‘Dolls and prams were big among the girls back then. I had a stuffed rag as a doll in a box and pulled it along on a string. Sure I didn’t know any better!’ – Maureen Hegarty
Doll in a Shoebox made by Maureen Hegarty
‘When we were growing up there used to be tennis where mainly people used to play. We used to go down and George Weir used to give us an apple, then we’d sit up on the wall and watch them. We were only nine or ten, we thought it was brilliant! We’d never seen anything like it. If the ball was hit over the wall we got the play with it.’ – Kathleen French
'Growing up in the 50's was to play out in the street. This was because there wasn't much traffic. Playing skipping, hopscotch, blind man's bluff, Ring-a-Rosie, Alley Alley O and bouncing balls off a wall. Swinging on a rope around a lamppost, playing marbles. Each game was sung to a rhyme. Our park with its swings another place for fun and games. We didn't realise it at the time but we were getting exercise, learning skills and how to count.
At home there was no T.V. but relatives and friends would call in and songs would be sung, and stories told. Maybe a reading of the tea leaves. I remember sitting on the fender (which was around the open fire) watching and listening to a man with a lit cigarette in his mouth (which he never removed until it was finished) tell a story of how he played cards with the Devil one moonlit night. I was scared out of my wits.'
- Maureen Hegarty
‘Everybody used to bring bottles of tea and three peats for the fire. You used to leave the tea in front of the fire at 12 o’clock and when you came back at 12.30 the tea was warm. We had to have a stick to light the fire and if we didn’t have it we were slapped.’ – Isia Porter
In primary school we were taught how to spell depending on shopping lists. Potatoes, bread, bacon, carrots, buttermilk, flour, baking soda, mince and oxo!
We learned knitting and sewing, the hardest part was the heel of the sock! Other things we knitted were pixies (head wear).
Pixies and Berets made by Group Members
There was a man from India who used to go around selling clothes, we called him the ‘black man’. He had big suitcases full of clothes and you could pay him in small payments. That’s the way everyone payed for things back then. Sheets were made out of flour bags, they were boiled up to keep them white. They were real cotton bags, they were great.
Events and Religion
After being at school for five days, Saturday was a day to look forward to. As it was off to the Matinee in the Commodore Picture house we went. Sometimes if there was no money from parents, messages for the neighbours, or returning lemonade bottles to the shop secured the money. Two big brown pennies was the price for the ‘hards’ or the ‘pit’ as they were known (hard seats). How we loved the Westerns, with Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger. Afterwards we would come out playing cowboys. Standing in the door ways of shops pointing with our finger to shoot at each other. Tarzan took us into the jungle as did Jungle Girl. Buster Crabb took us into outer space as did Flash Gordon. General Custard with his cavalry fighting Geronimo with his Indians took us into the Wild West of America. Laurel and hardy, The Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello and Mother Reilly would have us infights of laughter. – Maureen Hegarty
‘I remember the steam engine coming in to thresh, we used to carry big buckets of porter to the workers and they’d take a drink a drink from it.’ – Bob Kavanagh
Jumble sales were a big part of life. They were held in big parish halls. They used to be brilliant. They were full of clothes, rigged out with everything.
‘I remember on St. Patrick’s Day calling into a protestant lady who used to make me green socks and green ribbons to wear. There was no difference back then like you have now’ – Margaret Giblin
We used to go to the dances, they started at 9.30pm and didn’t end til 2 am. You never stopped dancing all night, there were big dances in St. Johnston and Raphoe, men were on one side and women on the other. There was always a Ladies’ choice, but you had to wait for that. The dances were foxtrot, waltzes, tango's and two-step.
Parcels from abroad were very important. We always looked forward to that. I remember opening a box and there was a beautiful red corduroy jacket in it, I thought I was in heaven. – Kathleen French
Sport’s day used to be held in Porthall. It was an annual event, there was football, running, fancy dress and lots of fun games. It used to be packed, it was one of the highlights of the year. It ran up until ten years ago.
‘On St. Patrick’s day we used to got to the horse racing at Carricklee. You didn’t bet you just went out, just to be there. We used to walk up and stop at Cassoni’s café in Strabane, they had lovely ice cream! There used to be Jukeboxes in there, you’d sit for ages.’ – Kathleen and Maureen
‘Everybody walked to mass, the men sat on one side and the women on the other. You wore your best clothes on a Sunday for mass and then you’d take them off right away for the next week. Women weren’t allowed in without covering their head. If you met a priest on the footpath you’d have to salute him and clear off the footpath, with your head down.’ – Caramel Parkes