I did a two year course in the Community College in Tralee to train as a Special Needs Assistant. The lectures were held two nights a week. There was both theory and practice involved. Being a Special Needs Assistant is a very challenging but rewarding career. The secret of being a good SNA is being able to bond with the students in your charge. You have to be there for them and they have to be aware of that. They have to learn to trust you.
The SNA has to be able to cope with irregular behaviour and this is where the right training is important. You have to realise each individual child is different and you have to understand what causes their behaviour. A method you use with one child may not be the right method with another child. The SNA has to be flexible in approach.
As far as working with the teaching staff is concerned, the SNA is a respected member of the team and is highly regarded. The salary is also of a high standard.
Leaving Cert students who wish to train as SNAs will have to have a level five standard, will have to be patient and caring people and will have to like working with children. Traditionally it was mostly girls who pursued the career but that is changing now and boys are taking up the option.
Being a Special Needs Assistant is a rewarding career and is a viable option for young people who feel the need to help children. See your career guidance teacher for further details.
I picked up ferreting as a hobby when I retired from football and soccer some years ago. I go fishing from March to September but for the autumn and winter months my sport is ferreting for rabbits.When I got interested first, I used to go out with friends of mine but then I got ferrets of my own. My great great grandfather, “Oul Joy” of Meeninard, Duagh, used to be interested in ferreting too but no one else in the family since.
I bought two ferrets from a friend of mine below in Lisnagry in Limerick. I used to go ferreting with him for five or six years. When he got married I started going to Kildorrery and Coachford in Cork and I still go ferreting there.
When you get to a location, you set up your field and set up the rabbit-runs. You can do ground burrows yourself, that is borrows out in the middle of a field where you have no ditches. What you do is put out your purse nets outside the burrows and put in your ferrets into the burrows. Then the ferrets start chasing the rabbits and you hear a thumping sound inside in the burrow and you know the rabbits are on their way out. The rabbits run into the nets then and are caught. But you have to have a second man with you if the burrows are in a ditch. You use field nets then because the rabbit won’t leave the ditch if there is cover. You let the ferrets into the ditch after the rabbits. It’s only when the growth on the ditch has died down that the rabbit will come out in the open, so you need another man to hunt him out if there are bushes and weeds growing.
Sometimes a rabbit can get “locked up” on a rabbit in the burrow, that is, he sees the rabbit and doesn’t move! In that case I have locators on the ferret which can give me his depth from a foot to eight feet. I can trace where he is in the ground and can then dig down to find him. I can put down a spike through the ground and you can hear the ferret sniffing up through the hole and then you know where he is. Nine times out of ten the ferrets will come back to you.
The ferrets eat mince meat which I get from our local butcher, Dick Behan. They drink water as well. They are very easy to keep and some people keep them as pets around the house! They are kept in cages but when you let them out they will generally stay around the yard.
The ferrets live around ten or twelve years. They can get disease but they can be immunised by medication by the local vets in Listowel, Pierce and Treacy.
Ferrets are native Irish animals and it’s their nature to kill rabbits and the like. Some people cut their teeth so that they can’t kill but I wouldn’t do that. They get on well with dogs. I have a terrier here and he plays away with them, but a cat could be aggressive to them.
As far as I know I am the only one in the parish who has ferrets. The Clancys of Ballybunion and Tommy Lyons in Listowel keep ferrets but it’s rare enough to have them. It is an old Irish custom. They are great for hunting rats and mice also.
My children have given names like Jack and Jill and Millie and Molly to some of the ferrets!
As I walked through the village of Coolderry, Co Offaly the strong scent of the fully-grown palm trees brought me back to my childhood in Barraduff. I then found myself recalling memories that had been stored away. I enjoyed reliving them again and sharing them with my own family. There are so many neighbours, friends, community events and activities which holds memories of fun, freedom, laughter and togetherness. I began thinking of those hazy days of summer where we, as children, and later as self-conscious teenagers, would bask under the leafy greens dreaming of our end of summer glowing tans – only to be interrupted by a bucket of cold water poured over us by adventurous brother Pat and partners-in-crime, cousins Liam Walsh and Barry Delaney. Before we knew it a fully pledged water fight had begun. As I was the competitive type, I was never left unprepared for such attacks. I’d have the girl’s ammunition ready and available at different hiding spots. Dangers of falling off the garage roof didn’t seem to come to mind after successfully dousing the lads from above. The chase would run through from the front door to the back, upstairs, downstairs, in and out and all around the garden. My poor mother in the kitchen jokingly waving a wooden spoon would eventually join in the banter. All would end as we surrendered around the kitchen table for a feed of Mom’s griddle bread, the “real” Kerrygold butter and jam. Only on one occasion can I recall the water fight ending poorly. I was caught unawares. It was a revenge attack on my strategic planning. Pat, the leader, took my top half, Barry the left leg and Liam the right. I can still remember the roars and yelps as they carried me up the back field and hovered me over the cattle trough. The last time the hill heard such screams and shouts was the killing of our pet pig a couple of Christmasses previously. As the three took delight in their impending success, I was gradually lowered into the slimy green water. With the imaginary waving of my white flag, they gloried in their eventual success.
