BACK THE YEARS
PAT COSTELLOE, ASSISTED BY DENIS HICKEY, RECALLS GROWING UP IN
CHURCHTOWN VILLAGE DURING THE 1940S AND 50S.
growing up in the village during this period had one year embedded
in their mind. That year was 1929, the year Churchtown won the
North Cork Junior Hurling title. As youngsters we were continually
reminded by our elders of this great achievement by the men in
green and gold. One therefore considers that any articles about
Churchtown has to record these great names, the victorious squad
being Mick Gaffney, Frank O'Brien, Nattie Simcox, Frank Flannery,
Paddy Keeffe, Dave Manning, John Flannery, Mick O'Keeffe, Paddy
O'Keeffe, Tom O'Keeffe, Maurice Mahony, Thade Buckley (Cpt), Bill
Relihan, Dick Galligan, Jim Kearney, Willie Fitzpatrick, Dan Relihan,
Jim Cahalan and Pad Relihan. The Club officials were Tom Wall
NT (chairman), Tom Treacy (Vice Chairman) and Jack Mahony (Secretary).
So much for local sporting heroes, but countrywide we listened
on the radio and read in the papers of such great hurlers as Christy
Ring, Paddy Barry, Willie John Daly, Vince Toomey, Nicky Rackard,
Jimmy Doyle, Mick Mackay and Pat Stakelum. At school our history
books recorded the heroic exploits of Cuchulain, Patrick Sarsfield,
Galloping Hogan, Owen Roe O'Neill, Kevin Barry, Brian Boru, Finn
McCool and Daniel O'Connell. Churchtown, of course, has always
had a wonderful history with the turf and as boys we enjoyed the
bonfires blazing when we welcomed home the successful steeplechasers.
These included Cottage Rake and Hattons Grace, after their Cheltenham
Gold Cup (1948-50) and Champion Hurdle (1949-51) triple successes,
to the racing yard of Vincent O'Brien, later to become one of
Ireland's greatest trainers.
found heroes as well in the comics that arrived from England,
such as Eagle, Adventure, Wizard and Hotspur, who provided characters
like Dan Dare, Limp Along Leslie, Andrew Selkirk and Black Bob,
Alf Tupper, Roy of the Rovers, Desperate Dan, Buck Jones, Lash-La-Rue,
and The Phantom, along with the home publication "Our Boys"
with its Murphy character and Kitty the Hare and her ghostly tales.
The most popular Christmas presents for boys of this period were
a gun with caps, a Meccano set, a hurley or John Bull printing
outfit. Board games such as Ludo, Snakes & Ladders and Draughts
wore short trousers up to the age of 14, suffering cuts and bruises
from thorns, brambles and nettles, and painful sore thighs in
the winter time if urine trickled down one's legs.
recreational activities, hitting the ball against the old Market
House wall, next to what is now the Community Centre, was a regular
feature. One had to be careful however not to misdirect the sponge
ball into Mrs Treacy's front garden and many's the boy who got
a verbal lashing when the ball ended up amongst her Marigolds
and Rose bushes. To her credit, she always let us have our ball
back, unlike Paddy O'Keeffe of the old Post Office. He would simply
produce his penknife and cut the ball in full view with the comment
"Let that be a lesson to you" or "I'll get the
Guards out to you". We also played Cowboys & Indians
in Cowheys or Massarella's Wood. The rules were simple, we divided
into Cowboys and Redskins, went off to hide among the trees and
then emerged shouting "Bang you're dead Jim Brien" or
whoever the person might be. Naturally there were disputes and
quite often the "shot" parties were slow or unwilling
to die. We also had a game called Fox & Hounds, the Fox usually
the biggest and fastest runner in the group. His job was to hide,
the rest tried to catch him. If they failed to locate his lair
they would cry "give us a shout" and when he emerged,
off they went in hot pursuit through the trees and thick undergrowth.
also played a game called Bowley Racing, a bowley was simply a
bicycle wheel without a tyre. All one needed was a big stick to
hit the bowley, a good pair of feet and races on the pavement
went from the old school to Flannery's bay window. There were
several crashes, bloodied knees, irate villagers nearly knocked
down on their way to the village pump and out of control bowleys
careering off towards Simcox's, often missing a passing car. On
cold, frosty nights we splashed water from the village pump all
over the road to provide us with a skating rink. The boys with
the best pair of hob nailed boots usually won the races. I hated
the winter as I suffered from chilblains. The cold weather did
have some advantage though as it rid our beds of fleas and other
bed bugs. This irritation disappeared with the advent of D.D.T
played Handball against the Creamery wall, staged mudball fights
in O'Brien's field and used safety matches as "racehorses"
after a heavy downpour. You simply placed a matchstick on the
gully next to the pavement and watched as your matchstick/horse
swam down the village in the water towards the low pump by the
Pound Corner. We also pretended to be racehorses and jockeys and
galloped up and down the streets, over the ditches and made up
fences in O'Brien's field. I recall the late Moss Treacey being
so keen to do well that he was "handicapped" by being
forced to carry a large rock (top weight) under his arm.
played football in the village with a pig's bladder supplied to
us by O'Brien's or Keane's after they had killed a pig. We invented
a game called "bats" using small pieces of hardboard
as a sort of tennis racket. Matches were played using our coats
or ganseys for goalposts on the road near the Church. Quite often
the Angelus bell signalled the full time end of the match.
summertime we rode on the floats (haycarts) drawn by horses as
O'Brien's, Simcox's and Sampson's travelled to Annagh Bogs to
bring home the wynds of hay. It was quite common for us boys to
go barefoot and to spend hours at Annagh Bridge catching Collies
(tiny Minnows) in the river using jam jars as objects to enslave
our prey. We wore trousers with patches and socks that had been
darned time and time again by our mothers. Naturally, hurling
played a prominent part in our sporting lives, the playing venue
being Sherlock's field, the entrance by Stacks cottage and later
the field opposite Relihans and Willie Joe Condons at Egmont.
I recall one juvenile match (under 16) where Liscarroll, our arch
rivals, thrashed us 12-2 to 3-2 where they had lads like John
Bowles, Dermot and Neilly Buckley, John Murphy, Billy Mick O'Dea,
Tom and Matt Jones, and the Hallihan brothers. The Churchtown
side in this 1953 match was Denis Pat Costelloe (goal), Owen Egan,
Pat O'Connor and Tom Healy, Eddie Murphy, Joe Stokes and Tom Scully,
John Ryan and Paddy Behan at midfield, Sean Relihan, Kevin Kenny
and Mick Behan, Jimmy Bowe, Frank Doyle and Edward Flannery. Incidentally,
Paddy Behan went on to carve a great hurling career for himself.
He captained the Avondhu team that won the 1966 Cork County title
and he was a substitute on the Cork championship side of 1960.
A gifted hurler, fast, elusive and with a great eye for the ball,
he sadly died at a very young age. Many's the summer evening we
whiled away at hurling practice sessions playing backs and forwards.
Jerry Brislane would cut the sliotar towards the goal from midfield
and we took it from there.
everyone pursued hurling of course, and the gambling game of Pitch
& Toss was very popular at one time, Costelloe's back way
or back garden being used as the pitch. It was not unusual to
see a group of men bet sixpences (2½p) or shillings (5p)
on the toss of the coin calling heads or harps. Quite often the
games went on into the late summer evenings with lighted matches
being used to provide illumination for the punters. Hair combs
were used to toss the coins, no skill was required and it was
simply a case of guessing correctly the way the coins would end
up on the dirt after they had been thrown high in the evening
far I have only mentioned the games played by the male population.
