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Ardcloon BridgeArdcloon BridgeArdcloon in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties


Ardcloon, or Ard Cluain meaning the High Meadows, lies on the south end of our half parish and borders Carranthomas to the west, Darrary North and South to the east and the Sinking River flows between itself and Cloonagh. It is one of the smallest villages in our area, only 169 acres, 3 roods and 10 perches.


In our childhood, there were 8 homesteads in the village, all of them were 2nd class stone houses with thatched roofs, apart from one which was slated and they had anything between 2 and 6 rooms. The distribution of the houses is interesting.  Starting at the bridge, the first building was Corley’s forge, then a cluster of three houses, Fordes and Corleys on the right and Prendergasts on the left. The next house on the right was Regans/Clearys across from the pump, followed by McHughs further down on the right, then Prendergasts across from the graveyard and finally Quinns halfway down Cláirín road.  The road from the pump to the graveyard forms the boundary between Ardcloon and Carranthomas.   That boundary continues through the old Adrigoole graveyard and the land on both sides of the road from the graveyard over to Quinn’s póirse also belonged to the Ardcloon people.


During our years of growing up, we were a close, tight knit community.  In Fordes’ house there were the grandparents, Tom and Maggie (Quinn), the parents, Tommy and Aggie (McHugh) and their ten children.  Corleys’family was made up of the grandparents John and Margaret (Monaghan), the parents Mike and Nora (Quinn) and their seven children.  In Prendergasts lived the grandmother Kate (Cleary), the parents John and Sarah (Delaney) and their six children.  These three families grew up almost as one big unit – so much so that Tommy and Aggie were known as Daddy Forde and Mammy Forde to all the children, Mike and Nora were Daddy Corley and Mom Corley and because Prendergast was a bit of a tongue twister for youngsters, John and Sarah were called Daddy Ping and Mammy Ping.  The next house was home to Mattie Regan and Paul Cleary who were stepbrothers and in McHughs’ family the parents were William and Mary Ann (Brennan) and they had two children.  The house at the graveyard was occupied by John Prendergast, an uncle of Mattie and Paul.  Finally there was Bernard Quinn’s family, they had two children and next door to them lived Bernard’s sister Mary, known locally as Mary Gully, though how she got the name is uncertain.


Farming was the main occupation, a mix of dry stock and tillage.  They helped each other out whenever possible and some of them worked in Co with farmers from other villages - John Prendergast, for instance, worked in Co with his cousin Johnny Burke(Collins) in Gortnagine.  They each had a horse so when necessary, the two horses were worked together as a team and some of the machinery was shared also.  A lot of the families supplemented their farming income with other occupations.  John Corley was a blacksmith and his son Mike continued on with that trade until 1968, the main part of his work was shoeing horses and putting metal tyres on cartwheels.  In 1911 William Quinn had a carpentry business, his son Bernard carried on the trade as did Bernard’s son Frank and he was also a builder.  John Prendregast at the graveyard had a shop selling essential items like tea, sugar, paraffin oil, candles, tobacco and cigarettes.  The McHugh family operated a dipping tub for sheep and it was situated on the Cláirín road, it is long since decommissioned but the structure is still there.  Tommy Forde had a workshop at the side of the house where he did carpentry work. He was a good mechanic too and quite inventive, he was the first in the area to put car wheels on carts and wheelbarrows. Tom Prendergast, who lived with John and Sarah until he married Annie O’Donnell and moved to Cloonfane, worked with the County Council and the Board of Works, maintaining roads and drains.  He got employment in the sugar beet factory in Tuam during the campaign season too.  Later in the 50’s Patrick Prendergast worked on the Corrib Drainage Scheme when the River Clare was being deepened.


