Thursday, 27 January 2011

Strabane - Childhood

School/Growing Up

It is with a certain awe that I recall my childhood days. Long days of summer mixed with good friends from school. These were the 1950s, just after the war. I had the privilege of being raised by my grandparents Rosie and Danny in the Glebe area of Sion Mills. Ours was a little thatched house with a half door, stone floor and white washed walls. My grandmother was a dynamic little woman who kept pigs and chickens, earning income from the sale of the pigs and the eggs. She was no stranger to hard work. my grandfather was quite the opposite; a musician who had his own band on the road during these years. I recall doing my homework under the light of an oil lamp, carrying in buckets from the spring well, feeding the hens and piglets...and of course the rather unsavory jobs such as cleaning out the pig sty and hen house; jobs that had to be done. On the brighter side I live with a lady who was a champion baker of scone bread and knew the route to a young boy's heart with fantastic dinners of bacon, cabbage, turnip and potatoes washed down with a big mug of buttermilk. Here was a lady who didn't have the comfort of electricity, washing machines, tumble dryers, fridges or television. What we did have in our humble home was a sense of friendship, with neighbors chatting in the evening while visiting over mugs of tae and scone bread, my grandfather playing his violin churning out old Irish airs, and the banter and craic. Sadly all these times are but a beautiful memory now. My grandparents have long since gone to their eternal reward but their legacy will live on in my heart. - John Molloy

Every Thursday I had treble maths in the evening. I hated it! Mammy says ‘well you’d be better at home training horses’. So she collected me a couple of times. We thought then it was getting too obvious every Thursday, so we changed it a Friday. The teacher used to follow me out and but when he saw my Mammy he just went back in.’ – Annette Mc Namee

The Sion Mills old primary school was built in 1879 by Herdmans. The headmasters that were there then was Mr. Ruttle, Mr. Mc Master, Mr. Scott and Mr Mc Carran. The old primary school is about 132 years old. The school is so old that even by grandmother went to it. The dinner hall was a small wooden hut at the top of the field at the back of the old school. The head Master’s wife also taught at Sion Mills primary school and so did Mr. Scotts wife. In the early days before the dinner hall was a school two senior girls made tea for their teachers. Between the two classrooms facing the main road there was a pump and a cup where the pupils could have a drink of water during their break. Books had to be brought by the pupils, these were then passed down to younger children in the family or sold to other families Pencils and rubbers were also very precious in those days.’ – Malcolm Kidd

I remember when I was seven years of age, the IRA climbed onto the roof of our school threating to hold the children hostage. My father had to come and got me out of the school, I was very young but I still remember it. I remember all the IRA boys had on these big bell-bottomed jeans. I remember there was a fire outside with cars being hijacked, and we all had to put our faces up to the schoolbags to keep away the blaze.’ – Annette Mc Namee

‘In school you had to pay extra for grammar school education if you were borderline on pass, you needed £100 and you had to show your bank books to show how much money.’ Petula Foley

In 1990 there was a bomb in Sion placed beside the barracks. When it went off it blew all the windows out of the new Baptist church, everything around it was wrecked. The bomb was left in a lorry parked outside the barracks, but there was nobody killed.

There were parades on in Sion one day, and we were playing Dukes of Hazzard in an old car. Next thing two men jumped in the car, hiding in the back. They’d been throwing stones at police. We didn’t even realise they were in the car, we couldn’t believe when we were told after our auntie saw what happened and called us down.’ Roseanne and Elizabeth Molloy


There were bazaars and guest teas in this building (St. Mary’s Hall). The prizes were usually Turkeys and other food. It was more to help feed the families in those days, your parents couldn’t have afforded things like that. Guest teas were just a group of people that got together, everybody baked and brought their own, it was a great way of socializing.


Everything was smuggled then. You couldn’t get yeast in the north you had to go across to get it. Women used to wrap things around them with cord. I remember one custom man who tortured everyone but he was friends of my brother. One day I came over with butter, and who was standing there only him! He took the butter off me, I was in shock. Then he called over the house that night, the cheek of him.’ – Pat Doherty

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading these stories ... and I pay tribute to Rosie and Danny Molloy. Lovely people I knew them both and I recall Danny providing music for our Irish dancing when I was a little girl!