How didja get over the Christmas?

By Vincent Coyle, Dublin, 2018

There yar now reading this on your home PC or your laptop or thru your TV with your wireless keyboard. A far cry from the Anglo Celt and the Meath Chronicle. Maybe you’re in a cyber cafe in downtown Malibu or wrapped up in the snowy wastes of Alaska.  Could be that you’re only down the road from the school or down in g’doy g’doy land where the water goes backwards down the drain. Whether you’re this side or that side of Mullaghmeen doesn’t matter too much…  what we’d like to know out here in January is…

“How didja get over the Christmas in your place??”

“Ah shir kinda quiet” won’t be enough for the good folk who lock on to this site on a regular basis. Some of our readers are like the man in the New York apartment with the bit of a sod of turf smouldering in the lid of a polish tin, just to get the whiff of home.

What was the weather like in your place or do you remember leppin’ into every puddle on the way to Mass or school just to see how deep was the ice.  Do you remember the slide outside the Masters house. Did you practise your chords in the bandhouse at the bottom of the hill ?  If you did, tell us about it before we all forget. Patrick Kavanagh was constantly reminding us of the importance of the parochial and lack of importance in provincial things.

C’mon now and tell us about the things you remember well from your youth and how they contrast with your life today. Tell us about the “good old days” and don’t be afraid to lash out at “the bad old days” also. We all had our fair share of both. Tell us about stuff that you never hear about nowadays.  Did you have a way of curing clockin’ hens or did you pop them into a barrel with 3 inches of water like the rest of us. Was there any way of stopping them laying out? How did you manage to get the wet and dry batteries for the radio, home on the bike, from “Porter Sons and Co. Ltd”.

Is your house festooned with Christmas lights now and do you remember when you first got a Christmas tree?  Did you put candles in the windows on Christmas Eve?  Will you drive to midnight Mass at 9pm in your open top saloon in the balmy heat of some sub tropical land or will you go by rickshaw or will the huskies pull you along as you mush mush through the snow.  Do you remember when you first learned to throw your leg over a mans bicycle or the even more tricky one of manoeuvring your leg over to the far pedal on a ladies model. Were you the type who threw your leg over and was onto the other pedal in a flash or did you do the leisurely swing and freewheel casually for a bit before you got down to the serious business of pedalling.

Would you know what a “twisters” was for or would you maybe know too well. Did you spend much time ghubbin‘ cocks of hay or were you always strictly a round bale person?  Did you ever put a gubbin on a wayward calf and are clams just funny fish?  Did you ever put a “langit” on a straying sheep or goat and did you ever see the word written down?  If you popped your head into Lords forge you’d surely know the anvil and the bellows and the tongs but would you quickly name 8 other tools there?

What was the tin grater and the white chalky yoke in the Dunlop Cycle Repair Outfit yellow box for?  They said that it was “to prevent adhesion to cover“…..  but we knew that it was just to stop the tube sticking to the tyre.  When did you last click in the bulky stub of a dynamo hub against your bicycle tyre?  Were large wheels 28×1 and 3/4 or was it 1 and 3/8th or am I off the wall altogether?  Did you ever put a “vulcanised” patch on your wellington?  Did Eamon Brown give you a handful of hazelnuts in class and were you able to open them with a butty penknife without making noise.  Were you the one with the mirror who shone it on the blackboard or did you just have a pocket full of old “spinners” from broken clocks.  What can you remember from the blackboard???

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”

Were you there when Johnnie would stroll in to read the rolls??  Did you drink milk from a YR sauce bottle at the suss and did you throw most of your lunch to Maggie’s hens?  Did you have a ‘goin‘ watch or did you just draw one on your wrist. Would you be able to lay your hands on a cigarette case with the yellow elastic still in place.  Who drove the split window Morris Minor??

Were you there when the new church opened and the bishop and the Lord Mayor of Dublin came to Ballinacree?  Do you want to tell us about Ballinacree today?  Do you want to tell us about hi-tech, multi-national, multi-lingual Ballinacree of the modern era?  Your story is the one we want to hear. Tell us about your life style, your weather, your hobbies and don’t forget the little things.  Do you have dinner now in the middle of the day or is it an evening job?

Are you fascinated that you lived in a time when nothing had changed for the previous 700 years and now nothing remains the same for 7 minutes….??

Are you amazed that you stayed on the men’s or women’s aisle because that was the thing to do and that now you know that the very instrument you’re reading this on is out of date even if you bought it yesterday.   Did you wear a “Sunday suit “?

Are you one of those folk who know men…. there are millions…. or are you one of the two or three in the universe who know women?