The young schoolgirls played skipping, Tig and had spinning tops.
They sang songs such as We Came to See Jenny Joe and Sally Sally,
One, Two, Three. The latter song was part of a game where a girl
leant against a wall and called out to various girls to take two
steps forward, backwards, sideways or whatever. The winner was
the girl to touch the wall first. Other familiar songs were Here
we go gathering nuts in May, I'm King of the Castle Get Down Your
of the 40s began with an infants' teacher called Mrs Hayes, an
easy going and motherly type of lady. Next up came Miss Weldon,
a frosty faced, hair in a bun disciplinarian who was apt to rap
her ruler round one's knuckles for the least misdemeanour. After
Miss Weldon came Mr Thomas Wall and finally his wife Mrs Wall.
In the late 40s Miss Kennedy replaced Miss Weldon. Schooldays
were far more stringent then of course, and we leaned our lessons
through fear and trepidation. The times tables in English and
Irish were drummed into us and any slow learners in Maths, Writing,
History, Geography or Religious Instruction suffered sore red
fingers from the cane or the ash plant wielded by the Schoolmaster
Mr Wall and his predecessor, a Mr Cronin. Mr Thomas Wall looked,
dressed and acted as the typical schoolmaster of that period.
He wore a three piece suit with pocket watch and chain and kept
a piece of chalk behind his ear. He also wore glasses which fell
over the bridge of his nose. He would draw a circle with chalk
on the classroom floor and woe betide any pupil who crossed that
line when he was teaching a class. A strong disciplinarian, he
made an imposing figure as he stood in front of the turf or coal
fire, thumbs in waistcoat as he went "Do-Soh-Me-Doh"
and proceeded to lead us into the singing of Maidin Muc, The Dawning
of the Day or Ceol Arsa T'Asall, Sean O'Dhuir A Ghleanna, Oro
Se-Do-Bheatna Bhaille, Eamonn An Cnuic or Ta An Samraig A Gharidde.
He had a strong, rich voice and was a great lover of Moores Melodies.
As a result The Meeting of the Waters, The Harp That Once Through
Taras Halls and Oft in a Stilly Night were sung by generations
of Churchtown schoolchildren. We also sang O'Donnell Abu, Rich
and Rare, Let Erin Remember, Down by the Glenside, She Lived Beside
the Anner and one of his great favourites The Rising of the Moon.
As well as these patriotic ballads Mr Wall had his humorous favourite
song in which we had to act out the actions as we sang it. The
song went like this:
a shady nook one moonlit night, a leprechaun I spied.
With scarlet cap and coat of green, a cruskeen by his side.
He hammered and sang with tiny voice and drank his mountain dew.
Oh, I laughed to think he was caught at last, but the fairy was
mentioned that Mr Wall was a strict disciplinarian and that he
was. But he was also gifted with being able to produce beautiful
handwriting. Using an array of colourful chalks he would produce
wonderful lettering on the blackboard, standing back like an artist
to admire his work and then, like all perfectionists, erasing
any material that had the least flaw before starting all over
again. Outside of school, he had a warm sense of humour and I
recall him at Muinnter Na Tire functions performing the old Musical
Hall ballad Lucky Jim along with The Hills of Donegal and Kate
Muldoon. The latter went:
like to ramble down the old boreen
Where the hawthorn blossoms are in bloom
And to sit on a seat by an old mossy gate
And listen in to Kate Muldoon.
Wall was, in my opinion, an honest man who was proud and pleased
when he heard of his pupils doing well in later life. I did come
across a reference he gave about me when I went to join the British
Post Office in London in 1960. He wrote "You are dealing
with an honest man with a good sense of humour". Indeed the
same reference was true of himself and I am left with a memory
of his friendly pat on the back and "Mait An Fear" thank
you when I returned from Flannery's Shop with his packet of Marietta
one reached 5th class, it meant progression to Mrs Wall. She was
an energetic, no nonsense teacher who worked non stop from the
moment school began at 9 am until the final bell at 3 pm. She
demanded only the best from her pupils and her workaholic attitude
and non stop cramming of subjects stopped many a newcomer in their
tracks after the more relaxed years with Mr Wall. Her tactics
for getting the best from her class was to tell them that they
were inferior to the previous year's class and, in the case of
individuals, to stress that they were not a patch on their older
brothers or sisters. Mrs Wall never used the cane but would use
the ruler on our knuckles occasionally. But even this was easier
to accept than her "berating" which seemed to go on
and on and on forever.
lived in the village of course and every afternoon Mrs Wall would
meet my mother during their daily visits to pray in the Church
when the message was always the same "Denis Pat needs to
do better, he is not a patch on TJ or Kevin" my elder brothers.
There was a motive behind these tactics as I was later to find
out as on the day before I took my Primary Certificate Examination
in June 1951. She sat with the class of four Denis Hickey, Joan
Lehane, Mary Stokes and myself and said "You are good pupils
and I have great faith in all of you and although I have been
scolding and telling you off for months I did it for your own
good. You have nothing to fear tomorrow, go out and do your best".
And she spent the next 20 minutes lauding our efforts and giving
us every tip and encouragement she knew to assist us in achieving
good results. Thanks to her dedicated teaching I am glad to say
we did just that. I have nothing but praise for Mrs Wall. She
was a knowledgeable woman, worked us hard and sent us out into
the world as well prepared as anyone could wish for. I owe her
a great debt of gratitude.
cannot leave school without referring to the books we read and
the poems we recited. Leaca Ban written by Alice M Cashel and
published by Browne and Nolan was an all time favourite at Churchtown
School, telling the life of the O'Flaherty family, the brave Sean
Og and McDarra and the sacrifices they made in the fight for Irish
freedom. We read The Knights of Knockagar, Asail Beag Dubh, Children
of Lir, and Seadna. Mrs Wall recommended we borrow all of Canon
Sheehan's books from the library which was then housed in the
old school although in former years the books were stored at Tierneys.
Our religious reading was The Far East, The Messenger, The Brief
and we sold cards for the Holy Nuns of Killeshandra, Co Cavan,
where one pricked a bead and donated a penny for the Black Babies.
We prayed for the canonisation of Martin de Porres, Matt Talbot,
Maria Goretti and Oliver Plunket and for Mrs Wall's own private
intentions. Poetry played an important part in our education and
every pupil had their own favourite piece of prose. We had gems
such as The Snare by James Stephens, The Old Woman of the Roads
by Padraic Colum, Break, Break, Break by Lord Tennyson, The Old
Priest Peter Gilligan, The March to Kinsale, The Donkey by G K
Chesterton, Eva Fore Booth's The Waves of Breffni, Tig Mologa,
Mise Raftery the Poet, The Lake Isle of Innisfree by Yeats, and
so on. My own preference was I Remember by Thomas Hood, while
Denis Hickey would respond with Young Lochinvar or The Little
regard to Maths here are samples of what we attempted in our homework
by candlelight. Divide 6090 by 35? Find the cost of 3½
yards of muslin at 1/9 a yard? If 2 dozen eggs cost 3/-, what
will 5 dozen cost? Add 2/3 to the difference of 3½ and
11/16, multiply £1-17-11 by 27.