One of five girls and one boy and raised on our family farm, we had no choice but to pull up our sleeves, leave our fancy nails at the beauticians and our complaints in our bellies. I can always remember the summer holidays. The three small ones (myself and my two younger sisters) slept in single beds in the room opposite our parents. My Dad would enter the room, and even though the sun had woken us a lot earlier, we dared not stir in our beds. Eyes closed, pretending to be in a deep slumber – for it was the one that moved who would be the one to face the milking that morning. Failing this, he would pull the toes of the chosen one. The moans and groans would end in the realisation that there was no point complaining. To be fair, Dad would have given us all the same “training”. As a mother of four young children, I can now appreciate the privilege of growing up on a farm. We dared not mention the word “bored” for a list of jobs would be proposed. We were certainly not afraid of hard work. Part of the morning ritual was going on “the rounds” with Dad. Though sometimes tough, we enjoyed meeting the neighbours and taking advantage of their generous nature as they shared their drinks cabinet and biscuit jars – a rare commodity in our house, as they would disappear from the shopping bags soon after they were brought home. Along the way we’d meet characters like Batty Lynch whose hearty laugh lives on in our memory. We’d meet Ned and Doreen Barry, whose wonderful gardening skills we marvelled at. Up the hill and next to encounter our visit was Mary Ann Moran – a generous lady, she always made sure that our glasses were filled as she loved to hear stories from school. By the time we got to the creamery, we had definitely earned a packet of Golden Wonder Crisps across the road at O’Connor’s.
Neighbours played a great role in our childhood memories. Many a Sunday afternoon, when the sitting room was darkened and the Sunday Game was the focus of attention for the football fanatics in our house, the three small ones went on our frequent neighbourly visits to Denis O’Sullivan. Denis, a retired member of the Garda Síochána spent many hours listening to our stories and likewise he shared many with us. An educated gentleman, he’d recall days of his duty on the streets of Dublin. He’d reminisce on stories of his youth and how life was when he was a child. After getting our feed of Seven-up and biscuits, we’d take turns mounting the ass at the back of his house with Denis walking by our side ensuring we’d not fall. All was going well until brothers, Tadhg, Moss and Mick Brick would arrive on the scene. Like a little lad looking for a bit of mischief, Mick would slap the rear of the donkey. This sudden move would send the donkey racing off, bucking and leaping down to the far end of the field with the poor misfortune who happened to have been on the donkey hanging on for dear life. The rest of us were looking on from the side, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Poor Denis, feeling responsible, followed the mad, driven animal annoyed at his friend for causing such mayhem. Thinking back now, and knowing how much I love my Sunday afternoons, what patience and tolerance they must have possessed to have entertained us for hours at a time.
