Mrs Lily McClean, 12 Greenhaw Avenue:
I was born in Greenock and I came here when I was 2 maybe 3 years of age and we came to live with my granny Barr because she was ill at the time and my mother came home to nurse her, and her son who wasn’t married, lived in the house when she died along with my mother. When he got married there wasn’t room for us anymore to live there, so through the influence of a neighbour, Mrs Ellen Stewart who lived in Bogslea, who was very friendly with people, Daly’s who had a pub, and helped out in their house and they were very fond of her, in the locality at the time, and there was a bottling store attached to the pub, and this dear friend of my mother’s influenced Mr Daly and he got the bottling store made into a living accommodation. It consisted of a bedroom and a kitchen and we lived there, as a matter of fact, I lived there until I got this present house that I am in now. I was married when I was 21and waited 13 years on this house, that made me 34 when I got this house.
School times and school days and childhood in them days was great. We were poor but we had great fun, a great sense of freedom. There were fields upon fields that we could ramble through from morning to night and it was a big thing coming up to St Patrick’s Day, we all went to gather shamrocks at a place they called “the dams”, which was over there were St Bridgid’s of Carnhill is now, that is St Bridgid’s Church, not just at the church but about half a field down from it and it was known as The Dams. It was a river, water there and on the bankings everyone from around the place went out to gather shamrocks and summers and all seemed to be better than they are now because we never wore shoes. It wasn’t that we didn’t have shoes, we had shoes but we saved them, we always tried to take care of things that we had. Our mothers patched clothes, or darned our clothes whatever, but school days were happy days. It was a mixed school, we used to have good fun in it, because in the winter time when the teacher would have lit the fire for to warm us the smoke came belching out of the chimney with the result that all the windows had to be opened, so we had fresh air and plenty of smoke but very little heat. This was the old Shantallow school and the head-master at the particular time that I remember was Hugh McGuinness and he came out from Westland Avenue as far as I remember and there was Cassie Coyle, who came from Windsor Terrace, she had another sister called Maryanne who taught at that time in another school in Derry and then we had Cissie McGuinness, she was also from Windsor Terrace. She would have been Cissie McDaid, was her own name and as far as I remember she had a couple of brothers or uncles in the priesthood. As well as that she had sisters, one of them was Mother Superior in Strabane for a while and we had great times at school. We played around and in the summertime we sat out mostly for lessons underneath the hedges and it was more like a picnic than school times and there used to be a burn away at the bottom of the Lenamore Road just before you go to Sandbank Cottages, there was a burn and a wee bridge there and we had great times at the lunch hour paddling in the burn when the weather was very, very warm.
Then I went on and left school at 14 and started to work in a factory, Wilkinson’s factory, as a message girl and got the big amount of 4/6 a week. What a message girl had to do in those days was carry all the boxes of shirts, samples of shirts, down to the General Post Office. We had to start about 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the people in the factory because when you when were a message girl you had a big stove to light, a big coke stove, you put on the sticks, the coke and filled it up, then you came up and went to the post office, then you went any messages that any of the workers, if they wanted sweets, or if they wanted buns for their cup of tea, it was the message girl went for them. As well as doing all that you did messages from the cutting room to the machinist, or from the machine room to the laundry end, where all the smoothing and folding was done but it was the rule then in the factory that when work got scarce, it usually was that there were about 4 message girls in the one place, but when work got scarce there was no obligation on the firm, as there is now, it was up to yourself, if you were interested in having a trade, which I didn’t seem to be interested in at the time, and the rule was the last girl in was the first girl out when work got scarce. So I happened to be last in and I was first out and I didn’t have any trade in the factory but my mother’s sister had a hairdressing business in Sackville Street and she took me in there. Her name was Nan Hume, John Hume’s father and her husband’s father, were two brothers. So that’s where I worked from then until I got married.
