IN THIS week’s edition of Throwback Thursday, I’m delighted to say we can add another story to the ongoing go-cart saga!
Daniel Crowley writes to tell of his own childhood on Military Hill in Cork city.
“We arrived there in the early 1950s from flatland Kildare, so you can imagine the attraction of that steep slope!” he says.
To Daniel, the word ‘steerin-ah’ was unknown, however. “The go-karts we used on the hill were known then as ‘gorries’.
“As you can imagine there was a lot of speed built up descending Military Hill in a ‘gorry’ so each one had some sort of improvised brake in the form of a bit of wood that ground against the rear wheels and was operated by a very rudimentary lever.”
In the end, this led to a personal disaster for Daniel, as he was one day mown down by a careering ‘gorry’ on the hill, and ended up in the North Infirmary with a fractured collarbone.
It did, however, turn out to be a positive experience for the impressionable youngster.
“I was so impressed by the institution — the smell and the constant bustling activity — that not only did I end up as a doctor myself but I thankfully acquired the ideal wife from among the student nurses who worked there before the imbecilic bureaucracy closed the hospital down.
“While still in my student days, I was asked to go on a blind date by another student in the North Infirmary in 1967, and he pointed down the Female Med ward at two nurses standing together and asked me to pick one whom his lady friend could ask to complete the foursome.
Life is so strange — 30 seconds that changed my life!”
Daniel is still sad that such a great hospital closed for good in 1987. “One thing this country never acquired a was a modicum of foresight,” he remarks.
Last week, I wrote about those much-loved corner shops that used to be common in Cork.
Dave Kelly contributed Mac’s, near St Patrick’s School at the junction of Ashburton Hill and Gardiner’s Hill in St Luke’s.
“My nan, Ann O’Hallahan, lived around the corner and she would have been going in there a long time before I was born,” said Dave.
“She would have bought things like milk, bread, etc. all that kind of stuff. I would often go to the shop for her messages when I was old enough. Also, my mother would have gone there too.
“That shop is still there and has not changed much in my time. It’s basically the place for locals to go in, get the groceries, have a chat with the shopkeeper. A real sense of community. I love these little shops.
“There aren’t many of them left, and those that are still with us won’t be around forever.”
Back in August, if you recall, we were talking about the great habit of adding ‘-ah’ to almost any word to render it truly Corkonian.
Tim Maverley mentioned that there was a lane running from Stream Hill, along the wall of St Patrick’s Girls School coming out in Dillons Cross by the side of the current constituency office for Billy Kelleher.
“It was known as the ‘banz-ah’, but I have no idea why,” added Tim.
Now, Fintan Bloss is able to elucidate. “With regards to the ‘banz-ah’, a friend of mine, Dave Scanlon, says that it was where local bands practiced.”
Of course! Seems so obvious when you know the answer, doesn’t it? Simpl-ah, like!
Fintan has also contributed a wonderful picture of milk being delivered at 16, North Mall in the 1930s. He said: “My late mother, Mary, who lived at number 15, remembered the milk arriving in this way.”
How many other Corkonians remember getting their daily supply from a cheerful man with a big tin jug?
“Ours was called Bertie Flynn,” recalls Tom O’Brien. “He was always cheerful and whistling a tune.”
“My mother used to cover the big milk container with a damp sheet of butter muslin to keep it cool,” remembers Katie Hayes.
“When I was very small, I discovered that you could skim the lovely yellow cream off the top with a spoon. I found that fascinating, the way it crinkled up, and I used to feed it to the cats.
“My mother wasn’t too pleased when she found me doing this. I explained that they liked it and she said exasperatedly that she was sure they did!”
When bottles began to replace the daily liquid delivery, it caused problems for young Ann Moloney.
“We were making Christmas decorations in the classroom, and our teacher asked us all to bring in some of the nice shiny foil caps from our household milk bottles to make little bells,” she said.
“We didn’t have bottles yet in our house and I was horrified at the thought of not being able to bring any! I really resented that we still got the milk in the old fashioned way.
“When you’re that age, you want to be exactly the same as everybody else, never different.”
As well as that milk delivery picture, Fintan Bloss has also shared some great family history. His mother was the youngest of 15 in the Buckley family. Her parents, John J. Buckley and Sarah Ann Innes, were married in 1901 and lived in Alfred Street on the Lower Road until moving to 15 North Mall.
Fintan’s cousin, Mar McCullagh, remembers being looked after by their grandmother, Sarah Ann, and peeping constantly out the window to see if her mother was coming.
“She would keep our grandmother informed that she was coming up Popes Quay now, then she was at the North Gate Bridge, and so on until she reached No 15.”
Mar also remembers Doherty’s comic magazine shop in front of the garda station on Nth Abbey Street, off North Mall.
“I would spend a lot of time looking at the True Detective magazines and getting a box of Weekend chocolates from O Keeffes at the foot of Shandon Street, to enjoy while reading Secrets, another publication that was popular at the time.”
A task she was often given was collecting mineral water from the well in the Franciscan Well ìn various containers. “It was supposed to have healing powers,” added Mar.
Fascinatingly, there is a store at the back of 15, North Mall, which was originally the ‘dead house’ for the Franciscan Friary. Hence the name Deadman’s Lane off North Mall. Another priceless scrap of information to add to our knowledge of this city!
On leaving school, Fintan’s mother worked as a receptionist for a dentist named Berkhan, and then, while attending a niece’s wedding in London, met her future husband, Don.
He was home on leave from the Merchant Navy, being a cook on the liners which covered the London to Australia route, and must have had many exciting tales to tell of his voyages on the high seas.
The couple opened a bed and breakfast on the North Mall, and welcomed a variety of various lodgers over the years, including actors from the Opera House.
This was a big part of life back in the early 20th century, with touring companies moving from town to town and always having a list of the best guest houses at which to stay.
Not just price was considered, but the provision of hot water for cleaning off the make-up, facilities for washing out costumes, late suppers (a must if your last show didn’t finish until eleven) and so on.
Frank Howerd, Jack Cruise’s sidekick, is one who stood out, says Fintan, also a Dutch engineer who was working on the new North Gate Bridge, or Griffith Bridge.
“I remember my mother saying he used to leave his traditional clogs just inside the front door to wear on his return from work.”
Guards from the nearby North Abbey Station would regularly come in for dinner, among them the radio broadcaster P. J. Coogan’s father.
So many stories, each one opening another little window into the past.
Tell us your stories, let us share your knowledge of yesteryear! Email jokerrigan1@ gmail.com.