Bertha Craul Oldcourt, Manor Kilbride 1920-2017
Written in June 2007
My name is Bertha Craul nee Hinch. I was born in Saggart Co Dublin on 14th July 1920. My father was William Hinch 1884-1956 and my mother was Bertha Hinch nee Gordon, from Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow 1883-1966. They are buried at Saggart cemetery. There were six of us in the family, 5 girls and 1 boy. We all went to school in Saggart but my sister Eleanor spent a lot of time in Shillelagh with my grandmother and went to school there also.
School in Saggart
Mr. and Mrs Monks were the teachers in Saggart during the 1920’s. They lived upstairs in the schoolhouse for some time and then they moved to Long Mile Road. Their children also attended school in Saggart- Gerard and Maureen. We liked school. In some ways it was better than being at home because we had to work very hard on the farm.
Everyone wore leather boots with toecaps and walked to school. When your boots were worn, your father would mend them. He had a last which held the boot while it was being mended and he had hemp for stitching. Going to school at the time, there were Kellys of the Lugg, Craggys, Proctors, Hinches, Archibolds, Muldownies, Grays, Lawlors, Cooneys, and Meegans from Saggart Hill.
At school, religion was a very important subject. We had to learn a lot of Catechism questions and answers off by heart and we had a Catechism exam every year. We did English, Irish and sums- including algebra and adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing in Pounds, Shillings and Pence. We did sewing, darning, knitting and singing. P.E. and Art were not on the curriculum. There was corporal punishment. Mr. Monks had a cane and also a piece of rubber tyre made into a kind of strap. You got a slap if you didn’t know your Irish or your spellings.
For lunch we had homemade brown bread and homemade butter and maybe a bottle of milk.
After school there was always a lot of work to be done at home- carrying water, thinning turnips, picking potatoes. We carried water in buckets from the river and drinking water from the well every day. Churning milk had to be done once a week or so. There were two big crocks for collecting milk for churning. Everyone had to help in making the butter as it was very hard work.
At harvest time we would have a lot of fun bringing in the cocks of hay from the fields. You would get a jaunt on the bogey and that was great fun- standing up at the back of the haycock and holding onto a rope as the horse pulled the bogey along. The hay was brought into the haggard and stacked up for the cattle in Winter.
For dinner we boiled a pot of potatoes.
In the 1920s and 30s, Murphy’s Public house and Grocer’s shop was where Saggart Arms is now. It had a big counter and they sold bags of flour and all kinds of feeding stuff for animals and poultry- bran and Clarinda which was like huge cornflakes. Hot water was put into it for hens. Indian meal was sold. This would be mixed with nettles and boiled to feed turkeys.
Big pieces of bacon would be hanging up in the shop. At Christmas, all the customers would get a gift of a big barmy brack and a candle.
There was a thatched house next door to the shop and three other houses between that and the corner. They were very small.
For dinner we boiled a pot of potatoes. These would be mashed, with an egg added in and there would be a bit of bacon and cabbage. The cabbage and potatoes were home grown. If a farmer’s family was seen going to the shop for cabbage, they would get a bad name.
We would have a big bag of flour for making bread and when the bag was empty it was washed and made into a fine pillow slip.
Religion was very important at home as well as in school. We would say the rosary and night prayers every night. Processions would take place every Sunday at 4p.m. in Summer time. All the girls would dress in their Communion clothes or other white clothes. There was Benediction after second mass on Sundays. Everyone was expected to go.
Fair Day in Blessington
My father walked to Blessington many times on the 13th day of the Month. This was the fair day and he would walk with cattle to sell. He often walked them home again if he couldn’t get a good price. We would also have turkeys, ducks and hens on the farm. At Christmas, my father would kill a turkey. We would pluck it and our mother would clean it out and stuff it for dinner.
We had a big open fire with two big hobs. The turkey was roasted in a big bake pot which was suspended from a hook. Red hot turf would be put around the lid of the pot. Christmas pudding was also made and boiled in a pudding cloth in a big pot hanging over the fire.
There was no electricity
There was no electricity. We had paraffin oil lamps. You’d have one hanging on the wall and one on the table. It was hard to get your exercise (homework) done with the poor light. The houses were cold. When people started getting electricity into their homes in the 1940s, my father was mesmerised. He could not understand how you could flick a switch and light would come.
Diphtheria was a bad disease which was common in the 1920s and 30s. It was contagious and the school had to be closed at one stage. I contracted it when I was 9 or 10 years old and the doctor came. He cost ten shillings that time for a visit. I was sent to a hospital in Cork St. for a month. I thought it was the end of the world- nobody would be allowed in to visit and I thought I would never see my mother or father again after going in the ambulance. My sisters also got the disease but it was detected at an earlier stage so it wasn’t quite so bad for them. The house was fumigated to try to keep the germs away. Scarlet fever was another serious disease in those days and many children went to hospital in Cork St. There were two hospitals in that Street.
My mother was the only one of her family who stayed in Ireland. Her brother John Gordon emigrated to England. and the rest of her family emigrated to America. My mother’s father and mother also emigrated to America when they were old. My grandfather used to send comic- cuts from America; Florida, I think, and my Aunts used to send a big parcel of clothes occasionally
A Working Life
I left school at the age of 13. At that time, anyone who went to work in a draper’s shop had to pay an apprenticeship fee. I worked in lieu of fee, so I got no wages, just bed and board. When I did get wages, at a later stage, it would have been very little, maybe just about enough to pay the fare home.
I worked first off Henry Cole’s lane- Horan’s shop. It was a small shop and the owner had a lot of children. I didn’t stay there long and then I went to work for Kelly’s of the Coombe who owned a few shops. Other girls worked along with me, including some of the Kelly family. I worked in Pimlico and then in Ormonde Quay which was very convenient for Mass across the bridge in Merchant’s Quay. Kelly’s had a tearoom on Ormonde Quay as alot of people would be walking from Heuston Station.
You got the odd Sunday off work and a half day on Wednesday. Otherwise you worked 7 days a week. There were a lot of food shops in Henry Street. They sold meat and groceries. One shop was called Liptons. It was a really nice shop.
Living in Dublin
There were plenty of churches around the vicinity. That’s mostly where we went when we had time off. Merchant’s Quay was the only church where you could have your throat blessed. Women on the street would sell red flannel (Cloth) and a bottle of olive oil so that you could get it blessed by the priest. He’d bless your throat, crossing 2 candles on front of your neck and throat on St. Blaise’s Day 3rd February. Dairy and Grocery was the normal type of shop. They sold the necessities- fruit, vegetables, tea, sugar, creamery butter, salt and pepper. Farmers would bring 2 or 3 churns (a churn is 10 gallons) of milk to the shop. The milk would have to be tilted over into an earthenware crock and put on the shop counter. People would be coming all day for a pint or a quart of milk. They’d come with a jug and the milk would be measured into it. Butter would come in timber boxes, about 28 lb. (pounds weight) It would have to be cut into 2 ounce or quarter pound blocks and wrapped in greaseproof paper. The box was most useful. It could be made into seats. Sugar came in a big sack. We bought butter paper and sugar bags 2lb and 1lb. in Evan’s shop in Mary’s Lane. The sugar would be weighed up and put into these bags and fastened. People would come for 2 oz. butter in the morning and then come back later to get another 2 oz maybe. The tea was weighed in the same way as the sugar.
There were “Hibernian Dairies “in Pearse St., Hanlon’s Corner, and Church Rd. East Wall. They were all painted yellow. Mrs Lawlor, originally from BallymoreEustace, was the owner and Jimmy Doyle used to be her driver. He also was manager of the shops. I came to work for them and this was the first time I got wages. We were selling the same goods. Rations were enforced because it was war time. People could only get a small amount of tea and butter i.e. an ounce of tea or half an ounce, depending on how many were in the family. Women would plead with you to give them a bit extra tea so as “to get the husband out to work “. Many of the husbands worked on the docks. 2 turnovers (a special kind of loaf bread) cost 3 ½ pence (3 pence hal’penny) or 1 penny 3 farthings each. 20 cigarettes (players) 11 pence. 10 players 5 ½ pence. You could get 5 woodbines, which were the cheapest cigarettes, for 2 pence. It was a “lock up” shop- no beds there. We stayed in a front room of a house in Church Rd. East Wall. The owner of the shop would pay for it. We would make our own meals at the shop. We would go to Mass every morning. The shop would open at 7a.m. and my friend and I would go to mass at 9 on alternative days.
I had a bicycle at home and I remember cycling to East Wall. I don’t know where I left the bicycle as we only had a back kitchen. I worked with Margaret O’Brien and on our half day off we often went to her sister’s in North Strand. We’d spend the afternoon knitting. Clothes were rationed and it was important to be able to make garments. Nylon stockings were rationed. I remember cycling to Guiney’s in Talbot Street for Nylons. Woolworths in Henry Street was another big shop. A bar of chocolate was 6 pence. The Hibernian Dairy in Church road was another place I worked. We sold loose sweets, loose biscuits, broken biscuits, tobacco and woodbines. Whenever I got a day off, I went home to Saggart.
The Bombing At North Strand
At a later stage, I worked for O’Gorman’s in Connaught St. Phibsborough. I was sleeping there the night of the bombing of the North Strand. I went up to my room and on the stairs at 12a.m. I heard a noise. A man on the street outside shouted “Put out the lights, put out the lights “. I went up and sat on the bed while the windows rattled. When the noise stopped, people gathered in the shop to talk. We heard about people going across Newcomen Bridge and being blown up. Between Amien Street and The Five Lamps, all the houses were demolished. Many people were only coming home from the Pictures at the time. There was no warning. A big crater was put in the road at the bottom of Dorset St and the end of the North Circular Road. It was 31st. May 1941. We had been trained to use gas masks and dugouts in the event of an attack, but there was no warning. Aircraft of the German Luftwaffe had dropped 4 high-explosive bombs on the North Strand area, killing 34 people and injuring 90. 300 houses were damaged or destroyed. After that, my mother came and brought me home to Saggart.
Dances in Manor Kilbride
There were dances in Manor Kilbride hall on a Sunday night. My father would be up waiting for us to return home at 12a.m. It was considered an unearthly hour to be out. My sisters May, Ellie and I used to go on a bus from the main road at the top of Mahon’s Lane. We had great fun dancing and swinging. You’d be laughing all the time and you’d meet a lot of people from Blessington and Kilbride, all the local lads and girls. It cost sixpence to get in and sometimes only the lads would have to pay, the girls would be charged 3 pence or maybe they would get in free. Jim Valentine was the Master of Ceremonies. Waltzes, half sets and whole sets were popular. The whole set might take too long so Mr. Valentine would get us to do half sets instead as he was in charge and he would call the dances and set up the dancers. During Lent there were no dances and this is when the bands went to England for work. Mostly the dancing would be in the Summer months.
I met my husband, Jimmy Craul at a dance in Kilbride Hall where his father, Bill Craul and Pat Flood played two melodeons. Jimmy would bring me home on the crossbar of his bicycle. We decided to get married and we took a tram out to Howth on our engagement day. We got married in 1945 in Saggart. The rule in parishes was that you had to be living at home for the months prior to getting married, so in my case, the priest from the parish where I had been working, Fr. Doyle, came to Saggart to marry us. The wedding breakfast was in the Ormonde Hotel. We went to Shanganahg near Bray for a few days for the honeymoon. Then Jimmy had to come home to play a football match. We lived in a part of Ballyward House, Manor Kilbride. Then in 1946 when it was sold we moved to Oldcourt.
We set up a shop at the little house we rented in Oldcourt. Goods like butter and sugar could be ordered from O.&R Fry, Hawkins St and we often brought a box of butter from O&R Fry home on the bus. The Shirran brothers used to deliver a lorry load of provisions to Blessington or the Lambe. We would get large bags of flour and sugar and weigh them into 2lb. and 1lb. bags. Everyone sowed their own vegetables. We sowed potatoes and cabbage. Our neighbour Jim Duffy would also provide potatoes and vegetables for the shop. Donnelly’s van would come with rashers and sausages and other bacon cuts. Corcorans from Carlow supplied groceries. We sold cigarettes, sweets, chocolate and aspros. Men coming and going to the forestry were regular customers. We gave credit and many of our customers had an account and would pay at the end of the month. Bread deliveries would come to the shop from Bolands and Kennedys. Jimmy would get a half side of bacon from his mother’s shop in Kilbride. Fruit would also be delivered by Mr.Gilheaney.
We had a cow to provide milk and we kept the cow in the back garden of the house where there was a cowhouse and an outside dry toilet. At a later stage we got our milk from Ballyward House
Mr. and Mrs. Seaton who were doctors, came to live at Woodend shortly after we moved to Oldcourt in 1946. They were Quakers and were very kind neighbours. They came to the shop on horseback. I got a lot of helpful medical advice from them when I was rearing my family and Mrs. Seaton attended my mother when she was very ill about 1950. I had 8 children, most of whom were born in the National Maternity Hospital and baptised at St Andrew’s Church Westland Row
1946 was a very wet year. It was called Black ’46 and it was worse than the big snow year of 1947. It was so wet that wheat, oats and potatoes were rotting in the fields. It was De Valera’s time as president and civil servants from Dublin were sent out on trucks to the country to help save the harvest. Only for that there would have been a famine in 1947. The turf which had been cut in Spring, was soaking wet. Nevertheless, it had to be brought in to McHenrys of The Coombe.
In 1947, storm after storm came. In February, powdery snow started falling. Jimmy went off to Keogh’s in Dublin for bacon. He came home from the Lamb on a bicycle, just in time. I remember Charlie Morrissey going up to Mary Jane Murphy in Oldcourt for eggs and he called in on his way back to Kilbride.
When morning came, the sun was shining and the snow on our roof started to melt. The roof was leaking and we had to move our bed into the kitchen.
The next day another big storm came. Snow drifted along the roads and blocked them up. The Kellys even found it hard to cross the road.
Jimmy went looking for bread supplies and didn’t get back. It turned out he got as far as Saggart and stayed with my family, the Hinches. Padda Kelly came over and kept me company. We thought the chimney would fall down with all the rattling of the wind. Kellys gave us timber to light the fire.
The weather stayed like this for three months. The road was now a frost road with a wall of snow in each side, from our house up to the Lamb.
About 17th of May, a slight thaw came. When the snow started to melt in June there were floods everywhere. The roof of the shop was leaking. One of our neighbours, Mrs Dooley would come into the shop with an umbrella. Her husband would hold it up for her.
The snow in the ditches looked like coal. A lot of people were hungry.
There was no electricity in those days. It came in August 1950. Up to then we had an oil lamp on the wall.
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what a wonderful story, a different hard life in those days
What a wonderful account of life as it was less than 100 years ago. All the more special for me as Bertha was my late mother’s (Connie) sister. This generation who knew many hardships were able to appreciate the simplest of pleasures – dancing and singing. And finally, now I understand why my mother loved Christmas so much , she often talked about the wonderful smells in the kitchen
coming up to Christmas.
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