English and grammar was not overlooked and we would be asked to
find the subject, predicate and object of a sentence such as "The
big brown fox jumped over the sleeping dog".
sum up the schooldays of this period, we learned through fear
- fear and anxiety of getting things wrong or simply not having
the ability to work things out in the first place. The Old and
New Churchtown Schools where I attended were buildings of foreboding
and dread, and yet I was lucky in so much as that I lived in the
village a few minutes walk from the school. For the "country
lads" in the outlying areas like Ballinguile and Coolmore
they had to trudge those weary miles daily in hail, rain or snow,
partaking of a cold bottle of milk and a sandwich for lunch. Fortunately
Muinntir Na Tire came to the rescue in later years and provided
us with hot cocoa brewed in the large Baby Burco boiler. It was
the task of the senior boys to bring water from the village pump
daily for this purpose. This was a pleasurable task as it gave
one a half an hour or so away from school, a much welcomed relief.
It was common to see children being dragged to school in the morning
crying bitterly and even this tension, concern and anxiety seemed
to transfer itself onto the teachers when the annual visits of
the "Cigere", the Schools Education Examiner, and Fr
Murnane, the Religious Examiner, were announced. For weeks beforehand
our heads were crammed with every piece of knowledge and Biblical
tale that might likely be used as a question. On the day of the
visit itself the brightest children would be pushed to the front
of the class to uphold the honour of the school with correct and
comprehensive answers. With all sincerity I cannot say that my
schooldays were the happiest days of my life but what I can say
is that I learned discipline, respect and honesty and that Churchtown
National School and the teachers that taught there provided me
with as good a Primary education as anyone could ask for. And
for that I am eternally grateful.
have talked about the harsh rigour of schooldays but naturally
there were the humorous moments as well. There was the "do
gooder" boy who brought an ash plant to Mr Wall to use as
a cane and became its first recipient after he failed to answer
a question correctly. There was the boy, I believe it was one
of the Treacys, who on being caned for his lack of the Irish/Gaelic
language responded with "What Irish do I want? When I leave
school all I need to know is Hack, Whoa and Go on". He was
implying that his future, like so many others, lay working as
a Farmer's Boy and that all he required was the ability to drive
a horse and cart. There was also the boy when during a religious
examination on being asked "who lives in the Church and is
always there looking down on us?", gave the answer "Katie
Carthy, the Sacristan fadder". We had the old school howlers
such as Brian Boru the King of Munster, let off a fart and killed
the youngster and "Who made the world?" Eddie Neville
with his spade and shovel. Ah, humorous days indeed.
the early 50s there were some extra out of school activities that
we were encouraged to join and these were held in the Old School.
Mr Power ran a woodwork class and I recall my school pal Willie
Sullivan of Coolmore excelling with some nicely carved exhibits.
Liam O'H'Iceada ran Irish Dancing classes for schoolchildren,
boys and girls and we learned the sets and the reels reciting
as we danced. Haon, Do, Tri Ceather, Cuig, Se, Seacht, Haon, Do,
Tri, Agus A Haon Do Tri. We were bashful and embarrassed dancing
with girls and wished instead that we could be off hunting rabbits
with our dogs. Hunting rabbits in summertime was a popular pastime.
A gang of us would round up the dogs in the village and stride
off to Fearrandeen or Annagh. Our dogs responded to names like
Spot, Blackie, Jip, Lassie, Rover, Ranger, Franco, Snowball. Strange
isn't it how dogs names can stay in one's memory, the McGills
had a dog called Buffer, Paddy Russell had Rattler and Mike Doyle
had Terry. Our local curate, Fr Savage, had two vicious Alsations
names Zeta and Dandy. It was around this period also that the
rabbit became a source of revenue and at one stage everyone was
out snaring or dazzling rabbits at night to earn the 2/6 to 7/6
(12½p to 37½p) per animal. The rabbits were then
sent by train to Dublin.
over, the first noticeable changes that occurred to the teenage
male was that he acquired employment with a local farmer, his
year running from the first of February to Christmas Eve. The
average annual wage in the early 50s was £100-£120
(approximately) and the "contract" usually included
a bottle of milk every night, two drills of a garden, some firing
(free wood towards his home heating) and the use of the farmer's
horse, assuming the farm labourer had a half acre of ground that
needed to be tilled. The "freedom" from school also
meant that he showed his manliness by smoking "Wild Woodbines"
and joining the old "lags" at the back of the Church
for Sunday masses. These worshippers sat around the holy water
font or on the stairs leading to the choir gallery. The sermon
was a signal for this group to nip outside for a cigarette.
played a very important part in our lives. Sunday Mass began with
the priest reciting the long Acts of the Apostles. Sermons in
the main preached repent or face the flames of hell and we had
monthly Holy Hour, Benediction, Nine Fridays Devotion, Sacred
Heart Confraternity Branch and a choir with organist Miss Nora
Keeffe. I have wonderful memories of Benediction, the rich aroma
of the incense and the uplifting singing of hymns such as Sweet
Sacrament Divine, To Jesus Heart All Burning, Soul of My Saviour,
I'll Sing a Hymn to Mary, and Jesus My Lord My God My All. One
cannot forget also the visit by the Missioners, usually two Redemptorist
Fathers who had contrasting styles of preaching the word of God.
One would adopt the friendly humorous sermon while the other preacher
would give the congregation the full fire and brimstone treatment,
emphasising the terrors of hellfire that awaited the sinner. Needless
to say, the queue at the Confessional was much larger when the
former was in the box. The Mission was a time to cleanse one's
soul and the local hard-liners who rarely frequented the Confession
Box would face that terrible ordeal on the final evening after
the singing of the hymn God of Mercy and Compassion. Naturally
humour abounded throughout all this religious fervour. When Bill
Hickey emerged from the "box" after a long grilling
he told his friends that for his penance he was told to do "three
rounds of Brien's field" or in other words run around Brien's
field three times. Naturally you had to appreciate the wit of
Bill Hickey, or Hishon as he was called, to enjoy the joke.
and after Mass was the gathering place for men and women to exchange
conversation on the children, weather, crops, politics and sport.
There were few cars in those days and the church wall would be
two or three rows deep with bicycles. After Mass was the focal
point for the GAA, the political parties, or Religious collections,
and on weeks leading up to elections aspiring TDs made their political
speeches. Occasionally travelling entertainers used after Mass
to perform their one man shows and I recall a gentleman who would
crack a whip to attract the crowd, strip off his shirt and lie
on broken glass. He would then invite the heaviest man in the
audience to stand on his chest. There was a singer with red hair
known as the "Foxy Singer" who would paw the ground
like a bull and then cupping his hands to his mouth sing the latest
hit of the day. The song Sweet Sixteen (when first I saw the lovelight
in your eye) springs readily to mind as one of his hits.
to the Church. I spent eight years as an Altar Server during the
duration of Fr Cotter PP, Fr Mortell PP and Fr Savage CC. Fr Cotter,
an ex Chaplain in the British Army, was an eccentric by today's
standards. He would blow the horn of his car as he drove through
the village for morning Mass as a further reminder to the people
to attend Church. He would regularly stop anywhere when he saw
a man or group of men standing with their hands in the pockets
and give the commanding order "Get your hands out of your
pockets". His visits to our school were much welcomed and
he would chat and joke for hours, much to the annoyance of our
teacher Mrs Wall. Naturally it disrupted her curriculum. Fr Savage
on the other hand was a short tempered, volatile man and woe betide
any Altar Boy who handed him the Cope or any other religious vestment
the wrong side up during Benediction. The offender would receive
a clip round the ear or a kick on the backside in the Sacristy
afterwards. We lived in dread of his mood swings and I was the
recipient of a sore ear after forgetting my trainers, or rubber
dollies as we called our shoes. Fr Savage rode a motorbike at
one stage and there was on occasion when he took an Altar Boy
to a Stations Mass with the young lad sitting in front of him.
