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The Tierworker Ceidhle House (August 6, 2012)

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Annie Barber - Recalling her life

On 12th April 1997, the Tierworker Ceidhle House was honoured with a special visitor - Annie Barber, the mother of Richard Barber. During that visit, Annie gave a remarkable interview on radio, which is reproduced below in eight (8) video segments of about nine (9) minutes each. But before the interview started, Annie's son, Richard, set the stage by reciting his poem:

Tierworker long ago

As I sit here in my rocking chair on this lonely Summers morn

My mind goes wandering back, to the time when I was born,

The things that have come about, the people I used to know

What it was like to be at home, in Tieworker long ago.

My father in the forge at work, as he made the anvil ring

My Mother in the kitchen, to her children she would sing,

The cabbages and potatoes, that we always had to grow

It was lovely to be present then in Tierworker long ago.

No more you hear the corncrake as she sung all through the night

The skylark that once soared so high, is now nowhere in sight,

 As we opened up a gate, a field of hay to mow

Or played around a hay stack in Tierworker long ago.

The horse and cart is now extinct, the scythe you see no more,

And all around the country side, the mighty tractors roar

The fresh mown grass when cut, into silage pits they throw

You would never see a thing like that, in Tierworker long ago.

No open fires are burning, with an aroma of peat

A welcome to the old homestead, a constant source of heat.

The thrashers have all come and gone, no oats they ever grow,

No more fields of golden corn, as was Tierworker long ago.

No hens or turkeys any more, the pigs were always there

We always got a treat, when they were taken to the fair.

The calves were fed from buckets, the cows in fields did low

There were plenty of excitement, in Tierworker long ago.

But now as I get older, and I think of things gone by

The changes that have come about, I often wonder why?

So if you are a patriot, and things that you should know

Just what it was like to be, in Tierworker long ago .

Richard Barber 05/08/2012.

The following video is Part 1 of Annie's interview:

SUGGESTION: Watch the video once without referring to the text. Then, watch the video a second time while following along with the text. This may make it easier to appreciate the richness of Annie's story.



Question: We better start. First of all Annie tell us a little bit about your early days where were you born.

Reply: I was born in Corkeeran in the County Monnaghan at Rockcurry, and, and went to school there, and I was twelve years when I left Corkeeran and came up here to Killagriffe, and I am here from twelve years old to what ever age I am now living in Killagriffe, living in Killagriffe, never had an abode anywhere else,only to a ceidhle ( VISIT) sometimes, so that! I came up to an Uncle, that his brother and sister was after dying, and my Mother had a baby and at home, she was a cousin of theirs and he wrote down to see if she would come up, he was left alone one brother he was well !, he would be in his sixties, he sent down for my mother to come up and my mother come and she brought me to mind the child that time, while she would do the work, so I was taken from school that time and was never at school again, I came up here to Killagriffe when I was twelve years and a half and I am in Killagriffe the rest of my life.

Q: And you said there you made reference that you came here you  were twelve years, to what ever age you are now tell them what age you are.

R. I am seventy one,(voice in background corrects, ninety one), I am eight! ninety one and how many months is it this is March two months, the sixth of Febuary I was ninety one, and I am here  since.

Q: Good stuff, good stuff, now going back to Rockcurry and obvious people always want to look back to the place where you were bred born and reared, tell us a wee bit more about the area  there, was I mean a big family of you in it apparently.

R: There was a big family of us in it but some of them died when they were young,and I wasn`t there, there were some of them born in fact after I leaving it. It was a farm place, an ordinary farm place, my father was a farmer, there were cows at it, and sure we had to go out, there was no such a thing as school leave, the school tied up, you could be kept from school at any day you liked, sure we weren`t half schooled because any time there was work to be done off come the children from school out to the field to lap hay ( a hay lap is a bundle of hay rolled on your arm and laid out in the field so it could dry) and rear oats and do all this work. So I was one of the eldest and I was the first in the field along with a brother that came after me a year younger than me, so that was what went on. Then the war broke out so there came round word that any man that was eligible to go to the war he would have to go, so my father was there with the family so he was safe, but my brother Dick was only a young lad he was only twelve about ah ! he wouldn`t for I was twelve so he was about ten, says my mother says to him (her dad) if they come round to collect concript Dick  what would you do? well I would just lift the hatchet break his leg and leave him sitting in the corner. that`s what he said he would do with the gauson ( young boy) that they wouldn`t get him. So we were all reared then, and then there was ! I don`t know how many were in the house when I left there were eight or nine, but there were three or four born after I leaving it. I came up with my mother to mind a baby she had. I was  to be sent to school here and I was  to be sent home to back to go to school but it never happened. I am here since and was never at school or any where else only in the muck house.

Q: Alright, well we will stay with the school again and back in Rockcurry because you claim to tell me that you spent a short time at the first school, and then you were shifted why is that ?

R: I spent a short time at the first school, I was only three year old when I went, and I don`t know what age I was when I went to the second school, but the master in the first school was so fond of me that he`d carry me about on his arm, and he`d nurse me on his knee when he`d be taking the rolls, and he had a spite to the elder sister, so there was three years between us and the elder sister done something and he slapped her, he knocked her, he hurted her thumb and my father went in and rise ructions (problems) and we were snatched then from that school and sent to another,  he wouldn`t let us back to him so that's what took us from Rockcurry school, and Rockcurry school was only from here to the chapel away from our house and we had to go then was four mile of ground walking on gravel road barefooted to tell the truth, and clogs (wooden soled shoes) on us in the Winter time, and putties(a kind of sock) on us to keep our legs warm all through the war. the ? to school we get because the summer holidays would be on and when the winter came then there was spuds to be gathered there was flax (A linen producing crop) to be done there was this that and  the other to do, the thrashing, the flails and the thrasher, and all this, all farm work all done by hand, it was all done by hand, the flax would be ! everyone had to have  so much flax and what ever flax they had they had to keep so much in the field for the aeroplanes, the wings of aeroplanes were made from linen that time.They weren`t like, what they were made from now they were made from linen, and everyone had to have so much flax to make linen for these, and you couldn`t drown that piece of flax, it wouldn`t be drowned, the other would be drownded that was going to other work, but the army flax would be reared and stooked like oats, and kept and brought. I don`t know whether they were paid for it or not. I can`t tell you for I don`t remember for I was`t interested in it anyway, but I remember the square of flax being left in the corner of the field until it ripened then it would be pulled (never cut it, had to be pulled by hand from it`s roots) and stooked (a stook was two rows of sheafs leaning against each other to dry out) and left up for the government, and the rest would be put in a hole (a special pit for drowning flax) and dammed and it would be in it for so many days. I remember one Sunday night, my father was a Presbetarian and he would not work on a Sunday so this night the flax dam was full of flax and was ready to come out and if it got too many day! an hour or so above being cooked it would go bad, but he was in his drawers (night wear) and his shirt wating for twelve oclock to pass till he would go out to this dam of flax and throw it out. I remember that night well, how he went out and threw the dam of flax, and the drawers on him and the shirt on him, and it was taken out then and spreaded on a field to dry. They would go back then and lift it, I remember being sitting, having toothache, and he had loads of rushes, the rushes that the bands for flax were made from loads of them heeled up in a field, I had an awful toothache and there was a shawl tied around my head and I was sat on a stool making bands, that was my job. I couldn`t be any more than eight years old. 

Q: Looking back on those years in the early years in Rockcurry,were there good days mixed with a lot of hardship and slavery?

R: There were good enough days, the times were better times than now, everyone had freedom, there was no such a thing as Protestant and Catholic, we were in a mixed area like! between the North and the South, and everyone was everyone and everyone was everyone's neighbour.

The following video is Part 2 of Annie's interview:

SUGGESTION: Watch the video once without referring to the text. Then, watch the video a second time while following along with the text. This may make it easier to appreciate the richness of Annie's story.


Q Looking back on those years in the early years in Rockcurry,were there good days mixed with a lot of hardship and slavery. ?

R there were good enough days, the times were better times than now, everyone had freedom there was no such a thing as Protestant and Catholic, we were in a mixed area like! between the North and the South, and everyone was everyone and everyone was everyones neighbour, if you wanted something of me you got it and if I wanted something of you I got it, we had a squad of children with us and we would be sent to pick, gather other peoples spuds after a digger when the diggers came out.

Q You think that they don`t do it with the same heart now.

R,O Ah no not at all, not at all, there is as much difference in my young days as there is in day and night, of course I don`t remember now until I was twelve year old, when I came to this country up from that, that was in the County Monaghan, and everyone Protestant and Catholic it was all the same. Me father's best chum was a Catholic blacksmith and one would go to meeting and the other would go to Mass walking together, now I remember that, and I remember them getting, coming home and there was a good bit snow on the road and along in a ditch on the road they came home and they got a woman pounded down in the grype, (dyke) and the snow on her, where someone .. I remember being sent to the shop in Rock the next day or two, well I ran and ran the guts out of myself till getting past where the dead woman was. The police ! the coroner was away some place, and they could not touch the corps till he got back,and two guards, police had to sit with it all night, and it winter time, I remember that.

Q, What was your maiden name.

R, My name it was Townley,Q,Townley mmm. R, Townley ,it was Townley.

Q, There are still some members of your ,your, you have a brother and sister is it or two.

