Friday 28 January 2011

Raymochy - Childhood


‘There was a strong tradition of throwing horseshoes. Nearly every area had their own pole and supply of horseshoes, such as Pluck, Manor, Labadish. There were keenly fought competitions; teams and individuals took it as seriously as modern day golfers. We were able to do it because there were two or three smithies in the area and all their discarded horseshoes were thrown in a pile in the corner. I used to collect from Jimmy flood, all different types of shoes. Whoever scored 21 points won. They had a different score for each horseshoe. A horseshoe around the pole meant three points, if another shoe landed on top of yours, your points were canceled. A horseshoe standing up against the pole was two points. Nearest to the pole was one point. It would be about 20-24 feet distance. It was a summer pastime engaged by both young and old. To my mind it was a great example of a rural pastime that didn’t cost any money. It was a social gathering, a bit like the handball at Labadish, you would have 30-40 people gathering for that.’ – Leonard Roarty

There was no football during the war years, so kids used to blow up pigs bladders and use them! We used to make Easter houses too, you made a fire out in the garden, and you’d build walls out of bits of ranges or sods. You’d also boil eggs. Sometimes you’d paint the eggs and you’d crack them and peel them that way.’ We had two nights a week for 60mm films showing in the Gaiety or in Manor station. They were the highlight of the week. Western cowboy films very popular. Sometimes they showed it on a white sheet. One night it was windy and the sheet blew off into the muck and they just hung it up again, muck and all!’ – Ena McClean

Tossing the sheaf over the telegraph wire was very popular. You’d throw it with a pitchfork over the wire. Sometimes on sport days you’d use a high bar and it would be raised time and time again.


‘Everybody brought turf to the fire. You would have brought it up from home. It was brought from west Donegal or Inishowen and bartered for straw or turnip. The principal in Balleeghan travelled from Dunfanaghy and she used to fall asleep while students were reading she was so tired. When she was sleeping everyone would stop and she’d wake and shout next with a jump!’ – Billy McKinley

Bobby Nicholl was known as the memory man. He used to come around the schools and ask the children about dates and he could tell them everything! He was even on t.v at one time, he was from Strabane.

‘Before Myxomatosis rabbits were a great source of food. There was no fat on them. My father was a crack shot with a .22, and he’d go out hunting rabbits all the time.’ – Leonard Roarty

‘I loved the poundies (potatoes) with butter. You had to have the scallions too add flavour, new fresh scallions. It was as good as steak.’ – Ena McClean

‘I remember Johnny Fox was a station master in Letterkenny. He was from Raphoe. He was in the first World War, a very tall man. He was out waiting for us every morning because we were travelling in the rail bus. One day he wasn’t there and I left the bike outside his door. I found out that evening he was dead.’ – Leonard Roarty


‘Barrels of salted herring were brought in during lent, then you had ling which was dried fish and hung from the roof. It was like leather, you could’ve sewed your shoe with it. They used to fish herring in the Swilly. At one time it was a very big herring river. The locals thought that once there was blood spilled over it they would leave. That must have happened at some point because there’s none there now.’ - Leonard Roarty and Billy McKinley

‘Goose we used to always have at Christmas then it was changed to turkey. You got stuff at Christmas you never got for the rest of the year. I worked the Corkey co-op over Christmas. Everybody wanted a cake. If someone didn’t get a cake that was a customer lost.’ – Leonard Roarty


‘There was a lot of ceíling in Glenmaquinn. It was mainly visiting houses, also called raking. Cards were played too. ‘ – Billy Davis

‘A man over the road hadn’t a stitch of clothes to wear when he was only seven. One day his mother bought him a hat in Letterkenny, and from then on he was able to look out the window.’ – Liam Mc Laughlin

‘Urney chocolate was very popular with my grandmother in Glasgow. I remember the groceries used to come in horse drawn wagons with tarpaulin covering and you’d put your head under it while looking for things to buy. My grandmother always looked for Urney chocolate.’ Maureen Shiels


Billy Davis

Paul McLaughlin

Michael Meehan

Elma McClean

Kevin Cunnane

Tommy Shiels

Maureen Shiels

Paul Gallagher

Billy McKinley

Leonard Roarty

Ena McClean

Liam McLoughlin

Ann Carrol

Liam Holmes

Virginia McLoone

Raphoe Volt House - Childhood

Raphoe Diamond - Courtesy Teresa Duffy

Wearing Sunday Best


Skipping Rhyme:

‘Christopher Columbus,

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

The casket, a present for a 5 year old, is an example of the crafts in vogue in the

nineteen fifties. The acetate type material is old x-rays which were cleaned by

steeping them in bleach.

The missal covered in leather is another example of the crafts of that period.

The trinket box comes from Hong Kong and is decorated with ivory, a product of

the fifties. It is now illegal to trade in ivory.

The Evening Herald broach was presented to those who completed Dublin's First

Marathon, sometime in the early 1960's.

Courtesy Ann Kavanagh


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


Harry Wallace

Jean Wray

Jean Wilson

Teresa Duffy

John Patterson

Anne Thompson

Eva Coyle

Ann Kavanagh

Heather Cromie

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

Childhood - Lifford

School Books - Courtesy Bob Kavanagh

Early 20th century legal tender and Royal Commemorations - Courtesy Maureen Hegarty

Dolls House with Matchbox Furniture - Courtesy Margaret Giblin

English School Book 1948, Embroidery, Pompoms, marbles, Chestnuts, Stilts, gas mask, Sandals, Jelly bag hat, Pixie and Wool Dolls - Courtesy Margaret Giblin


‘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


Maragaret Giblin

Isia Porter

Kathleen French

Maureen Hegarty

Joe McCormick

Bob Kavanagh

Carmel Parkes

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