In another instance, when Sidney Ryan was unloading turf into
the priest's shed and got things wrong the displeased curate threw
a few sods of turf at the bemused Sidney. Yet for all that, Fr
Savage was a wonderful preacher and emphasised time and time again
the gift of charity. He was a fine singer also and once delighted
local audiences singing Marguerite from the operetta Lily of Killarney.
priests, Fr Cotter and Fr Savage, were very strict on late attendance
at Mass. Fr Cotter would cease reading the "Acts of the Apostles"
if he noticed latecomers. He would then fold his arms and invite
them to come up the Church, much to their embarrassment. Fr Savage
on more than one occasion, having dressed in his vestments for
Mass, would walk round to the Church entrance and push the old
lags, who were kneeling by the Holy water font, right up the church.
Fr Mortell, who replaced Fr Cotter, was an easy going, casual
priest. I have fond memories of Fr Cotter who was such a friendly
and kindly pastor and much loved by us Altar Servers. I have still
in my possession a little red prayer book he gave me in 1952 when
I was 14 years old.
cannot leave my Altar serving days without referring to the "Stations"
or Masses at farmers' houses. These were held twice yearly and
served as an occasion for the priest to collect his yearly dues.
For us Altar Boys it meant a whole morning off from school with
the added "tip" bonus of 5/- (25p) if we went to a well
known, generous farmer. Naturally the older Altar Boys creamed
off the best "tipping" houses. This was an era when
the priest read publicly from the Altar the amount donated from
each household and if I remember correctly Tom and Lil Costelloe
would be followed with 7/6 (37½p) and T J Costelloe 2/6
(12½p). Other Altar Boy memories include walking around
the Church with candles and reading all the ladies' headscarves
during the Stations of the Cross, listening to the congregation
responding to the Litany of the Saints with "Prayfus"
for "Pray for us" and singing "Janey Tory Janey
Coal Quay" for "Genitori Genitoque" in the Tantum
Ergo Latin hymn.
village had its characters in the 50s and Churchtown was no exception.
There were people who were famous locally for either a saying,
a joke, a nickname or indeed a song. Living two doors away from
me were the Booney or O'Sullivan family of Hannie, Susie and Denny.
Denny was an endearing character with a droll sense of humour.
"Did you every play darts" someone once asked him. "No"
he replied, "but I often got one". He had his very own
word for rainy weather, "slobbery" he called it and
he was classed as an expert where judging the health or the age
of a horse was concerned. Denny was a regular at Cahirmee Horse
Fair year after year when dressed in black hat, long black coat
and white stock, he would go along to cast a qualified eye over
the bloodstock on view. Living with the Booney's was my old school
pal Denis Hickey who provided lots of material for this article.
Every year his father Jack, a brother of Tom Hickey the Blacksmith
in Buttevant, would come home on holidays from London. Jack would
arrive in a sidecar, hired and driven by Paddy Spratt (Buttevant)
and naturally both driver and hirer would be well "oiled",
as they say, on arrival. I recall Jack, Paddy and Denny Booney
drinking at O'Brien's pub with Jack delighting the company by
singing the old time Musical Hall ballad "When you know you're
not forgotten by the girl you can't forget". He would also
render When It Sound the Last All Clear.
in the old school road in Churchtown were four great characters:
Redmond John Murphy, Jack Mahoney, Dan "Danks" Manning
and Joe Manning. Redmond John had a stout, hearty laugh, owned
four or five cows and would regularly let fly with a tirade of
swear words if the animals misbehaved on route through the village.
Jack Mahoney wrote a number of parodies, none better than his
version of McNamara's Band. This song and singing group had a
line up that included Dick Flynn, Jackie Flynn, Patrick Irwin,
Jim McGill, to name a few, when the local Dramatic Society performed
a Variety Show during the Lenten weeks of the late 40s. Danks
Manning was another great expert on horses and used the expression
"Doll Dido" with regularity in his conversation. It
became his catchphrase, as did the "Hal-Lah" used by
his brother Joe. Joe wore a patch over his left eye, having lost
the eye apparently in the First World War. Both men were great
storytellers and lived to ripe old ages despite Danks' admission
that after many nights of heavy drinking at O'Brien's or John
Flannery's pubs he would sleep it off in O'Brien's haybarn whatever
the weather. Incidentally, living in the cottage next door to
the Mannings was Johnny Moylan, renowned for his singing of the
song Bold Robert Emmet and a relation of the Edderys, the latter
day champion race jockeys.
Ballyadam lived two great characters, the first Pakeen Murphy,
our local postman whose pleasures in life were a 1/- each way
on the horses, a Woodbine cigarette, a few pints and playing the
banjo. Pakie had a wonderful sense of humour including a varied
selection of jokes and one liners. In the 50s when Churchtown
Carnival Week was the year's most popular event I served my "apprenticeship"
with Pakie as he strove to win the Fancy Dress Competition. The
lead up to the event always followed the same pattern with Pakie
searching the papers and listening to the radio to obtain the
media hot story of the week. Come the Sunday evening of the Fancy
Dress Parade he would advise me to be at his house around 6 pm
when it was then, and only then, about two hours before the Parade
that he would inform me of what the subject matter was that we
were about to re-enact. It goes without saying that he would have
had his share of liquid refreshment prior to the event but this
seemed to give him added courage and a greater acting ability.
up the boreen from Pakie lived another Pakie, one Pakeen Sullivan,
a diminutive man who would stagger home from every Sunday Mass
after a two hour stay at Flannery's Bar. He would warn every child
he met in a jocose fashion with "I'll make sausages out of
you". If one travelled the old road to Charleville from Churchtown
by Coolcaum, it was odds on you would encounter another loveable
character called Jack Lewis, a simple man who spent his days strolling
around the country roads. Jack was a regular singer at any local
concerts or talent competitions when his nasal tones would render
Moonlight in Mayo, his regular contribution. There was a story
told that Jack was strolling along one day when he chanced to
see Dave Ryan, a Ballyhea born tradesman of high standing, repairing
a roof of a cottage. Dave, seeing the opportunity to take the
rise out of Jack, asked him "Would you like to be a carpenter
Jack?" "I would, would you?" was Jack's masterful
characters of old Churchtown were Condy Mahoney, the village postman
who staggered in and out of houses performing the Christmas Eve
village evening post barely able to keep his balance after a day
of drinking his health at various houses in the parish; Tom Birney,
a little Dublin journeyman who arrived in our village and remained
with us until his death, residing at the farmhouse of Charley
and Ellie Winters at Auburn. In our village also lived Jim McGill,
a native of Boyle, Co Roscommon, who worked in the railway. Jim
would give one the time to the exact second and usually called
us boys "gorsoons" rather than our Christian names.
