Mother Recalls the social life of the early 1960’s

 In History


My mother remembers well the early 1960’s c. 1961 before she left for England in 1963 when in their youth and prime as the song goes they would light a fire for the 24 June on Carraig or Carrick hill in Graffy/Ellaghmore. They would then hold an outdoor dance at nearby Ellaghmore crossroads where, as the bard from Graffy Willie Loftus put it the wanderers often meet. Mick Loftus or Micky Own Tailor would play the concert flute. Michael had been a member of James Brennans’ band in Bofield School during the 1950’s. The others would dance a half set in a scene reminiscent of that from the film dancing at Lunasa. As they say a good time was had by all.

This was part of life at the time – a way of life that has vanished like the snows of last winter. They used to ramble to the houses around Graffy and Ellaghmore; there were house dances; girls my mother among them learned home economics from the older women who attended classes in the local school, they learned to cook make boxty etc and knit and crochet. The men gathered in a nearby house to play cards and afterwards they would share a pipe and chat to round off the night.

Other events that took place in the house were wakes where porter, jam and bread and cigarettes would be handed around. There were weddings in the houses at that time too, a party to celebrate the occasion would be held in each of the couple’s houses for the people of that area. When visitors came home from America there would be a house dance to welcome them and all the people in the area would be invited. A room was set aside for the serving of food say ham and tomatoes. There was a thriving social scene at town land level in those days.

Mother fondly remembers buying chocolate at the travelling shop, Lawrence’s came from Bonniconlon on Thursday. Also she loved to walk on a summer’s night to the Grove Ballroom in Bonniconlon and her fondest memory is of seeing Eileen Reid and the Cadets there.

That way of life changed after the mid 1960’s all of fifty years ago when people were forced due to harsh economic circumstances to emigrate and the houses were left to the elderly and were closed up too.

How the neighbours helped each other 

My mother recalls the way that the younger members of the community would visit the older people and help them. This was back in the 1960’s. there was one house where the lady in it worked and the father was left there so the younger people including my mother would visit and do the chores around the house this entailed sweeping up and lighting the fire for the elderly father, the lads would do the outdoor work like feeding the cows and the calves and bringing in the turf and the water.

When this was done they would wait with the elderly man until his daughter camehome from work. All this I might add was done after my mother and the others came from the nearby school. When the lady arrived from work she would make tea as a sign of gratitude and there would be jelly and custard as a special treat.

A decade or so later I would go to this house myself because I went to school with the girls in the house and we would help the lady who by now was in a wheel chair due to polio and again we would get our buckets and calf mix and feed the calves and talk with the lady telling her about our day at school and other news items. She was a very kind and generous person and would praise us for helping and gives us sweets.

That was part of the spirit of neighbourliness that existed at the time both when my mother and later I was a child and they were good times when there were a lot more people in the village of Graffy than today – such is change and the decline in population over the years. This does not happen to the same extent today.

How mother remembers spending Sundays in her youth.

“Sunday was a special day for us during our youth. We rose, got breakfast and then went to mass to Attymass. After mass we bought ice cream in Dever’s shop. We met our friends. Some Sundays we would be invited to Melody’s in Currower or Mulderrig’s in Ardrass or Treenoughter. They would cook dinner for us and we spent the day there. Our house in Graffy was always busy on a Sunday with all the visitorswho used to come on their bicycles. We had bacon and cabbage for the dinner or else boiled chicken and potatoes and vegetables. We ate jelly and custard for dessert. And there was a cup of tea afterwards to wash it down.

Pat, our granddad would take his stick and the dog Posey to the mountain and herd the sheep; this would take him a few hours. Then the visitors would pour in and spend the day in the house and tea and bread and jam were served to all. Annie may Igoe or Melody used to pick rhubarb and make jam that would then be spread on the brown soda bread and this was food fit for a king.

All was tidied up when the day was over and then the last part of the day came when we dressed up and got ready for the dance in the Grove ballroom in Bonniconlon and we would enjoy this. As we were young that was as far as they would let us go. When we were primary school children we used to visit Fitzgerald’s house in Carrareagh and Melody’s in Bofield on Sunday.

That was how we spent Sundays during our younger days.

Written by James Reddiough (Copyright 2015)

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