29th August 1999

Olive Walls who lives in Douglas and is chairperson of the Skiddy’s Homes talks to Michael O’Hanlon about her life and times:

My maiden name was Baylor and I was born in Fermoy. We lived on a farm on the Dunhadeen Road, there weren’t many people living there then, just Dr. Magnier and Professor Kiely who taught at St. Coleman’s. As a child going to school I used to walk along that road with four or five of my friends to the Adare National School on Barrack Hill. It was the same school that my parents had gone to. The Church was just across the road, and where the church is was once my great, great, grandfathers orchid, and he donated the site for the church. In those far off days you had to pay for your seat in the church but our family got theirs free, and the Baylor seat is still there to this very day, and whenever I go to the church for anything I always try to sit in it.
Those were wonderful times when we going to school, and we had a wonderful teacher a Mrs. Goster, actually her daughter Mrs. Jean Hancock lives up in Maryborough. In the spring and summer we’d go through the fields and pick primroses and flowers and bring them to school with us, we really loved our school days.
As we got older, my eldest sister was sent Rochelle School as a boarder, and my two brothers were sent to the Christian Brothers. I wasn’t considered to be very strong so I was sent to Lorretta Convent, but I had a happy time there and I loved it. We used to do naughty things, as all young girls do, like puting ink on the nuns white robes from under our desks. One nun would write A.M.D.G. on the blackboard, now you might know what that means, but we used to say it was “Auntie Mag Died Grunting”, we always got a kick out of that.
Irish was my worst subject, I wasn’t very good at it, the only thing lever learned was the “Hail Mary” and I can still say that in Irish to this day, but I got by and in the end I got my exams.
At home after school was always fun, because we had a farm there was always something happening, we all helped and we were never bored. We’d play “Chainey Houses” in the loft with bits of broken china. Elly, our maid, had a fiddle and she knew about four notes, we’d use a rug for a screen and put on a concert, invite friends and neighbours, charge them a penny and sing anything those four notes would fit.
Just down the road from us lived a Mrs. Murphy, she always had a great big picture of De Valera in the kitchen, and she used
to give us really fresh bread with the butter melting on it and covered in coarse sugar oh! it was wonderful.
Our house was near the river Blackwater and in the summer evenings we’d go up the hill and sit and watch the people from the town when they went swimming. There was also plenty of fishing for salmon and trout. And there was haymaking, my mother would fill a basket with freshy baked and butter dripping scones to take to the men working in the fields, and she would make tea and put it in billy cans and add in the milk and sugar and it didn’t matter whether you liked milk and sugar or not it was still the loveliest cup of tea of all, sitting there on the new mown hay. Our lives went on like that.
My sister recalls Kathleen O’Connell, and Kevin Barry’s sister,
throwing their bicycle’s over our gate and walking into town with some message during the “Troubles”. Strangers on bikes
drew attention. I didn’t know it at the time but our Mrs. Murphy’s back room was full of guns. We were a protestant family but they protected us, our house was a safe house My parents were very young when they got married, my mother was eighteen and my father was twenty one, and the Archdeacon who married them said he’d never married children before. It was an understood thing that they would get married. She went to school in Cork and he would take the pony and trap and meet her getting off the train in Mallow and bring her home. There were very few houses in those days and they roads were quite safe even at night, people had nothing to be afraid of. Anyway they gave us a lovely home life, my parents were the kindest and most wonderful people. We had a tennis court with one side slightly slopped, we always struggled for the high side. My brother would religiously mark out the court and my mother would supervise him. We’d have tennis parties on Saturday’s and we’d all dress up in white. Whenever the ball went into the yard there was a man working there who would catch it and shout “I has it, I has it”, I can still hear him.
We had a charmed childhood, farm life was wonderful, I don’t think I would enjoy modern farming. The cows don’t even get bedding. And that lovely smell of hay that we fed them every night when we finished milking. There was a machine my father had for turning turnips and mangolds into chips and we’d be nibbling on them as we were giving them to the cows. All our vegetables were fresh, everything was from the garden, we often went out on a Saturday and picked a half bucket of peas for the Sunday lunch. Then there was the butter, we separated the milk and my mother made her own butter. She would place it in the pantry and keep it cool with cold spring water from the
well, there were no fridges in those days, it was all of seventy years ago.

continued next week … read about Fr. Sheehy, the priest who was hung, drawn and quartered, and the secret remedies for Jaundice, Cirrhosis and other afflictions he passed on to Olive Wall’s ancestors.