Watch: Youghal train in the 70s... do you see yourself or someone you know in the crowds?

Old songs and trips to Youghal are on the agenda with JO KERRIGAN this week - and our stories of blackberry picking keep harvesting more memories
Watch: Youghal train in the 70s... do you see yourself or someone you know in the crowds?

Youghal railway station in the early part of the 20th century.

THROWBACK Thursday reader Tom Jones replied quickly from Florida in answer to a query about the song he mentioned last week, One Beautiful Day When We Were Young, in his memory of a trip to Youghal as a child in the 1950s.

“Yes, it was Pat Lynch of The Airchords I was referring to,” he says. “I didn’t know the name of the band.

“Pat also had a younger brother Tony who played in bands, and I believe his older brother Stevie played with The Dixies.”

Tom offers a little bit of background as to why this song became a family favourite among the Jones tribe.

“My Aunt Mary, still alive, is into her late 80s now, and both aunts knew Pat when they were teenagers, I guess. As a matter of fact, Christy Keating, the man who married my Aunt Mary, he and Pat Lynch were boyhood friends around Blackpool in those old Cork days. Therefore, the version that they loved and sang would certainly have been recorded by Pat Lynch.”

Tom’s Aunt Mary still lives in Spangle Hill, he tells us, while his Aunt Nonie (R.I.P) spent most of her adult life in Dagenham, England.

“It would have been some time in the late ’70s or early ’80s that I first heard them sing that song, when I brought my kids over to Ireland and England,” says Tom. 

"I have been back to Cork quite a few times in the intervening years and at every gathering of the Jones family, including weddings, wakes, and wars, one is guaranteed to hear that song; the last chorus being joined in singing by the entire Jones clan.”

Tom was also pleased to hear that readers enjoyed the vivid recollections of his very first trip to Youghal.

“Those memories of mine and others flow into my head, and always come back to me when I read of old times in Cork. So, when I read of a Sunday at Youghal, for an hour or two they consume me, and I just have to write them down.”

He offers a few extra thoughts that came to him recently, especially about that first arrival in the seaside town.

“The cacophony of sound floating on the air was what instantly captured your attention,” Tom recalls. 

“Men and women shouting, loud boisterous laughter, the unmistakable high-pitched squealing of children, equally matching the squalling of the seagulls. The sight of kids of all sizes having fun chasing the gulls as they tried to land on the timber barriers and poles that once were used as flood and wave control.

“The remains of those breakwaters are still there. Back then they separated the beach into sections, where people sat, much like a modern sports arena.”

Even now, Tom still wonders, did the younger sea birds enjoy the game of chase as well as the children?

“Or you might think maybe of two gulls speaking in ‘seagulleze’, the grumpy one complaining, ‘Tell me why I don’t like Sundays,’ and being reassured by the other, ‘Don’t worry, they’re only day-trippers. After all, tomorrow is another day!’ “

And here is a real little treasure contained in an email from Declan Murray, who writes: “I enjoyed your recent article in the Echo which brought back great memories for me.

“Our family enjoyed many years (16 for me) going down to Youghal for the builders’ holiday fortnight between the 1950s and 1970s. My dad, Michael, worked for John Sisk for 47 years.

“The traditional builders’ holidays were the first two weeks of August. There was almost total shutdown in that industry then, back in the day.

“We stayed in an old railway carriage (still there) on the right hand side of the road just past Summerfield Cross,” explains Declan.

“My friend, Gerard Harrington was next door. His family had a more sturdy, corrugated iron bungalow.

“We did move to a permanent mobile home in Foleys field near to the Killeagh side of the cross for the last few years.

“We did not have our own transport for the first four to five years and so had to rely on dad’s brother-in-law’s painting and decorating van, which had to be cleaned and emptied for transport.

“From Douglas to Youghal took nearly one hour, carrying driver, Mam, Dad, and four children, plus luggage.

“Once we got there, groceries were delivered daily by the shop owner just opposite the church beyond the dog track.

“Evenings were always a walk to Perks merries, hail, rain, or just sometimes, sunshine. Later on, I remember my friend’s older sister Kay going to Redbarn (via the beach) and the Showboat dance halls at the weekends.

“We would walk as a family to town 6km there and back three or four times a week and thought nothing of it. We were on the beach every day from 1 until 6. Many many happy stories and memories.

“My own family is grown up now but my wife and I always go to Youghal three or four times a year with my grandchildren for a walk on the boardwalk, a stroll around the town. Love going back there. It has a great history.”

Now here comes that little treasure from Declan. “My dad was a keen amateur cinematographer and we have many old old films of our trips which have now been transferred to digital media. They have lost some definition but are still memorable for anyone who loved those summer childhood days as we did. I have attached a little film of Youghal station for your interest.”

Anyone looking at this delightful echo from past summers - do you recognise yourself or a friend or relative in those happy crowds? Do let us know if you do!