As all you readers know, Lisselton takes in our two local prominent businesses – Hegarty’s (as it was called when I was a child) and Behan’s. To get us from under her feet, my Mom would, on occasion, ask us to go and get a few groceries. On our bikes we’d go, conversing with many along the road. The high salute from Joan Lynch as she’d laugh over a yarn or two. She’d then draw from her apron a sweet for us as we’d head away on our quest. Joe and Mary B Kennelly’s house was always a great house to encounter. The geese and ducks roamed freely around the yard. The smell of Joe’s pipe as he’d offer us a tray of fresh eggs is a memory instilled in my mind forever. We’d then pedal on like the hammers of hell till we reached Gunn’s Cross. The best part of the bike ride was about to begin. Like greyhounds being set loose from their traps, we’d steady ourselves to make the rapid descent downwards. Legs straddled outwardly, hands tightly clinched to the rickety handlebars, beginning only moments apart from each other so as not to collide, we’d round the old school corner with a sigh of relief that we weren’t met with a misfortunate oncoming vehicle but also an exhilarating feeling that wanted us to repeat the experience each time we were sent on this mission. When we finally arrived at Lisselton the shopping list was taken out. Now my mother was a great believer in ensuring that everybody got a fair deal. This rule applied to shopping locally also and would have always given both shops equal custom. On one occasion, the top of the list read “Behan’s”. However, Catriona and I had different ideas. Hegarty’s had just brought out the latest range of gobstoppers and we worked hard to earn the price of them. As kids though, there was an inbuilt fear that if Behan’s saw us purchasing next door there would have been a parochial outrage. So between us, Catriona and I concocted a plan. As Catriona was the better talker, she was sent in to distract Jerry who was positioned just inside the large front facing window. I, on the other hand, decided to creep down on all fours, pass the shop door and underneath the windowsill and eventually make my getaway to Hegarty’s. All was going according to plan and in my own mind the gobstoppers seemed closer to my pocket now that I had passed both danger points. Then, out of nowhere my head was faced with a pair of boots. I slowly lifted my head from my crouched position, my eyes drawn to the long lanky stretch where Dick Behan stood – arms folded as he leant up against the wall. With a half-grin and a raised brow, it was as if he knew what our intentions were. I was, yet again, defeated and our gobstoppers had to wait for another day. We settled for the bag of sweets given to us by Dick after realising that it was my loose change that I was so intently looking for! Great memories, and I hope that my children will look back on their childhood with the same love as I look back on mine. Though married and settled very well in Offaly, Lissellton and Kerry will always be “home” to me.
I started my stage career when an Irish teacher came to Asdee one time. I was going to school there and he did a play in Irish and I had a part in it. I remember that play because the character I was playing had a boyfriend and my brother Joe was the boyfriend! That was a bit awkward! We took the play to Listowel where other groups were performing. I had no trouble with the Irish because my mother was a native Irish speaker from Donegal. In fact she went to America when she was young and she had very little English. We used to go to Donegal and we got used to the Irish there. Even now I can understand the Irish news on the television. My father came from Kilmorna in Duagh.
Fr Neilly O’Keeffe, my brother, started the drama with Bryan McMahon in Listowel, going around collecting all the old stories and folklore. I have all his material and I would be grateful if someone could do something with it.
I started on the stage as an adult when there was a play being done for charity her in Ballybunion. Hennessy who was doing a part and she had to have her appendix out so my brother Joe, God rest him now, started at me to do the part. That day this travelling woman came in. She was used to coming in and she sat on a chair inside the door. I was standing on a chair hanging a curtain for the opening of the play. My opening line was “Blast ye, stay where I put ye!”
She went back to another house and said to the woman of the house “That poor woman! To think that poor woman has to speak to her family like that!” She thought I was giving out to my family!
So I came back that night and did my part on the stage here and that was the beginning of my acting career.
I remember one play we did in particular called “The Righteous Are Bold”. I was playing the part of a woman who came back from England and was possessed by the Devil! I was speaking foreign languages and was in a bad way! Part of my role was to break statues on stage when I was in a frenzy. The play was popular and went on for a good number of nights and I had what statues there were in Listowel broke! I used have to have to break them and dance on them. At the end of the play a priest came and exorcised me! In fact I was going out with Timmy at the time and we did a few performances in Lisselton as his father was involved there. His father was wondering what his son was doing going out with a girl who was playing a part like that!
Years later, Fr Neilly took me to the same play in Dublin and it was useless! A lot of it was done out of sight backstage.
Fr Neilly wrote a play for us then and we got to the All Ireland final and we won that. That was in 1959 and I was pregnant when I was doing it!
I had a connection with the Shannonside Annual in the 1950s because Fr Neilly started that and I was the secretary. Johnny McCabe from Ballylongford was one of the people involved. There is a picture of me over in Gortaglanna in one edition of the Annual. People used to send in articles at the time and Fr Neilly went out and interviewed people. Liam de Brún was one of the contributors.
They were great days.
Lads, isn’t ‘The Tech’ great! That was our initial opinion after years in the national school. Now before anyone says otherwise, most of us would agree that we got a great education during those days but enjoyment was probably not the word we would use to describe them.
