Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Sunday, 9 October 2011
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Porridge - two kinds, oaten porridge (ordinary porridge), Indian maize (Indian porridge)
Boiled eggs some days
Home-baked bread – soda, corn (fruit scone) and wheaten
Tea was tea leaves
Dinner – 12.30pm
Potatoes – pinks
Bacon and cabbage (home grown)
Carrots, onions and lettuce for the garden
Tea – 3.30pm
Bread, butter and jam
Jam - whatever fruit was in season, not much raspberry – more plum, gooseberry, blackberry and rhubarb
Tea – 6.30-7pm
Same as above
Porridge before bedtime made fresh and left until morning
- crushed oats for the animals
- pin head oatmeal for stirabout for the family
The oatmeal bin had to be washed and very carefully dried and aired before the new meal was put into it. Flake meal was a real novelty when you were used to pin head oatmeal.
There was no savoury or long grain rice when I was young; however pearl rice or pudding rice was very popular with lots of big raisins in it. Jelly, custard and trifle were very popular desserts as was apple and rhubarb pie.
Bread was always home baked and the housewife was very busy depending on the size of her family or the number of extra men to be fed. Currant and raisin bread was much enjoyed as was caraway seed bread and treacle bread. Potato bread was made from a mixture of cooked mashed potatoes, flour and salt and rolled out thinly and cooked on the pan while boxty was made from grated raw potatoes, flour and salt and cooked similarly.
Killing the pig was a routine affair when we were young. The pork steaks called grishkens were divided with the neighbours possibly because no house had a refrigerator. It was a very busy time for the housewife making black puddings from the blood with the addition of pearl barley or some kind of meal. The pig’s cheeks etc were boiled and seasoned and formed into brawn. The sides of the pig were cured with alum and salt. Sometimes bacon could be very salty and needed to be steeped in cold water before use. Beef was a luxury when I was young.
Geese were the Christmas dinner rather than turkey – they came much later.
Cream from the milk was churned to make butter. Dash churns were replaced by barrel or end over end churns which were easier to use. The butter had to be very well washed to make it properly as there was nothing as bad as badly made country butter.
During the war years, ration books were issued to everyone with coupons for food and clothes. This gave rise to the song “God bless De Valera and Sean McEntee that gave us the black bread and half ounce of tea”. It was known that “black market” tea could be bought in a little shop in Longford, as children we thought it was a special brand of tea. White flour was available in Northern Ireland but not in the south.
Compulsory tillage meant that the farmers had to till a greater percentage of their arable land to provide food for the nation. This was supervised by the Department of Agriculture inspectors and was very difficult for farmers as most of the agricultural workmen had joined the English army.
Traveling shops were quite common in those days and were a God send when people had not the time to go into town, the goods were always a few pence dearer but it was well worth it for convenience sake.
It was quite common to borrow a cup of tea or sugar from a neighbour if the need arose suddenly before getting to town to shop. The children did the borrowing and returning.
Porridge was always breakfast in our house; my memories of the porridge was one of very thick and very difficult to swallow, it did not matter how much sugar or milk was added, the porridge still was the same. My Granny or Granda would have steeped the porridge overnight it was left at the side of the” Aga” cooker to simmer, I think this is why it was so thick.
Cheese was typical for our school lunch, each day it was cheese on white bread with butter (crusts still on). The cheese was cut thickly on the slice of bread. I remember one day at school I did not eat my lunch and threw it in the bin only to be found out by the teacher and my Mother was informed of my misdemeanour and I was given a good slap!
Butter coupons were given out to those who were on the dole.
Tinned spam, “Doherty’s Special Mince”, homemade vegetable soup would have been our dinners, and also “Doherty’s” sausages with home grown onions and gravy and the potatoes we would have gathered during Halloween. The potatoes were stored in pits covered with straw. When we did not have potatoes Mum would have made boiled rice.
Friday was kept as a “fast day”, potatoes with loads of butter otherwise known as poundies and egg sauce was our dinner on this day, I looked forward to it. Making a volcano with the potatoes and adding butter, then the egg sauce poured over it delicious!
My Granny made a “clotty dumpling” for each of us on our birthday as a treat. Granny prepared the mixture, put it into a bowl, covered it with a cotton pillowcase and then cooked in a big pot of bowling water. Granny had to top up the water every so often as it was important not to let it boil dry. It took 2-3 hours to cook, when it was ready, we all had a piece with home made custard. The dumpling was fried the next morning in butter - delicious.
We had hens, ducks and geese so had our own fresh eggs, mum would have done a lot of home baking, soda, fruit and Indian meal scones. Granny would have baked apple tarts and rhubarb tarts, my great-aunt would have given us the rhubarb. We would have gathered berries from the hedges and if there was enough Mum would have made jam.
Dad fished on the River Foyle and brought home trout and plaice, this would have been in the 1980’s.
We did not get a lot of biscuits or sweets, but I do remember my Uncle once bringing a tin of “Jacobs Kimberley” to the house we were delighted and could not wait to taste them.
