County Louth Oral History Archive

Extracts from a Selection of Interviews

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All transcripts below are excerpts from the interviews. Click on the audio links to listen to an extended version of the interviews, or right-click to download the audio file.

OHA/1 – Hugh Smyth, Dundalk

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I can't remember that much of World War II. I remember being frightened as aeroplanes flew across and I can also remember my parents speaking about black bread, as compared to white bread. Flour of course and all that, was of inferior quality that we got here and the rationing, I remember the rationing cards, if you wanted sweets you had to have a coupon for sweets. If you wanted clothes you had to have a coupon to go with the money. I remember that, but I remember just after the war more vividly. Forty, fifty buses coming from Northern Ireland on a Saturday morning. Green buses as we called them, and they wouldn't come up the main street, they would come up McSwiney Street, and they'd park all up around where the Adelphi is now, and all round there (sic). And people from Northern Ireland, of course you had the ship yard the sirocco works Shortt Brothers and loads of money being made there just after the war, but they had no goods because things hadn't got back to normal, the imports, so they were coming south to buy with plenty of money and Dundalk was one of the towns they came to visit (sic). Mind you, there were some shop keepers weren't so nice to them, overcharging, under weight. In fact, I don't know how true this is, but it is said that when some of the people went back down home with maybe two pounds of sugar or three pounds of sugar and two pounds of tea, to their horror, they realised that half the bag was full of sand. Now I don't know how true that is, but I heard those stories. So, as I said, they weren't all saints in Dundalk.

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OHA/12 – Joe Mulholland, Dundalk

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The seasonal foods, yeah. You got, well spuds you got most of the year round but the new potatoes would come in, well the old potatoes, I mean they were really rotten by this time. It wasn't like now, no cold stores or nothing but what you got you eat. There was no such thing, you weren't going to get anything else, put it this way, if your mother put a food up, there was no such thing as "well I don't really like that". Well you weren't going to get anything else, that was it but everything was fresh, grand, you eat it, everything had its season. You never got anything out of season because nobody grew it, there was no such things. Even tomatoes only started to come in then, what, well about what, oh in the fifties, sixties, fifties, when they used to grow them in cold glass houses. They were the only times you got them then. And then they got hot houses you know, and things like that. Things got a bit better but tomatoes would have been one thing that would have been expensive, you know, relatively expensive because there wasn't many of them. Scallions and lettuce, you got scallions and then you had shallots. Now shallots were very strong compared to scallions so the shallots they would be, they would be something the height of that but where the scallions would be lovely little small ones, you know and that. We used to get a lot of champ. That would be potatoes boiled, creamed with a big knob of butter in it, scallions chopped up small, put into it also. In the case, in the winter when you couldn't get it, it would be onions and remember at that time, we never got Spanish onions, we were getting Irish onions. They'd make your eyes weep and they were strong. The Spanish onion's a lovely sweet onion. But you'd get that then and fish. Now I remember at that time, you must remember there was a fella used to come round here from Bellurgan and Gyles Quay on the weekends. At that time, no one ate meat on a Friday, Friday was a fast day. Well he'd come round here on a Friday morning, you'd hear him coming round the street shouting "Herring alive, herring alive" and you'd go out and he'd have a horse and cart full of fresh herring or in season, mackerel, maybe salmon, what we called salmon bass, sea bass, flat fish. They were all caught out there in the bay with small boats. But there was that many of them. Fish was the cheapest thing you could get. He would sell you a big load of, of herrings. Well I was never overly fond of herrings; there was too many bones in them. But mackerel, flat fish, whiting, a big lump of cod, that was dirt cheap that was very, very cheap. He'd sell you a dozen, I mean there was no such thing as going out and saying well give me one or two, it's a dozen you'd get. There was that many of them.

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OHA/45.4 – John McGuinness, Blackrock

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Well then our local radio here at the time was Radio Éireann Athlone and they used to just broadcast maybe from 1 o'clock to 2.30 and from 6.30 till 11.00 at night. That was when they used to broadcast then. Eventually they started coming on about 8.00 in the morning until about 10.00. They came on because at one time there was a newspaper strike here that all the newspapers here were on strike and then they came on early and then they stayed on then early once the strike was over. But having said that Radio Éireann then would have, well every Wednesday they had hospitals requests and the presenter was a girl called Kathleen Dolan, Kathleen Dolan and that was her. So she'd be on from 1 o'clock or until 2.30 and then it'd close down. But also then on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday Friday they had sponsored programmes on. And then you'd have such sponsored programmes you'd have well we'd say for instance you'd have, you'd have Imco, Imco the cleaners and it goes something like this:

"Imco cleaning and a pressing and a-dying for you,
Imco cleaning and a pressing until your doubt come true,
Imco cleaning and a pressing if you doubt this true,
Just an Imco clean and a pressing for you,
Just an Imco clean and pressing for you".