Then came ‘The Tech’, and by that I mean the Technical School in Listowel which at the time was sited at the end of Church Street just up from Rita Dowling’s shop. No corporal punishment and subjects like woodwork, metalwork, magnetism and electricity, mechanical drawing, mathematics, English, Irish and rural science. Where could you go wrong! To add to that, a number of the teachers were great characters in their own right and seemed to enjoy life. That was how it looked to us anyway. It is necessary to name a few of these men as they left us with a brighter view of life. Mr Harry Nielsen, a genius and a little eccentric who taught metalwork, mechanical drawing, magnetism and electricity. Harry, as he was affectionately known to us all, would stride through the classroom and workshop ‘smoking’ a stick of chalk, while demonstrating how to ‘turn’ properly using the lathe, file metal correctly, draw detailed isometric diagrams and, if you did not do it accurately afterwards, he would come down and read the riot act to you in front of the class. You never took it personally though because the next day he could praise you for doing a task correctly. He had a bit of a short fuse as well, I remember one day, he expertly floated a chair through the air and it bounced a few feet from a couple of lads messing in the workshop, which brought them immediately to their senses.
At that time in the early sixties, Sunday night was the big night for dances. Harry could never understand the reasoning behind this as everyone had to work on Monday. “Why do people not go and enjoy themselves on Saturday night when they could rest on Sunday, after all it is the day of rest” he would constantly question. He had many more similar questions on life in general which at least made us stop and think for a moment or two.
Next we had Mr Paddy Drummond from Tralee who was the boss and nobody questioned his authority. If you tried to pull a trick on him, he would draw himself up to his full five foot nothing and say “Come over here, if I met you on the Rock Street fourteen yard line a few years ago, you would be still recovering from the shock, get out of my sight before I lose my temper”. A brilliant maths teacher who singlehandedly made the subject interesting to the ‘shower’ he was teaching (us). He deserved a medal for patience and another for his teaching methodology. He was also responsible for entering us for public examinations such as P&T (Posts&Telegraphs – Eircom nowadays), ESB, Bord na Móna etc because we certainly would not have bothered entering ourselves. At that time in my life, I thought driving a lorry for Cahill’s would be a great number and that was the height of my ambitions. Paddy and Harry got me to sit the P&T examination and as a result, Cahill’s lost a bad lorry driver.
Paddy Drummond was also the main man behind the football teams in the school. I, however have a sad story for you about my football career in the Tech and it involves Paddy who I think always thought I was a bit of a smart-ass anyway and needed to be shown the error of my ways. The junior team were playing a match back in West Kerry and I was selected as a sub on the team. I was so delighted and even more excited when during the match, as I was sitting with the rest of the lads on the subs bench, Paddy called out “O’Shea, come here”. I thought this is my big chance in my footballing career. However, Paddy says to me “go behind the goals down there and every time the ball is kicked over the bar or wide, kick it back to the goalie”. My dream of stardom was shattered.
I must tell you about another event that sticks in my memory. Just a few weeks after I joined the P&T, the phone in the Tech went out of order and myself and the technician went down to have a look at the problem. The phone was in Paddy Drummond’s office and in we went. Now remember I had only left the Tech about three months earlier and was still only seventeen, but now I thought I was above all that and I stuck out my hand and said “Hello Paddy”. He looked me straight in the eye and said “To you boy, I am still Mister Drummond”. That put me in my place and of course gave the technician a great laugh and he used Paddy’s comment as a joke on me for long after.
Some years later, I met Paddy after an All-Ireland near Heuston Station in Dublin. We were talking about old times. He asked me how I had done and I said ok, ach dúirt cara a bhí in éineacht liom gur bhain mé amach céim eolaíochta cúpla lá roimhe sin, this was meant to say to Paddy that the teaching methods in the Tech were really good. Paddy made sure that I didn’t get a big head and said “finally grown up, have we, well done”. He shook my hand and we laughed.
Seán Ó Mahúna was our teacher for Irish. A big man who lived down Bridge Road direction. Bhí an-ghrá aige don Ghaeilge agus mar sin thug sé an grá sin dúinn. Nílim líofa san Ghaeilge, mar a fheiceann tú, ach deinim mo dhícheall chun í a úsáid agus thug Seán an misneach do dhaoine chun spraoi a bhaint as ár dteanga. Now we pulled a few tricks on him in the classroom from time to time and he could show his displeasure in no uncertain terms, ach de gnáth, bhí an-tuiscint agus an-fhoighne aige chun rudaí mar sin a ghlacadh.
Patsy O’Sullivan was a great teacher and a good footballer who tried his best and to my mind successfully, to cultivate in us a love of the land through his rural science classes. He initiated a project where we were to grow vegetables in a little plot at home and he indicated that he would call to our homes to inspect our efforts. Some very successful gardens resulted from that.