R, I have no brother. I have two sisters alive, two sisters alive, one of them is a Mrs Carlton and the other is a Mrs Waller,I changed my coat when I was marrying, ( changed religion), if you know what ment. I do I do, and that was hell broke loose, because at that time not, what it is like now, they can marry now and they can go and rear children without fathers and mothers or anything but when I was, it was cat melodian (her favourite saying for something horrible). It was because I remember the morning that I was married, I was sleeping at home and I got up in the morning and I looked to see if my father and mother in bed and they were, sleeping sound and funny to say he`d be up awfull early away after cattle he had up the field, but he had his head covered with a blanket , so I went down the stairs barefooted and bareleged grabbed my boots,and grabbed what ever few things I could, and out through the yard, I had a pomb dog that had pups and she went to follow me so I had to go back with her but I ran through the yard down through two fields barefooted and bareleged to be married, so I went into the house sat in a dark corner, the windows were blinded, it was so ? it was paper and there wasn`t a pinch of light and the first nylon (stocking) that I ever got I got a hole in it putting it on me and I had to get married with a hole in my stocking.

Q, Well it was very obvious that your parents did not approve of this wedding.?

R, O no no they did not approve of it,not atall, Q, Did they know it was coming up though?.

R, They didn`t no not atall they knew I was going with the lad and my father said one day he followed me up into a house and asked me who I would be out with at night and I told him straight I didn`t deny it. I am with the one, and he says is it in the Rabbit Carolans that big long house, or is it in Clerkins playing cards, it is neither I dont be in either house, I be with the one and the one alone, so he was standing in a door and he had me milking a cow that I could not get passed him when he put all these questions to me, so I stood up and told him, 'tis not, I am with the one and the one only.

Q, And that was the lad you were going to marry.

R, That was the lad I was maried to ,and he was , he was Richard Barber.

Q, And where was he a native of.

R, A native of there beyond the next townland.

Q, And where did you get married?.

R, Down here in Tierworker chapel,at seven oclock one morning, and the Priest opened the door, and there was a woman that smelt a rat, she was a next door neighbour and she would go to Mass every morning,and there was an old man from the back of away at the mountain and he was waiting on the chapel door to be opened, so when the Priest locked the chapel door when he got us inside.

Q, fair play to him. R, fair play to him, safest, Q, Sure he was being nosey, honest.

R, So that was that, they at home never knew that I was gone till a neighbour man met us in a car, we went up the other road and over to Dicks! the husband's house, for our breakfast, so didn`t this man go down and tell my father and mother that we gone, not atall, she is out milking, so they went out and the cows was not milked.

Q, How did you face the music?.

R, How did I face the music, I just stood up and said! where I went to live with the husband was only two fields from where I left, and the next day I seen them passing, and the next day I seen them passing, so I passed no remarks, so there was to be holy war, we went to Dublin that day and spent it in it, and sure! that man that was in here to day Jemmy Smith he was left here to guard the house, for fear of, ah, the lads that would go about begging, ( A custom in them days after a wedding they usually got drink from the bridegrooms house that night) at a wedding he didn`t want them about the house or any noise or anything, so he kept all quiet, so we came home in the middle of the night, I mind (remember) the moon shining half way in the sky, as I was coming down the road, I didn`t know what happened to me untill I got up the next morning, and I went out, I went to look for a stick to light the fire and there was a get of a dog shut in the forge and he near eat the hand of me. So I went out and that was that, I had to face the music what way I liked, I passed no remarks I got on my bicycle the following Friday went up past the house and went to register the marrage, and I seen my mother, and shook her hand at me, she recognised me right enough, but none of thr others did for years and for years and for years, yet when all was said done, I was at my fathers dying bed and I stood at my mothers.

Q, Where did you meet this Richard Barber?

R, Sure he was reared there beyond beside us.

Q, But where did you meet him? but where did you meet him I mean was it at a ?.

R, Ogh sure he would be knocking about the road, and I mind(remember) the night I met him was a Sunday one Sunday night and I was out kicking a turnip through a field, so he came in and began kicking as well as me, and it started there and then, I was six weeks older than him.

Q, You had your eye on him though?

R, Well I hadn`t funny to say, but he must have his eye on me, because I could be married several times before, I could be married to to ! to suitors that would be suitable, but he was not the same only an ordinary working, plain working man.

Q, It`s all coming out in the washing now. R It`s all coming out in the washing. Q, All coming out in the washing yah. Right who are the other fellows?, well not so much who were they where did you meet these other fellows was it in this locality after dances?

R, O I went all round the country to dances, I went with a lad from Shercock! ? and they came up to see me. and I went with ah, Don`t put me to tell it or you will have a list from here to there, ha ha ha . Ah I could be married to a, well he would be a relation of my mothers, and he was a widow man and he was the age of my mother and done his damdest to marry me, and he gave all the nicest things that ever was and done everything, so nothing took place

Q, Right going back to this wedding business you got married up here in Tierworker?

R, I got married in Tierworker,on the eighteenth of August I think nineteen forty ! thirty ,

Q, In the thirtys anyway.

R, It was thirty four because DD (her oldest son) was born in thirty five.

The following video is Part 3 of Annie's interview:

SUGGESTION: Watch the video once without referring to the text. Then, watch the video a second time while following along with the text. This may make it easier to appreciate the richness of Annie's story.


Q, Right going back to this wedding buisness you got married up here in Tierworker? 

R, I got married in Tierworker,on the eighteenth of August  I think ninteen forty ! thirty , 

Q, In the thirtys anyway.

R, It was thirty four because D D (her oldest son) was born in thirty five.

Q, Was that a big do, or were there many at it? 

R,  There were four of us, here was the bride, me and the man and the groom's man that had the car, there was four of us at the wedding. So we went up to Dublin and into Neary's Hotel, and got our dinner, spent the day in Dublin, came home that night and into the cabeen and there we sat down. The cabin is out there yet. I wasn`t out there in a long time because I don`t be able to go. 

Q, Did not feel when you were up at the altar, you know, that to an extent that here I am, I did the wrong thing, my parents are not here, should I have done?

R, Well I did, I did, I felt for them, 

Q, but guilty?

R, I didn`t feel guilty, sure they would not let me marry anyone, they wouldn`t let me, I could be married to other people but they, well, stopped it.

Q, Well you were only going to marry the one anyway.

R, Well I couldn` marry two, well I could marry two , I could be married two, for I could be married since that man died, I could be married to a man from the North of Ireland, since that man died, ! what? how many years is it  your dad dead?

Q, The early seventys, seventy three I think.

R, I think so, well I could be married since then, to a man from the North of Ireland.

Q, Would you have done that if you got the option, maybe twenty or thirty years ago? 

R, Well I don`t know whether I would or not, I was kept down very much at home, and I broke loose in the end.

Q, You broke loose without being wild?

R, Yes, I wasn`t wild, no I never spent ! no, now I couldn`t say that I was wild because there was no, well I would go to dances, definitely,and pick up a fella (fellow) at a dance and have a dam good night with him, and he could go his way, sometimes he`d want to come home with me sometimes he wouldn`t. I mind (remember), I mind an orange hall opening in Bailieboro`, and a sister of the old man,s that was up there, she was a widow woman and she says to me now, an ass and trap to bring me to Bailieboro` to the opening of this hall. So I knew if I came back with the ass and trap home that I wouldn`t get back to the dance, so I went into a shop and bought a quarter stone of oats and I brought the trap, the pony and trap out to where the hall was and got a shed for the pony! the ass,and fed him and left him safe and sound, and went in and danced my fill till morning, and came home  and got a fella and he was from Kingscourt, I forget what his name now, but he came up sitting in the trap with me until he came to Tierworker, and you know he`d have to take off at Tierworker to go to Kingscourt, so I told him there was his road then, and that poor fella had  six or seven miles to walk to Kingscourt, after jazzing (riding) in the trap with me, in the trap for nothing.

Q, Devil a dam you cared. did you?

R, What?

Q, Sure you wern`t concerned about him?

R, Ah I wasn`t anoyed a bit about him, a bit about him!

Q, about him ah.

R, Not at all, why did he come with me for?

Q, Exactly,exactly.

R,  Well that`s the truth.

Q, You are an amazing lady I have to say?

R, I had a good ! I had a good life, although I never went away travelling, I was in America, for a month with a son, and but I never rambled, or gamled, (gambled) or went wild places or anything, I loved dancing and I danced my fill, when I got the ! But I was fourteen years of age before I got going to a dance, and me mother came with me, and if you don`t mind it was a pair of nail boots that I had on me, and that day I had these nail boots washed, and drying at the fire that I could polish them well, and wore a pair of clogs up through the yard, and that all happened. and I had my boots nice and polished, and I went to a dance and it was the first dance I was ever at and me mother came with me, for to keep child out of harm.

Q, To keep an eye on you?

R , ha ha ha, So some fella (fellow) came and asked me mother to dance, and says me mother, take this young one with you, and I never danced in my life, says I, I never danced and I don`t know anything, Ah, I`ll learn you, and so he did, so I was fond of dancing, I loved my dancing.

Q, Are any names that come to your head now, people back around Rockcurry that you would know for?

