The Fifteenth - Gerry Atkinson


We would save our sweets money from once we got the summer holidays. It would be our only subject of conversation for days. Nine days before Lady's Day the people would start saying the fifteen decades of the Rosary every night until the fifteenth of August. For the four days, beforehand we would spend much of our time sitting on Taylor’s wall watching Toft's Amusements come in trailer by trailer and some of the sharp boys would notice newly painted 'bumpers' or 'the swinging boats had new ropes'. Toft's would have everything set up on the day before and you would go to Jim Murray (the boss) to get a job for Lady's Day.
That morning we would be up at 8 am and hurry down to Mrs D'Arcy's in the Newline to get our box of flags to sell on the day for the blind.

From early morning, steam trains would arrive on the hour from Ballinasioe, Tuam, Limerick and more often from Galway (Aran Islands & Connemara). There was often a pilgrimage from Scotland too. The pilgrims would come in their droves down Chapel Lane, through Davis Street and into the Square, where you had everything from a hangman to a teddy bear. On entering the Square you would be entertained by Sheammy Mannion and the monkey. The monkey never left his shoulder all day and Mannion never stopped shouting all day: 'Put your hand in and pull it out - even your a winner, odds your a loser - Hurra-a Hurr-a Hurr-a ! I have a young man here from Skehana who came to town in his
bare feet and is now going home in a Morris Minor and look at that red haired boy, his head has gone rusty - his mother must have left him out in the rain all night'. You could try your luck at the roulette or throw a dart for a teddy. The 'Big Wheel' was the order of the day. Two tickets for ld (penny) and even numbers got you a set of dogs for your mantelpiece.

At 3 pm you had Mass at the Well and people went around the Well on their hands and knees or in their feet discarding one of fifteen stones with each round. The fifteen stones representing the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary. Afterwards people made their way  back to town to have a drink in one of the many pubs, to eat in Maloneys, Brennans, Sheehans, Corleys, Hessions (the Square) or in the many other houses who gave meals for that day. Until about 7 or 8 pm you were supplied with entertainment in The Square and in the pubs. The amusements would go on until about 11 pm or sometimes later and you could be sure it was all over when you saw Birdie Payne, Molly Atkinson and Kathleen Corley, and of course the bould Jackie Loughnane, coming out from Tommy Pongo's after the final Housey House!    

   Gerry Atkinson for the Athenry Journal August 1995

    

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