Times were sort of poor in those early days but they were good times. There was a great sense of, people were more, they all helped one another. During my school days people all helped one another, for entertainment we didn’t have any TV for pictures we had St Columb’s Hall and I vaguely remember, I don’t really remember the building but I remember my parents talking about the Opera House in Carlisle Road, it was burned down and I remember them talking about that but I remember going to the pictures on a Saturday night, not every Saturday night , but very occasionally with my father and mother to see films and we enjoyed it and we always walked down from the pictures to the chip shop down Clarendon Street and it was Fiorentini’s and we had maybe a plate of chips or a plate of hot peas which cost 6d and they were good and then we would have walked out home because it wasn’t worthwhile taking the bus, the bus only came as far as the Buncrana Road at that time when I was young. The bus came as far as Keenan’s Corner where the roundabout is now, and then in later years the bus came on to Messines Park and then later on again it came as far as Ballyarnett. When I started to work on good days you walked but on the very bad days you took the bus, looking back on it, it wasn’t worth your while because you had walked from the house to the Buncrana Road to get it and you only had a very short distance then to go to your work. Most people didn’t use the bus, they all walked and the war really brought, previous to the war, work was really scarce, a lot of the women, my mother, all worked in the shirt factory, and the men more or less just got a day’s work to do, maybe farming, maybe my father, John McDaid, was good at papering and painting, decorating but he was on the brew for a good while in my childhood but when the war broke out he was lucky enough and got into the shipyard in Derry, from then on until after the war he worked there. I vaguely remember the old shipyard being closed down and I vaguely remember the old man that was in it at that time my father was in it and they were selling off stuff, as a matter of fact I have an ink-well in the house that came out of that shipyard. I can’t remember the old man’s name but I think he was the managing director, but I remember I used to go in there with my mother occasionally when she would call in to see my father about something and this old man was always around, he had a beard and he used to give me 6d and I remember going to Woolworths and spending it, as you would say having a ball to myself with the big amount of 6d. I remember the shipyard closing down and my father didn’t work then, he got a day here and a day there.
My father was always a shipyard worker when he was in Greenock he worked in the shipyard and he stayed behind in Greenock for a year or two when we came home and eventually he came back home here. I remember sidecars before the buses came on. The family were in Greenock for my father’s work, my mother was from here. That’s what took them to Greenock, he couldn’t get work here and he got work over there in the shipyard. My mother really didn’t like Greenock, she didn’t like Scotland so rather than have him go back into Scotland after her mother died, I don’t remember really when she started working again in the factory, but I remember the time she worked in the factory and I remember the women going to the factory and we were going out to school and I remember my mother, always she would have made a big pot of stew and she would have left half of the stew for my father and me and took the other half with her to her work in a white enamel bowl with a lid on it and apparently they put the stew into what they called the stove in the factory and that kept it warm for them and they had a hot meal at lunch hour, it would have been in the winter time they did that and when we came home from school we weren’t very old but we always had to have the house cleaned for our mother coming in at night.
We always had our chores to do, you had to get in coal, water, we had to carry the water then, we carried the water for a good distance away we had an old pump in the village, as a matter of fact we had a couple of different pumps. We had a pump over there, just along there, where the wall faces the Credit Union on Racecourse Road, there was one there with a handle on it, but I never remember getting water out of that, it was dried up by the time from my memory. There was a pump on the other side of the road, it was a sort of a hand pump, there was a big wheel and there was what we called the Spout Field opposite where the Greenhaw Road is, it was a spring well it came from a spring, fields away but they piped it and it came down in what we called a spout, like a small piece of spouting. That was spring water, we used it and then it dried up in the summer and with the drying up every summer then they discovered another spring they got a pump over where the Credit Union is now on the road side. In the early 1950s house got water taps. Before there was a time when we had to walk from here away up Mather’s Lane. There was 2 lanes we had to go to get water out of the spring well up big Willie Moore’s house, this is the lane which went down alongside the pub now called Shantallow House, Barrett’s and which was at one time Daly’s. It was John Daly’s, it was old John Daly’s then it was young John Daly’s and there was Aidan Barrett’s father, Tom Barrett, now when he lived the band shed was there in that lane away behind the pub. Mr Barrett at that time kept pigs and they owned the wee grocer’s shop there and they sold coal and paraffin oil and they had a pony and trap. The shop was later O’Hanlon’s and then McCloskey’s.