R, Ah there was a Mrs Drum, she was a blacksmith's wife, and she`d go to Lough Derg, on hol! Like the !what well is it? the Holy place, and she`d get me and I was only a child, and she`d get! She had cows and the blacksmith id(would) be in Rock at the ? I mean in the village this was out beside our house and she`d get me to look after her hens, if I was at school, to look after her hens, and feed her calves, and tie in her cows and gather her eggs, and I remember gathering, ! Everyone had awful eggs (a huge amount), that was their mane( main) support, and I`d get a big bucket of eggs, put them in the corner of the manger and cover them with hay, and the woman.! I never was in through, in, in the kitchen she wouldn`t ! she never left the key of the house with me, I was only a child, and there was another woman, about beside her and she was a big woman, I always had to do the shopping for her on Saturday ,and me only a child.

Q, You`ve being blessed with a great memory.

R, I have, I have everything, only I havn`t perfect sight now, the sight is getting gloom (hazy) now sure , Ha Ha Ha . Sure I can`t see everything but I can hear a lot, I have ears, I could hear the grass growing, O yes.

Q, Now we will just talk for another minute about when you got married, how long you were married, and the bit of a turn over that you made, and obvious there was bit of adjusting to be done there?

R, There was, I thought it awful, awful, when I went to the chapel, I thought it awful strange because when you go to a Protestant Church while the ceremony would be going on you would hear a pin drop (it was dead silent) but in the Catholic Church up on the gallery where Dickie brought me , they`d be pinning others tails ( coat tails) with pins one to another, I thought they were mad, I thought it wasn`t right to go to it, but sure I got used to it. I got, ! It went on for a few years, and there come a Mission to it (the chapel) so the two men that was at the Mission, I went in late one Sunday, one day, sure I had youngsters and everything else at home, and I was a sourt (sort ) of late so these men,

Q, Devoured you, did they?

R, They didn`t , but they brought me and left me into a sate(seat) and while you are coming to the chapel, that sate is to be yours, and so it was, I had that one sate no matter who was in it, there was a sate left for me in it.

Q, Was this up near the front?

R, That’s near the front within two sates,! There was a sate in front of us just, oh yes , and I had that honour that I had that sate in the chapel and if I went down tomorrow morning I would go back to my sate, I`d know where to get it.

Q, You would.

R, I would ,and that chapel has being renovated two or three times since I was married now.

Q, What was the other changes then in the turnover apart from the hub bub that you noticed in the Catholic Church ?

R, Ah well changes I didn`t, I adjusted to them because there was one thing that I was taught when I was young that if you were going to be a Catholic there would be a rope put round your neck and that you`d be brought round on your knees round the Church three times, so the night before I was married I was down at the priest's  he was a grand man, and he took all the care of the dear day with me, he never let me out from his door, out onto the road until he`d leave me safe with Dickie.

Q, Well I mean he locked the chapel door for you the night before didn`t he?

R, The morning of the wedding, mmm the morning of the wedding that we were in, we were locked in at the ceremony. But what was I going to say?

Q, Well we were talking about the changes and the adjustments.

R, Yes, the changes and the adjustments, well I thought it awful in the beginning, with all the noise and the carry on that would be going on in the chapel beside what would be going on in Protestant Churches there wouln`n`t be a sound, but otherwise I got in on it, just went my way drew my pay, and smoked my pipe alone (did not bother anyone).

Q, Could I ask you are you a holy person? Or perhaps a religious person would be a better word.

R, Well I am a Catholic and everyone said that when Dickie died I would turn and go back, but I didn` t turn or wouldn`t turn, my grave is above beside him in Moynalty. There is things in the Catholic Church, that, well I`ll not say I don`t approve of, but I find them different from the others. I think the Catholic people isn`t half as faithful to their Church, as the Protestants was in them days. I don`t know what the're now.

Q, Ya, it`s it`s funny you should say that, because that`s a subject that we spoke I think sometime about Christmas before to somebody else , and the same, more or less the same thing was said.

R, That`s now my opinion of it. I said that when I went to it I found it awful strange for a little while, but I got into it, and I never miss a Sunday from chapel while I`d be free to go, but there would be times I woundn`t.

Q, Ya, because I mean, lets face reality, whether we like it or not it`s not a secret but I mean it`s certainly more difficult to get youngsters to go to Mass, I`m not talking about to the Protestant Church, but to go Mass now than before.

R, Well, they are not taught it, so there is a lad, no that`s not him, the lad that was there in the corner, he`s a son of mine, I have five or ! they will not miss Mass, they would miss their breakfast first, and they are not holy good things for running after the chapel, they go to the Church and they do all the necessaries and pay their way and all to this, but they are Catholics everyone of them.

Q, Right, we`ll drop the subject, I suppose it is something there we could continue talking about, but we will move on to something else, what will we talk about now?, you obviously didn`t really work outside the land, in other words you didn`t did you work in any other business ever?

R, Never, I worked on the land from the day I was born, to this day.


The following video is Part 4 of Annie's interview:

SUGGESTION: Watch the video once without referring to the text. Then, watch the video a second time while following along with the text. This may make it easier to appreciate the richness of Annie's story.


Q, Right, we`ll drop the subject, I suppose it is something there we could continue talking about, but we will move on to something else, what will we talk about now? You obviously didn`t really work outside the land, in other words you didn`t did you work in any other business ever?

R, Never I worked on the land from the day I was born, to this day.

Q, Did everything?

R, Everything that was done, I worked, when I was only a little thing (very young),we`d have to run home from school to gather the spuds after the spade, little spuds, and lap the hay, cut the oats. That went on when I was down at home, well when I came up here then, it was a big big place and there was horses and everything, well I'd take me horses and I could go out and plough, I could take me horses and cut hay and cut oats or anything else. I could do anything with a horse that ever was done.

Q, Including shoe them?

R, Including shoeing them, and I shod a horse I have it to say I shod a horse, and many an other shoe I drive (put on a horse) that there wouldn`t be a blacksmith about the place, and someone would come. There came a lad one fair day, (market day in town), he (the blacksmith) was away in the fair, and he had two horses and he took on to shoe them, well I says don`t, shoe them says I you`ll quick them (put a nail in the fleshy part on hoof), ah he`d shoe them, he`d shoe them, so he got the hammer and he got the nails, and he took one horse's foot and drive a shoe on it and out comes the blood, so in he come to me with all his struggles, I says I told you not to do it he, couldn`t do it ,well what am I going to do now? Well I says I'll fix the horse for present (now) for today but you bring the horse to the blacksmith tomorrow, so I went in and got a lock of salt (a pinch of salt). I roasted it on the pan (frying pan), heat it and a rag! Cotton wool I pegged it (plugged the holes) up in the holes that he was after making in the wrong place and sent him home with the horse, so he came back the next day and got the horse fixed up. I done that.

Q , what was the other thing you did ,was it with the donkey or the ass, to put it into our prospects, I suppose, in those days?

R, That that was me father, that was the ass, it was at home down in Rockcurry that the ass was now, and it was. Dick and me, we were only two! there was only a year between us, (in age) and the stones I'd all have to be gathered off hay fields and of oats fields, so didn’t he (her dad) buy an ass for us to gather these stones, and this bloody ass he was the nuisance (troublesome) because there is a mark on my leg there that he gave me a kick, in them years I was going out and I thought, and I'd ride them all you know, I thought I'd get on this ass from behind but he drew the leg and hit me in the leg with a kick, so I never forgot that ass That was down at Rockcurry when I we were kids, in the ! in the war years.

Q, Well there was yet another story in this locality with an ass that was broke down on the road with a load of ? Was it?

R, That was the horse that was that was going to the mill with the male (meal), and the frost, and the horse slipped and fell on the frost and they had to take the horse out of the cart  pull the cart of oats in along the road, and the two men that helped him sent him over to the forge (blacksmiths shop)the forge,! and the blacksmith was in bed and wouldn`t get up ,so I shod that horse.

Q, And supplied the nails and all did you?

R, Oah the nails was in the forge, all I had to do was pick them up, but I would have to make sharp nails, he wouldn`t always have frost nails (special nails that were pointed to prevent the horse slipping) and I would have to make frost nails with some of the ordinary nails, with me hammer on the anvil, I done it and I but on the shoes and I clinched them(turned the nail end over). The young lad, ah he was only he was a student priest , ah he knew nothing about anything, only hold the horse be the head, but he held the horse be the head, and I ! there was no women wearing trousers at that time and it was skirts I had and I got it hard to keep the horse's leg between the skirts, so he held the horse's leg between his legs and I done the work on the foot. I'm not afraid to tell that I done it.

Q, why should you why should you? You talked a little bit earlier about the war years, were hard tough times?

R Ah the war years were hard tough times. I was in Rockcurry, sh shopping with my parents the day the first war broke out, nineteen fourteen, and the sugar ran up to a hapney (halfpenny) a pound and there was holy war (lots of trouble) in the village of Rock about the sugar, all the sugar came in from England that time there was no sugar reared in this country that time at all. Oh the war years were hard! they were hard years, I mean the last war was worse than the first war, because we were rationed too. You`d get only three pound, a three pound a flour or the weight of it in bread to do you for a week, and a kid would get the same, so we had a flock of children out there and there was a poor old woman over there and she had, a half cracked son (mentally retarded) and shur what she`d get for the two of them he`d ate in one day, so I used to keep sugar for her and I kept butter, the butter was rationed too, I kept butter! We had butter, we had cows and we`d churn (make butter) and would keep get the butter out of the creamery for the Priest down there. The Priest and his! the Priest and his Aunt and his Uncle living with him so that was three, and they would only get a little bit of butter, shur she`d come to me and I`d get the butter for on my voucher, on our vouchers. That happened in the war years now, and the sugar was the same and the tea was the same. Anyone that would have children I`d give the children milk and give the tea to someone that was fond of tea and had no tea.