Then of course, there were the travelling men and the tinker fraternity.
Best known and loved were the bearded Christy Flynn, the victim
of a broken love affair so it was rumoured, and Jack Daly with
his tin whistle who responded with "You're a daysant man"
when one gave him a penny. As regards the travelling folk, the
most regular visitor was one Mick Donoghue, or Mick Soho as we
knew him. I have memories of him singing The Valley of Knockanure
during a drinking session at Flannery's Bar. We leave the old
characters with a few more names, such as Jim Flynn, or Jim the
Bee as he was nicknamed on account of his skills when dealing
with the bees and their hives; Dave "Yank" Roche, who
scared us youngsters with gruff one liners of his times in America;
and finally Bill Hickey our Blacksmith, a charming character full
of wit and jocose remarks. Bill, known to one and all as "Hishon",
had a razor sharp comic line and the story goes that he went into
Flannery's Bar for a pint only to be reminded by John Flannery
that his name was high in the list of his IOUs book. "I am
afraid" said John "that your photograph is in here pushing
the book to Bill". Quick as a flash came the reply "Well
John, that's why I am here to see you, could you enlarge the photograph".
Another "Hishon" story was his reply to some woman who
reprimanded him for eating meat on Fridays, a regular fast day
in those years. Bill continued eating his cabbage and bacon and
replied "As far as I'm concerned there are only two Fast
Days in the year, the day you haven't got it and the day you can't
you look at television nowadays, at least here in England, most
interviewees will respond to a question with a sentence sprinkled
with words like "basically", "you know what I mean"
or suchlike meaningless phrases. We had no TV in the 40s and 50s
of course but we had a litany of expressions to describe most
feelings known to man. It doesn't sound romantic now and indeed
it didn't sound romantic then but it wasn't uncommon to shout
after a group of girls to the one that you fancied "Any chance
of your washing?" or "How's your father, is your mother
working?", or to describe a girl's assets with the line "She
had beef to the heels like a Mullingar Heifer". Another salutation
was "How's she cutting?" and how about these expressions,
ie "Down to the ground says Old Dargan" - who was Old
Dargan? And who was old Power who said "More power said old
Power when young Power was born" and Mr Dunne who muttered
"Well done said old Dunne when young Dunne was borne".
We had "Sticking out a mile from Blarney" and "Out
on their own like the Cork Farmers' Union". There were widely
used words such as Trawneen, Ownshook, Amadawn, Gawall (as in
a bundle of sticks), Toesheen (as in a little bag, usually of
sweets), Cawbogue and Bostoon (two uncomplimentary names), Plamauce
(to placate), Mockalore (for a drunk), a poor Anishore, a Crabit
fellow, a right Pilardi, Flahool (for a generous man), a Fooster
or Foota Fatta (for a man who rushes around), a poor old Slob
(an honest youth), a Carly Kew, a Highraddy for a Garrowen Up
and Under. Moll Diddleo was a name often used in conversation
but who was she? A Dote (a pretty baby), a Doodarra (a fool),
a Slasher (a rough hurler). Finally, a mean man would be classed
as "as tight as a duck's behind" with the "behind"
substituted with a more uncouth word.
to romance in the late 40s and 50s. Most couples met at Dances
and quite often one cycled home with the girl of one's dreams
with her sitting on the bar of one's bike. The Rudge, Raleigh
and BSA were the most common make of bicycles and a man's status
could be judged by the machine he rode. A three speed bicycle
with a hub dynamo was a model of distinction for the male whereas
the girls rode bicycles complete with basket in front to hold
their headscarves and handbags.
a line" was the term used for courting and to "Wipe
someone's eye" was to steal his girlfriend away. Girls were
referred to as birds, dolls, moths or pushers and an attractive
girl was termed "a fine bit of skirt" or "a good
(hoult) hold". Someone once told me that "there was
eating and drinking in her" referring to a girl he had met.
It does not take much imagination to work out what attributes
a girl with a "good pair of headlights" had.
the Dance Bands of this period were the illustrious Gallowglass
Ceili Band and the locally based Tostal and Shandrum Ceili Bands,
Michael O'Callaghan and Hughie Cahil, both Buttevant outfits.
Other bands included Mick Delahunty, Roy Campbell, Dolly Butler,
Maurice Mulcahy, Major Watt, Donie Collins, Jimmy McCarthy, Bross
Walsh, Jack Ruane, and Johnny Flynn. I have pleasant memories
of cycling to the Parochial Hall Doneraile, Avondhu Ballroom Buttevant,
Castle Ballroom Liscarrol, Allow Ballroom Freemont, parking my
bike against the nearest ditch and placing my cycle pump and flashlamp
in the hedge. Then it was off for a night of dancing and naturally
the ultimate aim was to "shift", the term for chatting
up a girl and seeing her home. The majority of males were shy
to dance in the early part of the evening and in the majority
of cases the bulk of the Romeos did not choose to appear until
the pubs were closed when many blocked the entrance as they haggled
with the man on the door to obtain admission at a reduced rate.
The last dance (usually a Waltz) of the evening became a mad scramble
as men and ladies sought to find their respective dreamboats to
cycle home with. In the summer months the platform (or stage)
dancing opened at Sheehan's Forge, a very popular venue on the
main road between Buttevant and Liscarrol. It was indeed at Sheehan's
Forge that I took my first dancing steps to the music of Jack
Ellard, Bob Harrington, Pakeen Murphy, The Sullivan Brothers and
Nora Farrisey, with occasional vocals by Bill Egan belting out
the song Bould Thady Quill. The tunes I recall, for the Quickstep
medley were Whispering, Sipping Soda and Singing the Blues. Prior
to the erection of a stage at Sheehan's Forge there were dancing
platforms also at Maurice Sargeant's (Ballyhea) and Pakie Sullivan's
Cross at Clashelane. The mid 50s gave us Bridie Gallagher and
her massive hit "The Boys from the County Armagh" before
showbands such as Clipper Caralton, The Dixielanders and The Royal
Showband changed the dancing scene forever.
life in Churchtown during this period was similar to any other
country village and centred around the Creamery and the clattering
of the horses hooves from 7.30 am onwards as they carried their
milk churns to the Creamery and returned home with separated milk.
Ballyclough butter, a packet of Gold Flakes and the Cork Examiner.
The late Mick Ahern was the Creamery Manager and his staff were
Bill Flynn and Patie Fehin. Having worked as a farm labourer at
Tom Sampson's, the main attraction for us was not the gossip and
humour that abounded as we queued to have our churns emptied but
rather the appearance of the Newcastle West bus with driver Dick
and conductor Dan which stopped for five minutes or so in the
village. The passengers on the bus were mainly teenage schoolgirls
from Liscarrol and Freemount on route to Buttevant Convent and
naturally there were hints of romance in the air with poetic words
of love such as "tell so and so I was asking for her"
and such like. It goes without saying that we farmers' boys kept
a low profile behind our horses, milk churns and carts. After
all, we didn't cut great romantic figures in blue milk stained
overalls and wellingtons with tops turn down, the popular "uniform"
of farm labourers of that era. Oh, what innocent carefree days
they were. Other daily events included the arrival of the post
van to O'Keeffe's (Nora and Ellie Mary), the local Post Office.
