Portrunny - Noel's Memories - In conversation with Cora Mugan.
Noel recalls times that were very different . Indeed as he says himself "if he had listened to his father who lived to age 98 and all the reminiscing he did many more stories of Portrunny could be recalled". One of the stories he recalls is that houses of the area had dung hills in front of the houses. This was seen as a sign of good farming as this was the only form of fertilizer there was. If you didn’t fertilise the corn fields or the potato drills you’d have a poor crop. People were only cottiers, at times they were not able to pay the rent, so they would show the landlord that they were improving the land and keeping the drains. So it was very good to have a big dunghill!! The items are glimpses of connections which will sadly be almost lost without an effort to engage with each other.
When I was a young gasoon (irish gasún), I lived here with my father . My mother died when I was only a 3. There was no such thing as running water. Over here in Cruit there were two wells. One is in the field, next to the house near the road. Over towards the point there is another well, the best water, still is, which is the one we used.
Farming was our life. I can recall clearly making drills for potatoes with my father. Children as young as 6 and 7 helped. On a summers day we stayed until we couldn’t see one another. Hay and corn had to be saved. It couldn’t be left on the ground for fear of getting wet or damp. It had to be stood up into sheeves, built round and round so as not to fall and be watertight, 4 to 6 of these had to be ‘stuck’ together, which were double bound, wound around the thumb .
Not only had I to work at home, I also had to help neighbors. Nan Killian was one of these and she had big strong hands, when I thought I was finished she came to the gate saying God blast it, where’s he going, there’s a big bag of slits (potato pieces with eye for sowing) to lay down. No quitting time!!
A man called Johnny Egan lived in front of where the swings are now. He used to help out on the farms around. He lived in very poor conditions. A saying he had was “No Pack Drill”. Where Johnny lived belonged to Dan Cunningham before him.
In previous times there were “tea and tobacco men”, who drifted from farm to farm, finding someone to take them in exchange for work. They were lucky to get a few bob on Sundays.
The local lads, when it came to finding money to finance socializing, always found a way to get it. Known as a “Ballgar”, they would sell things to get to the dance or the cinema (there were two in Roscommon, the Blue Moon and the Royal, where Rockfords is now). They sold rabbits, fish and would have an extra bag of spuds, which a clever trickster would often steal. Then find a way at least 3 miles there, and back after midnight, and all after a hard days work.
I used to spend time doing work for two sisters who lived in Cruit, Bessie (married to Ned Brians), and her sister Kate Conrys who had returned from the U.S.A.
John Tully used to help Kate, she used to separate the calves at birth and give them to him to feed. She also kept turkeys which were fed on mash, ie a mixture of dandelion, greens, mash, nettles and leftovers formed into a ball. You’d hear her saying “pithit, pitchit” to call the turkeys.
Another saying one of the women had was’ Go tell that to a clump of turf”.
Another character along the shoreline was Paddy Joe Mc Dermott, who ran a pub. The pub was in the older premises in front of the bay. There he ran a the pub, farmed, fished and reared a large family. Many tales abound about him and the times that were held in the pub, which consisted of a small room at the front of the house.
Further over is Cloonmore, near Clooncah school. Here lived Charlie Mac, not related to Paddy Joe, who was an uncle of Sean Mac. He also worked the land.
In Portrun there were some rambling houses. Dolan’s house was well known, anyone was welcome, anytime. You could often find 40 or 50 people within that little house which was thatched with hay.
Killians had a place called the BARN, where Geraghtys is now. It was a mighty place for dances. There was a big row one night but the music kept going, it was like a scene from a film.
The Lodge on the end of the point opposite the jetty was a gathering house for fisherman and hunters. Finns and McNallys, O’Dowds, Dessie and Brody used to come out from Roscommon. They used to play tricks on the men as apparently the house is haunted, such as hiding the fishing gear.
On the corner where the triangle is was J.Hogans, he was a small, light man he had great strength. He worked for Tom Feeney and Jack Feeney lived in Lacken.
James Brennan who came from Clawinch, moved to the Bohermore Rd. Galway and his son was Seamus Brennan the former T.D.