Molly Radio Singing Star - at 91

In the evening just before sunset,

'Neath a blue sky designed for romance,

All the boys and the girls of the village,

Joined hands at the cross-roads dance.

How we danced with delight and abandon,

Of Life's worries we hadn't a care,

Our day-dreams just counted the minutes,

In the hope that our loved one was there.

And then with the dew gently falling,

We wandered home by the light of the moon,

With no other thought in this wide world,

Than to meet at the "cross" again soon.

Oh, how sweet and how pleasant those memories,

I recall them at one inward glance,

The boys and girls of the village,

And the days of the cross-roads dance.

"I would say it was music, singing and dancing, that kept me going this long, because I loved it and it made my heart light".  That and plenty hard work was the recipe Molly Edwards gave me for a long, happy and healthy life 

when I spoke to her at her son Mike's residence in Keel recently. And she should know, because Molly, who had 11 children ( seven of whom are still living), 41 grandchildren and 46 great-grandchildren (so far) is still as lively as ever, and at the drop of a hat, would burst into song for you.  Molly, whose maiden name was Fealy, was born in March 1896 in Ballysheen, Abbeydorney and is now passed 93 years.  She married her husband, John Edwards, 70 years ago and has lived in Keel ever since.

Two years ago, Donnacha O'Dulaing of National Radio came to Keel to interview Molly for his show.  Well Molly gave him a great account of times long ago, and she also sung two songs for him called "The Barber" and "I'm in Love".  later broadcast on the radio programme "Donnacha's Sunday".

Sonny Egan in conversation
with Molly Edwards in 1989.

She well remembers her school days with Mrs Donovan being one of the teachers, and her classmates included among others - Julie Nolan, later to become Mrs Roche and Ellie McCarthy.  One of her most vivid memories of school times was preparing for the bishop and confirmation day.  "Three-quarters of school time was taken up with learning Catechism  during the run-up to the bishop and it was very hard and tough.  After being at school all day you would have to go to the chapel in the evening where the teacher and sometimes the priest would be asking religious questions"  "At that time,", says Molly, "the bishop would come down the chapel and examine the children the day of Confirmation and if you missed he would take your ticket, tear it in two and send you home without being confirmed.  Of course, the thought of the bishop asking you a question in front of a church full of people made you very nervous and you were in danger of forgetting everything you learned. But the worst of it was the telling off the children got after going home if they missed".  Molly, herself, was asked four questions the day of the bishop and answered them all. A priest in the church was so pleased with her that he gave her a holy medal and when Molly went home she hid it in the thatch in case some member of the family might take it.  Molly tells the story of a lesson her class got for homework one evening.  " We were after being at practice in the church with the teacher, and we were told to go straight home and learn how to spell and also find out the meaning of the word Transubstantiation    However, on our way home we stopped to dance a polka and I was playing music when on came the teacher and caught us.  The following day the teacher was raging and when we all failed to spell transubstantiation she made us kneel down and stay kneeling all day".  Well Molly never forgot that lesson for she went on to tell me that the meaning of the word "transubstantiation" was the change of the bread and wine of the Eucharist, at consecration, into the body and blood of Christ, only the appearance of the bread and wine remaining, and went on to spell it without hesitation.

However, it is of her days going to house dances and gambles that Molly has her fondest memories of.  The house would be full up of dancers and the light would be provided by an candle or tilly lamp " a group of us would go off walking together to the dance and we would be singing all the way and the same coming back, except if you met a boy at the dance and that might 'delay' you a bit on the way home".  She remembers the men of the time as being 'flamin dancers' and Tim Brien of Keel as a lively  melodeon player.

That time after a marriage the meal was usually held in the bride's house, and a dance would follow that night.  Molly and her  friends, dancers and musicians, would go to the house (as was the custom of the time) to entertain the marriage party.  

Molly remembers the dress of the time as mainly being the shawl. "There was a black shawl, a brown shawl and a grey shawl and a fancy skirt going at the time that we christened the "hobble-nobble".  

Molly says the people of the time had a great knowledge of herbs.  " They would tell you to go out in the field and pick different herbs, boil them and drink the juice. Different herbs cured different ailments".    When she was rearing her children she remembers the instructions a doctor at the time gave her on how to counter pneumonia when one of her family contacted it.  "Put a poultice of hot linseed meal up against the child's lungs and keep re-heating it when it gets cold.  We had to stay up a few nights doing that", says Molly "to try and draw the fluid from the lungs".

She remembers the time of the 'Black & Tans' well and tells a story that happened during that period.  It seems that a man and his son would travel from village to village during Mission time, selling small merchandise such as holy pictures, rosary beads, statues and other mission souvenirs.  Their mode of transport was mule and cart.  One evening they were passing through O'Dorney when they saw a lorry of 'tans' stopped in the village.  The son who was a big strong man physically but 'not all there in the head' was warned by the father not to open his mouth while they were passing.  However, just in front of the 'tans' the son stood up and shouted at them "Up the rebels".  Like a swarm of bees, they immediately flocked around the cart, searched it and warned the two occupants within an inch of their lives, that if there was  ever a repeat of such behaviour they would fill them with bullets.  She also remembers a group of Abbeydorney men, among them Fr. Linehan, who was the local curate at the time, being rounded up by the 'tans' and marched down across the bog to Ballyheigue Castle.

Finally, I asked Molly if she believed in the moving statues and her answer was "it is hard to believe it alright but then the hand of God is capable of many things"..  Molly still gets up early and goes to bed about  12.00 O'Clock.  "Longeivity ran in my family" she says " and I'm going to enjoy everyday of my life that is left be it for a short or a long time".


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