The van was driven by the McAulliffe brothers Joe and Stephen.
Morgan Brislane, who worked on Flannery's farm at Carrigeen, would
trot his pony and milk churns to their village shop daily. He
delivered a regular weather forecast which went something like
this. "There is a dark cloud over Killbraher, brighter clouds
coming in from Knockardbane and it's raining in Imphrick."
Wednesdays the village woke up to the sound of squealing pigs
when O'Mara's lorry arrived from Limerick to collect any pigs
or bonhams local farmers had to sell. Other weekly visitors included
the Egg man, Fish salesman, Nashes and O'Sullivan's soft drinks
lorries, Keating's, Binchy's and P & J Ryan's Ardageehey Bakery
vans, and of course the deliveries of the red barrels of porter
from Charleville in a lorry driven by Denny O'Sullivan. Rolling
the red barrels into O'Brien's back yard left one's hands red
and rusty coloured. Bread of course arrived in large baskets in
those days although I have memories when I was very little of
a bakery at Flannery's where Condy Mahoney was the baker. The
delights of eating the piping hot small loaves are very pleasant
ones as indeed were the taste of the sweets such as Peggy's Leg,
Bill Bayley's Kids, Love Hearts, Sherbert, Gobstoppers, and Black
Jack. Sweets of course were served in a funnel shaped piece of
paper called a Toesheen.
conclude the daily or weekly events in our village we had the
Pictures every Monday night brought to us by the late Jack Hogan
from Catletownroche and a gentleman called Cronin from Askeaton.
Seamus Donovan, the Insurance Man from Buttevant, was a weekly
visitor, as naturally was the doctor, Doctor Con Corbett, also
from Buttevant, while going out in the opposite direction went
Anthony Sullivan carrying the daily racing bets to the Bookmakers
in Buttevant. If Anthony was not available someone cycling to
Buttevant to get a battery for their wireless would oblige.
to the annual events the top three were Duffy's Circus, the races
at Liscarrol and the Grand Dance that followed, and Churchtown
Carnival. The latter was a week of entertainment that gave us
a Fancy Dress Parade that stretched a good half mile, or more,
hurling matches, a slow bicycle race, nightly games of Pongo,
equivalent to the latter day Bingo, and naturally the Dances on
a platform borrowed from Sheehan's Forge and installed in the
playground of the old school. Hit tunes of this period included
Singing the Blues, Bluebell Polka, Boys from the Co Armagh, Oslo
Waltz, Rock Around the Clock, Ballyhoe, Magic Moments, Pub with
no Beer, O Mein Papa, The Doggie in the Window, Blue Tango, Loveletters
on the Sand, and Tulips from Amsterdam. The dance floors of this
period would be washed with Jeyes Fluid and sprinkled with Lux
bath flakes to improve the surface.
mentioned Liscarrol Races which naturally was a star attraction
with local interest provided by Jimmy Gordon, or J J Gordon as
his name appeared on the racing programme. Jim was one of the
top Point to Point jockeys of this period along with Connie Vaughan,
P P Hogan and Willie McLernon.
end with my look at yearly events with a memory of the Duhallow
Hounds led by Harry Freeman-Jackson as they gathered in our village
for their meet before proceeding to Gardiners Gorse for their
first chase. As youngsters, we ran our little legs off chasing
after them with continuous warnings to keep quiet and not disturb
Reynard before the hounds and riders were in their place. The
elders, especially my mother, marvelled at the splendour and accents
of the huntsmen, the gentlemen would doff their hats to the ladies
and speak with cultured voices that she mimicked once they had
who can forget the threshing machines and the panic and pressure
that was placed on every farmer once threshing day drew near.
The hope of good weather and plenty of assistance from neighbouring
farmers was a must and the farmer's wife and servant girls were
busy from dawn to dusk providing buckets of strong tea and porter
and hearty dinners. As a lad I played amidst the chaff chasing
mice with my friends while in teenage years I spent many a day
balanced perilously on top of the Ransome Thresher cutting sheaves
as quickly as they were thrown to me and placing them correctly
in front of the "feeder", the volatile Liam Galvin.
Liam would soon give one a mouthful if you handed him too many
or too few sheaves. Jimmy Roche, who resided at Castle McCarthy,
also owned an old type of thresher. It had tyreless wheels that
left large imprints on the tarred roads as it chugged along with
its billowing smoke at about ten miles an hour. Incidentally,
Jimmy's brother Jackie also provided pictures in the Old School,
assisted by Patrick Irwin, the latter a gifted individual who
could turn his hand to any task. Patrick was years ahead of his
time in his knowledge of the Arts. He was, and still is, a marvellous
will leave the long hard days and drone of the thresher with the
memory of Mrs Lewes's threshing in the mid 50s. It usually lasted
three days for which we were paid £1 a day wages including
our food. It was considered a good wage then even if the work
was hard although not as back breaking perhaps as the potato picking
at Masserella's where the wages were 7/6 (37½p) a day.
But we were young men then, fit, strong and enduring, and we needed
to be. Apart from threshers and potato picking, a day making wynds
of hay in Annagh bogs would sap the energy of the toughest individual.
Fortunately, by the mid to late 50s the baler had arrived to replace
the arduous task and prior to this innovation the Buck Rake had
replaced the ponderous horse and float, the float a cart for bringing
home the wynds of hay. The reaper and binder, tumbling Paddy,
scythe and slasher were on their way out as well and the GVB milking
machine proved a great saviour from those long hours spent sitting
on a three legged stool, cap back to front, milking cows.
like every other country village, had its own peculiar names of
townlands and districts and here is a mouth-watering list: Dooley's
Height, Birney's Hole, The Ram's Close, Maryfield, Cool Gate,
Powl A Free Stone, Cullig, Moin Rua, Pooleyaha, Broken Gap, Coolmore,
Fearandeen, Ballychristy, Buffer's Cross, George's Row, Clashelane,
and Imogane, names that will only mean something to someone who
lived in the parish. These names will evoke memories of families
now long gone who lived in these areas or who know stories of
a humorous or ghostly nature. Electricity did not arrive in Churchtown
until 1948. Our childhood in the dark candlelit winter nights
was filled with tales of headless coachmen, ghostly houses, the
cry of the Banshee prior to the death of anyone unlucky to have
the prefix O' or Mc before their name, and the drums that beat
three nights before someone was due to die and be buried at Kilmacow
cemetery. Superstition was rife, farmers would dare not touch
areas (mounds of earth) protected by the fairies, some families
were mentioned who performed pishogues, cards were the devil's
pastime, and pictures falling from the wall or sparks flowing
from the fire were two among several of oddities that foretold
a lucky or unlucky omen. Try telling these tales to the present
was a time for fasting, penance and prayer in this period and
Good Friday would see large crowds flocking to the church to do
the Stations of the Cross as many times as they could to gain
the required plenary indulgence. There was no dancing in the Diocese
of Cloyne during Lent, St Patrick's Day apart that is, although
a few people from our village managed to go by car to Cork City
and the Arcadia Ballroom (Liam P was resident MC) where dancing
was permitted. The loss of the dance floor gave a great opportunity
for every village to organise a Dramatic Society and Churchtown
was no exception. Paid in His Own Coin was a play that proved
very popular as was the one act The Young Man from Rathmines.
My own favourite was Lady Gregory's The Workhouse Ward, a story
of two elderly paupers, Mike and Michael, who hurl abuse at one
another from adjacent beds. The third character is a woman called
Mrs O'Donoghue. I remember this one act play well as Pat and Dixie
Healy got a group together and performed this comedy in Churchtown
and Ballyhea. To add to the humour they placed a chamber pot under
the bed which they pulled out at various intervals (contrary to
the script) to chuck cigarette ends or matches therein. This spontaneous
act drew howls of laughter.
another occasion Redmond John Murphy playing, I believe, a character
called Micky Free suffered a severe dose of stagefright on the
night and, caught tongue tied and unable to read the lips of the
prompter, he upset the audience, which included the priest Fr
Cusack, by uttering the immortal lines "I'm taller standing
like a dog shitting". My own contribution to the Healy Brothers'
Concert was singing Hello Patsy Fagan and One of the Old Reserve
with a troupe of girls including my sister Cass, Mary O'Keeffe
and the late Bunny Bowe dancing around me. Jack Lewes singing
Moonlight in Mayo appeared on the same bill, as did Richie Flynn,
a talented accordionist who gave a wonderful interpretation to
The Cuckoo and The Skater's Waltz. Other performers were Bess
and Mary Kate Relihan singing, Lilly Treacey stepdancing and Nora
Farrissey on violin.
was all very amateur of course and in contrast to the Travelling
Shows who visited our and most rural villages during the winter
months. With these shows we were treated to Barbara Allen, Noreen
Bawn, The Tears of an Old Irish Mother, Charley's Aunt, Murder
in the Red Barn, Pal of my Cradle Days, and the unforgettable
Victorian novel by Mrs Henry Wood, East Lynne. What a story -
Lady Isobel Vane is left penniless and alone on the death of her
father and her tale is one of love, duty, passion, punishment
and murder. How the audience wept to hear the line "Dead
dead! And never called me Mother". Another feature
of these shows were the Amateur Contests when locals would sing
nightly. The winners were determined by the volume of audience
applause and then went forward to a Grand Final on Saturday or
Sunday evening. The regular singers included Eddie Galligan, I'll
Never Let You Go Little Darling or The Work All Done This Fall;
Bess Relihan, Like a Golden Dream; Alice Relihan, Broken Wings
or Beautiful Isle of Somewhere; Cass Costelloe, Old Rustic Bridge
by the Mill; Ned Guiney, Di-O-Di-A; Christy Sherlock, Bury Me
Not in the Lone Prairie; Patrick Carroll, My Mary of the Curling
Hair; Arthur Kavanagh, I'll Walk Beside You; and the inevitable
Jack Lewis with Moonlight in Mayo. The travelling show people
I remember were my namesake Costelloes, Liam Heffernan and a very
funny man called Bert who had all the comic lines and a selection
of great parodies. He referred to pyjamas as "Pidgamees"
and invented a place called "Ballyslapadashamuckery".
One of the earliest shows was Jim Cash and his daughters who performed
at the back of Bill Hickey's house.
all the good shows carried one or two good looking leading men
and one or two attractive ladies and the final night would always
see a packed audience. Us youngsters would be fighting to get
the best seats, these were the windowsills in the Old School and
adult latecomers lined in rows at the back and up the side of
the hall. The walls of the premises ran with condensation as a
back now four decades or more, many events and faces come readily
to mind. Sadly, the passing years have dimmed the brain and putting
names to faces becomes impossible. However I readily recall Mick
Denihan who worked at O'Brien's delivering coal on Saturday afternoons
with donkey and cart, Mick Connors delivery blocks of wood which
he sold as fuel, and of these the journeys that we youngsters
made to the local woods to bring home firing for the winter months
or to pick Bluebells or Bonny Blo Blocks for our May Altars. Naturally
we kept a saw hidden inside our jackets when we wanted to obtain
a large "limb" as we referred to it, otherwise we took
a piece of rope, gathered up the "kippins" and tied
them up in a bundle or gwall which we called a brosna. A heavy
storm was a blessing in disguise and fallen branches and trees
would be devoured by us scavengers with saws at the ready and
rushed to our homes to provide warm fuel for many winter months.
about the radio memories for those who were lucky enough to own
a Pye wireless? Living with Lynch, Din Joe, The Kennedys of Castleross,
Ceili House, Luxembourg's Irish Requests and Top 20, and Sean
Og O'Ceallacain's Sunday evenings sports results spring to mind
as do all those wonderful hurling and football commentaries from
Miceal O'Heiher. The BBC light programme gave us Family Favourites,
Bill Cotton Bandshow and The Clitheroe Kid on Sundays at lunchtime.
there were all those great card games and the gambles and card
gambling that went on at various houses. Mrs Liz Sullivan's Corner
House rang nightly to the sound of tables being hammered. They
played "45" until midnight with scoring expressions
such as "Twenty ten as the woman got for the hen but she
would have got more only for the Blackguards". There was
the famous story of Bill Hickey, known as Hishon, and Danks Manning,
partners in a 45 final at Ballyhea with the first prize being
a bag of coal. Hishon held the 5 and Danks the Joker until the
final thrust to lose the much sought prize and force Danks to
make the loud angry remark "You'll have a cold arse of it
for the winter Hishon".
we a healthier people then? Certainly people avoided doctors,
hospitals and dentists (Mr Riordan in Charleville and Mr Wrixon
in Buttevant) at all costs. Whiskey or Iodine cured an ailing
tooth, Dandelions cured warts, Dock leaves soothed burns from
Nettles and dried cow dung helped to light the fires to keep us
warm. Senna leaves, worm powders, Epsom Salts, Cascara, Zambuk
and Sloans Linements were administered with the advice "If
it tastes horrible, it must be good for you". Comedians such
as Danny Hobbs suggested that a pint of a County Council worker's
sweat would cure anything, provided one could get it of course.
yes, there were hard times but happy times. And on that note we
recall the story of the Churchtown man who went to the Hunt Ball
in Liscarrol one St Stephen's night but half way through he decided
to leave and go to the Dance in Kanturk instead. He developed
flu as a result and the doctor was called. "Well, what happened"
enquired Doctor Corbett as he opened his little black bag. "Well
doctor" said the poor man's mother, "Mick went to a
Ball in Liscarrol and then went on to a Ball in Kanturk and he
got a chill between the two balls". Not forgetting as well
the tale of the Churchtown man who went to the seaside at Ballybunion
for the first time and on returning remarked "Be Jasus, there
was a woeful flood there". Then we had the man whose wife
to be was pregnant and he visited the priest (Fr Foley) with his
mother. "How did this misconduct take place" enquired
the priest. "Ah, sure the devil was in his trousers"
replied the mother.
are numerous other humorous stories of course but to relate them
one would need to know the characters involved to appreciate the
joke. Naturally nicknames abounded in plenty as was the custom
in most parishes, but as some of these were non complementary
it is best not to name them all. Suffice to say that when you
mentioned names like Condy, Danks, Garryowen, Paddy the Rambler,
Pakeen, Dines, The Gael, Porksteak, Bilda, Berney, Mary May, Willie
Joe, Jerry A, Sean Rua, Raynahound, Muzz Leary, Jack Derek, Joe
Moss, Natty, Tanic, Morisheen and the Boston Kid, people knew
exactly whom you were referring to.