Another good teacher who comes to mind was Bob Fitzgerald. He was the main man on woodwork but I regret to say that his expertise was lost on me. It was a subject that I did not like, and that is putting it mildly. The only woodwork tool I could use properly was the mallet so you see I was never going to become a great carpenter. Mick Curtin (RIP) at Lisselton Cross was not going to have any competition from me anyway. I really envied the lads who could turn out beautiful pieces with tight fitting mortise and tenon joints. Myself, I could never find where Bob kept the nails in his workshop (joking). Technology came to my rescue and took me away from inflicting my woodworking ‘skills’ on an unsuspecting public.
I had many friends during that time, a time I will never forget. I will name a few of those I met during those days, many years ago – I hope they do not mind. Gerard Sullivan, Pat Quill, Tim Brazil, Mike Sullivan, Tony Donoghue, Teresa Larkin, Mairéad McKenna, Jim Nolan, Michael Costello and there were others.
Gerard Sullivan was way ahead of me in the cop-on department and I must say, life was always brighter when he was around. In those days, the bicycle was king as far as transport was concerned. Cycling to and from the Tech should have been included as part of the curriculum as we certainly learned a thing or two about life during those journeys. Gerard and myself made many cycling trips to such exotic places as Duagh and its surrounds and the people we met added greatly to the enjoyment of life.
I remember getting a pair of homing pigeons from Tony Donoghue in exchange for getting him membership of Captain Mac in the Irish Press newspaper. Who remembers Captain Mac? One mistake I made, I did not clip the wings of my birds and by the next day, the two had returned back to Tony. After a reduction in wing size, the two remained with me for the remainder of their lives, much to the horror of my mother as they were certainly not the cleanest of pets. Tony emigrated to Chicago and did well as a head chef in big hotels in the windy city. Pat Quill was from the famous townland of Lyreacrompane. As well as being a gentleman, he was a great footballer and a pleasure to know.
Is mór an trua nach mbíonn ‘bualadh le céile’ againn chun scéalta a mhalairt ón am sin fadó, nuair a bhíomar óg agus nach raibh morán ciall againn.
Talking about Lyreacrompane allows me to change the subject for a moment, if you don’t mind. It reminds me of that lovely part of the world and of the bog. Bíonn áthas orm i gconaí siúl tríd an bportach agus suaimhneas a bhaint as an chiúnas agus ceol binn an éin. Tá an portach i nDirha go hálainn nuair nach mbíonn ort obair leis an móin. Aer úr an phortaigh a chuireann ocras ort i gcóir an dinnéir, nó ar maidin taréis oíche mhór i mBaile an Bhuinneánaigh, baineann sé an tinneas póite uait agus tagann tú ar ais chughat féin. Sin mo leigheas ar aon nós, bain triail as tú féin. Ní dhéanfaidh sé aon damáiste ar aon chuma.
Long ago, we often asked the question “what was the worst job in the bog?” Was it ‘the cleaning’, ‘the cutting’, ‘the turning by hand’, ‘the footing’, ‘the re-footing’, ‘the drawing out’ or ‘the drawing home’. My vote goes with ‘the turning by hand’, usually the sods were stuck to the heath and after a day on bended back, pulling the sods free and then turning them, that was a back-breaking job. The ‘footing’ could come a close second, with the ‘drawing out’ in third place especially if you had to use the wheelbarrow in a soft bog. A great deal depended on the bog of course, as some gave you great black turf off the sleán and it was ready to draw out after a few weeks. Other bogs were a nightmare. Inniu tá an t-inneall ann chun alán rudaí a dhéanamh agus tógann sé sin an cruatan as cuid den obair ach ní dheineann sé an tae fós. An tae sa phortach, sin scéal eile! Nach raibh sé go hiontach. Nílim ag caint faoi bhlas an tae mar de gnáth, bheadh luch ábalta siúl air bhí sé chomh láidir sin. Táim ag caint fén bhriseadh ón obair agus an comhrá eadrainn faoi ghach rud a tharla ar an domhan nó i mBaile an Bhuinneánaigh ar aon nós.
Talking about the bog. Above is a meitheal of hardy young and not so young from days gone bye. It would be great to have the names of All in the group. I think I recognise members of the Neville, Enright, Lynch, Mahony, McMahon, Long and King families among the team.