Nellie Farrelly (nee Brown) grew up in Ballinrink on the site of the O’Reilly Castle. She was interviewed for the Local History Group in 2004.
My great grandfather was one of a number of small farmers evicted from Hone’s in Ballymacad. He went to buy a cow at the fair in Granard and came home to find his wife and nine children on the roadside. Tormeys of the Mill in Halfcarton took the family in and after that he went and squatted beside the ruins of Ballinrink castle. Some of the big walls and one of the sentry boxes, and the little houses of the workers with the fireplace in the middle were still there when I was a child: it must have been a very big castle. They say there was a plaque over the castle entrance which read: A head or man O Reilly of the Five Blades.
My grandfather used to make some money selling the fruit from the trees in the castle garden to Liptons in Dublin. Afterwards he got some land there and that’s where I was born and reared. My father was 50 and a widower when he married my mother who was only 20. He had been married to one of the Lees of Clontyduffy and already had four sons. She told me afterwards that when she took up a little baby who was there sucking his thumb, without a mother she couldn’t leave him down. She later had six daughters – I was the youngest.
My father and mother were as happy as larks; I never remember a fight. Both of them loved music and my father played the flute. Sometimes I hear people saying ‘Long ago when we were hungry.’ Growing up in Ballinrink I never went hungry. The people that time didn’t have much but they got it right. The pigs paid the rates; the cattle paid something else and we had ducks on the river, and chickens and turkeys. We had our own potatoes and other vegetables. When my father died in 1929 he willed the place to the eldest son, Peter who was in the Dublin Metropolitan Police. He emigrated to America and left it to Teresa who married Michael Carroll. At that time there was very little work for anyone especially for the girls. They could only think of domestic service and marriage.
Three of my step-brothers and four of my sisters emigrated. My sister Nan worked with Mrs. Carroll in the shop in Oldcastle. She used take in young girls and teach them dressmaking; this gave them a skill for when they went away. Many people who had been soldiers in the First World War got land when Ballinrink estate was divided; Gilsenans, Geelans, Joe Lord, Colwells, Aherns and a Murphy man from Ross and a few others. I think they got about 20 acres each. The big house in Ballinrink originally belonged to the Rotherhams. They also owned houses in Castlecor, in Mount Pallas and two in Westmeath. The Rotherams of Castlecor had five sons. Matt Fagan was the chief workman there. I think they had tea plantations in China. Beezie Delaney who lived in the house beside Georgie Smith went abroad with them. They had a reputation for being charitable. Mrs. McRory who lived in the big house in Ballinrink was a Rotheram. She also had houses in Dublin and London. Jimmy and Peter Brown used work in Ballinrink and Peter used also work in their Dublin house; it was a castle. He used come into our house at night and we’d go to bed with the hair standing on our heads after listening to his stories about the haunted castle.
After the land division Owenie Gilsenan of Mountnugent who had been a soldier got land in Ballinrink and the part of the big house that we used as a hall. I never missed any of the dances held there. My sister Teresa who was captain of the camogie team organized some of them.
We had a great team – Maggie Reilly was one of the stars. The dances were very civilized affairs. Sometimes we’d have a Whist Drive first and then a dance. There was a kitchen downstairs where you could make tea. Mrs. Lydon would often come down so there would be no carry on or drinking. I can remember dancing until 5.00 in the morning and then heading off to work in Owen Clarke’s shop.
When I got the job in Clarke’s there was a cinema upstairs and the piano and pianola were still there. I had done bookkeeping with Mrs. Lydon in Ballinacree. She was a great teacher and taught us many subjects, even Latin. If she saw you had a talent for something she’d encourage you and give you extra classes. She lived for a while in what we used call Fr Gerrard’s house in Castlecor and then moved into the town. I could have gone on to do teaching when I finished national school but I opted to stay around home. There’s another little house in Balinacree, between the Community Centre and the crossroads, which used be a school. I know that two Miss Dalys who lived near Traynors in Greeve, when I was a child used teach there.
When I was young we had our own seat in the gallery in Ballinacree church. The people who gave special help to build the church had these seats – Chapmans, McCabes, Smiths of Halfcarton, Gilsenans and others. That was on the left hand side as you looked at the altar. I used hate going up there because it was too high. I used be fascinated by some of the wall plaques there, especially one in memory of an O’Reilly family. The gallery on the other side was for everyone and the one at the back was for the choir. The previous chapel was down the Ballinrink road and my father used say that the sound of keening was heard when they were bringing the Blessed Sacrament from the old chapel to the new chapel back in the 1800’s.
I came into Oldcastle in 1932 and in 1940 I married Larry Farrelly who had a dairy farm. In years gone by some of Larry’s family used supply milk and butter to the workhouse. He used have the cows milked in time to send the milk to Dublin on the 7.00 am train. But sometimes there was a glut of milk on the Dublin market and the milk often came back on the train and he used have to bring it to the creamery in Kilnaleck. In those days you couldn’t keep pigs on a dairy farm or the Department inspectors would be down on you. When Eddie O’Reilly decided to give up the milk run in Oldcastle, Larry took it over.
One of the great moments in town was when news came out that the council was going to build new houses on the site of the workhouse. I think 42 houses were finished in 1938. Many poor people got houses; it was funny because now they had running water and inside toilets something that many of the big people in the town didn’t have.
In my young days people didn’t go out and come back home wanting something because they saw that their neighbour had it. You’d never go to a bank to borrow money; you’d be afraid to. You had a certain amount of money and you lived with it. Those were the days of candlelight and when you’d be lucky to get oranges from Santa Clause. Today he’d need a trailer to carry the stuff in.