The women took on the responsibility of running the house including cooking (all done on the open fire) cleaning, washing, mending, dressmaking, knitting, not to mention childbearing, most of which happened at home.  The childminding fell mainly to the women too though having a resident grandparent was a big help.  These women were top class housekeepers who could make a little go a long way and, long before it was trendy, they were recycling and reusing and keeping waste to a minimum.  So it was that the children’s clothes were remade to fit the next in line, the flour bags were transformed into bed linen and food left over from the table went to the pigs, the poultry or the dog.  The children were kept busy and were expected to help when it came to laying slits or picking potatoes, in the bog they spread the turf and later made it into gróigíns, in the hayfield they tramped the cocks of hay and made the hay ropes and at harvest time their job was poling the oats where they held up the corn with a long stick so the farmer could more easily cut it.


We often hear people say we were poor but happy and that is exactly the way we remember our childhood.  We were never cash rich but neither were we ever hungry, with a good supply of wholesome organic food readily available.  Even in the 40’s during the war when food was scarce in many places, because of our self-sufficiency we didn’t suffe.  Some imported foods were rationed but we managed with the ration books and shared coupons when necessary.  Apart from this slight deprivation the War had little impact on us but if a plane was heard overhead the older people might comment “There goes Hitler”!  We grew up on a staple diet of porridge made from our own crushed oats, boiled eggs when they could be spared because the sale of eggs was a good source of income to cover the cost of groceries and, of course, bacon and cabbage or turnip were on the menu five days a week.  Most houses had their own pigs for killing and this provided fresh pork and pudding for most of the village for a few days.  James Delaney, Carranthomas, was usually called on to be the butcher and we children kept well out of the way until the gory part of the operation was over.  We rarely had fresh beef or lamb and when Miko Ralph happened to come around with fresh herrings on Friday, they made a tasty treat.  Otherwise we didn’t have much access to fresh fish unless the men were lucky with the fishing rod.  Some nights they went out bobbing for eels, eel is now considered a delicacy but back then it was an acquired taste left to the older people with strong constitutions.  The same was true of the lambs’ tails which never seemed very appetising to us children.


Most houses had some sort of orchard with apples, gooseberries, rhubarb and crab apples. Everything was shared but as youngsters we still rose to the challenge of robbing apples.  Mary Gully’s garden and Bawns (Cunniffes) beside the pump were great targets. If we had the sense to ask for them we would get a fine bucket of apples for 6d but what good was that compared to the excitement of the chase!  There weren’t a lot of treats to be had but the currant cake and the treacle cake at the weekend were very popular and we might be spoiled with a bowl of jelly and custard or rice or tapioca on Sunday.  Icecream was a rare treat because we had no fridges and by the time the messenger came from Garrafrauns with the block, or more often the half block, you had to move quickly so that you didn’t end up drinking it instead of eating it.  The best we could do in the sweets department was an occasional 3d bar of chocolate, some gobstoppers or bulls eyes and the silver bar if you wanted really good value for money.


When we were growing up there was no need for gym membership, we got more than enough exercise going about our daily business.  We walked most places until we were lucky enough to get bicycles or were allowed to use the adults’ bikes.  Nobody in the village had a car, if anyone really needed to travel by car, they hired Peter Healy, a good and careful hackney driver from Garrafrauns and later Jim Nestor, the Insurance Agent from Russellstown, was in the business too.  In the 60’s we sometimes used the bus from Dunmore to go to Galway but that was seldom and all other towns were accessed by bicycle.  There was a train service through Milltown, however the only one from our village who seemed to use it from time to time was Mom Corley when she went to visit relatives in Foxford.  On the rare occasion when we needed to go to Dublin, Paddy Rattigan who drove the egg lorry for Collins in Dunmore was always very obliging and would give us a lift.  Workwise there was no mechanisation either, all the machines were manual or horse powered so when people from nearby villages, Walter and Michael John Burke and Patsy Ryder, got tractors and went out on hire, it was a huge step forward for anyone who could afford it.  The earliest mechanised threshers to come into the area were operated by Ned and Patsy Burke, Carranthomas and after that the Burkes from Irishtown, Paddy and Gerald, were available.


