Septembers of the Past

 September has in the past always been a rather special month for those of us who grew up in the rural areas of the country. While we may not have any great happy memories of having to return to school after six weeks of freedom during the summer holidays romping around through the countryside during July and August, or out in the bogs and hayfields helping as best we could with the saving of the crops. Some of my own special memories of Septembers of our boyhood and early teenage years are of bringing in some of the late saved hay into the sheds and of being out in the cornfields during fresh and balmy September days giving a hand with the binding of the sheaves of oats, wheat and barley after these had been cut with the horse drawn mowing machine. No reapers or binders or any up to date machinery in our part of the country in those far off days just the basic equipment that was needed to bind and stook the corn crops before bringing these into the farmyard and putting into stacks in readiness for the threshing later in the year.  Then of course September brought us the All-Ireland finals in hurling and football and how we eagerly looked forward to the broadcast of these matches on the old battery operated radio of those days. In later years of course we often travelled to Croke Park, particularly when the Kerry team were playing in the football final.  September too was the month of the Listowel Races which meant a few days off from school for the children of North Kerry. What a fascinating place Listowel was for young children in those days, with the Market Yard a virtual wonderland of excitement and colour with the swinging boats, the chair planes, the bumper cars, the ghost train, the trick of the hoop operators, the magicians and all the other amusements and sideshows that made a trip to the Listowel Races one of the highlights of the year for the young boys and girls of North Kerry and West Limerick. There was also, of course, for the older teenagers and those in their twenties, thirties, forties and so forth a set dancing platform in the Market Yard where people could dance to their hearts content in the crisp Autumn air until late into the evening. Then as well as that there was a good choice of adult dancing venues for the race nights, the Slua Hall, the Astor Cinema and Walsh’s Ballroom. Also if the weather was still holding fine in September it was considered a good time of the year to spend a day in Ballybunion when the place was quieter after the summer holidaymakers had left.  Apart from the Sunday of the All-Ireland finals other Sundays in September were often taken up attending County Championship hurling and football finals which were usually played in the Autumn. It was a time as well when local matches in our area would be played with all the needle and intense excitement that such encounters between neighbouring teams in rural parishes were to generate in times past. In those days when a farmer would lend a field that would be suitable for playing a match between local townlands he did not have to worry about insurance claims if there was an accident in his field during the course of a game unlike the present time when he would be liable if any of the participants in a game or sports of any kind got hurt.  In our young days there used to be a sports field in every townland and nobody gave it a second thought as it was considered completely natural and normal that a farmer would lend a field to a local football team or sports club. Not once in those days did one ever hear of a farmer looking for money for the use of his field. In many instances some of those local football pitches were meadows and would only be available for matches from September until April when the hay would then start to grow. But as well there were grazing fields where matches could be played at any time of the year.  In our own farm part of a meadow was used as the townland’s football pitch, but again only after the hay was saved and drawn home and the after grass eaten by the livestock in early September.  The field was then ready for football. Then each year towards the end of September the digging of the potatoes was usually started and rural people exchanged their views about how good the crop was or otherwise.  In normal years most of the turf had been drawn home from the bogs by early September (this year has surely been one of the exceptions) but hopefully the potato crop and indeed all the other crops will still show a good return in the long run for all our sakes, as losing any crop would be a disaster.  This time of the year holds many special personal memories for me as it was on a September night that Mary Normoyle and myself first met at a Sinn Féin Céilí in Scanlon’s Hall, Athea. At home on holidays from England at the time and looking forward to attending the Kerry v Galway All-Ireland Football Final that weekend, someone in Listowel told me that a bus was taking people to a Céilí in Athea that night. Actually the girl who told me about it was Maureen Flavin from Dirrha who was working in Listowel and going out with Mickey Quinn from Templeathea at the time, and later married, who sadly died a few years ago after himself and Maureen had raised a lovely family of four boys who incidentally are good friends of my son Seanie since he went to live in Listowel parish several years ago. It is really amazing how one short trip in a bus to a Céilí can change a person’s whole life but certainly without any regrets. September brings back many happy memories of my first time meeting Mary and of all my years since in Athea and all that this lovely parish has given me and the family through all the good and indeed sometimes sad times. With all these things in mind September can be a month of many pleasant memories.

Recent Wedding

The marriage took place recently of Tadgh Hanrahan N.T., son of Timmy and Nance Hanrahan, Coole West, Athea and Maura O’Halloran, daughter of Pat and Mary O’Halloran, Ballyleague, Roscommon. The ceremony, with Nuptial Mass at Holy Rosary Church, Ballyleague was performed by Fr Patrick Bowen PP, Athea, assisted by Fr Liamey Shine O.P. The Brides sisters Aine Brady and Teresa O’Neill were Matrons of Honour. The groom’s Brother Brian Hanrahan (who came from the United States for the occasion) was Best Man and the Groomsman was Timmy Doyle, a friend of the Groom.  The reception was held at The Radisson Blue Hotel, Athlone where the families and all the guests had a very enjoyable time during the meal and the entertainment that followed. Congratulations to Tadgh and Maura and best wishes for their future in married life. Before leaving home some years ago Tadgh Hanrahan was a prominent local footballer who played on several occasions with Athea teams.

Céilí Dancing

West Limerick Set Dancing Club will hold a Céilí at The Devon Inn Hotel, Templeglantine on this Sunday afternoon September 9th at 4pm. Music by Taylor’s Cross and all are welcome.

Hot Rod Racing

Declan Brouder, son of Pat and Pauline, Ardagh and grandson of Mary Brouder, Knocknaclugga recently won an All-Ireland medal in a Hot Rod car racing competition. Declan is also great grandson, from his mother’s side, of the legendary Rooskagh Sean nÓs singer the late Con Greaney.

Story and a Song

On last Saturday’s “Story and a Song” programme on West Limerick Community Radio 102fm Pat O’Donovan’s special guest was well-known singer, song composer and historian Tom O’Donovan of Tarbert. It was a most interesting and enjoyable programme with Tom giving a great performance. Well done too to presenter Pat O’Donovan.