1961 Photographic Tour of Ireland (part 8)

To complete the second third of the Parkers’ 1961 summer holiday tour of Ireland, Lily Parker took out her camera as the car headed through my native county of Sligo. This is how Lily’s son, “young” Gordon Parker, came to share his unique photographic memories with me. 53 years after the event, Gordon explained that his London shopkeeper father, John, had been advised by Irish migrant customers to ensure that the family visited the small village of Aclare if they wished to see one of the finest livestock trading fairs in the west of Ireland. It just so happens that I live on the outskirts of Aclare, and Gordon got in touch with me to ask if I would like to see how the village looked on Fair Day over fifty years ago. Obviously, I wrote a positive reply back in an instant, and a further exchange of e-mails led to Gordon offering his complete 1961 photo collection for public viewing.

Aclare market, Co. Sligo

                                     Aclare August Fair Day in full swing

The blonde haired schoolboy looking into the camera has been identified as Gerard Hart, 53 years ago. Gerard now lives in nearby Ballina, but his son Patrick has returned to the Hart’s ancestral farming homestead in Cloongoonagh. The local schoolboys loved the Fair Days because they would be given the day off school. The young lads were employed to “guard” their family’s livestock when Dad went for a wander around the village to converse with friends – or probably to sneak into one of the many public houses for a jar or two of beer and whiskey. Well – a good sale had to be celebrated in traditional style!

1961 August - Aclare, Sligo

               The ass-carts of Aclare Fair carrying sheep and lambs for sale

London teenager Gordon is very conspicuous in Aclare village in his trendy blue 60’s holiday shirt. Below is a replica image of Aclare as it looks today.

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                                  Where have all the donkeys gone?

To complete their special day in my home county, the Parkers hit the high road from south Sligo and headed up north to Sligo town where they enjoyed an afternoon at the races. Lily attempted to capture the excitement of the big race by taking two shots of the thoroughbreds in action. The second shot of the blurred race winner galloping past the post certainly demonstrates the great speed at which champion horses can travel.

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Aclare in 936 [to be precise]

Information from 900 years back (written in 1836)

How the name Aclare originated is thus (according to the OS Memoirs of Lance-Corporal Henry Trimble in December 1836) :

In former days there was no bridge at Aclare but a ford with large stepping stones across the river, and when flooded the people had to throw a plank across those stones to get across the opposite side of the river.

In them days there were three brothers of the name of O’Hara. Their place of residence were in three castles, two of which are in this parish and the third in the parish of Achonry, namely Ballyara Castle. The Kilmacteige castles were at Bellaclare and Castle Rock.

The eldest brother was Clare O’Hara who lived in Bellaclare (Belclare) Castle.

2014 Aclare Bridge

The “modern” Aclare Bridge over the River Eignagh

A in Irish is “a ford,” and the Christian name of O’Hara being Clare, A and Clare joined together to make Aclare, being the name and true origin of this market village.

December 1836: OS Memoirs – Parish of Kilmactigue #1

Compiled by Lance-Corporal Henry Trimble

The Anders Family of Carns Townland

“The oldest and first family that became inhabitants in the parish of Kilmacteigue was the name of Anders. There were 7 brothers of them and it appears they were the first that ever employed a horse beast as an assistant in reclaiming a portion of ground. However, in them days people were quite simple. This Anders found it necessary in providing a pair of creels for equipping the horse, and when tackling the horse first they brought the horse inside of their house, and when they fitted the creels each side of the horse they could not conceive how the horse would get out of the door.

donkey creel

Remaining some time in a deep study, they concluded the only method was to throw down the gable of the house. Consequently they done so and permitted the horse and creels to get out. However, they never thought of taking the creels and tackling the horse outside of the house so as to prevent this serious trouble and expense.”

As related by Mr Williams of Carns

[Ornance Survey Memoirs]

Aclare: back then, and now

Thanks to Gordon Parker, a remarkable snapshot of forgotten life in a village in rural County Sligo has re-surfaced and returned home after over 50 years. Gordon’s family, based in London, recorded the image below in Aclare village way back in August 1961 when touring Ireland on a summer holiday. The rare, high quality colour picture was captured by using the now defunct Kodachrome camera film with the resultant photograph then developed and mounted as a slide, for viewing through a projector. The age of the digital camera has made all that processing a thing of the past … like an ass-cart.

