Sunday, 10 December 2017

Simple years ago

This is part of my recent interview with the wonderful Patty Trabears, who lives in a nursing home near us -- she's 96 years old and sharp as a tack.


Patty: Sometimes when you are asked a question, it puts your mind back to something you had forgotten about for years. For example, when you asked that I remembered when we used to say the rosary at night.

There was eight of us, and we’d all say the rosary. And when we were done Daddy would say to us, “that’s the end of that now –say your own little prayers, like good children.” Well all you’d hear was the tick of the clock, the all-weather clock on the wall. And that was all you’d hear was the quiet, but these days everything is buzz, buzz – noise everywhere, and people in a hurry all the time.

I remember well my young days, particularly Black ’47. I’m a child of the state, for I was born on Christmas Day 1921, and the treaty had been signed but not ratified. I made my First Communion on Trinity Sunday 1928. There’s a lady here who was born in ’28, and I think I’m doing better than she is.

Me: So you’re older than the state.

Patty: Well I would say so – you mean from the time the treaty was ratified?

Me: | suppose so.

Patty: Oh, no I’m not then – the treaty was signed on December 6, but it was ratified until sometime in January. It was because of Dev and Michael Collins and all the rest.

Me: You grew up in Sallins?

Patty: Well, I come from farmers from Rathcoffey -- we are an old, old family, and go back there a long, long time. My father had a couple of brothers and no sisters, and he was an eldest son, and left a heap of his own. He married his first wife and was widowed in three years, with two children, one six months old, one two or three. That would be in the early 1900s. He always knew my mother, as they both went to Ladychapel Mass in the one parish Maynooth.

Then the First World War started, and he went over to take part in it -- you had to do three years. I don’t remember, but my father told me he was a tilly steward for a Mr. Ganaher (sp?) on a big estate. My mother was there as well, in one of the child’s houses, the daughter.

He married my mother on the 10th of June 1918. At their wedding she said, “Look at all the flags going – the war must be over,” and he said, “I don’t think so,” and sure enough it wasn’t until that November.

I wasn’t the first baby – the first baby was born dead, and there was one or two misses, and then I was born Christmas Day 1921. Ever since 1921 I’ve tried to live my life; I married quite young, and worked in Howth Castle in Dublin.

Years ago if you worked in a shop then you had to pay a fee. Well there was eight of us – two boys, six girls – and we didn’t have a lot of money then; my father was trying to screw a living from the land. That was before the Land Commission, which brought up those people from Kerry and Mayo and such places. Some people got land and two or three houses and mowing machines and such – and my father did get a divide of land but he only got land. He had to supply everything else himself. 

There was only one big farm and eight children. But he built our house in Straffan on a loan and a grant – he applied for a loan from the Free State government – and that’s where I was brought up – Barberstown, Straffan.

I was brought up in Straffan – but all my family and heritage were from Rathcoffey -- Johninstown, Straffan, they call it.

Me: So you had lots of cousins in the area?

Patty: I had family, but there are also lots of Trabears in the area that aren’t related to us. One of my nieces found that we were actually French Hugenots, and there’s a graveyard near Stephen’s Green that’s a Hugenot graveyard, with quite a few Trabears in it.

Money was very tight now, and you’d be great if you got a penny off somebody. I think I made my Communion around the time Kevin O’Higgins was shot – everyone in school was excited about getting money for their First Communion, but when the time came Kevin O’Higgins had been shot and people could talk of nothing else, and I didn’t get that much money, just a few half-crowns.

When we’d go to school you’d slide a lot -- the winters were harder then, and you’d be breaking the ice on the lochs of water. You could buy oil coming in for the winter, for the lamps, but if you didn’t get there by a certain time by daylight, you wouldn’t get it, for they wouldn’t go to the oil burner at night. It was peculiar.

Things were so simple years ago. Once in a while you’d get a pot of jam and a packet of biscuits, and bread was four loaves was a shilling.

They’d lots of things people used to do. My father had only a small plot of land, and it wouldn’t keep you in it, and he was just one man. So like many, he got paid to be in charge of a stretch of by-road by contract and to patch up all the holes on it, putting gravel in. And he’d have to go to a local pit with his horse and cart, and fill it up with gravel – sometimes the men who worked the pit would just give it to him – and use that to fill all the potholes on the road. If he didn’t, he would get a letter from the County Surveyor saying, “Trabears, such and such a road was very bad – I noticed you haven’t patched it lately,” down by Round Tower or Trabagore, and then my father would have to go and do it. 

My father also did his own bit of farming on 27 acres, four fields, which went down Barberstown road and stretched around the back road behind Straffan toward Celbridge. You’d go around the back of my father’s farm and across a by-road and would be right at the Liffey. There was always a man in the summer time and go swimming – we called it swimming, but it was really just paddling around – and there used to always be a man in the summer time with a scythe, cutting grass.

I remember one day he was making a lot of noise, and my sister Eileen said “That man is trying to talk to you,” and I stood and said, “Yessir?” he said, “Young Trabears, will you get those children out of there – the flood’s coming down from Ballymore, and the Liffey will be rising and you’ll be drowned in the current.” I was the biggest one, so I brought them all home.

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