’s cheeks etc were boiled and seasoned and formed into brawn. The sides of the pig were cured with alum and salt. Sometimes bacon could be very salty and needed to be steeped in cold water before use. Beef was a luxury when I was young.

Geese were the Christmas dinner rather than turkey – they came much later.

Cream from the milk was churned to make butter. Dash churns were replaced by barrel or end over end churns which were easier to use. The butter had to be very well washed to make it properly as there was nothing as bad as badly made country butter.

During the war years, ration books were issued to everyone with coupons for food and clothes. This gave rise to the song “God bless De Valera and Sean McEntee that gave us the black bread and half ounce of tea”. It was known that “black market” tea could be bought in a little shop in Longford, as children we thought it was a special brand of tea. White flour was available in Northern Ireland but not in the south.

Compulsory tillage meant that the farmers had to till a greater percentage of their arable land to provide food for the nation. This was supervised by the Department of Agriculture inspectors and was very difficult for farmers as most of the agricultural workmen had joined the English army.

Traveling shops were quite common in those days and were a God send when people had not the time to go into town, the goods were always a few pence dearer but it was well worth it for convenience sake.

It was quite common to borrow a cup of tea or sugar from a neighbour if the need arose suddenly before getting to town to shop. The children did the borrowing and returning.

Teresa Duffy - Memories of Food

Porridge was always breakfast in our house; my memories of the porridge was one of very thick and very difficult to swallow, it did not matter how much sugar or milk was added, the porridge still was the same. My Granny or Granda would have steeped the porridge overnight it was left at the side of the” Aga” cooker to simmer, I think this is why it was so thick.

Cheese was typical for our school lunch, each day it was cheese on white bread with butter (crusts still on). The cheese was cut thickly on the slice of bread. I remember one day at school I did not eat my lunch and threw it in the bin only to be found out by the teacher and my Mother was informed of my misdemeanour and I was given a good slap!

Butter coupons were given out to those who were on the dole.

Tinned spam, “Doherty’s Special Mince”, homemade vegetable soup would have been our dinners, and also “Doherty’s” sausages with home grown onions and gravy and the potatoes we would have gathered during Halloween. The potatoes were stored in pits covered with straw. When we did not have potatoes Mum would have made boiled rice.

Friday was kept as a “fast day”, potatoes with loads of butter otherwise known as poundies and egg sauce was our dinner on this day, I looked forward to it. Making a volcano with the potatoes and adding butter, then the egg sauce poured over it delicious!

My Granny made a “clotty dumpling” for each of us on our birthday as a treat. Granny prepared the mixture, put it into a bowl, covered it with a cotton pillowcase and then cooked in a big pot of bowling water. Granny had to top up the water every so often as it was important not to let it boil dry. It took 2-3 hours to cook, when it was ready, we all had a piece with home made custard. The dumpling was fried the next morning in butter - delicious.

We had hens, ducks and geese so had our own fresh eggs, mum would have done a lot of home baking, soda, fruit and Indian meal scones. Granny would have baked apple tarts and rhubarb tarts, my great-aunt would have given us the rhubarb. We would have gathered berries from the hedges and if there was enough Mum would have made jam.

Dad fished on the River Foyle and brought home trout and plaice, this would have been in the 1980’s.

We did not get a lot of biscuits or sweets, but I do remember my Uncle once bringing a tin of “Jacobs Kimberley” to the house we were delighted and could not wait to taste them.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

150th Anniversary of Derryveagh Evictions - Hugh Doherty

Susie & Rosie Kerr from Melbourne, Australia, standing at the
Hearthstone of their Great Grandmother's (Catherine Ward) ancestral
wallsteads from which she was evicted in 1861 as well as 46 other
families. The clergy of the three main denominations in
the area all pleaded with the Landlord not to proceed
with the evictions but he went ahead regardless and the
operation took three days.

In one house a young girl had beautiful long hair and the Bailiffe
swirlled her hair around his arm and led her outside by the hair
of her head.

My wife Mary's Great Grandmother, Biddy McSwyne (Sweeney) was
also evicted. She was 11 years old at that time. She was put out
of the house with the rest of the family but ran back in only to
be caught and thrown out again. The crowbar then was put to
the lintel above the door and the house tumbled. Other tenants,
were not permitted to give shelter to the evicted under the
threat of eviction themselves if the did so. Consequently, those
evicted were "left on the waves of the world" and while some
were helped by relatives on other estates many had to make
the three months sea journey to New South Wales, Australia to
start a new life.

On Saturday 27th August 2011, two hundred and fifty people,
mostly descendants or relatives, walked from Derryveagh to
Churchill in recognition of the courage and dignity of those
made homeless and their determination to rear their children.

Informative talks were given by May McClintock, Tom
Sweeney and Niall McGinley. It was an emotional day for all
concerned but at the end of the walk there was an enjoyable
BBQ, music and dance at Wilkins Bar, Churchill.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

A Tale of Four Mugs - Jean Wray

This is a tale – all true – of the origins of four half pint pewter beer mugs that arrived in Donegal from Australia in the year 1862/1863 and have since never travelled more than a hundred yards.

The story begins in 1852 when James left a farm near Convoy to seek his fortune in Australia. Extracts from Victorian Public Records (Australian) state that a James Wray arrived in Melbourne in August 1852 aboard the ship, ‘Fanny,’ which had sailed from Liverpool. The Fanny was 950 tonnes, held 271 people and was bound for Port Phillip Bay. James was an unassisted emigrant so less information is available. He is listed as having Irish nationality and being an agricultural labourer.

Where or when he met his future wife is unknown but she is believed to have emigrated from Baronscourt, Co. Tyrone. A couple with the same names are recorded as being married in Melbourne on the 1st October 1857. Together they ran a hotel in the mining town of Ballarat in Victoria. This hotel was burned down in 1857 and replaced by a new one which was subsequently purchased by the advancing Railway Company. An extract from a local Ballarat paper at the time records the following. ‘ Before the construction of the railway from Geelong, this hotel stood on the site now occupied by the entrance to the Eastern Goods Sheds. The premises were burned down on the 24th December and the rebuilt house was sold on 7th April to make provision for a railway reserve.’

James and Mary decided to return to Ireland. Their two children born in Australia had both died aged 6 years and 2 years – some say of chickenpox. A poignant, much faded photograph records a man and a woman standing beside a grave which still exists in Ballarat today.

James and Mary Wray at the grave of their children in Ballarat. The inscription, although not fully visible, reads 'Sacred to the memory of John James, who died Nov 1865, and Mary Matilda, who died...1862...beloved children of James and Mary Wray...'

By 1863 James had acquired over 96 statute acres in Donegal – a map of the time records such. Two more children were born to the couple before James died only four years later in 1867.

Mrs. Wray, daughter-in-law of James and Mary, 1912

In their luggage from Australia they had carried the four glass bottomed pewter mugs as a reminder of their days in Australia. Engraved on the side of each is – James Wray, Imperial Hotel. Today they serve as a reminder of the courage and fortitude of James and Mary almost exactly a hundred and fifty years ago.