At that particular time it was all oil lamps was used around here we didn’t have any electricity. There was a fire started in that store where the coal and the paraffin oil was and the house that I lived in had just an asphalt roof on it because it had previously been a bottling store, it wasn’t a secure roof, and we were burned, our house was burned, but there was nobody hurt, there was nobody in the house at the time, but an old woman Liza Ferry ran in and tried to pull the pigs out by the tails. The pigs were all saved, but Mr Barrett lost his coal and all the stuff that he had in that. The pigs were housed between the band shed and the back of our house, there was a piggery. A good lot of people kept pigs at that time. I was about 12 or 13 when that happened. Our house was badly damaged but Daly’s pub wasn’t, it was just the store at the back, it was a right-off then and never was rebuilt again, that would be about where the lounge is now. The bottling store which became our house had been a pub at one time, years and years ago, owned by a man named Doherty, now he had the unusual nickname of “the bun Doherty”. How he got that or what the man’s other name was I don’t know, but he was always known as “the bun Doherty”. An uncle of mine scared the living daylights out of me for he always told me that this “bun Doherty” was buried under the floor boards where I slept, and for years I imagined this until I realised that it was just a fable, there was nothing of it but apparently a man the name of Doherty did own that pub, and it being a bottling store when we went into it there was a drain, it was like a vennel on the floor for when they were bottling Guinness to drain off any spillage from there and I remember we were a long time in the house before we actually got it filled in and I remember when you were going from the kitchen out to the back door you had to more or less step over this but we were so glad to get the house that it really didn’t matter.
There were 2 apartments in the house, a room and a kitchen and the door of the house was so wide that my mother used to make good fun. She used to say you could bring a horse and cart in the door and the fireplace was so wide she used to maintain you could bring a horse and cart in the door and take it out the chimney. They were both so wide but it was good, it was a happy home. We had the essentials, a bed, which was incidentally a straw bed. You got a mattress and you had straw in them or you had a choice if you wanted a real soft cosy bed you had chaff but there was only one big drawback with the chaff it gathered a lot of dust, but I always remember during my childhood when threshing time came around, it was a big time for all households you had a real spring clean out. Everything went to the street, the corners of the house were really cleaned. The beds were cleaned, because your mother stripped your bed into what was called the pape, a bed tick. It was washed, boiled, put out on the hedge and was filled with fresh chaff or fresh straw. I personally had a small single bed of chaff and it was marvellous. To this day yet I never slept in as cosy a bed because the chaff moved about with you and you could really get yourself into a position that you were really cosy in.
I remember the men when they were out on the harvest taking in the corn down Mather’s Lane. Mather’s were what we called the big people in the village then. They had the big house in the village, and there was 2 Miss Mather’s and there was their 2 aunts, the Miss Sheldons and their religion was Covenanters. Now they had a brother who was a minister of religion but I never remembered seeing him. How I know that their religion was the Covenanters was, my grandmother had a picture, and one of the Miss Mather’s wanted it and she eventually gave it to her and it was something to do with the Covenanter religion. There was Miss Hannah and Miss Edna Mather. Miss Hannah Mather was in the Board of Governors of the old City and County Hospital because at that particular that was how it was, and she was very good to my mother when my mother was in there. They were really very good people, they had a farm there, but in my childhood I don’t remember very many men working around it although I heard my mother talk that it used to be a big going concern when the father and mother of the Miss Mather’s was living and they employed people in it.