Q, What were yous reared on as youngsters?

R , Porridge in the morning, porridge at night, spuds! Potatoes, spuds, cabbage when it was going, and in the Summer time in the month when the spuds was gone out (all used up) porridge again, but you`d get three kinds of porridge, you`d get oaten porridge, you`d get yellow golden drop and you`d get white golden drop which was very very refined Indian male (meal), I suppose you never seen it, well I seen it, it was lovely snow drop, the white stuff was called, golden drop, then there was the ordinary Indian male, well my father always bought the golden drop for us, sometimes a hundred, they were ten stone bags or something, and they`d come in a a! says you`d have to buy the bag, and he`d buy the bag of male. Well that done us, well that will be now while the spuds wasn`t coming in (in season) but he`d always plant a ridge of spuds at the back of the ditch that they`d come in at the first of July.

Q, Did you milk cows by hand?

R, I did when I was six year old, I was just six year old and I had a sister that was three year older than me, and my father and mother put her to milk, she was nine, so May (her sister) was put to milk and May began to milk and she came on and she gregs (teases) me I can milk and you can`t, but she was three years older than me, so I tackled in and there was a wicked cow in the house and wee short tits on her and I got at the cow and I milked the cow and I sat down and I sh sh! Told her I can milk as well as you and I was three years younger than her, so I was six year old milking a cow.

The following video is Part 5 of Annie's interview:

SUGGESTION: Watch the video once without referring to the text. Then, watch the video a second time while following along with the text. This may make it easier to appreciate the richness of Annie's story.


Q, You talked earlier about the flax and the years of the flax, did you tie oats?

R, I did, and cut it and stacked it and reeked it (built it in the haggard), and pitched it to the thrasher, when we had a thrasher, there were little thrashers going about, not like the big big things now, they were small little engine. The man lived up the road and he`d go round thrashing, and I ! two kinds of chaff would come out, one kind was kept for bed ticks (mattress) for children and the other was thrown in a rot heap (for farm yard manure). But the good clean chaff was kept and claned (cleaned). My father used to put it through the winning machine (a machine that separated the oats from the chaff) and clane it again and sowed it into ticks to be put under children. And I slept on a chaff tick and it didn`t keep me from growing.

Q, Not a bit in the world, not a bit in the world. It might be no harm at this stage just to remind those that are listening to Annie Barber, and you are in the townland here again of?

R, Of Killagriffe

Q , That’s just outside Tierworker

R, Yes

Q, And you are in the County Meath

R, Yes

Q, Very close to Cavan

R, my leg across the border, ha ha.

Q, And this lady was born in Rockcurry in the early years, in the early part of nineteen hundred, about nineteen hundred and five or six?.

R, Nineteen hundred and six I was born. I was born the seventh of February nineteen hundred and six.

Q, You also can recall when the Titanic went down, talk to us about that, what were you at?

R, Cutting seed (potatoes) in the hall, and there was two lads from Tierworker from Tierworker Chapel, no from Currawalkin Chapel, that would be the Catholic Church and the worry was was these two girls on that ship, and they were all cutting seed potatoes in our house, and the holy war was the Titanic was after going down and all hands on it. The worry was these two girls and there was a man, so they found out the two girls were safe but they never found the man was, but he was it came later that he came out somewhere, but they found out early that the two girls wasn`t drown.

Q, Can you elaborate a little bit on that story about the cutting of the seed, and the one that was cutting the bottom part of it what was that?

R, She was me..., she was an aunt of my father's, and she was a Scotch nurse and her husband was in the the rif , ah he was a soldier anyway, in the royal fusiliers I think, that’s it I think before the war at all, and he died and she came to our house to live, ah she scourged (tormented) us. She wouldn`t let us do this, she wouldn`t let us do that, she wouldn`t let us do any ah! It was a terror, we hated her. But they were cutting seed in the hall in the house this day, for the potatoes, and you know every potato was a potato (they were always scarce), they had to be saved, and she was commin on and to make a good out of herself she cut the butt of the seed where the stalk would come out, and my father come at her (questioned her), he says, Auntie you shouldn`t do that, why shouldn`t I do that ? Won`t they feed fowl, she was saving them to boil then to feed hens, he says you are des! The row riz (squabble grew louder). She threw the knife and went about her business, and she was cutting just part of the seed, the eyes are there and this is the other end of it, she was cutting this off and leaving it she was saving the eyes thinking the eyes would come up on there own (grow),so that row rise that row was there, I mind that row over the cutting of the seed

Q, Did you believe in cures, or give into that kind of thing?

R, Well I can`t believe in cures, I got one thing cured in my life, and I went through,! I have arthritis since I was forty years of age, and I went to many many many people, including that Danny Gallagher (a well known faith healer) for to get cured and it never had the least effect on me, but that woman that cured that ringworm on me and another place I had shingles on me back, and Maxie the one son was away working down at Clones, and he was talking to the ! a brother-in-law a, of me sister's husband, and he knew a man away down, do you know where it was? Ah he`s not here, it was away down in, ah I don' know where, but the two (her sons ) set out one night on bicycles and they went down to this man, and they got the cure of the shingles, and the next day the lad headed home to, the sister, one of the sisters, put it on me back as soon as it came and I found it healing it up, it was better in a couple of days, and he (the cure maker) cut the top of his thumb, I heard them saying, it was a small little piece that I got but it had blood through it and he cut the top of his thumb and let his thumb drip (blood) into the cure, but that cure, two cures I got the cure of the ringworm and the cure of the shingles, but I had other things that ah, you might as well be rubbing ! Ringworm was, ah, I was plagued with ringworm, but I got myself I could make up myself a bit of lamp oil (paraffin) and black sut and rub it on the ringworm and kill it on the spot, it was only skin, ah, the last day I was at school I had ringworm from there into there ( eye to eye), and the school mistress told me don`t come back to school till you get that ringworm killed, because the other children might take it of it. It was from there into there.

Q, That’s from one eye to the other.

R, From one eye and down to here, a big big ? And you know that time there'd be no doctoring or anything. I was sent to school and that id (would) be !, my father had told me that morning to go to a cow quack that was along the way and get a piece of a rub for the ringworm and so I did.

Q, and what in the name of God is a cow quack, what is that?.

R, Ah come on now, what's a cow quack ? a cow quack is a man that'll take on to cure things that’s not a vit (veterinary surgeon) or anything, a quacker like me self, sure I done it a hundred times and cured them at, but he was a cow quack, ah for cows that id (would) have sore feet and sore eyes, and sore toes and this and that, he'd be, he'd be working on them, so he had the cure of the ringworm, and I got some off him, and my father brought me out and the next morning and he got me head in under his oxter (armpit) and a knife and he scraped my nose, you,d think it was a pig, he scraped me nose down down down, and rubbed it (the ointment) into it but the ringworm was gone. So that was some abuse, he got me head under his oxter, and he scraped me nose with the handle of a knife, with an auld knife, and scraped me nose and put this plaster on it, it went and never left an arr (mark) on me, and all ??? it never left a scar on me.

The following video is Part 6 of Annie's interview:

SUGGESTION: Watch the video once without referring to the text. Then, watch the video a second time while following along with the text. This may make it easier to appreciate the richness of Annie's story.


Q, You are a remarkable lady because we talked there in the little break, not only did you have two but in fact that you had three religions?.

R, I had three religions.

Q , So far that is?

R, well, I’ll have no more. I’ll harley, (hardly, not likely) unless I go Methodist. No I was a Presbyterian born and reared, and when I came to this country I was too young to go to that Presbyterian Church. It was five or six mile away and there was no one to go with me, so I was sent over to the Protestant Church at Moyle over there, beyond across the fields, and I often milked the cows in the morning and left the milk, milk, and gwin (go inside) and get ready for Church. I’d be on top of the hill when I’d hear the Church bell ringing and I'd be in time for Church after. I could run like a hare not that I’m ? Now I can't run at all.

Q, Looking back on it after all these years, and you are gone ninety one where would say, what was the happiest part of your life to now?

R, Well the happiest part of my life was just when I had my freedom, and do what I wanted to do , and I didn't say to go where I wanted to go, for I never was inclined to ramble or go, I was, when the old man died up here, he was ! He’d be a cousin of my mothers, and I spent nine years with him, and when he died he was giving me his place (farm), that big farm, it’s a broken down house up there now, and at there is a hundred and ten acres to it, and he was giving me his place, and he brought me up and making his will, and he says: Nanny, he says, if I give you the place, he says, will you stay in it. Well look, says I, Uncle Pete I why wouldn't I stay in it, I'd be too glad to get it, but what about me mother? she was there back and forrid (forth), up and down in the two places, and she ! Yes, he says, if I have money, he says, in the bank and give it to her, she was a woman that wouldn't hold money she was a spend-trift (reckless with money) of a woman, that would go out and spend whatever she'd had, but, he says, she wouldn't hold the money. Well, says I, I'm young , says I, and I can go out and earn my living, says I, I can go somewhere and earn my living. I was intending to go to America where I had friends, cousins like, and I thought maybe I'd get away out to America and, and, so he left the place to me mother and he left me a couple a hundred pound, so I had a few hundred pound for years and years and years before I ever got it, donkeys years. I was married and had, I don't know, how many childer (children) I had before I got it.

Q, Did it grow?

R, It didn't grow, whatever it grew, it lost because they didn't want to give it to me, I suppose on account of the village(religion). When I was going through the, when I was, I could a be married to the best a (of) Protestant men about, round the district, I don't deny it. I could have been married to two or three, and the money was held up. They wouldn't hand it out. Well, they hadn't it to hand. The place went into law(went to court), and it took a lot out of it, no matter they should have handed it out, and they never gave me a penny of interest on it for years, ah but I don't ! how many years I was married I got, I know the lassie (girl) that’s here is the youngest child all but one (second youngest) and she was here when I got the money, and I had to go to law to get it. I bought a piece of land, we had no land, we were all taking grass (renting) and all this and we had no land so there was a wee place over here to be sold and I said we'd buy it and my father bid again it (at an public auction they bid against each other), but we got it and has it and I said that’s where my money was going to go, so I had to get the money to pay for the land then.

Q, O k, There is two things, and I'd say horrible about one, the first one obviously is we are back here talking about religion, we seem to have drifted away, we are back into the religious end of things if you like. It, its not a religious affairs program but could I ask you, just on a personal note, do you think, do you believe, do you feel that perhaps there are far too many religions or are there not enough?

R, There’s too many orders, too many, too many religious sects like, too many religious, what would call, there’s Protestants there’s Catholics there’s Dissenters? There’s everyone, and shur everyone thinks the're right. Is there only one God over us all, that’s what I claim, I always maintained there was one God over all, or supposed to be, he has a busy time of it so he has.

Q , He’s busy.

R, He’s has a busy time of it

Q, it’s a good job he hasn't got land anyway, ha ha ha, or maybe he has.

R, Well the farms he has is very small only six foot by three(refers to grave size).

Q, Exactly ya exactly ya, that’s all the land, exactly.

Q, The other thing I am trying to establish is that from Rockcurry to here in this part of County Meath, what brought about that move many moons ago?

R, Well, me mother had two, they were cousins, and, they were the first Roundtrees that came to the country, and they bought a piece of land up here. They came from Armagh, and they bought a piece of land up there and it was only twelve acres, so of course they were awful ambitious, and there was two sons and two daughters in it. One girl went away to America and married and went wild !. and the other stayed at home but never married, but she turned on beer in later years (started drinking), but the two lads lived together with their father, and they expanded and expanded and expanded, and there is buildings up there that you could not know how they were built, that ! And them was all drew(carted) from Dundalk with a pair of horses and carts, and they’d go over with their carts to Dundalk (a distance of about thirty miles) and draw home the sand and stuff, it's not like now, there was nothing like what’s about here now that time, and they’d bring ! They built it all then, and the way they earned their money then, they made that road out there and another road over there, they (the now roads) were only bypasses and they took them roads and they made the roads, and there is a granary loft (grain store) and on the loft often eight men slept on that loft at night, that was now in my time. Old Peter Roundtree died not a long time before the first son, and the first son took appendix, I think, and he died in a Dublin hospital anyway with this, but that day week his sister fell down the stairs and broke her neck. So that left only one of the lot, so the one of the lot ! me mother id (would) be back and forred (forth), she was still at home, she was still at home, she had a flock of childer (big family) and she came down, he wrote up to me mother would she come down and stay with him, shur he was out of his mind, two deaths after going out of the house. He never was the boss he was the under-achiever, but he wrote up, he sent up word to see if me mother would come up and stay with him for a fortnight (two weeks) till he'd get a house keeper, so there was a baby in our house, only a fortnight or three weeks old, and me mother took on to go up and stay with him till he'd get somebody, and she brought me with her to mind this baby, and that’s how I came to Killagriffe, to mind a child that was a fortnight old. So of course it went on that I'd be sent to school, but I never was sent to school, I never stood a day at school after. I got into this and that, and the Uncle got to trust me, that he could trust me with anything like outside cattle, sheep, this that ! He was a great man with doing these things. There was two men came home one morning and they said there was a sheep away up on the hills there that couldn't yean (give birth) so he called me in. He was in bed he was, he was old, well he wasn't as old as me (as she is now) anyway, but he called up and he says, Nanny, he says to me, you do what I tell you and don't come back to me and say you can't do it. He was better than a father, far better than many a father. Don’t come back to me, he says, and tell me you can't do it for I know you can. So he sent me with the two men away up to the top of the hill there to this sheep which was yeaning and I took two lambs from her, two living lambs. What the men was doing weren’t they pulling a leg of each lamb, goaty (foolish) enough. The two lambs were coming like together and the men were bringing a leg of every lamb and shur that was impossible, but I got to know that. I found out where the separation was. I had a small hand, he had me taught, I knew what to do and I got the lamb and I got two living lambs, I knew you'd do it he (her uncle)says, if you wanted. He was better than a father to me.

Q, You see not only were you a farmer but you were also a blacksmith, if that is the right term to use for a lady, and a bit of a midwife in between?

R, Ah I was everything that, I was everything that ever was known.

Q, Did we talk about the civil war? No we did, did we?

R, A I mind (remember) the civil war well, ah a racket of a thing, ah the civil war was ! Ah the civil was a disgrace.

The following video is Part 7 of Annie's interview:

SUGGESTION: Watch the video once without referring to the text. Then, watch the video a second time while following along with the text. This may make it easier to appreciate the richness of Annie's story.


Q, You see, not only were you a farmer but you were also a blacksmith, if that is the right term to use for a lady, and a bit of a midwife in between?

R, Ah I was everything that, I was everything that ever was known.

Q, Did we talk about the civil war? No we did, did we?

R, Ah I mind (remember) the civil war well, ah a racket of a thing, ah the civil war was ! Ah the civil was a disgrace. It destroyed ! I voted in the, in the first election that brought this country out of English rule, and I often said me head ought to be cut off, when I see what goes on now, because that did not go on in England! (she is referring to the early Civil War in the1920s) The Catholics of course, there might be spats (parts) through the country that they were looked down on with the high up English people, but I know places, I knew a gentleman ! Ah there was a gentleman’s house at Rockcurry, and no matter who owned the girsha (young girl)when she come of age she was brought in and trained to whatever she wanted to be, a cook. There was a whole staff a (of) people in it and they came on then one Easter Monday and burnt that place down, and they burnt the bible and the bible was got (found) on the top of a field of ours that was Ballas beyond (a remote part of their farm), the pages of the bible burnt, so that wasn't right.

Q, Did you believe in ghosts, that’s a different one?

R I never seen a ghost, I did, I seen one. I’ll not say it was a ghost but I'll not say it was anything, but it was something. We was coming from Church in Bailieboro one night and a boyfriend with me and me brother, and we came to a certain place down there on the road, and says the boyfriend to me, he says, you have Dick with you now, this was on a Sunday night maybe about eight or nine o’clock, you have Dick that was me brother, you have Dick with you, you will be all right going home and I'll go back, so the three was standing. We had three bicycle lamps on our three bicycles, when here we seen this thing coming up the road and it came as close to me as that, and she was a big tall round woman and her two feet coming out bare (shoeless) from under the gown, and her white hand holding the mantle (shawl) round her head and she was just as near to me as you, and I passed no remark. We all spoke, but she never spoke, so we stayed on a few minutes and come to the decision that we’d come on, we'd pass her coming down the road, but we never passed her, that was all thing ever I seen that I never knew what it was.

Q, What do you, for somebody like you that born in nineteen hundred and six, or thereabouts, what do you think about the world today and how it has changed?

R, Badly, I don’t know what it was in my time, but I know there’s a lot more for people in the world now, but they are using it very wrongly, a lot of them.

Q, Are they spoiled?

R, Spoiled, the youngsters are spoiled tee-totally. That’s one thing I have to say. The families of children are spoiled today, there is only one or two in every family. In our family, well there were ten reared. Well, me father id go to town of a Saturday, or me mother. They’d come home with a big paper of sweets in the pocket, and a big paper of cakes (biscuits) in another, and that was give to whoever was left at home to divide (share) among us. We got one apiece (each) all around but there wasn't many left but the rest was put on the shelf that’s for whoever does the most work, and that’s the way we were petted and reared. We got santy (father Christmas). Santy id (would) come to us , not that ! I mind (remember) getting a watch from santy and what was wrote on it was when you look at the time you can ate me. I got that in my stokin (stocking). I remember that. I never forgot it, it was a pink watch, and this! It was a big sweet, so when you look at the time you could ate me.

Q, Do you remember the half doors?

