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THE GATHERING: COILL DUBH

As Coill Dubh's Gathering Festival gathers pace we will be publishing stories from many of the families who came to the area sixty years ago.

My name is William O Sullivan. I was born in St Bridget’s Terrace in Robertstown on 25th January 1953. My Father was John Gaffney O’ Sullivan, from Valentia Island, County Kerry, My Mothers name was Lil (Elizabeth) Moore from Canal Bank, Lowtown,Robertstown, Naas, Co Kildare. I have three brothers and two sisters, Jimmy, Margaret (Mag) Hannah, John, and Paudie. We came to live in Coill Dubh in 1955, to house number 108. As far as I know we were the first family to live in 108. I attended Coill Dubh National School and also the “Camp” which were billets belonging to Bord ma Mona. This is where the workers lived when they first came to work for the Board. The “Camp” also acted as a church, it was where I got my First Communion along with all my friends, Thomas Kenny, Jim Danagher, Luke Shinners, Paddy Brennan, David Fox, P.J. Carew, Ita Flynn, Helen Brereton, Mary Percival, along with several more.
It was after my First Communiion that we were introduced to the “footing” in Bord na Mona. My mother would go to the bog after all her house work and we would join her after school. Times were hard then. We would get our groceries on tick in the winter as our father’s wages were very small. We would raise a bill and Mr. Ward knew the the “footing” would allow us to clear this bill each year. As I got older I remember terrier racing and the May Pole at Ward’s shop. We also had the honour of having the Rag Man who would trade old clothes, jam jars and mineral bottles for toys. We also had the honour of having a flush toilet inside which we took turns flushing for a week! We had a black range which some people did not know how to use. One person in the yellow row of houses, complained of the fire smoking. When the caretaker came to check it out, he found the fire was ON TOP OF THE RANGE instead of IN IT! Another family placed a cat in the oven ........... guess what happened there?
We had our vegetables and milk supplied by the local farmers, Cusack’s and Brady’s. We had the dentist who called to Pat Tracey’s on Saturdays at 12 noon and finished at 3pm. We would all gather waiting for him to come out, as before leaving, he would always throw two or three handful of sweets, and we would scuffle for them. The mineral lorry, Slainte, delivered to Blake’s shop. The helper on the lorry would throw one or two bottles of minerals on the green, just to watch us scuffle for them! Many a jumper and trousers was torn in those scuffles! We had many a fall out over who would burn the waste paper for Blake’s shop as there was always some little reward for doing the job. We would also deliver Briquettes and paraffin oil for Mr. Gormley. He would give us a sugar stick. We also had Adamson’s Drapery and Furniture Store which supplied us with a lot of our clothes, which would be paid for by the week. For a penny (1d) you could get a sheet of brown paper to cover your school books.
Ward’s grocery shop was situated at number 38, Adamson’s Drapery and Furniture was number 39, John Blake’s Bicycles, Hardware, Electrical, Household Goods and Newsagents was at number 40, Gormley’s Chemist, Post Office and Fuel Merchants was at number 41. Up the road we had Tommy Conneff’s Butcher’s Shop, who supplied us with our weekly meat. Beside this was T.P. Groome’s Electrical and Grocery Store. We also had the use of the ICA hall for pictures and dancing, which is where the Golf Club is now situated.
When the “Footing” finished we would always have the potato picking season with Cusacks, Bradys, Kilmurrys and Mr. Ward. Waste food would be collected for the pigs kept by Mooney’s, Gordon’s and Kelly’s. It was after this that we got involved in the hurling, which we played in the Camp Field and on the Green in Coill Dubh Village.
We had two major fires in the village, one was a house fire at number 8 and the other was at Blake’s shop. I remember it was around this time that we got our Confirmation. As we were then in the parish of Clane the ceremony was held there. When I finished in Coill Dubh N.S. I went to second level in Prosperous, where the late Mr. Ray O’Malley was principal. Hurling and football was a major part of our lives. I played in an under 16 hurling All-Ireland in Croke Park in 1968. Other members of our club who played with me on the day were Luke Shinners, RIP, Thomas Kenny, Jim Danagher, David Fox and John Donoghue. We won our own under 15’s Kildare Championship, also in 1968.
After finishing school in Prosperous, we all started working in serveral different trades, I myself started work in the building business, later becoming a foreman and had several of my friends working with me. In 1970 I met a girl called Rita O’Connor from Donore, Caragh. We married in 1972 in Caragh Church and had five children, Derek, Regina, Tara, RIP, Susan and Adrian. 1975 was a sad year for my family, In June my father, John Gaffney passed away. Things were good for the next few years. In 1987, I was the manager of Coill Dubh when we won our first Senior Hurling Championship and also on the panel.
1988 was another sad year for our family. We lost our Mother in March and in November we lost our daughter Tara in a house fire in Cooleragh. I would like at this point to thank my neighbours in Cooleragh and Coill Dubh and surrounding area for getting us through that tragedy. I must also thank my brother, Paudie, who allowed us to move in with him to number 108. A fire disaster fund was set up by my team mates in the hurling club and my neighours which resulted in the buying of number 99, Coill Dubh, which had been previously owned by one of my neighbours, Tony Killeen. From then on, I became very involved in the hurling. I managed Coill Dubh to seven more Senior Championships and five League finals. I also Managed fourteen Senior Championship finals during  my spell in charge from 1987 to  2003.
The people of Coill Dubh and surrounding areas are a special breed of people, when tragedy strikes it strikes us all and the same goes for happiness. My family and myself will alway be in debt to the people of Coill Dubh and the surrounding area and by helping organise THE GATHERING, I feel I am helping to repay some of that debt.
Regards,
Willie, Rita, and family.

As Coill Dubh's Gathering Festival gathers pace we will be publishing stories from many of the families who came to the area sixty years ago. Our thanks to Willie O'Sullivan


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