Now they always had the stack garden as we called it and that’s where all the threshing was done. I think people use to even come there, poor off farmers would have brought their crops there and they would have hired out a threshing machine and got it all done together and all the men together would have all helped one another. I remember too sitting in the corn fields and having good fun. The men got their tea out in big cans and of course you went with the tea to your father or whoever, you went with some of your pals and you always enjoyed a cup of tea, they always made sure they left enough to give you a drink of tea and a piece of bread and it was very good and you enjoyed it. The tea was in tin cans, they were cans that boiled sweets came in. Whenever the shops got their boiled sweets in they usually got them in what we called 3 quart cans and the shop would have kept one for you. During the time when they would be cutting the corn, it was like a day out, a picnic for all the workers, and the tin can that you took the tea in were used for many different things because there was no milkmen on a milk round at that time, you bought your milk from farmers. Now we got milk from Mather’s so we used this can, to go to collect your milk. You got sweet milk, you got buttermilk, you got country butter, you got fresh farm eggs, and then in season you would have got blackcurrants, or apples, or gooseberries and a lot of people used them to make their own jam with, and there was never a house about the place that didn’t have soda bread, for no matter how poor the people were they always managed to have in a bag of flour and a bag of Indian meal and they would have made an Indian meal scone or just a plain cone and most of them just baked it over the open fire on a pan that was hung up on a crook on the fireplace. Some of them would have baked it in an oven and it was very good and very filling and you always had porridge. You used to go to sleep at night and sleep like logs, because we had a big bowl of porridge at night. You always had plenty of good rough feeding, porridge and sweet milk or fresh buttermilk, some people preferred fresh buttermilk and when the potatoes were new, you had, some of the houses would have boiled a big pot of new potatoes and nearly everyone would have had a wee plot of potatoes of their own and what we used to say was, there’s a good potato’s it’s laughing at us and I’ve never seen any this years and years. It’s years since I saw a good potato laughing up at me, that was the floury potatoes and they were always boiled in their jacket, nobody would have ever peeled potatoes. The laughing potato was the one that the jacket burst open. I don’t remember having a lot of butcher meat as such to eat, maybe some of the houses had it, I don’t remember. We would have had a bit of mince maybe in a stew or a pot of soup, we would have got a bit of boiling beef, but no matter how poor they were we always seemed managed a bit of a fry on a Saturday night . That was a big thing, we had a fry on a Saturday night and a fry on a Sunday morning. Some of the houses would have been better off and they would have had meat more often. You used to have ling fish, it was like leather, it was like a piece of leather and it hung on a wire, or salt herrings hung on a wire outside the door and you got a bit of it with these big laughing potatoes and they were great. We always had our porridge at night, most people that I knew of always had porridge and another thing, most of the people around here always kept maybe a dozen or 2 dozen of hens and they always had a fresh egg for breakfast . You always had a “clocking hen” in season coming up to Easter time. You would have had “a hen went on the clock”, as they called it, so when you had a “clocking hen” you got maybe a dozen or 2 dozen maybe. The Mather’s would have had what you called setting eggs, that was a farm house where there was a good breeding rooster and you went and you got maybe a dozen or 2 dozen of eggs for clocking, and the hen would have sat on them. I think it would have taken about 6 weeks as far as I remember. Then you had birds and you brought them up and the hen stayed with them until they were big enough to go on their own, when they came on to laying you always had a fresh egg. Coming up to Christmas time there use to come men round, there was a man the name of Hume, the brother of Mr Hume the hairdresser and he had a poultry place in William Street and he always came around with a man the name of Daly and they would have bought the hens of you for Christmas and it was mostly roosters that people breeded to sell and they would hold on to the laying hens. They would have fed the hens from the scraps of the house or give them a bit of corn and you would have got maybe got a stone of corn to buy and give it to them. It was very simple feeding but it was very good nourishing feeding. Everybody got porridge and sweet milk and buttermilk. You can never get the buttermilk now, the way that it was in them days. I only make flake porridge now, we used to have a variety, the Indian meal I find now is very course and it’s not so nice, but in them times oatmeal was nice, oatmeal porridge or Indian meal porridge or the flake meal porridge. I always took mine cold with buttermilk only and it was very nice. Some people preferred warm but you can’t get the buttermilk now, we got the pure sort of buttermilk where they sort of churned it. Mather’s churned their own buttermilk and they sold their butter as well.
Everybody baked their own bread, there was very, very little bread bought from a shop, might have been a loaf maybe at the weekend, but most homes all baked their own. I can always remember the smell of home baked bread when you went into anyone’s house and you used to go as well during our childhood down to where McDevitt’s big house was to gather sticks and having no running water the people always boiled their clothes, their whites, towels, sheets. The bags that you got the flour in were big white bags and you got 4 of these white bags, you could take the coloured lettering out of it and boil them in washing soda and bring them up real white and then you made sheets out of them. Four of those bags made you a good double bed sheet and if you had enough sheets then you used other bags for pillowcases. Nothing ever went to waste. I never see nobody now with a patch on their clothes but in them times they all patched, they all darned socks and they all half soled their own shoes. My father half soled my shoes as a matter of fact there is a last in our shed yet, but he always bought a piece of leather and put on half soles on your shoes. Times were good, they were poor but we didn’t starve we always made out.