Wednesday, 7 September 2011
My wife Mary's Great Grandmother, Biddy McSwyne (Sweeney) was
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
This is a tale – all true – of the origins of four half pint pewter beer mugs that arrived in Donegal from Australia in the year 1862/1863 and have since never travelled more than a hundred yards.
The story begins in 1852 when James left a farm near Convoy to seek his fortune in Australia. Extracts from Victorian Public Records (Australian) state that a James Wray arrived in Melbourne in August 1852 aboard the ship, ‘Fanny,’ which had sailed from Liverpool. The Fanny was 950 tonnes, held 271 people and was bound for Port Phillip Bay. James was an unassisted emigrant so less information is available. He is listed as having Irish nationality and being an agricultural labourer.
Where or when he met his future wife is unknown but she is believed to have emigrated from Baronscourt, Co. Tyrone. A couple with the same names are recorded as being married in Melbourne on the 1st October 1857. Together they ran a hotel in the mining town of Ballarat in Victoria. This hotel was burned down in 1857 and replaced by a new one which was subsequently purchased by the advancing Railway Company. An extract from a local Ballarat paper at the time records the following. ‘ Before the construction of the railway from Geelong, this hotel stood on the site now occupied by the entrance to the Eastern Goods Sheds. The premises were burned down on the 24th December and the rebuilt house was sold on 7th April to make provision for a railway reserve.’
James and Mary decided to return to Ireland. Their two children born in Australia had both died aged 6 years and 2 years – some say of chickenpox. A poignant, much faded photograph records a man and a woman standing beside a grave which still exists in Ballarat today.
By 1863 James had acquired over 96 statute acres in Donegal – a map of the time records such. Two more children were born to the couple before James died only four years later in 1867.
In their luggage from Australia they had carried the four glass bottomed pewter mugs as a reminder of their days in Australia. Engraved on the side of each is – James Wray, Imperial Hotel. Today they serve as a reminder of the courage and fortitude of James and Mary almost exactly a hundred and fifty years ago.
Wednesday, 11 May 2011
In the upper corner of a field of marginal land two kilometres from Raphoe in the Townland of Magheestown lies a large outcrop of stone known locally as ‘The Giant’s Grave.’ On this rock Bronze Age man engraved cups and circles in the rock probably between four and five thousand years ago. Similar stones exist along Europe’s Atlantic coastline in Ireland (West Cork and Kerry), Northern Britain and in Galicia in Northwest Spain and are thus sometimes known as Galician Art.
The stones bearing the rock art are known as petroglyphs and are usually found at a site with a wide panoramic view on land that is marginal but surrounded by fertile land. The stoney outcrop at Magheestown has indeed an impressive view. Coraghan Hill with its prehistoric enclosure can be seen in the distance. Sometimes stone circles lie in the vicinity raising the question whether there is a ritual link between the stone at Magheestown and Beltany Stone circle. Certainly the same markings of cup and circles appear at Beltany though they are not nearly so well defined.
Middle section with cross through the lower circle and top stone (below)
The number of cups and circles to be seen at Magheestown varies according to encroachment of sod and moss at any given time. Over the years there has been damage to the stone with resulting fissures which encourage the growth of moss and grasses and the collection of water. The harsh winter of 2010/2011 has left the stone revealing more art than usual. At the top northern end three large definite cups with two circles around each cup can clearly be seen.
Teresa, Jessica and Eleanor cleaning up the site in 2011
Under these are a series of small multiple cups, some encircled or half encircled with a single ring, some are not. These are less clear. Further down to the left a large hollow occurs, possibly from damage where frogs spawn each year – frogs thrive in the marshy land around and it is unusual to visit this site without meeting a hopping friend. Below this is a very clearly defined cup and circle with evidence of another below being damaged. In the central section of the stone more clearly defined cups and double circles occur. A cross appears through one of these. A cross is rarely found in pre-christian art but is known to occur. From another circle a long line appears which could well be a ‘tail’ described in other petroglyphs as probably a directional aid. This line continues above the said circle but does not pass through it. Other markings to the right are difficult to decipher but straight lines appear.
To the eastern side of the rock are numerous grass covered boulders which appear to be from field clearance. I cannot establish if the giant’s grave lay hidden under sod for generations or if its presence has been known down the generations.
Theories abound as to the significance of rock art. To us the markings appear haphazard but could reflect a known order of the time. Certainly it had ritual and/or mystic role to play in the Bronze Age circle of life. During the Bronze Age there was a big deterioration in the weather and there has been a suggestion that the cups were painted in gold or copper to attract the failing sun. Petroglyphs often occur near copper or gold mines. Was it simply a form of early calender set to the attract the sun’s rays at certain points in the year? Was it an aid to determine sewing times? Did the ancients use it as a road map? Whatever the use, we can safely assume that this isolated spot in Magheestown had an international link thousands of years ago but its exact significance to the men who crafted it will remain an enigma.
Please see below for correspondence between the late Dr. J.W. Wray from nearby Ballyholey and the The National Museum regarding the rock art in the 1970s.