Down Our Road - Vera Browne


IN THE YEARS gone by, landlords played a major part in the lives of ordinary people.  In the Coolarne area Mr. James Dillon Meldon presided over his estate.  Unlike many others of the time, Mr. J.D. Meldon was a resident landlord and not an absentee. In the mid 1850s, his estate consisted of 2351 acres, which was rented to only 26 tenants although Mr. Meldon withheld 216 acres of which he planted 59 acres.  There were 39 acres of woodland in Cahertymore South which is locally called the long wood or the horseshoe wood.  In those days, Mr. Meldon was treated with grudging respect as he had the power to take away peoples houses and land on which they depended for their livelihood.  Although he would have associated more with English customs and traditions, he was a Catholic which was unusual for somebody of his background.  Mr. Meldon, who lived in the privacy of Coolarne House, surrounded by its fine woods and lovely gardens, attended Mass in Lackagh.  A sign of how much the community revolved around him was that Mass did not begin until the Meldon family was seated in the church.  James D. Meldon died in 1884 and his son, Joseph Meldon, inherited his vast estate on which he lived until about 1927. By this time the land was divided between local farmer tenants. 

The Daughters of Charity, who were the first religious order to come to Coolarne, bought 240 acres of land and Coolarne House.  This order of nuns provided a much needed service to the people of the area, by opening a National School which saved the children the hardship of walking the long distance to Carnaun, Crumlin or Lackagh schools.  They also had a Domestic Science school there, where lots of local girls attended until 1949.  The nuns and their students walked from Coolarne to Cahertymore crossroads almost every Sunday afternoon during the warm weather.  The nuns looked lovely, out walking, because they wore their cornets.  There was a secondary school there for a while but it closed in 1968.  The people were allowed to attend Mass in Coolarne and the priest lived in a house nearby.  In 1973 Sister Finbarr and Sister Catherine retired from the National School and they went to live in Dublin.  The house and some of the land was sold again, this time to the Sacred Heart Missionaries.  They moved from Moyne Park in Abbeyknockmoy.  Young men studying for the priesthood in Coolarne and Father Eamonn Donohue M.Sc. C.C. celebrate Mass there every day.  A lot of local people attend the Novena to the Sacred Heart in the Chapel in Coolarne in May and June every year.  Father Donohue visits the sick and the old people on the first Friday of every month. 

The Turloughmore fair was held twice a year and it was a custom to enter through one of three gaps at which a fee was charged.  It was a big fair and people drove cattle from Attymon, Newcastle, Castle Lambert, Ballydavid as well as Corofin and Claregalway. 
As lorries were not available at this time, the stock had to be walked to the fair.  People having travelled the long distances rested their stock on lands belonging to relations and friends within a few miles of Turloughmore.  Stock was driven from the fair to the railway station in Athenry and Ballyglunin.  So livestock on the roads was a very usual sight.  However, tractors and trailers and lorries took the stock off the roads and the Mart in Athenry put an end to the fair. 
The roads were in very bad condition, so it was a delight to everyone, including the people employed in the making and mending of the roads, when the Co. Council began working on them.  Lots of people were employed in the quarry in Cahertymore and the road to Athenry. 

The quarry is now owned by John Egan and cattle can be seen eating silage in the same place where many earned their living quarrying rocks years ago.  From Athenry came Stephen Jordan and Mattie Healy, as well as the young people during the school holidays.  Michael Long and John Fitzpatrick lived near their work.  The Lynskeys and Brodericks came from above Athenry.  The Glavins from Turloughmore, the Dooleys, Hessions, Flanagans and some from Oranmore and Claregalway all spent some time there.  Paddy Keary and his sons, as well as John Feency and his son Bernie, James Fahy, Eddie and John Bane all from Sheeaun Park worked in the quarry.  There was not a local pub or snooker table then, so when the flask and lunch bag was empty they played pitch and toss for the rest of the dinner hour.
 
In Cahertymore, drinking water was obtained from a pump at the crossroads.  Occasionally, the pump went dry and then the water had to be brought by ass and cart or horse and cart from a well in Knockbrack.  There was a flour bag put on the top of one barrel of water for use in the house and the barrels of water for the stock had an ordinary bag secured with a bicycle tube or the hoop of an old timber barrel.  Water for animals was also drawn by bucket from ponds and was fed to cattle in timber tubs. 
The six cottages in Sheeaun Park were built in 1945.  The cottages purchase annuity was £3.18.0 (three pounds, eighteen shillings and no pence)for 35 years and was to be paid by quarterly instalments of 19/6d (nineteen shillings and six pence). 
When the cottages were built by the Co. Council, Dick Williams, who had a forge in Carnaun at the time, made the iron gates used at the front of the houses.  All the gates were alike.  Dick Williams gave a gift of a tongs to each household.  Some of those are still in use and in perfect condition.  There is one acre of land with each house.  Up until a few years ago people grew all their own vegetables in their gardens, and kept fowl and pigs too.  In the early years the cottages were inhabited by Julia Fahy and her nephew Dick Shields, Patrick and Delia Keary and their family, John and Mary Feeney with their children, James and Margaret Fahy and family, Willie and Sarah Coen and their four sons and John Bane in the cottage at the end of the row. 
Jimmy Burke of Binn lived in one of the cottages with his wife and family for a short while before he bought Binn House and the land surrounding it.  From the cottages, the Kearys and Coens went to Carnaun School while Fahys and Feeneys attended Coolarne. 
The Egans and Costelloes from Glenmore, the Morrises and Dempseys from Rathfee and the Banes and Fahys from Cahertymore also attended Carnaun School. 

Despite the distance the Cooleys, Fitzpatricks and Gills travelled from Kilskeagh long before there was a bus.  Then it was common for small children to walk up to three miles to school.  They cut across fields to shorten their journey.  Throwing stones into the pond near James Doherty's house at the crossroads in Cahertymore was a great passtime for children walking to and from school.  As for the pump, in warm weather there was always a queue there waiting for their turn to get a drink, and Mrs. Doherty was also very good for giving drinks and allowing the children in to warm themselves in the cold, wet weather. 
There was always a box for the missions in Carnaun School.  When Mary Keating went to school, Miss Monaghan kept ld. (one penny) in the inkwell for the poor.  In those days smoking was not an unusual habit.  As a schoolboy, James Bane bought his tobacco in Rabbitt's shop, next door to the school and he had his pipe hidden behind a stone in the wall near the (outside) toilets and once the pipe was lit his friends, Patrick and Thomas Costelloe kept it going until they thought of another excuse to get out. 
The finances of the household were simple and uncomplicated.  The older sons of the family usually worked on the farms, rearing animals and growing crops to feed the family and the animals.  The father worked for the local landlord.  He was paid every year and his wages for the year, which would normally amount to £12, would go to paying the rent.  The rent of course depended on the amount of land and the quality of it.  The average was about £12 for 15-25 acres. 

The women also did a lot of work.  They often helped on the land during the busy times of the year when the hay was being saved and the potatoes being sown.  They were also expected to go to the bog to help save the turf.  The women reared poultry so they were never short of a nice chicken for the Sunday dinner.  Pigs were reared to keep families in bacon.  In the evening, when the work was done and the men well fed and playing cards or gone to visit, the women knitted woollen socks and knitted jumpers for the family and they made sheets from the large white flour bags.  Flour was bought in four stone or eight stone sacks at the time.  Even though there wasn't any television and very little money for bringing to the pub, there wasn't a bored man, woman or child in the country.

   

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