If there was sickness, we were just a small village here and we knew everyone from here to Muff, you knew everyone passing in and passing out . You never were afraid to go out on the road at night although it was pitch dark for we had no lights, but you knew everyone’s footsteps. You got to know the different footsteps, if someone bid you goodnight you knew them with their voice, you were able to name them. For dances, we did have dances, it used to be a great thing in the summertime. Summertime was always good on the moonlight nights that weren’t very cold was good because down now where the pub is, there was a wall there just near hand where the bookies is now, there was a wall came over there and we called it, like our house was down in and when we came out of the house we called this part of the street, the brae, “we’ll go to the brae” and all the neighbours sort of gathered round there at night. You all sat and you had a ceili and you had a singsong. There used to be a woman the name of Rankin who was a great singer. She came out, this was when Tintown was built, she came out here to live. Old Jimmy Barrett played the melodian, and Stephen McCarron, God rest him, played the fiddle, Jim McCarron played the fiddle. They were young then. Jimmy Barr was good at the melodian and an old man the name of Peter Ward and they used to come to the band shed and have dances in the band shed and they were good. They went on to all hours of the morning but they were always very well behaved although there was a lot of drinking done in them days too and there would have been the odd fight but there was never sort of rascality like stealing things from people. I remember when we came up here to live our door never was locked at night time, or if you were going out you left the door on what you would called the latch, you pressed it down, as time went on we got a wee bit more modern we got handles on the door, but I remember previous to the war you could have left the door, even during the war we left the doors, the odd time you would have locked it.
Now in the old band shed the men played cards, they had a wee shooting gallery there with air rifles and they played different teams and there was whist drives played in it. Previous to that there was a band, they marched from here to Donegal town on the 15th and it was good in them times because Steelstown Band, that was the protestant band of the village, they had drums and flutes and this band down here had the same now on their marching day everybody done their own thing and if the Steelstown band was short of something, a flute or something like that, they borrowed and they worked together in harmony like that, the same as the gun clubs. I remember my father was in the gun club and I remember him going down into the Orange Hall as they called it down at Culmore Point to play off for cups, and football matches were the same, they played all round, Muff and Culmore and all round different places and whoever won the cup at whatever event it was, there was always what Fr McKenna, God have mercy on him, from Muff used to say to a man the name of Tommy Bradley (Hunker), that lived around here, he used to be a wee bit down when his team would have lost and he would have shouted something, Fr McKenna used to say to him, “it’s alright you’ll get a gargle out of the cup if we win it”. Times were very good and people enjoyed themselves, and those nights whenever the music was going on you would have been out, and you would have got up maybe and done an aul waltz on the road or maybe somebody would have got up and done a step dance. The music at the brae was all outdoors and everybody passing by joined in, if somebody was coming out from the town there that had been to the picture house or maybe the young folk would have.
There was always a famous thing in our day, to walk on the Carlisle Road, whenever I was a teenager, when you got out at night, you weren’t kept in, you had to be in at a certain time, you had to be in early, but walking the Carlisle Road was one of the favourite pass times. Maybe there was a gang of fellas and girls all went together and somehow or other we always had good craic because there was always a fella or two that played a mouth organ and there was always a few good singers, you enjoyed yourself in a lively sort of a way and you never thought, aye you done the odd bit of rascality, just tying a bit of thread on someone’s door in the winter nights, but really and truly it was all just sort of enjoyment, good-natured fun really.
This is what I notice now about education, I think it is great the privileges, because in years gone by there was many a brainy child, many a person could have had good education but had no chance of making anything really out of it because they would have had to pay to go to colleges , now they have all those chances now they are all getting A levels and O levels, but what I notice nowadays is that they are not really very practical when it comes to being practical. What I mean is they have no alternatives to anything. We were brought up to fend for ourselves and we made use of everything, nothing ever went to waste. I think there is an awful lot of waste at the moment. In those days if you had hard bread left over, for instance, well a lot of people had pigs, the skins of the potatoes when you peeled them, but some people scrubbed their potatoes so well and so clean that they were able to eat the skin of the potato, that a lot of people done that. In most houses now you get the peeled potatoes mashed, in them times you didn’t get that. If you did happen to have a plain loaf in the house, and a lot of people didn’t really like it, but if you had any left, it never went to waste, because it was boiled with sweet milk. Sweet milk in them times was plentiful, and people seemed to buy a lot of sweet milk then, it was about the cheapest thing you had, and most nourishing thing they could get and they would have boiled it in the sweet milk, my mother used to call it “panedi”.