1961 August - Aclare, Sligo

The village is full of asses …. in 1961

The date of Gordon’s photo is significant, i.e. August. The village of Aclare was full of animals and other eccentric characters because the Parkers passed through on the Summer Fair Day. The (sometimes infamous) history of this once well-known and important livestock trading fair has been discussed in previous posts. Refer to Aclare Fair Day and Old Fair Day (Revived).

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The asses have all gone; never to return

Déantús an Phoitín

Poítín Recipe

Ingredients:

  •  Granulated Sugar – several stones
  • Yeast – a few pounds of the stuff
  • Spring Water – gallons and gallons
  • For a pleasant change, try an alternative malt and barley mixture, plus yeast, in the same secret quantities.

Get an old barrel and make sure that it is washed out properly. Then melt the sugar but don’t let it burn. The sugar semi-liquifies as it begins to melt. Place the yeast in another container or bowl and break it up with your hands.

Heat the barrel with a drop of hot water. When heated, put a fistful of yeast into the barrel and then pour in some lukewarm water on top of it. Add a good dollop of melted sugar. Throw a wet cloth on top of the barrel and let the sugar and yeast dissolve into the water. The cloth helps to keep the smell down, which is very important.

Place the barrel in a secret dry place. Put hay all around it, including under it, and over the top. Leave it like this for three days. When you go back to the secret place after three days, repeat the same procedure over again, in the same way you did it before, with the yeast, sugar and lukewarm water. Keep doing this over and over, over several weeks, until the barrel is almost full. You now have a wash.

Poitin making sketchWhen the mixture is ready, thin it out with water, preferably potato water. For added flavour, put a bit of treacle through it. This crucial preparation stage is now complete, and the mixture is ready to run.

To run it you will need a steel drum with a lid, copper piping plus a basin with a hole in it. The hole must be the exact same diameter as the copper pipe – because the end of the pipe is pushed neatly through the hole. A worm is also needed and placed into the drum. Always ensure that your drum and worm are thoroughly clean.

Heat the drum gently on a turf fire, and watch as the steam turns magically into whiskey, in the form of a totally clear water-like liquid. Continue running your mixture very gently. When the running is near to completion, gather your whiskey from the still and worm, and then put it back into the top drum one more time and run it again.

When cooled, drink in moderation with your appreciative neighbours – but only after treating the fairies. It would be a pity to be cursed for the rest of your life, after all that patience and endeavour.

If you opt for the malt and barely alternative, there is a lot more hard work involved. Say, you had four stones of malt and barley, then you would have to leave it in water for about three weeks until buds appear. Next, you throw the mixture out onto a dry loft and you have to keep tossing it every day. Do this until the bud goes back into the seed. Finally, you crush the seeds and then put them into the wash barrel with some yeast and lukewarm spring water. The extended process is worthwhile. You will be rewarded with a spirit which your neighbours will declare is ‘The Best of Whiskey’.

Quality Control 

To test the success of your distilling skills, light a small piece of paper and put it into a small sample glass of the liquid (whiskey). When it stops burning, the remaining liquid should only be pure water. If there is a good flame burning from the liquid, that suggests that it is a good whiskey, and can be classed as Mountain Dew. Also check that a nob of butter sinks in your filled whiskey glass. If the butter floats on top, then you still have too much water content and you should return to the still and run away.

A surefire way of testing the alcohol strength of your brew is to boil the whiskey and then let it cool off. When the bead on top is not too strong, run it another time and throw some salt into it. If big bubbles appear at the top of the whiskey, it is strong stuff. This spirit is categorized as Mad Man’s Soup; true poítín.

Always, ALWAYS, throw the first drop of poítín to the fairies. Otherwise, supernatural beings will haunt your furtive drinking session. In modern parlance, this is called “hallucination”.

Various Uses for Poítín: 

Never let poítín into the wrong hands. Share discreetly at local weddings or for a wake house or with someone who is sick – but never let it into the wrong hands. Your livestock will appreciate a drop as well. To liven up your cattle, mix it with milk and let them slurp away. Poítín is particularly beneficial for people with Arthritis or Sciatica or pains in their knees. For additional pain relief, use internally and externally. Rub the poítín into the affected area. The first run of whiskey is considered the best for aches and pains, or maybe you just don’t feel anything when you sample the second or third runs.

