He was a mighty man,
He sailed across the ocean,
In an old tin can.
And the waves grew higher, and higher, and higher and over (while raising the skipping rope)’
– Heather Cromie
‘We used to play a game called ‘Captain’s Ball’. It was a bit like netball but you had no nets, you had six circles on the ground, made with a bit of chalk or sawdust. Three people had to keep one foot in the circle, and the aim was to score goals past the players.’ - Heather Cromie
‘At Halloween you had three saucers, one water, one clay, and one a ring. You were blindfolded and depending what saucer you used you went overseas, you died or you got married.’ – Anne Kavanagh
You also went ducking for apples or biting them off a string. The wren boys used to come around at Christmas down the country, they were called mummers.
‘We were always bringing in fuel and turf, rolling up the newspaper. We used to dress up the fireplace in the summertime with ferns to take away the bad look.’ – Jean Wilson
‘One time at Sunday school all the students were overcome with the fumes from a coal burner from the basement. Most of the students went unconscious and had to be carried outside and laid out in the graveyard and covered with coats. Thankfully no one was harmed. It must have been jackdaws in the chimney.’ - John Patterson and Harry Wallace
‘I went to the convent in Longford, the boys and girls were together until first communion class. At the time there were a few newly trained teachers and we had a lot of resources that other schools didn’t have at the time, such as toys and a playground and art materials. We had a small shop in the cupboard where we could pretend to buy sweets and that gave us great confidence.’ – Eva Coyle
‘There’s a school up in Ruskey where there was no playground. The kids could play on the public road, as long as teacher could see them, they even played at the crossroads. There was no word about health and safety then.’ – John Patterson
Books were important while we were growing up. "Jane Eyre", ‘What Katie Did’, ‘The Famous Five. The Bunty, Judy, and the Beano and Dandy. Curly Wee and Gussie Goose used to be a comic strip in the Irish independent, that was very popular.
The parcels from America were great. There was always a box of candy, clothes, and jewellery, jumpers and cardigans. We thought they were beautiful! There was a lovely smell of them.
‘I remember just after the war the penicillin came out. One of my earliest memories was getting an injection on the leg, I was only four or five, the needle was huge. We were all immunized against Tuberculosis. Nearly everybody got their tonsils out.’ – Ann Kavanagh
Boys use to dress in girls clothes. There was a big superstition that the fairies would take the boys away. The mortality rate of boys was a lot higher back then.
‘There were three types of soap. There was carbolic soap, it was a disinfectant soap. Sunlight and lifebuoy was for washing clothes. I remember my father washing out my brothers mouth out with carbolic soap for cursing!’ – Teresa Duffy
Boxty was made from raw potatoes. You grated the potatoes and added flour and salt, then you fried it on the pan.
Potato bread recipe:
2 cups of mashed potato
Cup of plain flour
2 tablespoons of butter
Pinch of salt
Mix together, add flour and knead, then fry in bacon fat.
You had two main types of oatmeal. Pinhead was split in two and ground while flaked was rolled and flat. Both were used for porridge but the flaked was much nicer.
You also had vegetable pits which were heaped piles of vegetables covered with layers and layers of soil and rushes. The rushes kept the water off and the soil kept the frost out. They were outside in the field and worked very well. It kept the vegetables fresh.
Fruit picking was very common. There were neighbours of ours and they went round all the hedges and gathered blackberries and sold them. They used to have a collection point in Stranorlar which used to weigh and pay out for blackberries by the stone. It was a great way of making money. You could also make jam with gooseberries, rhubarb, blackberries. A pound of sugar equalled a pound of fruit with added water as well. If the summer was good there was enough pectin agent in the fruit to allow it to set, if not you would get it from the sugar. There is no pectin in sugar now.
Trapping rabbits was popular and was a great way of making money. You would go out at night and blind them, then the dogs would catch them.
‘We used to go down to Ards to pick dulse. You had the calendar and see when the tide was furthest out. The dulse grew on rocks out on the headland. Then you brought it home and laid it out on the grass to dry. We used to do it in August. You can still get it today, its full of Iron.’ – Ann Thompson
‘We went to Rossnowlagh and Portrush once a year, you would get a bag of food with a sandwich and a Paris bun. I never liked the Paris buns but that’s what we got.’ – Heather Cromie
‘I remember my neighbours doing a huge cleanup once a year and the priest would visit. They would whitewash the whole place, food was brought in, tea sets and cups were on loan from one house to another because there wouldn’t be enough for everyone. The priest came and heard confessions in one room and had mass in the house afterwards. Then men would eat first with the priest and the women would eat after. That was done twice a year, everyone knew it was their turn.’ – Anne Thompson
‘The missions used to be every year. Priests would come from a different country. Sometimes the Jesuits or other orders would come. They would have mass in the morning, benediction in the evening. The sixth and ninth commandments were always the worst. It was almost evangelism, the lectures were mostly involving fire and brimstone.’ – Eva Coyle
‘One time a minister was teaching a service about hell. He said everyone went to hell, including his own grandmother. There was a young fella at the back who had to get up and leave, and the minister said ‘there is a young man going to hell’. The young man turned around and said, ‘have you any messages for your grandmother?’ – Harry Wallace