Because of the lack of transport, our social circles were small, confined to our own village and the villages nearby.  The pump was a great gathering place for the women and the excuse of needing a bucket of water was often used to get a chance of having a chat with the Carranthomas as well as the Ardcloon people.  There is a spring well at the river but that was rarely used because of the potential danger and also because the level of the river had to be very low in order to be able to draw the spring water.  There was a certain amount of through traffic to Cloonagh bog in summer time and it was a great opportunity to meet and chat with people from Gortnagine, Knockatee, Cloondalgan, Laughill and Shanballymore.  Other people passing through were members of the travelling community and one man in particular, Mick Mongan, was treated like a long lost relative.  We had the travelling shops too, Tom Murphy from Cathill, the Sheridans and the Keanes from Milltown and later Howleys from Dunmore.  They came on different days and were a great bit of diversion for the people.


In Winter, visiting was a great pastime. Prendergasts was a busy house with visitors.  As well as the close neighbours, John Sweeney from Carranthomas came six nights a week, on Sunday he stayed at home and his sister Ellie came instead.  Michael and Katie Mitchell from Cloonagh were regulars as were Michael and Ann Healy, Corohan and of course some of the relatives, Tom and Annie Prendergast and James and May Delaney.  No matter how many came, all were welcomed with a cup of tea and whatever was going by way of food.  John Sweeney’s usual was a cup of hot milk.  Card playing was popular too.  Corleys was a great house for cards and some of the men went to Parnell Monaghan’s in Tuatach to play. There they met people from Knock or Cathill or Rossmearan.


We were one of the earliest villages to get electricity, we were connected in 1949 and that made a huge difference to the people. To begin with they didn’t have many appliances.  In 1950 Martin Cleary, on holiday from the States, visited his sister Kate Prendergast and brought the first electric radio to the village.  This was a great source of entertainment with the News, farm reports, Thomas Davis lectures, the weather forecast, football matches and the Sunday night play for the adults while the children tuned in to Drawing and Painting with Marian King and Story Time with Michael P. O’Connor.  It was well into the sixties before any of the houses got a television set and all the other appliances that we take so much for granted now.  The young people were content with the usual pastimes of skipping, hopscotch, football in Ceapógs or pitch and toss down at the pump.  We didn’t have access to a library so reading material was in short supply and whatever few books we did have were well thumbed, including the religious magazines like the Messenger and the Far East.  If we were lucky we got the odd comic in Michael James Charles’ shop in Dunmore, they were well guarded and swapped for others in school.


School played an important part in our young lives, it opened up a whole new world for us and introduced us to the greater Garrafrauns area.  New friends were made but there was still a loyalty to our village if there was a football or skipping competition for the different roads. We usually walked down Cláirín to school though when we reached the higher classes we were sometimes allowed to cycle. In Summer, the boys often chose to go barefoot and in Winter when the road flooded near the dipping tub, we made a little detour in through McHugh’s field and out again at the foot of the hill – a lot quicker than going down Poll an Adhastair as we were told to do. That flood became a pop-up ice rink if the weather was cold enough and the cold snap sometimes brought us an unexpected holiday if the school had to close, the most memorable of these was in the early part of 1947.  The schools depended on the families to supply turf for heating and it was not always easy to get dry turf.  We would be on tenterhooks till our parents brought in the cartload and prayed that the teachers would comment favourably on our contribution.


Looking back, life in Ardcloon wasn’t easy and luxuries were certainly few and far between but it was a good life. We enjoyed a clean, healthy upbringing with a great sense of security and respect for each other.  The crime rate was zero because there no tolerance for any kind of misbehaviour and it was unheard of for anyone, man or woman, to use bad language, cheat or abuse the property of others.  We might not have been highly educated, not many went to third level colleges but in the university of Life, we all did rather and became good, honest, hardworking people like our parents and grandparents.  Needless to say, our numbers are well depleted as the years roll by but it is good that there are still a few around to reminisce and compare recollections, many of which may be flawed as the brain cells age and memory dims.


Guímis suaimhneas síoraí orthu siúd atá imithe ar Shlí na Fírinne agus sinne atá  fós ann, go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís.