Cork childhood memories: Remember pram races while we minded our siblings

We asked for more women to come forward with their Cork memories, and a female reader regales JO KERRIGAN with tales of school, skipping and trips to town, in our weekly column, Throwback Thursday
Cork childhood memories: Remember pram races while we minded our siblings

MINDING BABY: Prams in Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork, on a sunny day in July, 1937.

YOU may remember that last week we made a call for childhood memories from the girls of yesteryear, in our Throwback Thursday column, since the majority of correspondence to date has been from the male half of the population.

Well, Anne Barnes was right in there straight away.

“I have been loving the recent articles about people’s memories of their time at school,” she said. “You asked for more contributions from ladies, so here goes...

“I attended Scoil Naoimh Brid, Eglantine, Douglas, in the 1960s - happy days indeed! The school was new when I started, housed in a rather elegant old mansion. I remember that we all hated the smell of some eucalyptus trees in the grounds!

A school sports event at Eglantine School in July, 1974. A Throwback Thursday reader recalls attending Scoil Naoimh Brid, Eglantine, Douglas, in the 1960s, when it opened.
A school sports event at Eglantine School in July, 1974. A Throwback Thursday reader recalls attending Scoil Naoimh Brid, Eglantine, Douglas, in the 1960s, when it opened.

“Our head teacher was Mrs Corkery. I was also taught by Mrs Hurley, Mrs O’Sullivan and, for two years, by the formidable Mrs Keating - a lady for whom only one’s best was good enough. She was an inspiring educator!”

Anne says that, unlike some of our recent contributors (take a bow, Fintan Bloss!), she cannot recall the names of all the pupils in her class, just some.

“I remember Judy O’ Donovan, Siobhan O’Shea, Sheila Lane, Kathleen White, Geraldine O’Connell and Brid O’Riordan. I have lovely memories of playtimes and lessons together.”

In fact, Anne liked school so much that she eventually became a teacher and only recently retired after 30-plus years at the chalkface (“although that’s an interactive whiteboard now!”) in the UK.

“I may have left Cork 40 years ago, but Throwback Thursday takes me right back there,” said Anne

“I lived in Douglas, on Browningstown Park, which was a sort of U-shaped cul-de-sac with little traffic - perfect for playing outside.

“I can remember large groups of children playing together. Even the tiny ones in prams who were being ‘minded’ by older siblings were part of our games, pram races being one of them.” (This does conjure up rather frightening pictures of prams being pushed at full speed around the estate, babies clinging on for dear life, but it probably wasn’t as fast as all that!)

Anne’s favourite childhood pastime was skipping. 

“This was not with dainty little ropes, but with a huge rope held on either side of the road by taller children. The skill was to jump over it or run under, without tripping or being sent flying."

She also remembers going ‘into town’ on the No.7 bus, “usually with my mum or granny - who lived a few doors down from us. A visit to Thompson’s or The Green Door was a special treat - it always seemed full of rather elegant ladies wearing hats!”

Anne says that she hasn’t been home for years, “not since my adored dad passed away 21 years ago. I had planned a return visit to Cork when I retired, but the pandemic delayed my plans. Hoping to go soon though, now that travel restrictions are being lifted.”

She adds: “I have no family left there now; my brother lives in Spain and I’m in London. 

"I look forward though to walking all around the city, visiting old haunts, and enjoying the atmosphere, even if the Cork rain is falling!”

Thank-you for those lovely memories, Anne, and it’s good to know our weekly reminiscences bring back your own childhood. See you when you finally get home, OK?

Donal Crowley shared with us his own childhood memories and the games they used to play in Blackpool in the 1950s.

“I was born on July 26, 1956, and lived at 10, Seminary Road in Blackpool, in a small two-bedroomed terraced house where I lived with my parents and one brother and one sister. This is the house and area that I spent all my childhood and youth in.

“It was called Seminary Road, but in fact it was a hill that led directly from Blackpool to Farranferris College and Seminary (hence Seminary Road). It was also known as Water Lane, and was aptly named as there was a spring well directly opposite our house, which was the second last house near the top of this hill.”

STREET FUN: Children from the Marsh area of Cork city playing with a skipping rope at Adelaide Street, in February, 1937.
STREET FUN: Children from the Marsh area of Cork city playing with a skipping rope at Adelaide Street, in February, 1937.

Blackpool, at that time, remembers Donal, was a thriving community and village with a school, a plethora of corner shops, pubs and major industries such as Sunbeam, Gouldings Fertilisers, and Irish Distillers.

“The E.S.B. had a huge pole field at the outskirts near the grotto. Sadly, all these industries and the school are gone, together with most of the shops and pubs. But they still remain in history and in our memories.”

Two of Donal’s earliest memories are as follows:

“Being brought by my mother to the Savoy Cinema to see a new musical picture called South Pacific. This was in 1958, and I was only two and a half years of age at the time, but I distinctly remember the movie, and the organ being played at the interval with the words of the songs appearing on the big screen while the organist (the one and only Fred Bridgeman) played and the audience sang along. Magical times.”

