It was while I was going to St Michael’s College in Listowel that I first noticed a girl called Peggy. She was going to the convent. I was always admiring her because she was always smiling! We used to meet casually coming and going on the street. She cycled to school. Then I used to meet her later at the dances when I started going at the age of seventeen or eighteen. I met her in Carroll’s Hall in Lisselton often. There was another hall at the Cross also but we kept to Carroll’s because we used to have the boxing there and Tom Carroll was into football.
Peggy went to school up the country and learned the trade of butter-maker. But before I met Peggy, I remember after coming home from America with a Palm Beach suit , which looked ridiculous in Ireland at the time, I busted my lip at a football match. I had to be taken to the doctor in Ballylongford to get stitches put in the lip. Afterwards, Liam Boland drove us to a pub. Jerry Molyneaux was there, and in the car also was Violet Nolan, “The Dawn Beauty”. But I didn’t go into the pub and was left in the car with Violet. Liam was vexed because Violet stayed in the car to look after me, but I couldn’t do much with my frozen lip anyway! Afterwards, Liam was still vexed and drove us all back to his own house and let us walk to our own homes! Jereen Molyneaux was mad and started firing stones all over the place! I was lucky because I had to walk Violet home! Later she went to America but she had bad luck because it didn’t agree with her at all, and she became very ill. But she and her sister, Bella, were lovely girls.
We used to be kicking ball in the field near the house on Sunday evenings in summer and we would look back towards Ballybunion and see the lights of Birds’ amusements and hear the music. You could hear sounds from a long distance away in those days. We would jump into the stream below the house and wash our face and dress up. We would put on open neck shirts and we’d head for Ballybunion. We used to walk down on one side of the street and salute the girls we fancied who were on the other side. Then we would walk back up and salute them again! Then we would come home quite contented, after six miles of a walk for nothing! Walsh’s Hall, and The Pavilion were big at the time and you could get a season ticket for one pound and ten shillings. The Pavilion very high-faluting and you wouldn’t want to let on to the lads that you were going there at all. And there were lots of tales going around about what went on inside. The Bolands and Pat Kissane played a trick on a fella in there one night. It was this fella’s first night in there and they led him into the women’s toilet! The women ran out screaming! He was so ashamed that he wouldn’t come out till Mike Ryan, who worked on the door, went in and brought him out!
Pat Crowley’s band used to come to play in Ballybunion. They were a beautiful band and played lovely romantic waltzes. You would have the thoughts of it coming home from the village. The fifteenth of August was big. There used to be crowds four or five abreast walking on the streets then. The priests sometimes tried to separate the men from the women! On one occasion a boy and a girl were walking up the street holding hands and a priest was walking down. The priest hit them with his cane on the hands and said “Don’t let me ever see you giving bad example like that again while I’m here in this town!”
Later I met Peggy again at a dance in Ballybunion. We got married in 1950. ’Tis one of the few dates I can remember! She had a car and it’s the only car I can remember the registration number of – IN 6630. When I’d see that car coming, my heart would give a jump! Peggy had her own sporting career as a camógie player with Kerry and in 1952 we both played for Kerry on the same day. I was playing for Kerry against Louth, and she was playing for Kerry against Waterford in Ballylongford. She was the star at centrefield. That must be unique for a husband and wife! She played for quite a while after we married, and I was training away with Kerry, and Dr Eamonn O’Sullivan was strict about training. This was awkward when you were trying to run a farm. I was training for boxing also.
We had eight children, four boys and four girls. Pat was the first-born, and then Dan, Betty, Norma, Mike, Bill, Jacqueline, and Annette was the youngest.
The work was hard on the farm in my time. If the corn got lodged we used have to cut it with the scythe. John Galvin often did this. There was a great knack in cutting it. You’d cut it in against the crop and you’d leave it lie against the crop. Then it would be taken out in sheaves to be bound later. Sometimes, the lodged corn would be wet when it was being cut, and you’d get wet . It would be left out loosely to dry and afterwards put into stooks.
The thresher was a big event. Horses used to pull it. We used to have the threshing near Coneen Keane’s often because the horses couldn’t pull the thresher too far into the fields. Mickeen Bosco McMahon had the horse-drawn thresher and a tractor used be driven after it. Denis Foley over in Ballingown had a black mare which was pulling threshers all over the country. The thresher was a big heavy machine with big iron wheels. Some horses, when on the first pull they’d find the weight of the thresher, they’d rear up and back back. By night, storm-lanterns would be used and held by hand. There would be great tatteraah when threshing at night sometimes! The Bolands were the first I saw pulling the machine with a tractor.
We used to cut the hay with the horse-drawn mower, and the corn too. For the corn, we’d have an attachment with a kind of platform at the back of the cutting bar and the corn would fall back on it. The sheaf would be controlled by a man with a rake.
Any grain we had in the early days would be used at home. When my cows were taken the second time, I sat (sowed) all the place with corn. It turned out to be the worst year ever. The world ploughing match was held behind in Killarney. We had it in stooks and they were so wet they began to grow again because the weather was so bad we never got a chance to draw it.
We dug the well in Gort when I was young. They brought a blind man from the Knockanure side to divine for water. He found the spring on the dry side of the hill and it was only twelve or fourteen feet down. He got an awful fall while he was walking with the divining rod because he walked into a furze bush! Ned Healy over further must have dug a hundred wells in his time and never found water! Our well kept all the Hill going and it’s still going!
We had a lot of workers here. The first man I remember was Paddy O‘Donnell (Old John’s grandson), then Jackeen Horgan from the Hill. He later moved to The Switch below. Paddy Healy often helped us with the spuds. We used to take the board off the plough and you could plough the furrows . Tom Bawn used to work here also. Jereen Healy was a great hardy man who worked here a good while. We used to draw beet to Listowel one time and Jerry was as good as two of us, throwing in the beet with a beet-pike into the railway wagon after we tipped the load from our trailer. I remember he used to teach me maths while we were thinning beet! These were some of the men who worked with us in Urlee over the years, but many other good men and women worked here also.
(Finucane family) to come.
(Part 4 of Mo Scéal Féin will be printed in the 2013 edition.)