By Patricia Lancaster nee Broomfield
I first came to Churchtown when I was eighteen months old, to stay with my grand-parents, Michael and Hannah Lynch of Ballindaling. Over the next eleven years I came and went with my mother Anne, brothers Michael and Peter. Each time I went to Churchtown National School and my teachers then were Mr. and Mrs. Wall, Miss Kennedy, and Miss Kelliher – now Mrs O’Regan. The latter leaving made a great impact on my life.
The other great impact on my life was my grandmother, a truly formidable lady, very religious. We would say the Rosary every night and, despite her age, she went to Mass every Sunday. She always wore black, the sign of a widow, since Grandad died in 1953.
I learned Irish dancing in the hall every week, so I would have to show my Nan how much I had learned, along with the local girls. I was always in the company of Hannah Jewitt, her brothers, Lucy Cronin and the McMahons. We lived across the road from the Relihans, Cronins, Jewitts and Breens and up the road was Hawes farm. I remember well being chased by their turkeys, around and around the barn, to be rescued by Mrs. Hawe. That was a magical place for any child – a big orchard full of apples, blackcurrants and strawberries. The house was thatched and whitewashed.
Ham’s hung up inside. I always went there for duck eggs and Mrs. Hawe gave me American comics.
At the other end of the township was a sandpit. I remember riding Jewitt’s donkey there, being thrown off, walking and talking the way children do. Then there was O’Connors – Sean, Liam and Rosaleen, apples from the orchard, the milking machine there.
Then there was Burton Woods, beautiful in summer – bluebells and primroses. Many times my Mum and myself carried wood home on our backs. The crows on a Sunday morning, as the Mass bell rang, rising from Burton Woods – the noise they made.
Early morning Mass – nothing to eat from the night before – Father Mortell shouting his sermon as usual – red faced, making sure no one stood in the porch during Mass – separate seats for the local gentry. My first Communion – my beautiful dress sent from my Aunt in New York. She sent two lovely dresses – one was yellow, for afterwards. Getting money from everyone. New shoes, prayer-book, and Rosary beads. Afterwards going to Youghal, driven by Jimmy Gordon.
Confirmation – panic as we waited for the Priest to ask us our questions – singing in the choir, forcing my voice and having to mime. My pink dress with long sleeves, from Corbett’s in Buttevant – having my hair set in Charleville – money collected, new shoes, prayer book and Rosary beads. After a lovely breakfast, laid on in the school, off to Ballybunion – again driven by Jimmy Gordon. I remember well his and May’s shop in the village. Then there was O’Brien’s shop, Gaffney’s the butchers, the Post Office, Flannery’s and Simcox’s. I remember a donkey-derby one summer – red lemonade, ice cream from Simcox’s, buying ink and pens and copy-books there, brown paper and sellotape to cover them, at O’Brien’s. Summer – we went to Cahirmee in Buttevant – I saw a circus there and had a new hat for the occasion.
We cycled everywhere then – Liscarroll, Buttevant, Charleville. I remember lovely long summer days, very cold winters, wet St. Patrick’s days, and shamrock growing out of the walls. A ride on a hay-cart down the road from the Rath to Annagh. A whole load of kids sat on top of the hay stack. Going with the McMahons to Annagh – watching cows being milked by hand and calves being born. Big orchard and a monkey-puzzle tree, St. Bridget’s Well at the side of the road as it was then – covered in ribbons, medals and holy pictures, and the water running down the road. The creamery where my grandfather, Michael Lynch, worked for some time. I fetched butter and milk from there. Bringing home shopping after school from O’Brien’s – meeting cattle on the road – going to the market in Charleville. Market day -animal’s everywhere – couldn’t walk anywhere for the mess.
Funerals and wakes – I saw more of them then, as an adult. Horse-drawn carriages, long wakes in the houses, wet and cold grave-sides. Going to the “Stations” in people’s houses – O’Leary’s, Ahern’s, O’Connor’s, Madden’s and more.
Fetching water from a well down the road – no taps then. Cooking on an open fire, reading by lamp-light. Playing cabbaldies on my own, moving every plant in our garden hundreds of times, seeing washing drying on the hedge outside the door, swinging on the big gates.
There are more memories – too many to mention. The children I played with then – Hannah Hewitt and Lucy Cronin and others have always remained in that part of my memory kept just for Ireland. The Relihans – Moll and Nell, Mary Ann and Kitty Breen, Angela O’Regan, Eileen Kennedy, Tom and Mrs. Wall and last, but not least, my grandmother – Hannah Lynch, whose stories and songs have kept a bit of me forever Irish.