Bygone days of matchmaking fairs recalled in new Limerick book

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

A NEW book which chronicles a time when locals cycled to funerals in Cork, children milked the cows before school and the local creamery was the social centre of the village, has been launched in Knockainey.

A NEW book which chronicles a time when locals cycled to funerals in Cork, children milked the cows before school and the local creamery was the social centre of the village, has been launched in Knockainey.

Knockainey Historical and Conservation Society have teamed up with the Ballyhoura Folklore Project to publish ‘Bridging the Years, Country Life around Knockainey in Days Gone By’. The book brings together a collection of interviews and photographs from 15 people who grew up around Knockainey during the mid-20th Century.

It describes a time before electricity and domestic water supplies when people had relatively little compared to today. The book is richly illustrated with photographs old and new.

The first interview featured in the book is with Dolores Barry who was interviewed at her home at Gortacloona, Knockainey by Breda Condon. Dolores recalls a time of no electricity in the house “when you’d cook the breakfast on the open fire before you went to school”.

Francis Byrne who was born in 1922 recalled the matchmaking at the fair to interviewer Grace Fox. He remembers getting a day off from school to attend the fair. The last fair that was held in Knockainey was in 1935.

“There were matchmakers everywhere,” he recalled. “There was no shortage of excitement. I’m sure my grandmother and grandfather had a match-made marriage. My father and mother too. But they seemed to get on well. There was nothing wrong with it.”

Legendary hurler Tommy Cooke, 97, reveals one of the secrets to his good health or “cures” as he puts it - poteen and olive oil.

“I rub them into the areas that are painful and I drink them. I mix the poteen 50/50 with olive oil and I rub it in every night and every morning when I’m getting up. I rub it onto my knees and my hips. I’m a bit unsteady these days but I’ve never had arthritis or rheumatism, nor Parkinson’s nor any of those diseases.”

In 1939 on the day of the Oireachtas finals, Tommy milked the cows in the morning. He went to the creamery and then to Mass in Knockainey.

“In those days you had to fast for 12 hours before Communion. So I came home from Mass and while I was having breakfast a car called for me and took to up to Dublin. We togged off in Barry’s Hotel,” he recalled.

Limerick beat Kilkenny that day and the following year, Limerick won the senior All-Ireland, again defeating Kilkenny.

“We didn’t get the medals until one night in Limerick in the month of February or March. We won it the first Sunday in September. I was given a small bottle of stout with the medal. That was all we ever got.”

Nellie O’Meara who was born in 1916 and who was interviewed at her home in Knockainey by Grace Fox lamented the loss of local shops in the area. “There were shops then, not now,” she pointed out. “As we often said, it’s a fright to think now that you have to go to Bruff, or Elton, or Hospital for the paper or for a bottle of milk. There were five shops in Knockainey one time. The creamery brought business and people to Knockainey and it was a focal point, a place to meet and chat. You’d have fellows who wouldn’t come home from the creamery, if you were dead for two hours, until they’d have all the gossip got! The book, edited by Bill Power, is available in paperback at €10 and can be purchased in Knockainey’s Community Office (Tuesday – Friday, 9.30am to 3pm).