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Making our way to our final Home

Living their childhoods in different country parishes in County Roscommon in difficult times in our Country’s history, my Mam and Dad decided to sell their small farm and move to Dublin. No work in the country drew many to the big towns and cities at that time. Arriving in Dublin they lived in No. 34 Haddington Rd, with their two children. Dad searched the city for work every day and was successful in getting some small jobs at times, although nothing permanent, and being a culchie didn’t help. A meeting with an old lady in the church that still stands on Haddington Road, was to change his focus in the outlook for work. She told him he should focus on looking for farming work, which he was experienced at, and to make a long story short, he saw a job in the newspaper the following day that was to bring them to Gardice in County Meath. Two children were born in  Roscommon, and now two were to be born in Meath (No Dubs!)
Dad had now began working in Bord Ma Mona in Timahoe. He cycled each day from Meath, 17 miles to and from work, a job in its self. The building of the village as we now know it was almost completed and there were some families already living there when both my parents first visited to see where they might live in the future. Forms were filled in and then the waiting game began to see if their application would be successful. Weeks passed, and not a word. Mam was getting anxious as it generally only took a few weeks to get a decision one way or the other. Dad took the bull by the horns and went into the office at the “tip head” and asked if there was any word of his application for a house in the Village. The little man, who shall remain nameless... told him he would just have to wait and closed the hatch in the window.
As my father made his way out of the office, heart sunk I’m sure, another man came out and probably noticing him being annoyed, asked him if everything was alright? Dad proceeded to tell him his story, the exact date he sent in the forms, how so and so had got word and his form want in later than his, etc. This helpful soul told him to wait there... and when he came back to him a few minutes later he told him his form had been in the wrong file, but assured him he would fast track it for him and he would have word in one week, and it should be good news. One can only imagine .... no ... one cannot imagine the delight that there must have been that evening when he cycled home to Gardice and told the good news to Mam. Mam, yeah, that’s what dad called my mother all his life, Mam this, and, Mam that.
So it came to pass, and two weeks later they both, with their four children moved into 120 Coill Dubh. Running water, electricity, inside bathroom, three bed rooms, a scullery, a big kitchen, sure Mrs Bucket (bouquet) would have been impressed. Dad worked with the Bord, as they called it, until his retirement at 65. Mam went on to have five more children, 3 girls and 6 boys in total. Watching all the men go to and from work each on their bikes looks almost romantic now in hindsight, but ... it was anything but for them. Work was hard, rain, hail or snow, draining of the bog and preparing it for the following year’s harvesting of turf cutting was continuous. There must have been always the fear of a man getting sick, or worse still, dying, as should this happen in the early years, and it did happen, the policy of the Bord was to evict the mother and children and get another man and his family into the house.
As for living in the village for our parents in those early years, it must have been, looking back on it, a wonderful but strange social setting. Coming from a country background and being immersed into a village of 160 houses, side by side, people from all parts of the country, but being called the culchies by the locals, it is difficult to know how much integration really took place. Mammy made some life-long friends, but as she was a quiet person, being an only child, whose mother had died when she was four years old and being spoiled by her dad, known as Big Bill Shannon, living in a village environment must have been like landing on the moon to her, not to mention the rearing of nine children of her own.
Many times over the years when we talk of the village and its earlier years, my Mother would always mention what she called “the good people” who helped so many during those years of hardship that have now been purposely forgotten. Mam would always mention both Robin Cusack and his good wife and in the same breath Aiden Ward of Ward’s shop in Cooleragh. The decent people, she would say, fed the village when there was little money and very large families. Talking to Eadin Ward some years ago now, I mentioned to him how my mother held him in such high esteem and the Cusack family also, and I wanted to thank him for his generosity to all in the Village at that time. He replied with, Ah Gra, your mother came from framing stock herself, your father worked hard all his life. All he wanted was a smoke of his pipe and two pints in Dag’s whenever money allowed. it was a pleasure knowing and helping such quiet inoffensive people.
Rambling from the Tip Head to the top switch some time ago with brother’s Eugene and Michael brought happy and sad memories flooding rapidly into my mind. Remembering working and messing on the bog those long summer days, not a care in the world, arriving home exhausted. but ready to play soccer on the big green. Only Billy and Des Hopkins could really play, we just tried to kill them ... ha, ha .. and looking back to our front door and seeing Dad with his hat on, smoking his pipe while watching us, made us fight even harder for that exclusive ball.
They lived a very simple life, as did most parents of that time, but worry, both financially and otherwise, must have been a constant drain on them. I was ten days old arriving in the Village, sixty Years ago this year, and now I look at society in general and nothing has changed really.
Poverty has again raised its head in many family units, if it ever left .. and the strain of living is still inside the Daddy’s and Mammy’s of today, just as it was in my early years. My only hope would be that there are still Wards and Cusacks in our midst to alleviate some of the hardship during these difficult times. If by some miracle you can’t see the difficulties some families are going through at this time, maybe you should go to spec savers or just look harder.
John and Bridget Kenny
120 Coill Dubh
Co Kildare

As Coill Dubh's Gathering Festival gathers pace we will be publishing stories from many of the families and people who came to the area sixty years ago. Our thanks to John and Bridget Kenny

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