Thursday, 27 January 2011

Childhood - Castlefinn


The different games depended on the time of year. Chestnuts were played in the autumn. They were hardened on the range, you couldn’t break them. Then they put a hole down the centre of it and the cord through it and whacked away with it.

Marbles was also popular. They were mostly made from glass, but before that they were made from clay. You used to hollow a hole out on the street and try to get the marble in it. You would throw the marble first, and if it missed you had to flick it with your finger, and your finger would be covered in muck by the end of it. The glassy ones were beautiful.

Skipping was very popular. In the girls school they had a big twine rope and up to six or ten people could jump over it. If you got caught on the rope you were out. You skipped to a rhyme. Here’s an example.

‘Mother mother I am ill

Send for the doctor up yon hill,

Up yon hill is far too far,

You better get a motor car,

A motor car is far too dear,

You better get a pint of beer,

A pint of beer is far too strong,

You better get an Ingun scone,

An ingun scone is far too tough,

You better get an ounce of snuff,

An ounce of snuff would make you sneeze,

You better get a pound of cheese,

A pound of cheese is far too yellow,

You better get a nice young fellow!

If you made it that far you were doing well.' – Margo Mc Ghee

‘Wains had a brilliant imagination, because they had to. I used to play hurling with no hurl and no ball, I had one big stick and I’d hit a small stick with stick. We used to burl and aul rim and burled it down the street with a stick, it was great exercise. If you wanted to bake you just put the stick on top of it.’ – Sam Gallagher


‘I had to walk five and a half miles to school in rain, hail and snow. Keeping the fire going in school was very important. I used to be sent to Lafferty’s for a bucket of burning turf so the fire would be ready for the Master. My hands used to be lovely and warm by the time I got back to the school.’ – Sam Gallagher

We used an aul nib pin and all the desks had an inkwell. When you learned to write your lines up were gentle going and your lines were heavy going down. You had to join everything. You got a good slap in the knuckles if you got it wrong. The aul stick was used a lot in them days. One of the teachers used to pull you by the ear, straight up till you were on your feet!

‘The priest coming to the school was a big thing. We had a priest who was well known and everyone was scared stiff of him, he used to come up on a Monday and asked us what the sermon was on Sunday and what the gospel was about. It was very nerve-wracking.’ Seamus Tinney

'I remember coming home from school on a Friday. We used to go into Mrs Tinney for a rich tea biscuit, when she got her pension. All the children got biscuits from her. She was a great lady.' - Nettie Gillespie


The main food was poundies and scone bread. In the morning you got the stir-about (porridge). All our mammies made homemade jam, rhubarb and gooseberry, blackberry and plum. They were lovely. Always on homemade scone bread, we had six scones a day most days.

Fish was always on a Friday. It was Fresh Herring. There was a boy who used to sell in the street and he used to shout ‘Fresh Herring, Fresh Herring!’ We also used to get smoked cod during lent, it was beautiful, we called it brown fish.

There was a wee shop on the corner called Alfie Brooks. He used to be black with soot, and he had a cat in the window. And he made a wee cone out of paper and reach for the sweets with a big dirty black hand and you would’ve eaten them all. The black jacks suited Alfie, but the white mice used to be filthy rotten. He had gobstoppers and brandy balls, liquorice, marshmallows.

'Sweets were rationed in them days. We used to take sweets up from the train and we used to get free ones for doing it. We used to take barrels of Guinness up to the pubs and we got three pence for that. During the war we used to get Brewster’s bread in Clady, it was lovely, not like bread in the Free State, where they bits of everything in it, even the sweepings off the floor!' – Seamus Tinney

We used to get bacon for our dinner whenever we were gathering spuds, Irish stew too. It was a special occasion, and took six weeks of school in October, and you were murdered when you got back. You also had cured and uncured bacon. Cured was great it used to hung around for four or five weeks. A man used to go around and kill pigs and he used to put them in a barrel of salt and hung them up then.

‘The Mc Hugh brothers used to go around selling their own ice cream on a bike before they went to America. It was a tricycle and it had a big box of ice. In the summertime it was thrupenny for a small wafer and sixpence for a big one. Skeffingtons made their own ice pops and they were really juicy and lovely! They were wee round red and orange ones. The red ones were delicious, you’d suck all the juice out of them and then run it under the tap and hope it more juice would come back again.’ – Nettie Gillespie and Seamus Tinney

Ice cream, thrupence a hop, the more you ate the more you hopped.


We used to have to go get the messages. Nearly everyone went to Clady to smuggle things like flour, eggs, butter, bacon and tea. One of the main places was Andy Nelis. It was a wooden construction built on eight stilts just over the bridge at Clady, and there were wooden steps up to it. The river used to flood and the water would run underneath and he never got flooded. Inside was all wood as well. He had a television when nobody else had one. He had five or six benches like a cinema and you could sit and watch the tv while he was getting your order. It was a good idea cus you’d sit and eat away while watching the tv. We used to give him a note and he’d work away and sometimes he gave us a a free bar of Mc Gowans toffee.


Margo Mc Ghee

Nettie Gillespie

Sam Gallagher

Seamus Tinney

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