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 Growing up in Coill Dubh. Paddy McDonald

My name is Paddy McDonald. I was born in Coill Dubh, in 1965, in house no 72. My father, Jack McDonald, was from Prosperous, Co. Kildare, my mother, Hannah, is from Ardkit, Enniskean, Co. Cork. I have four sisters: Bridget (Bid), Kathleen (Ka), Hannah (Nan) and Marie; and two brothers: Michael (Mike) and Sean (Jack). I am the youngest of seven. My first memory is starting school. In my class was Danny Cluskey, Davey Anderson, Martin Butler, Peter Duggan, Patrick Gorman, Brendan Johnson, Martin Wyse, Brian Kenna, Raymond Bagnall, Andy (Nanner) Dunne, Declan Farrell, and Anthony Hurley(RIP) and the girls were Bridget Johnson, Celine Hanafey, Cathy Duggan, Winifred Byrne, Martina, Dee and Ann Lawless, Majella Henry, Josie Kelly, Claire Kelly, Margaret (Mag) Keely, Bri Brereton, Ellen Brereton, Caroline Sullivan and Mary Kenna.  Leo Gordon and Anna Holt joined the school a few years later. Their family’s came home from England.
My first big memory of school is when President Nixon came to visit Timahoe. The teachers told us to be on our best behavior. We all had flags and we were to wave them when he went past, but the night before his visit I was very sick, so on the morning of the visit my mother would not let me go to see him. I was sitting at my bedroom window looking at everyone going past with their flags. Thinking back to that time I remember there was a lot of talk in school about the Secret Service agents. They all carried guns, so it was fear or excitement that made me miss that day. My next memory is one morning going to school and Hugh Lawless had his truck parked in front of his house. He had a tanker on the back with liquid tar in it. Some of the bigger boys had opened the valve and let some tar out, so going to school and being a child I had to walk in it. My shoes were destroyed, but I still had to go to school. I was sitting in the classroom when I could hear Mrs. Musgrave shouting who has dirt on their shoes? I kept quiet and she walked into the classroom and looked around the floor and under me on the floor was tar stuck to the tiles. So I was on my hands and knees cleaning every tile with turpentine. I thought when I had them cleaned that was the end to it, but then I had to go home after school. When I did I would take my shoes off and put on my old shoes to go out and play. That time you had Sunday shoes and school shoes and an old pair to play in. My mother went to clean my school shoes and let’s just say I got another ear bashing, so my Sunday shoes were demoted to school shoes and I got a new pair of shoes. That was the only good thing to come out of it.
My next memory is in 1974 on a frosty morning. I was going to school; the ice was thick on the ground so we would go to school a little early because we knew when it was frosty there would be a slide at the back of the new school. There was a lot of us sliding on this morning. I fell while sliding and ended up doing the splits and lads just landed on top of me. I started shouting in pain for them to get off me and when I went to get up I could not. Raymond Nolan was dragging me up, but I could not stand, my leg was like a spring. I was lying there for 20 minutes when the master came out. He was trying to get me to stand, but I was in too much pain. One of the other teachers rang for an ambulance, but they were slow getting out because of bad roads so I was lifted onto a ladder and taken into the tea room until the ambulance arrived. When it did I was taken to Naas Hospital, but they moved me to Crumlin Hospital. I was there for months. On the day I was coming home I got a pain in my side and had to stay in for another 2 weeks to get my appendix out.
After school it was race to get to Mrs. Mooneys or Granny Gordon to get a trolley to collect waste for their pigs. The more you collected, the more money you got, so if you got there first you could collect the most. You would always go to the house with big families. They would have the most waste. You would always be watching out for the other person who was collecting to see where he was, because there would be a trail of slop on the footpath. There was other ways of making money – you would watch out for the Bord na Mona tractor and trailer or the truck with turf on it and you follow it to see where it was going. Depending on the house it was going to you would ask to bring in the turf for them and you would get paid. Joe Harris would be driving the Bord na Mona truck or tractor, but sometimes he would be only going home for his lunch and the load of turf was going somewhere else. Another way we use to make money was from collecting the slainte bottles for return, you would get 5p for every bottle collected. One day Mrs. Blake got more bottles than she bargained for. There was a metal gate at the side of the shop and behind the gate was crates of empty bottles so we would climb the gate grab a few bottles and go in to the shop and get your 5p. After about 8 bottles she said where are ye getting all the bottles from and it dawned on her, so the bottles were moved the next day. Another thing I would do is at half four every day you would be watching out for the paper van. I had to get Mrs. Parsons the Evening Herald and 20 Carroll’s – you would always get a few pence for doing it.