“The small boy featured is my brother Michael, four years younger than me,” says Declan. “I’m the tall lad leaning nonchalantly on the signal box wall. My friend next to me is Gerard Harrington whose family holidayed next door to us.”

AN AUTUMN TRADITION: Children picking blackberries with the jar at the ready - but many of the sweet treats didn’t make it that far!
AN AUTUMN TRADITION: Children picking blackberries with the jar at the ready - but many of the sweet treats didn’t make it that far!

And now to blackberries. We asked last week why people seem to have forgotten the skill of foraging for this delicious wild food, especially in this time of shortages and stringency.

James Ross blackberry picking in recent days. Picture supplied by Michelle Ross.
James Ross blackberry picking in recent days. Picture supplied by Michelle Ross.

Michelle Ross was quick to write and say that, in her household at least, blackberry picking is still very much part of the yearly round.

“My husband, James, picked berries up here on Nash’s Boreen a few times as a child, and it’s something we started doing together four years ago. 

"We really look forward to the blackberry season every year, and have been happily picking up on the boreen roughly every two days for the last week and a half or so.”

Michelle makes sugar-free jam for her diabetic father-in-law, “but mostly we eat the berries fresh, with warm scones and whipped cream.”

Now doesn’t that sound mouthwateringly good? Shall we all go round to the Ross household for afternoon tea?

Mary O’Leary well remembers her mother dragging her entire brood out to pick not only blackberries, but also mushrooms, and then crab apples, as each came into season back in the 1950s and ’60s. “There were locations we returned to every year, always around Courtmacsherry, where we spent our summer holidays, for each free harvest in turn.”

Her mother made blackberry jelly rather than jam, because nobody liked the seeds in jam.

“For both blackberry and crab apple jelly, the cooked pulp was put into a clean muslin cloth (bought in Murray’s on the Grand Parade), and the ‘jelly bag’ was suspended on a broom handle resting on two kitchen chairs. The juice was left to drip into a large bowl underneath for at least 24 hours. Woe betide any one who tried to hurry up the dripping process by squeezing the bag because it would make the final product cloudy. Mum was a perfectionist and wanted her jelly as clear and bright as possible.”

Mary’s mother also made mushroom ketchup with the mushrooms they gathered (except for a precious perfect ration for dad’s tea.) 

“She maintained that the ketchup was very tasty but I didn’t like it. I do admit that it did add a depth of flavour to stews and sauces though.”

Towards the end of the year, it was time to locate berried holly for Christmas. “That search took us towards Inchigeela. Dad would use his trusty walking stick to hook down high branches. We had picnics on those Sundays whatever the weather. When the holly was brought home, it was stuck in a flower bed in the back garden and covered with an old net curtain to prevent the birds getting at it.”

Now that’s a useful hint, Mary, thank you!

Tim Cagney remembers blackberry picking outings of childhood too: “Our hunting-grounds were the fields beyond the Fox & Hounds pub in Ballyvolane. Places like Banduff, and the back of modern-day Mayfield, all the way up to Rathcooney Cemetery, and back down via White’s Cross. In those days, you could freely enter farmland. Not like today. 

"Our mother would actively encourage us to enter these fields, as she always felt that roadside berries would be contaminated by dust.”

By far the best place for blackberries, of course, says Tim, was the celebrated Haunted House on Lover’s Walk. “There, they were almost the size of apples, untouched by pollution, and protected, I like to think, by the ghost of Sarah Curran. The stark ruins of Woodhill only served to add a further spooky dimension to our ventures through that hole in the wall - I still would love to know who created it!

“Ghosts, of course, never appeared during daylight, so we weren’t too worried. The rewards greatly outweighed the fears. Large quantities of luscious fruit were carefully borne back to our kitchen at Gardiners Hill, where our mother would convert them into jam. (I - for one - was never aware of the sales potential at Ogilvie & Moore!) The odour of the cooking fruit could only be matched by the smell of cooking puddings, on Christmas Eve.”

Of course, it was a minor miracle any of the fruit actually made it home at all, he adds, as a great deal of it went straight into your mouth, after being picked!

“The preferred way of storing the bounty was in an old tin chocolate-box, preferably with a lid, which would keep the berries from falling out.

“Plastic bags - as I recall - were not commonplace in those days, whilst paper bags, of course, were entirely useless, as the fruit-juice would soak in, creating a hole through which your precious hoard would fall to the ground. “

Tim notes with interest our observation that blackberries are nowadays often left unpicked. “I often wondered if the tradition continued. Sadly, it would seem that ‘picking black-ahs’ has been consigned to the history-books. Much like the mackerel fishing - but that’s a story for another day!”

Let’s hear your stories of foraging for wild food or indeed any memories of yesteryear. Email jokerrigan1@gmail.com - or leave a comment on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/echolivecork.

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