Well that was Imco. Well then we had Donnelly's sausages, did you ever hear about Donnelly's sausages? They were good and Donnelly's went like this:

"It's the truth and the talk of the nation, the sausages Donnelly's make.
So good that they caused a sensation, with a flavour you cannot mistake.
They're delicious for breakfast or dinner, the best that your money can buy,
On Donnelly's you're on a winner, they're skinless and faster to fry.
So the next time you go to your grocer, tell her no other sausage will do,
You must rather suggest and say no sir, its Donnelly's sausages for you"

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OHA/75 – Frank D'Arcy, Drogheda

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I remember one night I was listening to Val Joyce, I was living in Cork at the time and his late days, and somebody from Hackballscross sent in a request in memory of the Louth team that had won the All-Ireland football final and what a glorious thing it was. It was an absolute fabulous thing and I feel sorry for the Kerry men and the Cork people who have won so many hurling and football finals because they've won so many of them, another one, they don't take any notice of them. Whereas for us, we'd never forgotten it and even the Down team, I remember the Down team in 1960 won the first All-Ireland. I remember we were all out cheering them on as well and waving our flags and that you know. It has left an indelible mark in my mind. I remember like I remember being in Castlebellingham waiting on the team to arrive. There was no mobile phones that time and in the pitch dark and we had lighted sods of turf that were dipped in paraffin oil and the fellas kept swinging them. I remember coming home jet black and waiting for the team to arrive in Castlebellingham. We just blocked, they were actually in Dundalk but we blocked the road outside an area called ‘the green' and they had to get out of the bus and I remember giving Kevin Behan a tap on the shoulder and he was jaded tired. And then we eventually had to get home. I remember then I got home, I was black from the smoke of the turf you know. Everybody was out you know, one o'clock in the morning still out. And we got the half day from school, we went into school that day and we got a half day. I remember the Christian Brother, Brother Egan, he read, we brought him all the newspapers except the Irish Times, Independent, The Press. I don't think The Irish Times would have gone down too well because of what it was at the time (sic). And he read in the Irish Press, The Irish Times what was going on. Sure we hung on every word you know that he said.

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OHA/149.3 – Aidan Rogers, Dundalk

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AR: My father didn't escape with Frank Aiken, his was a separate thing.
RS: And how did he escape.
AR: Well what happened was they, it's like a movie. His mother baked a cake, maybe a few cakes, because they smuggled in two blank keys and a couple of hack saw blades. And my father told me they were smuggled in in cakes his mother baked. And the plan was, there was four in each cell and the plan was that eight were going to escape and they had made a hole through the adjoining wall of the two cells. Which was amazing that they were able to do this and it wasn't discovered. Now my father when he went to work, went to work in Dan Leavy's and in those days it was a very common thing, big heavy keys, cutting them. And you cut them out by hand, you know you cut out, huge big heavy iron key, you cut the thing out. And he was an expert at this. So they wanted two keys. They wanted a key of his cell and they wanted a key of the door of the prison block. And fortunately one of the warden was one of them, he was a sympathiser. He worked as a jailer but he was a sympathiser to the, to Devs people.

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OHA/62 – Pat Markey, Blackrock

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...when we used to, the hay would be taken in and Eoinie Martin the guy who I was telling you about, worked with the council and he had, the people in Hughes Park used to live down Martin's lane in little lofts, they were called and they were all Eoinie Martins. And when they moved, they were re-housed up in Hughes Park, he used to use the loft for packing in the hay for the cattle for the winter you know. And he'd always go to the hiring fair which was held at the old Market House in Dundalk at the Square. Where the fountain is now. And there'd be people coming, farmers coming from Cavan and Monaghan with their sons, hiring them out for the year or the half year you know and they'd strike a bargain. And the son would be sent up to Eoinie Martin or whoever was hiring them, you know the farmers at that time. I remember a couple of lads coming, one chap in particular, there was a fellow called John Joe Reilly. Naturally enough John Joe Reilly from Cavan you know. John Joe Reilly was the greatest footballer ever at that time you know and he lived in one of the lofts over the cow shed. And it's amazing the heat that emanated from the cows you know at night. There was a wee settled bed in it you know and there was a couple of sacks filled with hay and that was the mattress and that's where he stayed. But he had his meals in the house such as they were like you know. But sure we were all young fellas around Hill Street at the time and taken into the mothers and the mothers would give him a bit you know. So he'd eat a horse you know big, big fellas coming from the wilds of Cavan. But the poor fellas got buck all, ah they got very little. They never got a buck for themselves like you know. The father would get the money, take it home for the rest of the family and that was it. But it was the hiring fair and the firing fair you know there'd be a run on May day. There'd be a running away day too. There'd be a shake hands you know, spit on it and clap hands, that was the deal done you know. But the chap had no say in it, he went whether he liked it or not and that was it. It was terrible you know there'd be just 14 years old leaving school like you know. Nothing else for them. No such thing as secondary education. You had to pay for secondary education that time you know. That's why they never went, couldn't afford it you know.

