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When I was young by Richard Barber

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Submitted in April 2009 & May 2010

In the days when I was a young lad knocking around Tierworker in the early 1940s there were lots of old traditions which happened in them days, some of which are only a memory now. Here are some of them.

TIERWORKER SPORTS DAY

In the early 1940s the annual Tierworker sports day was one of the big occasions of the year. Originally, it took place in the field behind the Chapel which was owned by Mr. Finnegan who owned the shop near by.

Later it was moved up the old road to a field owned by Johnny Carolan beside the lane, it was a long narrow field which was ideally suited for the occasion (known for many years later as the Sports Field).

The sports took place on a summer Sunday afternoon and were usually well attended. Admission was 6 pennies (old pennies). All helpers got in free. A ploy of ours was to find someone bringing in a table and hold on to a leg; that usually got you in free. There were lots of different sports involved – sack race, egg and spoon race, and the three legged race which was always a scream. It involved every two runners having two legs tied together. Often couples would fall in a heap when they could not keep instep with each other.

Another amusing race was the slow cycle race. It involved staying on a bicycle as long as you could and going as slow as possible. A line was drawn about fifty yards from the starting point and when you crossed that line you were out, The last one on the bike without having touched the ground was the winner. It was unusual for any of the locals to win any prizes as there came lots of competitors from the surrounding to compete.

Tug of war was another sport that was well supported. Stalls were placed around the field selling all sorts of goodies. The day always ended with a football match. Mr. Finnigan’s pub nearby was always busy after the sports day. In the evening everyone went home, happy with the day’s amusements and some looking forward to next year’s event.

BONFIRE  NIGHT

Bonfire night has now long died out but in the old days was another big occasion. Actually there were two Bonfire nights, one on June 23rd and the other was on June 28th, and tradition says that if the good weather broke between these two nights you were sure to have a wet Summer. June 28th was the official Bonfire night, (eve of St Peter and St Paul). In the preceding days preparations would be made like collecting fire wood and all sorts of burning material,and the farmers complaining about the bushes that fenced the cattle in disappearing. Our fire was usually on the road at the lane by the sports field. Our neighbours the Carolans (who were a bit older than us) did a lot of the work. Early evening the fire would be set on the very middle of the road and lit, no cars to worry about in them days just the odd horse and cart, and as the road was all gravelled no damage would be done to it either, (many years later it was tarred). It was a full time job keeping the fire going  especially if the material was a bit wet . A whin bush made a great blaze but it did not last long , and as we were near a bog it has being known that some of the farmers hard won turf found their way to the fire. It was considered lucky to toss a burning ember  into a potato field and that would enrich the harvest. Often when we were going to Mass the next day the fire would be still burning. Our cousins often had a fire on the top of Doon hill but ours was always the best.

BILBERRY SUNDAYS

The first three Sundays in July was always classed as Bilberry Sundays. It was the custom to go collecting Bilberries at that time on the Loughanleigh  Mountain. Off we would go with tin cans up the lane behind the Chapel up over Tierworker Mountain and on to the Loughanleigh, a good stretch of the legs as John Wayne would say. You would be lucky if you had a mug full of fruit at the end of the trip, but it was always a good day out as more sightseeing was done than fruit picking. It being very high ground you could see a long distance and on a clear day it was possible to see the sea at Dundalk. Back home again tired out after the day and still no berries for jam.

THE HOLY WELL.

The annual visit to the Holy well was a must for nearly everyone. That took place on the first Sunday in August.  The well was in the corner of a field near Diana’s Cross which is where  the road from Tierworker to Kilmainhamwood crosses the main road from Moynalty to Kingscourt, about a mile from Edengora school. I believe the field is now owned by a Mr Shankey. There was usually a service held there. I can remember one year we tried to drum up some business for ourselves,  we collected crab apples from a nearby tree and was selling them at six a  penny, needless to say we did not make many sales.

THE FAIR OF MUFF

The annual fair of Muff which takes place on August 12th, is another occasion worth a mention. Originally a horse fair, it dates back for hundreds of years, and is still going strong. Although no horses are to be sold there any more, it was a big horse fair at one time. A lot of tinkers came from all over the country as they were very involved in horse trading at that time. There was always a big gambling school in attendance near the base of the rock. A large circle was formed with the tosser (the one who tossed up the coins) in the centre. Two halfpennies were always used on a comb or a flat piece of board,the tosser always had heads. An amount of money was on the ground and gamblers laid their bets against it always at even money, the coins were tossed, the outcome of the toss decided  who won, harps (tails) and the punters won. If the coins fell one head and one harp they were tossed again, the chances were always even. When two harps turned up the halfpennies were handed to the next tosser to try his luck and the whole procedure continued again. Even in them times sometimes large amounts of money would be involved.

A great saying in them times was, if you merited a reward you would be told “I will buy you Gooseberries at the fair of Muff”.

HALLOWEEN

Halloween another memorable time in the past. Unlike now no trick or treat in them days, well maybe the odd trick. It was the custom to play tricks on any one you could. Things like putting a sack on the chimney and smoking every one out, tying a long string to a door knocker  and knocking  frequently from behind a hedge, of course when the door was answered nobody would be there. I have heard of a very slick prank being played on a farmer who having tied his horse and cart to a gate and went to the pub for a few drinks. In his absence a smart boyo came and took the horse out of the cart stuck the cart shafts through the gate and put the horse back in the cart with the gate between the horse and cart. What a laugh he had watching the poor half cut farmer trying to figure out how the horse  had managed to get  into that position.

Oh, how times have changed,  mostly all good fun then, never heard of a murder in all the years I was there, now it is almost every day occurrence.

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