R, I do, there was a half door out there, (that was in the old house before the new house was built). The half door we had out there was a wire one. There was four frames in it but the middle of it was a sheet of wire (netting wire), because the children was so near to the horses, (the forge that was next door often had several horses waiting in the street/yard to be shod), and you couldn’t let them (the kids)out but still they wanted out, so we left the door. Dickie made the door so that the kids could go down stand and peep out at the horses through the wire, so it was a wire half door that was out there, that we reared our family with. I remember the other half doors well, and skillett pots (little cast iron pots with three short legs) and pans and griddles (a sort of gadget for making bread on an open fire), what would you call the big flat thing that they’d make the bread on?, I forget a big, big round thing, like !!!??, Oh I remember. I mind the ould skillett that me father used to make the wax (a black tar like substance that was put on hemp to sew leather) in for mending boots. Many a time I stirred it. You’d put in a lump of wax and a lock (a bit) of something else, and boil all this to make wax to make ends for to sew boots.

Q, Ya wax ends.

R, Oh I remember them kettles, and the teapots with the spouts on the sides of them, I forget what they call them now.

Q, Not to worry anyway, not to worry. That’s the bell on the clock now, that means it is almost time to wrap this conversation up, but before I do, back a few minutes ago I heard the little squeal or a bark from a dog, you have a little dog here that thinks the world of you ?

R, What?

Q, The little dog that thinks an awful lot of you?

R, That thinks of me?

Q, immm.

R, I have every dog that thinks a lot of me and no matter where I go, a dog'll folly (follow) me and I'll have a dog. I had an Alsation. I had to have her put down a few months ago, and she, every morning, as soon as the room door was opened, she'd come down and lay at the side of the bed, and one morning I was up and out at the, the back there, and me glasses were up on a shelf, and me teeth along with them, so when I come into the room she was sitting in under the bed and her head out and me glasses across the face and me teeth in ?? , but she was faithful brute, a faithfuller brute never died.

Q, There you are.

R, I was in the hospital, and some of the lads came home this night and said I was coming home that night next day, and took me coat and hung it that it would be aired, but when they came in the next morning me shoes was along the fire, she knew I was coming.,Oh anything I left me han (hand) on petted on me, I was one of them fanciers. There was ponies and horses out there. We had a pony of our own out there, there was a shop down there and the male (meal) would have to come in paper bags out of it, and shur it was a nuissance. And we had pigs and things, and I took a notion one day that I'd have to get a pony and gwin (go into) to town and get what would do, so I got two pet pigs (these are usually spare pigs from a litter that the mother could not rear and had to be fed by hand). This is what we made our fortune on. I got two pet pigs, reared the pigs up and sold them and I gave Dickie the price of the pony, and I had the price of a cart, (everything had to be paid for up front in them times), the harness, the straddle, the collar and the winkers(all part of horse harness), and britchen (more harness) was all that ? Out of the price of the pigs, the two pigs, so I was landed (happy). I had me own pony and that pony petted on me and she would kill the man, the husband, she'd ate him. I seen her. We were in the town with pony and trap (carriage)one day and I seen him going down to get her into the trap to come home, and he couldn't go up to her head and he went tother side of the manger and he got her down and he brought her out. He lifted the trap and she (the pony) lifted her two heels and she turned the trap upside down on its mouth in the yard. So I was out on the town and neighbour man came out running round the town to see. Come in, there is an awful ruction (commotion) up in Farrelly's yard. The pony is after turning the trap upside down and Dickie can’t go near her, so I went up and got the pony with the trap turned upside down, so I got the pony into the trap and set sail for home, set sail for home and not one bit of bother. He sent a man down there to the bog for a load of turf (peat) one day, the Priest was at this?. The nite of the wedding !!anniversary and coming up the road at that other house there used to be a place for shoeing horses,! for shoeing cart wheels. She took a notion with the load of turf on her (a cart load of turf) and she would not pass this place with this man. It wasn’t Dickie, it was his brother, and up the road she wouldn’t come. She stopped and she backed the cart in, and there was a river and all that they were of was of the cart and all going down in the river, so of there came a man running to me to go down that there was horrid trouble with the pony on the road, and I was washing a child, so I got the child washed and I rolled it up (in a towel) and I went down and there they were trying to keep her out of the river and the load of turf, and tried to not have her ate’n them, so I went over and told them to stand back and I went over and rubbed her on the nose and said come on Lizzy (the ponies name) and Lizzy walked out and up the road with me.

The following video is Part 8 of Annie's interview:

SUGGESTION: Watch the video once without referring to the text. Then, watch the video a second time while following along with the text. This may make it easier to appreciate the richness of Annie's story.


Q, That story prompts me to ask another question, and indeed to elaborate a bit more on a similar, something similar happened when you were in America. What was that one about?

R, I was going along, the Sunday after we were going to America, I am actually fond of animals, I have a ?? for them, but these mounted policemen, ah the're huge. Were you ever in America no? well these huge big mounted police and they were all black and them all armour, dangerous looking things, and these big horses were ever so high up, so says I to the son, says I must put me hand on one of these horses. Don’t dare it, he says, you’ll be lifted (arrested). Well I don’t know what they would lift me for, says I, for putting me hand on a horse, but anyhow I let him, and the man he was with, go on, and me and the sister stood beside and we come to the next horse. Will I put me hand on this one, I says to the sister? Don’t Nanny, don’t attempt to do it. She ran and hid in a doorway and wouldn’t be seen and I went over to the horse and I rubbed the horse from the ear down his neck. Says I, you’re a grand big horse, says I, standing there doing your duty and you have to do it well, and says I, you are a grand horse, and he turned round. They had told me that I’d be lifted, and the horse turned round and nosed me all up the shoulder and the man above on the top of the horse was looking on and I was watching him to say get oure that (out of that), and the horse nosed me up the whole shoulder and all up round me whole ear, the horse with his nose, and he, the man was above on the horse, I said you must go now and do your duty and do it well, so he told me the horse's name, the man above, there’s the insult, I got his name is such and such, I disremember what the name was, and I told him to be a good horse and go on and do ??. That happened in America on Broadway.

Q, Broadway, there you are, he too loved you, they all loved you, the dogs loved you, everyone loved you . How many of a family had Dickie and yourself?

R, We had fourteen, but we haven’t. Fourteen children was born to the family, but the're not all alive now. How many is alive? Seven, I think six. They are all boys. I’d had two girls, four girls on the family and two of them were twinies. They died at birth. Well, I’ll just tell you what happened them. They died with pure hardship, because we had to work too hard that time. They weren’t like now going !, every child was born in the corner of the room, one of them nearly born adout(outside) in the field, that fellow one of them was nearly born away up the road at the other house, for I’d get up and I’d go out and I had the horse the ponies,!! I’d face to the house, so when I come back to the house they were coming out looking for me.

Q, Are you saying that you had fourteen of a family?

R, I had fourteen but they are not (all) alive now?

Q, How many grandchildren have you?

R, Ah I couldn’t tell, I haven’t many, there’s one man has nine, has nine and another man has eight, and then there’s three, she is a grandchild, that’s a granddaughter, and there was only two of them, and how many more is there Patricia has? I have six great grandchildren, six and two is eight, by golly I’m increasing.

Q, To say before I wrap up with you, people are inclined to talk in recent years, that people nowadays might not live as long as the ones from before, if you follow me, the last generation so to speak?

R, They are not either.

Q, They are not.

R, They are not, you see all the young people that are dying, and the like of me left, a weed in the country.

Q, What do you mean the like of you, what’s the recipe then, what do think what do you attribute long life to?.

R, Well, I didn’t attribute long life, there used to be a whole lot of us children in the house, and round in your thumb there used to be a big long mark (life line) that I’d go around ! That thumb is out of joint, I don’t know whether its on this one or not, it used to start there and come round to here in every one's hand. Well, they’d tell you that the one that had the shortest was the shortest living one, and funny to say, and strange to say, I was the one that had the shortest, and funny to say and strange to say, I have lived longer than any of them.

Q, You are going to have them all checking their thumbs and their fingers now.

R, Well, they can check away at their thumbs, that happened to me, and my life only come to there, and theirs id (would) go round to there, and they’d say you’d be gone before me so I said shur !

Q, On average, going by that, you should be long gone if you don’t mind me saying so.

R, Ah shur I’ll be here as long as I am alive.

Q, Well there’s not a sign of that, not at all. Well, listen, I got to leave it there. It had being a pleasure talking to you, Annie Barber, just outside of Tierworker. God Bless you, thanks a million for the chat.

R, Well, I hope the good and the bad’ll not come out together HA HA HA . Well, it’s all truth, it’s all that. I could tell you ten times more, if, if it went to that, if things that did really happen. I remember of when I was at home, I was up here, and I was at home on holidays, and me father went somewhere, and me father let out the cows and you know at that time everyone had flax dams to drowned these flax and they were big, big, big things, but he had a big pole across not to let the cows in only a certain length to get a drink, so he was gone somewhere and I was, the eldest, I was left at home that day. Anyway I was only home, down from up here, and here some of them (her siblings) came up and said there’s a cow in the flax hole, and axed (asked) what side of the flax hole was she in. It was on the side to be drowned, well here was I, shur (sure) I was only a stranger, for I was up here at the time, but I wasn’t , I wasn’t near twenty years of age, and I went down and here was the cow and there was nothing up (over the water) only two horns and a nose, so there was not a man about, the rest were all younger than me and they were only kids, so I sent some of them to a neighbour's house to get a man to take the cow. Me father wouldn’t be home. The cow was still going down and what did I do?, I jumped straddle legs across the pole and I went over and I grabbed the cow be the two horns and I got me finers (fingers) in her nose and one horn and I held her head out a the water till help come and got her out, I done that in my day (lifetime), when I was only a teenager.

