Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

When everyone knew everyone!
By Seamus O’Rourke

Adapted by permission from Fiacc’s Folk 1973

(Courtesy of ''The Parish of KILLESHIN, Graiguecullen'. by P.MacSuibhne. 1972.)

There was a time when everyone knew everyone else here. You were Dan Brennan’s son, or Jim Nolan’s daughter or Brownie’s young lad or Little Nipper, and if you got into a verbal conflict you were told to go home to your auld fella, or to hide behind your mammy’s skirts. And when a young man or woman came home from England or America they stood out because of the different way they dressed and spoke, and the way they carried themselves.

Some had found a whole new way of life and it came through in everything about them. They had been where the money was big, where the neon lights lit up the streets, and people went somewhere different every night of the week.

And when fellows came home in uniform — as I remember the Harte's from St. Fiacc’s Terrace — well, it was like the pictures come to life. If I closed my eyes I could hear the Halls of Montezuma played by a brass band. And there were Irish officers too — Captain Ned Price and Sgt. Major Denis Moran, resplendent in his leggings, shoulder-strap and cane.

To some, Graigue was all football in those days. But best of the football years had passed before I came along —~ one of a runner family which only dated back to my grandfather coming to the Post Office. What I inherited in the football line were legends, or rather legendary stories of great footballers who still stood at the club corner or walked about the village streets in the evenings.

There was Joe Hennessy’s grandfather, Barnie, in whose house there were pictures of former Graigue teams on the walls — men with moustaches and of military bearing, wearing dark hooped jerseys and wearing ordinary boots. Later teams hung on the walls of McDarby's in Maryborough Street where I bought my first blue and white hat to go off and shout for Laois. In those pictures also was Tommy Murphy, the man with a casual way of walking and  running and to whom playing football was as natural as breathing.  Straight shouldered Cutchie Haughney who went to America about that time; the tall Cowleys and the Busyman Haughney, alongside the good looking Desie Connolly who always had a kneed bandaged, wounded, no doubt in some previous sporting encounter.

One or two of these former stars came along to give a few tips to the schoolboy team of around 48/49 and breathed enough life and heart into us to beat the CBS in Carlow by twenty-two points and the brawny Tullow lads by about eight. I remember spending several evenings watching Tom Moran in Fennell’s field where he showed me how to send frees over from what we then thought were impossible angles.

We went on to beat Crumlin on the same field and after that I started trickin’ around at playing soccer and one of the club organisers said at a public meeting that I was a disgrace to the village. That shows how serious football was then!

Near Fennell’s field was Jack Kelly’s house, which frequently smelled of the embrocation he rubbed on the hefty seniors. Who was the trainer who used to come down from the Curragh around that time and put the lads through leap-frog exercises and canters around the field, and who told them about the wonders of whisked eggs mixed with a small drop of sherry?

We would sit on the sticks outside O’Neill’s old houses in Henry Street and talk about the football stories we had heard or the games that were coming up, and Breezer Hogan or Tommy Proctor would turn up with a bouncy sock-ball and we’d start a game under the street lamp. Only we had to be careful of Ned Hogan’s windows because he was a decent old man who didn’t like too much noise and a few years previously he had made “steam-rollers” for us out of cocoa tins and pieces of twine.

Just around the corner from there in Church Street, which was always called “The Burrow,” there were enormous slides down the centre of the road when the frost came. At times they were so dangerous that the women would come out of their houses and sprinkle salt on them so that some of us wouldn’t break our necks.

Christmas, snow and slides are all tied up in my mind with that corner and although I didn’t see it happen, I think it must have been at that time of year that a horse ran away with a milk-cart. down the Barrow, and hitting the slide, rapped the cart around my grandfather’s railings at the top of ‘98 Street.

There were two great “gangs” in Graigue around that time- one of them led by ‘Sisty’ Lawlor who used to sing and look like the young Jack Doyle. He nearly had his eye taken out once in a slug gun battle, and the last time I saw him he could still bring a tear from the exiles with a throbbing “Danny Boy”.

The other gang were from The Numbers, which always boasted, in the days when it really meant something, that it was the only part of Graigue really in Laois. It was there that I got the first two books I ever read from Jim Moore’s wife, who was a friend of my mother’s family; she lived in the first or second of the Numbers houses opposite the school. And I read a lot of the first book in Moore’s sheltered brick-walled garden - Captain Marryats “Midshipman Easy.” The other was “The Coral Island.”

There was a chap lived up that street too called Billy Moore who was so fond of reading that he used to spend a fair bit of his lunch-time reading the newspapers wrapped round his lunch in the school shed and the teacher Sean O’Leary said he was one of the cleverest chaps ever to come out of Graigue - and he was no bookworm either.

Michael Corcoran, who lived near Moore’s, was the first lad I can remember who had a football made from a pig’s bladder and to play Gaelic football with that, made handling a rugby ball (Old Gaels will shudder at the very mention) seem child’s play.

There were some families on and off the Numbers that, compared to most of us, lived a slightly different sort of existence in those days the O’Hanlon's, the Delaney's and the Flynn's. In behind the high walls and tall colourful trees bordered on two sides by fruit trees and flowers that were carefully looked after by the warm-hearted and diminutive Mrs. O’Hanlon whose lovely Cork accent was music to the ears and who made the most delicious tarts from apples and gooseberries.

The sound of laughter, and the sound of the crows that gathered in the Poor Clare trees after lunchtime, ready to swoop down and pick up the crusts of bread in the school-yard, the sound of the ever-present rumbling weir, all part of the treasure of memories many of us still carry with us.

Memories of when everyone knew everyone else there. And there were good times then as well as bad. I think most of the times were good. The memories tell it.

I would like to add to this list of people who lived in Graiguecullen during this period of the 1960's and 1970's

John Hogan son of Ned Hogan was born in 1894 in Graiguecullen, and died 30 June 1961 at St Fiacc's Terrace, Graiguecullen. He was married to Mary Moran who was the daughter of Denis Moran of Graiguecullen. Mary Moran was born in 1892 in Sleaty Street, Graiguecullen, and died 8 January 1970 at  St Fiacc's Terrace, Graiguecullen.

Most of their son's and daughters went to England.  Some stayed and some returned.  A number of them worked at one time in Corcoran's Factory, Carlow.

Willie Hogan played football and Dinny Hogan played in the Killeshin Pipe Band. (son's of John Hogan).

Across the street there was another branch of this family, albeit distance cousins, they were the Lawlor's who also featured well in local football and there are still descendents of the Lawlor family living in St Fiacc's Terrace today.

Source: 'The Parish of KILLESHIN, Graiguecullen'. by P.MacSuibhne. 1972.

Transcribed by Michael Brennan c2006.

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