This is Sunday, May 31, 1998 and this is Grand-
I was born in a small cottage on a farm in County Mayo which is on the west coast of Ireland. My father was Thomas Price and my mother was Sarah Convey. My mother’s father, my grandfather, was James Convey and my grandmother was Catherine Garvey.
My grandparents on my father’s side were Pat Price and Maureen O’Hagan which means Mary Higgins which is how we are related to Christine and the Olsens. Through my grandmother Catherine Garvey we are related to Nelly and Johnny.
I had two brothers, Andy and Michael, and one sister Norah. In the village of Daranaugh there were four houses and three of them were Convey brothers, my grandfather and his brother Dennis and his brother John. There was also a widow lady named Mariah Devany. She had a small farm and my father bought that farm before she died. I don’t know whether he bought the farm before he married my mother; they did not talk about those things in those days. But ours adjoined her farm so there were two farms together. It was very big, but it was good land. The River Moy ran right by the bottom of it. On the farm next to ours there was a couple named Jim and Sibby. We always thought they were husband and wife, when we grew up and got a little older we knew that they were brother and sister. Their name was Rowley, actually they were related somehow to the rest of the Rowleys.
We would be out playing in the field and Sibby would say, “Come in, girls. I got something good for ya.” She’d have a big pan of bacon frying and she’d take the bacon out for them and get a piece of white bread and dip it in the bacon fat. That was the best thing we ever tasted because as a child you were always hungry. In those days, no one knew about cholesterol. There was no such thing and everybody ate what they wanted. They were better off, I guess.
My father was a farmer which is very hard work because everything was done with manual labor. There was no such thing as a machine in those days. Now, everybody has them. My mother made all our clothes. She baked all our bread. Oh boy, the cakes and rhubarb pies she used to make! We had a garden of rhubarb. We grew all of our own vegetables. Of course, we cut and saved all the turf that had to be used for the year round for the fires because we cooked with the turf. There was no running water and there was no electric light in the house. It was all oil lamps. Everyday we’d have to go to the well to bring enough water home to last for the day. Then we’d have to go to bring in the turf to last throughout the day. And this is when we were going to school.
We walked to the Kilasser National School. It was two miles away. In the nice weather, you never wore any shoes. Then, if you’d kick your toe against a stone, you’d have a big stone bruise on your toe and boy did that hurt! But anyway, we survived. Then we had a lot of other chores when we came home. For example, father would have all the potatoes ready to be planted and we’d have to plant all these potatoes in the little holes he had dug with a tool. I forget what the tool was called, but anyway it was hard work. Then we had a great big pot of mashed potatoes which was called cally. You’d get a big bowl with a big lump of butter in the middle and a big mug of fresh buttermilk for your dinner. Maybe, you’d get some cabbage or turnips or carrots or whatever else was going. So we ate well, and were never hungry.
Then in the evenings the neighbors would come visiting. All the neighbors around the village would come in. Somebody would have an old flute or fiddle and they’d play music and everybody would sit around the fire and sing songs. My father was great for telling stories and long rhymes. The rhymes were a mile long and they were all ancient sagas. One of them was called “The Wedding in Glenn Cree” and another was “The Cremation of Sam Magee.” There was another one called “The Hackney Coachman.” He could say them word for word without ever missing a beat. Of course, by the time we were growing up, we knew all of them, but they long ago left our memories. Norah was good at that; she could remember but I have forgotten about them.
Then they would start telling ghost stories. Of course, there was no bathroom in the house; you’d have to go out to the cow shed. Of course, you’d be scared to death to go out in case you’d meet one of the ghosts outside. But, ‘twas a happy life! We made our own fun. Some of the men would play cards for a while and we would have to go to bed early because we had to go to school the next morning. And then, the men went home because they had to get up early to do the farm work early in the morning. Life went on like that for a long time. When we grew up, we helped on the farm. We milked the cow, fed the pigs and the chickens and the ducks. We even had some geese. We had a big fat goose for Christmas and it always tasted real good. It had a potato filling with scallions in it. That’s the only filling I ever liked and I still don’t eat filling.
Thanks to Don Olsen from the USA for this contribution. Don and I have been corresponding
or a long time now. Our relationship goes back to the early days of the long-
Don was one of the first site visitors who got in contact when I first published that site back in ‘99 and it’s good to see that he still maintains his interest in Mayo affairs.
That is not surprising really as he has strong ancestral connections with Mayo -
What follows is a transcript of a taped recording by Catherine Rowley ho was a cousin of his father and in it she reminisces about her childhood years in East Mayo. For anyone interest in the lives and times of the ordinary communities in the rural Ireland in the early decades of the last century, this is a compelling read.