Later on in life when my Anne went to school they called it Bread and Butter Pudding, it was the same thing only they had a different way of doing it. They put it into a pudding dish and put it into the oven and cooked it slowly, but my mother, she just boiled it in an ordinary saucepan and milk and it was quite nice with a bit of sugar over it. Food was good. It was scarce but what we got was nourishing and it was all good substantial food. There was no chips, chips was a luxury. In the old timed people didn’t make chips. I remember once after I was married making chips when we came up here to live. I had the range in there and I remember putting my father out a plate of chips when he came in from his work and he says that’ll do me till I get my dinner. His idea of his dinner was a big heaped plate of spuds in their jacket. Most people too grew their own vegetables, you would have had your own scallions and cabbage, greyhound cabbages they called them, bit of turnip you would have got. A thing most people done, but a farmer didn’t mind you doing that, any field along the road you could have took a turnip out of it and brought it home to use it, I mean you didn’t take it to waste it, but even if the farmer had have come along, that owned the field, he wouldn’t have said anything to you for taking one turnip out and using it for your dinner.
Tom Deeney speaking about the gun club:
“I had an interest in the shooting competitions, the gun clubs that we are talking about were light air rifle clubs, point 177 bore air rifles and those competitions were run, certainly I can remember them from the mid-1950s through until about 1971 or 72, but apparently they were going on away back years before that, but I can remember in particular sometime in the late 50s, and I was still at school at the time, and I had joined the Racecourse Social Club, who had a team in the shooting competitions, and I used to practise on a very old gun which I was told was the property of John McDaid, so that was a gun of your father’s. In fact it’s very disappointing for myself, and several people who did take part, that those competitions have ceased locally, mainly on the account of the trouble that was going on from the late 60s, early 70s. Travelling teams were afraid that because they were carrying guns, but they were only light air rifles, they were afraid they might have got into trouble so we had to stop the competitions and we haven’t as yet had the opportunity to get them started again”.
Lily McClean again:
My father went on the old daisy bell bike. Some nights them competitions would have went on to maybe 1 or 2 in the morning, especially coming up to a cup final, they would have played 2 or 3 games and whoever was the highest, then they had a cup final they played off for, I think that was the way of it. It was late on when they came back from the competition and you never had the door locked, he just came in and that was that and you would have said who won the competition? If it was the Racecourse Social that won it, well you got up and you made tea, but if it was somebody else you weren’t a bit interested, you didn’t bother. It all depended what the result was. If the result was good you got up and had a cup of tea and celebrated with the cup of tea.
They were good times and the dances were good and all. The Messines hut, it was the British Legion hut, too there were dances there, that was on the Collon Lane and there was always dances in that. There were dances in Steelstown Hall as well and there was dances then in the barn as they called it, McSheffrey’s barn in Muff. The odd time you would have went there, if you had of got, but I didn’t have a bicycle, but if you got somebody to give you a bar down or if you got a girl with a bike with a carrier on the back of it and her a good enough bike rider you would have got down on that. I only went on a couple of them but I enjoyed them. There were dances as well down in the Orange Hall in Culmore Point and it was so far away that it would have been what we would have called a ball in them days. It would have meant that you dressed all up in a nice dress and went to it. It might have been on to 1 or 2 in the morning.
We made our First Communion and you see the nearest chapel we had then was the cathedral, so I expect, because you were young when you made your First Communion and the cathedral was so far away that you were allowed to receive your First Holy Communion in the school and it was Fr McGettigan was the priest in the cathedral at that time, and he came out to the school, and he came the day before and heard confessions, and then he offered Mass in the school, and you had your communion, and after communion then you had a cup of tea and a bag of buns. It might have been a cookie bun and a pastry or maybe 2 cookie buns. Mrs Brown as far as I can remember made the tea, it was made up in her house, now the school teachers, I think, might have went there and made it with her.