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OHA/97 – John Flanagan, Mellifont

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RS: And can you do it for people then you were saying as well as items or animals?
JF: It doesn't matter anything. Anything rather than a thing that's not stolen. Stolen thing is no good. I can show you.
RS: So would you be able to lets say look for a person who doesn't want to be found? Like you know missing persons?
JF: Some of them is awkward you see. You see I'll tell you what's the same. Say for instance you hid something, that's hard to find. Say for instance you were going on your holidays, happened several times and you hid something so that no one would find it while you were gone. You hid it.
RS: Yeah, yeah.
JF: No one would find it. Very hard to go into that. Because instead of you see I'd be looking to you to help me to find it but you'd be against me.
RS: Right.
JF: You see that's where you get the persons name before, to help you to find it. Like it'd be no good to you. Like you'd find it in or whatever alright but it wouldn't be in the right place. You might get maybe a whole lot of different places but you'd have to try them all but one of them would be right. But you wouldn't get it like normally the spot where it should be because she hid it or he hid it. And if he died and hid it and died, it'd be twice as awkward.
RS: Yeah.

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OHA/104 – Tallanstown group talking about Vere Foster's family

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JF: He'd annoy you then and you'd have to leave it.
Des: He had three of a family and the first that was born was a little girl, he was disappointed because he thought she would be a boy and when she got on a bit, she heard this. And from that on, she wore the trousers and smoked the pipe and had a drink and all, just as a man. You remember her as a man don't you?
Paddy: Oh well yeah.
Des: And then there was Anthony. And Anthony had twelve of us when we were kids, the flying squad he called us. And he was in the British army. And I was a baby and he used to carry me on his shoulders. And we'd go over to Glyde and he'd take down the silver cross, go down to the river and show us how to stick the eels. And he'd catch the frog spawn and we'd have to take it home and tell him how it developed. And every Saint Stephen's Day there was a party. We were all invited over. And Santa arrived and all. Filgate [...], Eddie Filgate's father would arrive with a bag of toys. And you always got a penny from the toys, you got two toys. Your name and all was on them. And the staff would be there too. So anyway I was a kid, up on the table about 15 foot long and it was laid with buns and biscuits, thought you'd never, because Saint Stephen's Day was more important than Christmas Day nearly. That's true. But poor Anthony then got engaged to a girl in Dublin. She was a Catholic. And her name was Miss Timmons and he had took Miss Timmons, we were all invited over to meet Miss Timmons and they were engaged. And the story was that [..] sent him back to the British army, she was a Catholic. And I don't know what way [...] but the British army sent him out to South Africa and he was about a month out there when he shot himself. But that ended that story.

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OHA/105.1 – Mary MacArdle and Sister Lena, Kilkerly

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SL: But I always used to hear that the parents would have to go to Knockbridge to make their Easter duty. Do you know what that means?
RS: No.
SL: It means that as Catholics you were expected to receive the Eucharist once a year. That was the regulation. You had to go to receive Holy Communion. But it was supposed to be done in your own parish.
MMcA: Between Ash Wednesday and Trinity Sunday.
SL: Between Ash Wednesday and Trinity Sunday yeah. Some time worthily, in other words if the person had any grave sin. People think, people think that if you had to go to confession and communion but in actual fact it was if there was a serious sin, though it was well recommended to go to confession as well as receiving the Eucharist. But at some stage between Ash Wednesday and Trinity Sunday, which is, what is it? Sixty days after Easter they had to present themselves in their parish church to meet their Easter duty. That's what it was called.
RS: And did you just do the normal mass or?
SL: Yes.
RS: OK. So it wouldn't be known?
SL: Well sometimes it was very often incorporated, you'd have normally a parish mission where you'd have the preachers coming from somewhere, the Redemptorist or Marist or somebody, and very often people took advantage of that and made their Easter duty at that. My father was an Easter duty man.

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OHA/52 – Teresa Durnin and Kathleen Duffy, Dundalk

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KD: Well, the dockers would be working till all hours, wouldn't they? Very hard workers then. Loading the coal and unloading the coal.
RS: And can you remember refugees coming across from Belfast then?
TD: Yeah, we put them up. They'd come in trainloads. Yeah. We could hear the bombs from over the border at night and see the sky lighting up. What people would come in? They'd be evacuees, Kathleen.
KD: Sorry?
TD: The wee evacuees from the North.
RS: And where would they stay?
TD: Well, I don't really know, the rich people. We couldn't afford it, we were on rations, you know.
RS: And was there a fear that, either Germany or England would invade, especially Germany? Did people think about it?
TD: Well, we were that close to the Border, they could come over. But, my man was down working in the dockyard in Belfast, the night the big bomb fell. And then there was plenty killed that night, Kathleen. He was on one side of the street and on the other side all the houses were demolished with the bomb. So.
RS: It was a very real thing.
TD: Very, very real. Like you had to live through those times to realize it. Then all the Belfast people from the North would come up here and they'd take up tea and sugar to certain people. And they'd then sell it to us at, you know, bigger price.
KD: Sometime we couldn't buy butter. We used to go over the border for the butter. And if your customs caught you, they'd take it off you.

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