Q, It’s no wonder the Lord doesn’t want to call on you for another twenty or thirty years.

R, Ah shur he’d be too busy above, HA HA HA .He has enough to talk to.

Q, You have too much to do where you are.

R, Too much, no, but too big a job to keep me out a harm. Well, I remember that, and I remember going over there, the kids ! and there was a hen house over there and they were cleaning out this hen house, and shure they were all getting something for cleaning out this hen house, so they brought me over to inspect this hen house, and coming home, me brother was ploughing out there in a field, these calves of ours were in another field, and they went across this pad (track) in another field and there was a big shough (swamp)of water, so one calf jumped up on top of another calf and put him down in the water, and I was coming from inspecting the shed and they weren’t done, they had to finish it, so what could I do or what could I not do, but I had double strength, so all I could do was go down and get the calf by the nose (If you catch an animal by the nostril you have more power over it) and a little butty horn (a very short horn) and I give him one whip (pull) and I give him the second whip and I whipped him out on the bank, and didn’t drowned.

Q, And didn’t drowned, well I think I can detect, and certainly from looking back, that the ninety one years that you have being around, and you’ll be around for quite a while yet, I,I mentioned that you are happy the way things worked out, and you wouldn’t change.

R, I had a happy life. I had it hard. I had it honest. I don’t deny it. I stole nothing on nobody, and I enjoyed me life, and if I was a young woman going to be married, and going to have a life again, I’d have the same life I’m after living, and that’s all’s about it. I’d go back to me farm, me cow and me calf, the goat and the pig, and everything else, for everyone of them loves me, no matter what it was, it id folly (follow) me heels. If you seen me when I’d be rearing pet a! I used to read a ! we weren’t very rich, for when we married, and we had to begin and make up, and I used to rear a lot of pet pigs, people id have too many pigs on a sow that time, everyone had sows, and it wasn’t like now there was no piggeries or anything, everyone in the country had sows, and the sows id have too many pigs, and they’d have to give the pets away, they couldn’t, so they’d come with the pets, and I’d rear the pets, PETS-MADE- ME-UP. I’d rear the pet pigs. The pet pig id run after me and he’d nose me, ah now, they’d die and they’d live and they'lI’ live and they’d die, but I made my fortune, on pet pigs.

Q, O K, Annie, thanks a million, for talking to us. All right.

R, Thank you.

The Tierworker Ceidhle House (November 26, 2011)

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By Richard Barber

Submitted to Philip Donnelly's Blog - November 2011


The production of potatoes, the staple diet of the Irish for many centuries, was a very labour intensive procedure. In that time, before tractors and electricity came to rural Ireland, everything had to be done by hand except for a horse to do the ploughing. Potatoes were not only produced for human consumption but were also widely used to feed animals as well, so large quantities were required. Acres of land had to be prepared for the crop which started in March and ended with the harvesting in October and sometimes into November. First the field would be marked  out into what was called ridges. Each ridge was about three and a half to four feet wide with a furrow of about two feet wide. This was often done with a horse-drawn plough, but also, just as often, by manual labour using spades and shovels. Care was taken in marking the ridges as pride was taken of having a very straight ridge from top to bottom of the field. Now the hard work begins. Farmyard manure, called dung, had to be applied in large quantities to ensure a good crop. The dung, which was taken from the sheds during the Winter, was in a heap outside the sheds in what was called a dunghill.(pronounced something like 'dunkell' in the local Cavan-Meath lingo). Dung was loaded onto a horse cart with a tool that was called a grape. The grape was much like a common garden fork but with much thinner prongs that were quite sharp. This was a very heavy task as it was difficult to tease out the dung from the heap, being full of straw and bedding. Everyone knew when dung was being drawn for you could get the stench for miles, and I have even seen strong nosed farmers sometimes flinch at the aroma. The dung  was put in little heaps on the ridges four or five yards apart to prevent drying out until planting day. Every other ridge was done as it made it easier to plough the furrows. The seed potatoes were prepared often by the housewives sitting for hours in a barn cutting seed. The ideal seed potato was about the size of a hen egg. Bigger ones had to be cut to size ensuring that each segment had an eye or it would not grow. 


Potato planting was one of the major tasks of the Spring involving all of the family in some capacity. At this stage the dung would be evenly spread all across the ridge again using the grape. Then the children would be employed in dropping the seed potatoes. This job was usually done by the boys, equipped with a sack apron filled with as many  potatoes as they could carry. The seed potatoes had to be placed three across the ridge with the cut side facing down. The next row was placed about nine inches apart. This was a back breaking task, hence the use of children. The potatoes, taken by the cart-load from the barn in sacks, were placed in convenient places for the droppers to get new supplies. When the seed was down, the men came along again with grapes to the ploughed furrow, and put all the sods onto  the ridge taking care not to put a sod directly on top of a seed. When all the sods were taken out, they would come along with long-handled shovels to cover over all the ridge. Emphasis was always put on putting in a good brow in the ridge to prevent it from drying out. Potato planting usually took place in April and took weeks rather than days to complete. It would depend on how much potatoes were needed for the year.    As the Spring went on, the potato shoots would begin to appear over the ground. Another course of action had to take place. This was called shovelling, a process of earthing up or covering all the  young shoots. This is a much easier task. The furrows are ploughed again, and again, with the shovel, the earth is put onto the ridge, but this time, half of each ridge was done at the same time. 


Potato blight, a fungus to which potatoes and also tomatoes are susceptible, was a major cause of concern. One has only look back in history to know what happened in Ireland in 1846 & 1847 to find what havoc the famine caused, being solely dependant on the potatoes. Countless thousands died of hunger and probably millions had to emigrate.  A solution was found by spraying at least three times with a mixture of bluestone and washing soda. A ratio of five lbs of bluestone to seven lbs of soda were mixed in a 45 gallon barrel of water, applied by a two gallon back sprayer called a budget. The sprayer had a two nozzle lead on one side, and a handle for pumping on the other side. The light green coloured liquid got everywhere, and you were always sure of a good soaking before you got finished. The water had to be brought to the field by a horse and cart in barrels from a river or well. When the barrels on the cart were filled, they were covered with sacks to prevent spillage during transit. An empty barrel was needed in the field to be filled from the one on the cart. Melting down the soda crystals was a difficult task and had to be done in a bucket before being added to the barrel often helped with the aid of a fire.  After spraying, the crop did not need much more attention, except the occasional weeding. 


St Peter and St Paul`s day June 29th was the first time to sample the new crop. Very limited amounts were dug as the spuds would be small, and had to be left to develop in their own time. Harvesting the crop, or potato-digging as it was called, was another major task, usually started in October. Men with spades would start early in the morning, and as the days were getting short that would not be too early. The ridge had to be turned over bit by bit and the potatoes were left in a neat row on the middle of the ridge. Care was also taken not to let much earth into the furrow as it would hinder drainage during the winter months. Picking the potatoes was again the job for the children, (school was not too much of a priority in those days). Picking was done in two stages. All the good spuds were first picked and carried to a pit, made in a cleaned out furrow. There would be three or four pits in a row down the field. New pits would be made when the carrying distance got too far. All the small and black potatoes were later collected for immediate use in feeding the animals. As frost was often a problem, the potatoes mostly had to be covered at night. The pit was tidied into a nice  long A shaped row. A covering of rushes were spread all over the pit, then it was covered with  about a foot of earth. which would prevent the frost from penetrating during the Winter. Potato-digging took several  weeks to complete depending on man power and the weather.     Boiling potatoes for the animals,(mostly pigs, hens, and turkeys,) was always a problem, as they had to be boiled in big metal pots over an open peat fire. Often (especially if there had being a bad Summer) the turf which had to be dried out in the Summer would not be properly dry, so it would be difficult to get the fire burning  with enough heat to boil the potatoes.  An ingenious way of cooking the spuds was discovered to boil large quantities in one go. It involved going to the saw mill and getting lots of saw dust. You had to be at the saw mill at a certain time because you could not go near the saws when they were working. Dinner time was the preferred time but you could also get in just after knocking off time as well. The idea was to get a steel barrel, make a round hole about 3inches in diameter, pack the barrel, with the saw dust leaving a hole down the middle, (this was done by putting a shovel handle or another suitable round object into the barrel before filling with the saw dust). The barrel was placed on some concrete blocks to keep it off the ground. A large container  of potatoes was prepared  Usually a half barrel would be placed on top of the saw dust on two separate iron bars, the tops of the potatoes were well  covered with heavy sacking to prevent the steam escaping. The saw dust was lit from the bottom and the hole had a funnel effect and all the heat was placed directly on to the drum of potatoes. The potatoes were steamed rather than boiled, and it was a quicker procedure. The cooked potatoes were mixed with various sorts of corn meal, and that made a perfect diet for all the hungry mouths. Alas, as with the milk production, the potato crop has gone the same way, and potatoes for the dinner have also to be got from the supermarket. What ever did we do before their invention ????.

The Tierworker Ceidhle House (May 1, 2011)

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 By Richard Barber, submitted to Philip Donnelly’s Blog April 2011.