for a final look at the boys who attended Churchtown NS in 1953,
an old photograph lists the following and begs the question "where
are they now?". Eugene Egan, Donie Murphy (RIP), Sean Relihan,
Denis Pat Costelloe, Tom Healy, Robert Gardiner, Billy McCarthy,
Liam Sullivan, Kevin Kenny, Joe Cronin, Noel Linehan, Pat O'Brien,
Robbie Murphy, Donie Sullivan, Bill Egan, Tim Lehane, Patrick
Corkery, John Daly, Paudy Doyle, Joe Egan, Billy O'Brien, Paddy
Joe Mahoney, Nat Gardiner, Jim O'Brien, Danny Relihan, Donie Jewitt,
Mick Doyle, John Pat Murphy, Johnny Sullivan, Noel Relihan, Seamus
Sullivan, Johnny Sullivan, Billy McAulliffee, Pakie Daly, Mikey
Daly, Ernie Gardiner, Liam Murphy, Tan Simcox, John Doyle, Eddie
Murphy, John Brown, Mattie McCarthy, John Carroll, Noel McCarthy,
Paddy Leary, Mossy Duane, Denis Linehan, Noel Downey, Dan Cronin,
John Condon, Thomas O'Brien and Frank Flannery.
a final glance at the GAA games of this period, I have vivid memories
of some fiery exchanges during local Derby clashes between Churchtown
and Liscarrol. Yes, there were the fisticuffs, the odd hurley
raised in anger, the fierce physical combat in what the newspapers
of the time described as dour exchanges. Indeed after one terrific
match in Ballyhea, a few women chased the Charleville referee
through the fields after being incensed with some of his decisions.
Fortunately and wisely in later years common sense prevailed and
the late 50s saw several Churchtown players on the Liscarrol minor
championship winning side of 1959. These included Donie Jewitt,
Johnny Sullivan, Eddie Murphy and the burly full back Mick Doyle.
I was the best man at Mick's wedding.
before that, we followed Churchtown's fortunes in the Novice Grade
by bicycle, pony and cart or in Dorney's lorry, a familiar vehicle
of conveyance. We jumped aboard the lorry, gripped the side railings
and obeyed the order "swing to the right or left" depending
on what way the vehicle turned. No one bothered about safety then
as we sang "We don't care whether we win, lose or draw, we
don't care, we don't care, all we know is that there's going to
be a match and the green and gold will be there". I recall
going to see Churchtown play Ballyclough, or was it Lisgriffin,
in a novice football match when there was some difficulty getting
15 players to make up the team. True, a sheet of paper listing
a panel of 27 or so names had been exhibited on Costelloe's window
a few days before but come the Sunday and the after second Mass
drinking at O'Brien's and Flannery's the bulk of the panel had
fallen by the wayside for one reason or another.
art of persuasion was strongly enforced and I can still see the
"back four" togged out in their own trousers that afternoon.
In goal was Jerry Jewitt at full back, a fellow called Conroy,
I believe a ganger at Mrs Lewis's, flanked by Sean Galvin and
Willie Joe Condon. Now, Mr Conroy, a Kerryman I believe, from
the "side back" as the man said, was a talented footballer
as were Jimmy Gordon and Christy Sherlock who played outfield.
But Jerry Jewitt, Willie Joe Condon and Sean Galvin would never
claim to be skilled experts of the football code. Nevertheless,
they readily volunteered to help out the team and the Club and
their willingness to stick a jersey on, tuck their stockings over
their trousers and have a go was typical of the spirit that abounded
in those days.
ends my memories of growing up in the village of Churchtown in
the late 40s and early 50s. The families who lived there during
this period were, looking up the village with one's back against
Simcox's wall and starting on the left hand side were:
Liz Sullivan and family and lodger.
Ben Fehin, the local blacksmith in the 50s.
Mrs Nellie Doyle-Relihan, and prior to her Tim Fitzpatrick the
Gaffney's the butcher and Tom O'Brien's pub and General Provisions.
Tom & Lil Costelloe (my parents) who ran a shop during the
Mr & Mrs Johnny Burns. Johnny Burns was a Bookmaker at one
The Booney/O'Sullivan family where Denis Hickey grew up. Kate
Sacristan, resided with them.
Bill and Mrs Hickey and Mrs Treacy and family.
Flannery's Bar where bar staff included Denny Connell, T J Costelloe,
and Paddy Joe Mahoney.
Paddy Keeffe's pub. Paddy also trained greyhounds.
Pad Relihan and family. Jack Mahoney also used the premises for
Maggie Noonan and her sister Cathy.
A vacant house although at one time a Dispensary.
Matt & Amelia Ryan and family.
Willie Joe Condon, our shoemaker and next door the Dorney family.
Jimmy O'Connor, who later moved to Mallow, being replaced by May
Jimmy Gordon's shop.
Roches, where dwelt a lady known as Elly Bilda.
Jim and Birdie Flynn.
Paddy Russell who lived alone and never married.
Paddy & Mrs Flynn. Paddy was a master carpenter and storyteller.
Mr & Mrs Bowe, later replaced by Tom & Nellie Murphy.
Tom, in his 40s, hurled
centrefold for Churchtown playing in his bare feet.
The Dispensary, where the doctor called weekly.
The Ahern family and Michael Ahern, the Creamery Manager.
Jim McGill and family. They had a shop and sold flowers.
Norah & Ellie Mary O'Keefee who ran the Post Office.
The village cemetery where Oliver Reed the film star now lies
The Tierney family, cum local library. Mr Tierney was the Schoolmaster
at one time.
Miss Maggie Treacy the old Postmistress who could be abrupt and
dealing with customers.
Paddy & Mrs Egan who took over from a French couple, Mr &
Mrs Clay. Paddy and
myself used to take cattle to fairs for Gaffneys and Cronins.
In the late 40s, this
residence was a lodging house for young apprentice jockeys who
worked at the
Vincent O'Brien's stables. They christened it "Number 10"
and the landlady was a
Miss Katie Plaice.
Fr Jim Savage the quick tempered curate and before him Fr Martin
Miss Linehan was Fr Cusack's housekeeper.
and finally, Bob & Ellie Winters.
Beyond Winters was the Creamery where the workforce was Bill Flynn
and Patie Fehin
and prior to them Tom Treacy (Maggie's brother) and Patsy Connors.
Just beyond our Church were two rows of houses called The Lane
where dwelt at one
time or another Bill Cremins and family, Denzie Leary and family,
who wed a man called "Fearless" Leary, Johnny Murphy
who wed Liz Murphy,
Ben Fehin and his blacksmith's house, Mrs Bowe, Mary Ann and Paddy
Dan Connors, Dick Flynn and family, Paddy Carthy, and Micky Daly.
of these people have now gone to their eternal reward and may
they rest in peace. My memories too have come to an end and perhaps
the most fitting way to do so is to recall one of Moore's melodies
we sang at school called Oft in a Stilly Night. The second verse
sums up the feelings:
I remember all the friends so linked together
I've seen them round me fall, like leaves in wintry weather
I feel like one who threads alone some banquet hall deserted
Whose eyes have fled and garlands dead and all but he departed
Thus in the stilly night when slumbers chain hath bound me
Sad memory brings to light of other days around me.
DENIS P COSTELLOE
Grateful thanks to my old school pal Denis Hickey for his assistance.