Things we used to do in Coill Dubh – you had your football and hurling. We would play that on the big green until someone broke a window. Normally it was Joe Harris’s   window in number 45, or Joe Fulton’s in 46 and Harry Donavan’s in 44, whose window was broken when they lived there. Other things we used to do was play kick the can. It was played at the back of Bagnall’s, number 68; and depending on the weather we would go to the bog and jump bog holes, the bigger the better. Many a lad landed in the middle of the bog hole. None of us ever had a new bike. What we used to do was go to the dump in Blackwood and look for parts of bikes and make one out of that. The bike you would make would have no brakes or mud guards, but that did not matter. You would get tubes or tyres in Blakes. Another thing we used to do was make go carts. You would collect pram wheels and some timber and nail it together and a bit of string for the steering and you were good to go. One time Andy (Nanner) Dunne’s father brought home wheels from Bord na Mona and we made a go-cart with them. They were white wheels made with some kind of hard plastic. They were noisy and they would skid on concrete so we use to hook the cart onto the bike and pull it around. You would fall off the bike or fall out of the cart; it always hurt.
The summer months, if you were old enough, you would go to the canal in Lowtown to swim. When I was around 9 or 10 I would ask my mother could I go and my answer was always look what happened to Mathew Butler (RIP). I was only let go if there was an adult with us. On some occasions I would put shorts on me, go out the back way grab a towel off the line and go to the canal. When I came home I would put the towel back on the line. My mother was taking the clothes in one evening and I could hear her say that’s strange all the clothes were dry except the towel.
During the summer months my father worked long hours in the bog for Bord na Mona. He worked on a bagger (turf cutter), so as a treat on a Sunday my mother would pack a picnic and we would go out to my father. He could have been working anywhere from Timahoe to Carbury and we would have to walk out to the bagger to meet him. I remember they were hot summers and you would be walking and looking out for him and all you would see was a heat haze coming off the bog. I thought we were in a desert. I would have a bottle of diluted orange and it was gone by the time we got to the tip head. When I was older I would cycle out to my father for the evening, but sometimes I would get a lift on a wagon master (bog train) or a loco with Patsy Dunne, Tim Butler or Paddy Millea and sometimes Doc Cronly would give me a lift in the bog tractor.
The winter months in Coill Dubh there was not a lot to do. If it was raining you would have to stay in and play games. Francie Browne (RIP) would bring his Sobuttio game up to our house and we would play it on the landing. If there was frost forecast we would pour water down the road at our house so we could have a slide the next day. Sometimes the slide was that good the cars or the CIE bus would not get up the hill. Then there was Halloween – you would always look forward to this time of the year. You would be dressed up In old clothes or make something out of old clothes. There was no such thing as a costume but the best thing about Halloween was the bonfire. There were some big ones. I remember one year there was 2 truck-loads of tyres brought into the village for the bonfire. The evening of Halloween the tyres were stacked the height of a house and set on fire. There was some blaze and black smoke from it. Someone called the guards and the fire brigade, but when they came out to put the fire out on the big green, another smaller fire was lighting on the bungalow’s green and that was a big no no. You were not allowed play football on that green never mind light fires, so the fire brigade put that out and another one was lighting on the red rows green. In the end the fire brigade gave up and the big green fire was lighting again.
At home there were jobs that had to be done. You were always told when a load of turf was coming so you had to come straight home after school. The turf would be tipped up on the lane and you would have to bring it into the garden. So when Bord na Mona got a tractor and trailer I thought it was great, no more bringing in turf. But I was wrong. It still had to be stacked so my father could clamp it. Another job I hated was getting manure from Granny Gordons or Mrs. Mooney. You would have to wheel barrow it up to the garden and stock pile it until you had enough. When the drills for the vegetables were ready you would have to spread it over the drills. The best job of all was when you had to polish the floors – you would be given an old jumper or something like that. You would tie it around your knees and just slide up and down the hall or the kitchen. My mother would have to tell us to stop, because you would break your neck on the floor it was that shiny.
In the summer holidays I got a job as post man. I would cover Patrick (Podge) Gormley when he was on holidays. When I left school, in 1982, I got the job as post man for Coill Dubh and Timahoe. I worked there for 8 years. In 1988 I bought my house, number 80, Coill Dubh off Stoney Grace. In 1989 I got married to Geraldine Harte, from Lucan, Co. Dublin. We have two kids: Emma and Sean. I am still living in Coill Dubh. I don’t think it will change now.

Paddy McDonald.

Paddy McDonald recalls growing up in Coill Dubh. Our thanks to Paddy

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