In the good old days, (that is before rural electrification came to Tierworker in the mid-1900s) as with everything else, butter was made mainly by hand. I t was a long and tedious task, from the cow milking to the butter being harvested. After milking, the milk was strained through a piece if linen cloth which was specially reserved for the job. (In later years proper strainers were produced. They were shaped like a big funnel but with a wide, fine wire mesh bottom). Milk was then collected in large earthenware vessels called crocks and left to go sour. The crocks contained about three gallons each, were left in what was called the parlour to go sour. Up to four or five crocks could be there at any one time, depending on the milk production.

Milking was always done by hand, no milking machines in them days. I always remember when my Mother was milking she would always be singing to the cow, and coming in with a bucket-full of warm frothy milk. Something she taught me when I started milking was to put a little cross on the near front teat when finished, something I always did till the end of my milking days.

 The churn for making butter was of a very specific shape. Like an odd-shaped barrel, it was made by the cooper, and was wide in the bottom and narrowing in to the shoulder then widening out again for about nine inches to the top. There was a lid with a hole in the middle where the dash, as it was called, went through. The dash was a long shaft with a round two inch thick piece of wood about a foot in diameter with holes so that the milk could get through.  The churn would hold about thirty gallons if filled. Great care had to be taken in the preparation of the churn, always thoroughly scrubbed with a brush, and then sterilised with lots of boiling water - the only sterilising fluid in them days. The crocks of sour milk was brought in from the parlour and poured into the churn. Only the top layer of cream was used. The whey was left to feed animals. The churn was never more than half full to leave space for churning.

Churning was usually arranged for dinner time when the workers would be in. Churning was performed by simply pounding with the dash up and down till the cream turned to butter. That could take anywhere between thirty minutes and an hour. Everyone was expected to take a turn with the dash, and it was considered very unlucky if a stranger came in and did not take a turn at the dash. I can remember standing on a three legged stool to do my turn as I was not tall enough to reach the dash .The butter formation depended on the milk being near a certain temperature so hot water was added. A spoon was used to skim milk from the dash shaft to keep an eye on the progress.    

With the churning finished, the butter was all skimmed from the top of the buttermilk and put on a large flat board, and with two butter paddles which had fine groves on them,  one long and one much shorter, the butter was patted for some time to remove all traces of milk. Salt was added mainly as a preservative and to add taste. Butter was then placed in the coldest part of the house, as there were no fridges in them times either. There was nothing nicer than a big tin mug of fresh buttermilk to drink, but it had to be just churned because after a few hours it would be very sour and thick again. The buttermilk was used to feed calves and pigs, and of course bread making which is another story. In olden times an ingenious way to preserve the butter was to put it in a wooden tub and bury it in a peat bog, proof of that was that turf cutters have come across the tubs hundreds of years later and the butter was still believed to be edible.     

 As time went by and more milk was being produced, it was sent to Bailieboro` Creamery. The milk was sent in galvanised drums, called creamery cans, supplied by the Creamery, but I expect that the farmers had to pay for them. They were of eight and ten gallon sizes. Numbers were painted on each can to identify which farm they came from.  Like the churns, the creamery cans had to be properly cleaned. Any trace of milk from the previous day would turn the milk sour, and the milk would be returned by the creamery as unusable. Milk was regularly tested for butter fat content, and that would determine how much was paid for the milk.

 When I was young, the milkman who took the milk daily, with a mule and cart, was called Old Curran. He lived on the corner of Moyhill cross (I think he was named Packie). As time went by and the supplying of milk became more popular (and Packie was getting on in years), the job of collecting the milk came into the hands of Teddy McCabe with a tractor and trailer. Teddy could take much more than the mule and cart. As Teddy kept to a more strict time schedule, the race would be on to have the cows milked in time. Often, we would be trying to cool the milk in a tub of water as it was necessary to have the milk cool before adding it to the previous night’s milk.

 With the increase in the supply of milk, Teddy graduated to a milk tanker drawn by the tractor. After I left Tierworker, and milk supplying became big business, with lots of cows to be milked, it was not possible to milk all the cows by hand any more (it took about eight to ten minutes to milk a cow depending which one you got as some were a lot easier to milk than others) . The boys had a milking machine installed. A milk tank was put in a shed and the milk piped direct from the cows to the tank. This system made it possible to supply more milk and more cows were added to the heard. At this time supplying milk became a very lucrative business and lots of farmers getting into the supply line, with the result that the creamery was being over supplied with milk and a limit was put on each farmer as to how much they could send to the creamery in the form of a quota. Some time later the milk was collected by a motorised tanker from the creamery, and I don’t know what happened to Teddy.  Gradually, as with other things, producing milk became unprofitable, with the result that the cows were not milked any more and the cows were left to feed their own calves.

 The farm has now totally diverted to producing mainly beef and no milking at all. When I go home and see the lads going to the supermarket to buy a plastic bottle of milk for the tea, I think back to the time when hundreds of gallons of milk were going out every day, O how the times have changed!  


The Tierworker Ceidhle House (December 26, 2010)

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A few weeks ago, when Richard Barber paid a visit to the Tierworker Ceidhle House, he reached back into his memory to interpret some entries in George Townley's diary of 1947. Richard is George's nephew, and remembers him very well.



Richard Barber

George Townley, Feb 25, 1981 (submitted by Richard Barber)

 We thank Richard for this, and anticipate receiving more feedback from others who read George Townley's very interesting diary.

Please refer to the entry for December 17, 2010 below.

Tierworker Ceidhle House (December 17, 2010) - Townley

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The George A. Townley Diary - 1947


It is with a sense of great respect and sincere appreciation that the Tierworker Ceidhle House receives this diary for the year 1947 which was kept by George Townley, who lived at Killagriffe House near Tierworker, County Meath.


Tierworker Ceidhle House (June 13, 2010)

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The contributors to DonnellyCanada and Heritage Tierworker continue to provide opinions, comments, and literature references that will interest those with connections to Tierworker. Here are a few:

Matt Carolan in a recent email says - "I liked the story that lady in New Zeland told you; that's exactly what went in the Ireland of the eighteen hundreds; I guess we are lucky we left later; I contacted Anna Ryan if she could get some local people and compile all the inscriptions in Moybolgue cemetery and put them on the web like she did with Moynalty and the old cemetery in Mullagh; ........  told her I will gladly help finance it ........... it would be nice to remember all the old folks we knew interred there ...... I don't believe that's finnegan's (Finegan's) pub as far as I remember (Refer to photos posted on Blog June 6, 2010) .. "

Peter Martin draws attention to a paper written by Professor Seamus MacGabhann entitled

Landmarks of the people: Meath and Cavan places prominent in Lughnasa mythology and folklore

The link is

It is written in the academic style and makes references to several events and locations in the townlands around Tierworker, including Bilberry Sunday and The Fair of Muff.

Tierworker Ceidhle House (June 6, 2010)

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Leslie McKeague of Urcher, Bailieborough, who recently published his magnificent book - Bailieborough, A Pictorial Past - provides photos 1 and 2 below. They are probably photos of the shop at Tierworker crossroads when it was owned by Finegan in the 1940s. However, someone has suggested that it may be a shop at Cormeen. Can anyone provide the definitive answer?

For comparison, photo 3 below shows The Royal Breffni in July 2009. The Royal Breffni is an enlarged version of the Finegan Shop.

Can the former owner of The Royal Breffni, Brendan Reilly, confirm if photos 1 and 2 do, in fact, show Finegan's at Tierworker?

Photo 1 - Is this the old shop owned by Finegan in the 1940s? What is date?
Photo 2 - Is this the old shop owned by Finegan in the 1940s? What is date?
Photo 3 - This is The Royal Breffni at Tierworker in 2009. Can someone confirm if Photos 1 and 2 are the base-building for The Royal Breffni?

The Tierworker Ceidhle House (June 4, 2010)

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Teresa O’Reilly in New Zealand writes to DonnellyCanada to say that her great grandfather Thomas Reilly, had a farm at Tierworker. Thomas’ son, Philip O’Reilly, her grandfather, was given a horse by his father to take to the local fair to sell.  He never returned with the money and the next time his parents and brothers and sisters heard from him he was already in New Zealand. Philip emigrated to New Zealand in 1879 and his parents and 9 brothers and sisters emigrated to New Zealand 5 years later in 1884. Thomas’ brother, Patrick Reilly, also had a farm near Tierworker. She has photos of his house taken when she was in Ireland in 1996. Teresa is writing family history books and also hopes to make a film for TV.

The Tierworker Ceidhle House (First Posting)

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In those years, a long long time before electricity and tractors came to the farms near the border between County Cavan and County Meath, and long before the days of radio and television, the neighbours gathered in the ceidhle house every evening


The Eyes That Shone - from Ireland to Canada in the 1950s

But a word of warning! The Eyes That Shone is not a saga filled with horrible tragedy and dysfunctional relationships, but rather a celebration of family lives in Ireland and Canada, in other words, a happy story featuring:

  • Memories of life on small farms in Ireland before 1950 and before tractors and electrification, when growing food depended largely on human sweat and muscle
  • Recollections about people and events in the Department of Public Works of Canada where the author worked during the period 1957 to 1991
  • Intimate perspectives on living and dying, politics and religion, home and family