Donal’s second stand-out memory relates to a few years later.

“Being brought to school on the first day, again by my mother, and being handed over at the gate of the North Presenation Primary School on Hillgrove Lane off Gerald Griffin Street.

“I was four at the time, and remember being terrified of the nun in her full regalia of habit and head piece, called a cornet, I think. I don’t recall anything else of that day other than the separation from my mother to the nun - frightening times.”

Donal stresses that he certainly came from a working-class family and area, “but while most children were materially poor, we were all both time and socially rich, playing outdoors from morning to night, only going home for meals.

“We made our own fun and played street games that cost little or no money, and boredom was a word not in our vocabulary or experience.”

Well said, Donal! That is worth remembering when today’s over-indulged kids scoff at Cork in the hard old times.

Looking back, he recalls, families were adept at recycling, as all clothes and shoes were handed down from sibling to sibling, including Communion and Confirmation outfits, thus ensuring maximum usage. And you didn’t throw out food either.

“In our house, like many others, what little waste food might be left over from feeding a hungry family was brought to a near neighbour of ours (a Garda sergeant) who had chickens, and we would be given a penny each time and an odd egg for our troubles.

Otherwise, food waste was given to Alice, a real Dickensian character with a stoop and a limp, who travelled Blackpool with her donkey and cart, collecting slops for her father’s pigs further out in Blackpool. In hindsight, Alice was a pitiful character and of another time, and must have had a hard life.

“Also,” adds Donal, “there was the rag and bone man who went around with a horse and cart, buying old clothes and bric-a-brac, and you would be given a balloon or a small toy for such items with no money changing hands. At that time, of course, anything broken was fixed - so unlike our throwaway and fast-fashion society now.

All the children in his part of Blackpool, recalls Donal, spent their days playing and swimming in places such as Gouldings Glen or Rosses Wood (near Blarney) and fishing for thorneens in Fitzi’s Boreen.

“The cowboys and indians and Tarzan of the big screen wouldn’t hold a candle to our games and exploits in these fantastic places. We would be gone for the day, with a jam sandwich if we were lucky, and played without harm in idyllic places.”

Special outings, he says, were to places farther afield such as ‘up the baths’ in Carrigrohane Road, an outdoor swimming pool, and ‘down the baths’ in Eglantine Street, an indoor swimming pool, or Fitzgerald’s Park where the ‘Collie’ (the park superintendent) was feared and respected by all.

“These outings would be completed by an ice lolly or ice cream on the way home if we were lucky enough to have the money.”

Like Anne Barnes, Donal remembers that street games were a major part of life in his childhood.

“They included street soccer for any number of players each side, from the age of 6 to 30, and often lasted for hours, using jumpers or rocks to mark the goals.

“Other boys; games were: chasing, release, kick the can, thunder up the alley, run away knock, conkers, glassy alleys, and racing our beloved steernas (steering cars) made of old timber with four ball bearings for wheels. These were particularly useful (and dangerous) on Water Lane as it was on a hill, and I remember a few scary moments at the end of the hill when the brakes on our home-made Ferraris failed!”

Girls’ games he can recall included Pickie, skipping, gobs, playing shop, and cards, with Fag-ahs (used fag/cigarette boxes that replicated notes, and Chanies (broken pieces of crockery or china) that substituted for coins.

These memories, Donal says feelingly, were of a golden era full of innocence, free of fear and malice, when children played freely without supervision.

“I am sure their characters and experiences benefited greatly from the trust and confidence given to them by this freedom during their formative years. 

"They represent a time from our younger childhood, before we discovered the joys of the An Stad Café in Leitrim Street, and long before we experienced the excitement of sport, girls and drink... but that’s for another tale.”

Now, isn’t that a great picture of 1950s Blackpool, from the viewpoint of a child of the time? Let’s hear more, Donal!

Tim Morley wants to rectify some misconceptions on the Christian (and closely related) Presentation Brothers, who have received some criticism lately.

“Let me say I was at CBS (Sullivan’s Quay) 1957-1962, and can only say that I was very grateful for an excellent education costing 10 pounds per year ‘if you can afford it’, as my mother was told at the time. We played Gaelic games on Wednesday afternoons , supervised by the brothers, and I never heard of anybody (or anybody’s parents) complaining that we didn’t play rugby. We played soccer in the school yard.

“A neighbour of mine, Paddy Fogarty, who went to Pres, was the last person to get a Harty (hurling) medal and a Munster Schools Championship (rugby) medal in the same year (around the middle 1930s). After that, ‘the ban’ was put in, and that stopped the mixing of sports. It was nothing to do with the Brothers, just the prevailing nationalist intolerance of the time.”

Let’s hear some more golden memories, from both the boys and the girls of yesteryear. Email jokerrigan1@gmail.com or leave a comment on our Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/echolivecork)

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