We came to Killeigh more than 30 years ago in the early 90’s .We were originally from Tipperary, my mother Ellen was from Nenagh and my father Patrick was from Templemore.
I was born myself in Nenagh. Most of us were born there, however three of my sisters were born in Portlaoise and my second youngest brother and younger sister born in Limerick. There was atotal of 16 of us; 12 girls Mary, Ellen, Bridget, Theresa, Winnifred, Ann, Elizabeth, Kathleen, Geraldine, Phyllis, Margaret and myself and 4 boys Patrick, Terrance, Micheal and John. My sister Margaret passed away at birth and sadly John took his own life a few years ago, leaving a wife and 9 children behind him.
After my eldest brother got married to a girl from Birr, we decided as a family to come down to Offaly and we stayed. However myself and my siblings would go to Ballinasloe in the summer and come back here in the winter. We lived on the side of the road for many years. We had no relations in Ballinasloe but loved going back there every summer and travelling around, we always did it from the early days and loved it. We got use to the people down there and they got use to us, some great memories.
We settled quite quickly in Killeigh, we have very good neighbours. The opportunity came when we were living in a caravan on the side of the road for some time. We had been looking to buy a permanent site in Killeigh but there was nothing available. I guess people were anxious on who would use the site but we wanted it only for our family, the McInerneys and it was hard to tell people this.
My father had always down through the years only mixed with his own family connections and that’s where we are today. We were always brought up on our own, we went into Tullamore for a while after our mother died, but we didn’t like it so we moved back to our site in Killeigh . This house where we are living now came up for sale and the council brought if for us through a Travellers grant and we were delighted.
The only sad thing is my mother never got to see it, she would have loved it but never got the chance to enjoy it. She died at 61 years of age from lung cancer. I love living now in the house, it was a big transition from moving around. We feel very fortunate to have this house. I know a lot of my relations live in houses in estates but for us living in Killeigh on our own in the countryside is so much better. Six of my sisters are married and three of us are living here or around Tullamore. We love the area and the people are very nice.
I remember so well how the local neighbours rallied around us and helped us when Jimmy, my relation fell off the bike at Scrubb Hill on the main road and passed away. It was difficult time for us all but the community helped us in every way and so very grateful to them all. Jimmy lived with us as he was a cousin of my father’s. Mick his other brother also came to live with us and still does, his wife only passed away a year ago, they had no family and his wife had been in a home in Kilkenny for some years.
There is only myself, my dad and my sister that live here now along with Mick. Dad will turn 87 years old in June. I am a carer for my dad and wouldn’t have it any other way. I got used to it as before my mother passed away she cared for them all. We always helped her growing up and she was our teacher in the home, and taught us everything we know from cooking and cleaning to sewing.
We don’t travel anymore in the summer, I still long to go as we loved it over the years. My dad is too old now to travel but a few years ago he’d be gone, he loved nothing more than to head off for a few weeks but now due to the Covid, it is impossible to go and his health is failing somewhat and his eyesight. His balance is not great and my brother’s death took its toll on him as did, of course, the loss of my mother. He also misses his cousin Jimmy as they both would head away together for a few weeks every summer.
My father never knew how to read or write, but we all got the opportunity to learn, my mother always made sure no matter where we were located we went to school .In fairness to my parents we never lacked education but we just didn’t stay long enough in the one location to stay in the one school. It never held us back and they were the best parents anyone could wish for.
We learned to have our own independence more so than the children growing up now. We know how to gather firework, light a fire, feed ourselves and we learned that from a very young age. I myself stayed in school until 6th class and went to Scoil Mhuire in Tullamore. After my confirmation I left and went to Ballinasloe. Ann my sister went in to Fas and continued her education there but I didn’t. My younger siblings got better opportunities than I did. Nowadays most children would go on to secondary level education.
We still keep the Traveller customs going as regards looking after the horses and the likes. We still have the OTM pride week in Charleville Castle, although it hasn’t taken place the last couple of years due to the current pandemic. Both my sisters Ann and Mary are heavily involved in the organising of the event. It’s such a great event. It goes back to Travellers' roots where we light fires and the kettle and the pots, the bakers and make the bread. When we were young, I still remember my mother lighting the fire to cook the bread and cook the meat in the griddle baker, boil the onions and make the mash and we would still have them traditions. We also loved the horse fairs down through the years, my father never drove but loved the horse drawn carriages. Its dying out now but the younger generation will not have what we had. We wouldn’t think twice of preparing my dad’s cart and heading off, we would know how to put the tackle on the cart and the cart on the horse, build a tent and survive. Most of the younger generation would have no idea how to do this now. At the Pride event however you would see all this and some of the younger age would get involved or the horse fairs in Ballinasloe maybe. One of my brother’s kids love all that, he has three girls and three boys and one of the boys is training to be a Farrier which is great to see. That’s what we did when we were young, helped my father with the horses as there was more girls than boys in the family so we all helped out and loved it. It’s no different than living on a farm I guess, everyone helps out with whatever jobs need seeing to .
Faith has always been part of our lives and always will, I was very fortunate to get to Medjugorje and Lourdes and Knock over the years but there is something special about Lourdes, it is my favourite and I hope to get back there sometime again. My father up to last year loved going to Killeigh Mass on a Saturday evening but hopefully we will be able to bring him soon again. He misses it terribly. Putting up the May bush was also a tradition and would always be decorated on the 1st day of May.
A community centre would be great for the area of Killeigh and I look forward to getting involved in the activities and hopefully get to know more of the local people. I would love nothing more than perhaps joining a knitting or sewing group. Another memory of my mother was sewing aprons and sewing swags out of a bag and who knows maybe I could teach someone that someday. Growing up you learn survival skills and you learn to survive and that’s the most important.
If you would like to learn more about the development of the proposed Killeigh Community Centre and how you may be able to assist please visit our website www.killeighcommunitycentre.com
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