Do you remember the series in “Readers Digest” where they talked about their “most unforgettable character”….  do you want to tell us about yours?…  preferably someone from the Ballinacree hinterlands but if it’s someone from far flung foreign fields we’ll lap it up regardless….  and by the way did you ever lap hay and if so would you tell us about it and the weather and the thistles and the woe begone atmosphere where it seemed to rain on a permanent basis. Did you ever rub linseed oil into an animals horn to prepare it for the show in Oldcastle….. did you ever get the prize for best jam sandwich… or were your carrots, onions or milch cows deemed to be worthy of that coveted rosette. Did you ever mould potato ridges where you’d barely reach the top of the green stalks and did you like Patrick Kavanagh ever hold a knapsack sprayer on the barrels edge poised over a copper poisoned ocean. Did you remember your youth and some Ruth you knew.

We want to hear it all….  we want the world to lock onto this website… and like Bogey and Bacall… have it all….. put Ballinacree on the map….. be not ashamed…. be not perturbed… do not hide your light under a bushel like some mute inglorious Milton…. give it a lash….

Tell us when you last saw barred clouds bloom the soft dying day!!

Do you know special things ? If you do tell us…. like what I hear you say…. well like what would happen long ago if you didn’t put axle grease on the cart axle…. would it just squeal or would it wear away in 20 minutes.

How did a carbide lamp work?  Were you delighted when you got the Tilley lamp first and why was the mantle so brittle. What was the first electrical item you remember being purchased in your house shortly after you got the electricity?

Did you ever boil eggs in the electric kettle….  were you like the man from Dungimmon who never shaved the dead pig as he used the hair as a handy way of turnin’ the bacon on the cast iron pan…. did your mother bake the bread in a pot oven on the open fire and was “Shop bread” a treat? I remember my mother asking the travelling shop for toilet paper when we got the “indoor toilet” first and he regretfully had to advise her that on his rounds most folk still used grass. Weren’t we lucky to have lived in the grass era and still survived to see the “double quilted velvet ” era.  Did you live in the era were you confessed every little tittle tattle and did you survive to the era where confessions are as rare as snow on the cusp of hell. Did you serve Mass where the priest was mainly with his back to the congregation…. did you hear him whisper “hic est enim” and did you wonder as they demoted St. Christopher and turned the altar round and welcomed other religions and became of the people rather than from the people…….. g’wan tellus….. did you stand oat the school gable and listen to Fr Troy enunciate…. “juventutem meam”…say it again laddie….???

There will be no marks for the best effort and no marks for the worst because as you all know now…..

“There’s so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it ill behoves any of us to talk about the rest of us”.

You have a great story to tell and you now know that there’s lots of very intelligent folk with no education and lots of dull folk with a lot of education…. so we’re all kinda equal… so let’s hear your story.  Don’t wait until it’s perfect and ready for publication….we’d never hear anything then…. g’wan……. give it a lash….. be as through other as this missive but do let us all know your end of the story…. now listen to this bit… if you’re very shy and know a Ballinacree person that you’ve always admired and is a kindova saint or hero or entrepreneur or just a great friend… why don’t you tell us all about her or him…. g’wan now…. no need for names if you’re too shy… we’ll all work it out or have a bit of crack trying.

Did you cut out bits of leather to shine the axle of your bike…. did you lean across a wooden gate and look far into a field and see a world unknown to others….. did you knock the delph bits of the electric poles with a well aimed stone…. did you skim the flat stones across the lake ? Did you ever hop a stone off a galvanise shed?  Did you ever lie on the warm grass where a cow had just lain.  Did every man in your youth wear a hat or a cap.  Did you ever lift a stone and wonder at what little world lay hidden there??  Do you remember when mantillas were fashionable or when the world might end if the seam on a nylon stocking was not straight.  Did you ever get a “parcel from America“?

Did you cock hay with the lights of a tractor on summer nights in case it might rain tomorrow?  Would you like to tell us about the well in your field or yard?  Can you remember a day on the bog and what the tea tasted like and the sound of the silence and the distant call of a lone curlew or looking up to see if you could spot the lone lark in his high heaven.  Do you remember a neighbour who in a simple yet complex way taught you more in a day than you could ever find on the internet?

Did you ever sit in a glasshouse and have an old man tell you that he was dying and knew that fear of God was the beginning of folly and that he was as prepared as ever he was going to be??…. did you ever cry because something might happen or maybe happened or just because the poem was what Americans call “awesome”…

Do you feel that you can tellus about you… that unique creature that God made and never made a copy of…….???

We’re an historical society…………… you could be part of our history…. no… not her or him…. you….. the one you deem to be ordinary….. the normal one… we want to hear about you… that unique special you……. c’mon tellus ??

And finally… as they say…. “well… any news down your way ????”


Vincent Coyle

Gather the bits of road that were
Not gravel to the traveller
But eternal lanes of joy
On which no man who walks can die.
Patrick Kavanagh 1904-1967.

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