25 May 2022

Offaly's Mattie recalls lifetime spent happily in Killeigh and district


Mattie Poland relaxing at home

In the seventh part of the “People of Killeigh asnd Beyond” series Mattie Poland writes about a lifetime spent happily in the Killeigh area.

“I was born on the 21st September 1932 and lived all my life here in Ballinvalley where I am now. There were three of us in the family, myself and two sisters, Mary Langton who passed away a few years ago and my other sister, Christina Condron, who lives down in Derrybeg.. My mother was Sarah Young from Kilcavan and she married my father Con.

"I went to school in Killurn, where Paddy Fay lives now. It closed up when the school was built in Killeigh and all the children went there then. The Meelaghans school was sold at the same time. Everyone walked to school back except for Doris Green, now Doris Murray, as she had a tricycle, I think. I remember going to school also with Jim Murray, Tom Kelly, the Meehan lads and the Hickeys that used to live beside me, and a good few more from Gurteen and Killurn areas.

"There were two classrooms and two teachers. I didn’t stay as long as I should of in school, for the few days I went I think I managed to get to about 14 years old. I had a good bit of work to do on the farm and was quite happy doing that. School wasn’t really for me but I stayed as long as I had to.

"Back then everyone lived on a few acres and grew their own vegetables. Working the land with the horse was hard work but if you had a good horse and you looked after him it was half the battle.

"I got my first tractor in the early 70’s, a TVR Grey Ferguson, an uncle of mine by the name of Chris Young from Derrybeg, died after a road accident. He was on a bicycle and got hit by a car coming from town in 1971. I never drove a car, never needed one, I had the tractor but the one's back then are not as good as the one's now. A lot of woman never drove either even though their husband might have owned one. It was unusual to see a woman drive, but you would always see them cycling to the shop for the messages.

"Over the years I worked with the council, on the roads, they were great days travelling around the county meeting different people. You’d never be idle, there was always work to be done, the bit of farming and cutting the turf and if you had all yours done, you’d be willing to give the neighbours a hand out.

"The hall in Gurteen, was built for the local labour and was a great meeting place, an open fire was lit in the evenings where everyone took their turn to bringing a few sods. We would play cards and tell stories till the early hours of the morning, it was a great meeting place and wasn’t far from home.

"In my younger days there were two shops, but I only remember the Horseshoe shop. One didn’t need to go to Tullamore often, the local shop nearly had everything you wanted. I never really went to pubs, I couldn’t afford to drink when I should have been drinking, so I never drank.

"I remember the Carnival days in Killeigh, people would be trying to save a few bob coming up to it. It used to go for seven or eight nights and finish on the Sports day on the Green. People from all over came to the village and it was great craic.

"I remember in 1956, the electricity coming. Back then people were afraid to take it, for fear of a fire starting if you had a thatched roof, or that a mouse would get in and eat the wires. The electricity lit up places that you would never have seen before, and plenty of dust and dirt could now be seen.

"Water was carried up the road from the drain, you wouldn’t be using it for drinking water and was great to finally get the water from a tap, and sure we didn’t know ourselves when we had both.

"I played a bit of hurling but very little, I wasn’t very good at it, but loved going to the matches, I also got to Croke Park a few times when Offaly would be playing, it was a great day out and you’d be looking forward to it. We would get the train from Tullamore but all the jobs were done before we went in case we got delayed coming back.

"Ah it’s great to be able to tell a story, like Phil Deering and myself and a few of the others that are still around at our age, aren’t we very lucky not too suffer from Alzheimer's.

"Once we can remember back to the old days and be able to tell a story or two and get looked after what more do we want. For me I’m very fortunate to have the careers calling in daily and the Meals and Wheels volunteers, someone different every day.

"It’s great to have these services in Killeigh and I love nothing more than an ol chat. I always lived the simple life and never cared for much more. Someone rang me once looking for me to go to the Day Care Centre in Tullamore a few days a week, seemingly you would be collected from the door and be dropped home after but sure I had no interest, aren’t I grand the way I am.”

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