Transportation: 

Distribution of your excess whiskey for commercial gain is fraught with danger. When caught on the road, Master Distillers of old were rarely transported overseas, but the County Court Judge will impose hefty financial penalties in the knowledge that your neighbours and customers will stump up a few quid in order to ensure that the still is removed to an even more secret place. Use vigilance and cunning. Here’s an example from our parish:

In the troubled times of 1921, an old woman used to bring Póítín into Tubbercurry and sell it to the big shots in town. She was a mighty woman. The ruthless Black ‘n’ Tans were around at that time; and they used to hold people up on the road, checking their carts. Our heroic old lady used to transport the poítín in kettles. She would fill the top of the spout and seal the lids on each kettle with buttermilk. The soldiers would ask her what was in these kettles and she would reply, “Can you not see that it is buttermilk which I sell to the poor people at the Tubbercurry market each week.” She was known to have one of the most popular stalls on the market, so the local army sergeant was suspicious.

One time, the soldiers followed her out of her village, on her way to Tubbercurry, intending to conduct a thorough search of her cart, away from the busy main road where rebel youths stoned the Brits if they hassled the old locals too much. Word of the soldiers’ presence in the parish was quickly passed to the farmers up the lanes, and a baying mob attempted to delay the platoon as it marched behind the old lady’s cart, passing through Banada. The commotion allowed just enough time for our heroine to lead her ass to the River Moy bank for a drink, out of sight, below the bridge.

Quick as a flash, she tied together the kettles containing whiskey with a string, and dropped them down into the river below the reed beds. She always had them well-sealed, so the Mountain Dew was safe. When the soldiers eventually caught up with her on the riverbank, the sergeant hinted that he would instruct the Moy to be dredged. Not to be outdone, the brave old lady grabbed her carbolic from the cart and immediately started to strip off her clothes. “Will you give me the courtesy of bathing in private – or do the British men have no scruples at all?” howled the old woman. With her underwear now in full view, the soldiers did not know how to react, but the cursing farmers made a decision for them with their shouts from Banada Bridge. “Let a lady wash in peace! Get back into town or we’ll send word to get your barracks burned down!” The red-faced soldiers beat a hasty retreat just as our dear old poítín pedlar plunged fully naked into the icy waters. She was a hardy woman, LORD HAVE MERCY ON HER, and she was never stopped on the road again.

Hiding places: 

Bogs, drains, hen houses, haystacks and manure heaps are recommended common places to hide poítín. However, having uploaded this info into the public domain, you had better not hide your poítín in bogs, drains, hen houses, haystacks or manure heaps.

Poítín & The Fairies:

If you drink poítín in the company of more than one person, then you must always pour out an extra measure for the fairies. One measure is sufficient because they are very small in stature compared to the human frame. Leave this tot outside of your drinking den, in the open-air. It will always be gone by the time you wake from your poítín-induced coma.

Scientists have discovered that virtually pure alcohol rapidly evaporates when left in an outdoor atmosphere – but what do they know? It’s better to be innocent and safe, than sorry.

This stuff is no good - it's legal

          This stuff is no good – it’s legal

The Fair Day in Aclare


(Recounted by John Sheerin, 25th February 2001)
 

“On the fair day each townland had its own area where they kept the cattle.  The people from Gurterslin and Drumartin areas always parked near the entrance of the village on the low road. The people from Tourlestrane, Carrane, Tubberoddy and Coolreagh parked from the barracks up the high road.  Carrowloban, Kincullew and that area parked down the main street. The Killassers parked on the bridge.  Each townland had their own place to park.  When the cattle were sold they were put into Leheny’s yard. Then they were loaded on to lorries up the road.  Before my time, the pigs were taken to Sligo. The farmer of that time would bring the pigs by horse and cart to Sligo. They would bring loads of meal and flour back on the return journey. 

There were a lot of pubs in Aclare in those days. Some shops had both groceries and hardware on sale. There was Kathleen Feehely, Loftus’s, Higgins’, Ellen Haran’s (which became Mayes), Bradleys, Flatleys and Quinns. We had the fair winter and summer.  Each farmer herded his animals in a cluster. The villagers from each townland would hold their animals together up against a wall or steer them around the street. Everyone watched their own cattle. 

The sheep were on the backway. They were held with the dogs. They stayed together. When they had walked ten miles they were damn glad to stand for a while. When they were bought they were taken home on carts. 

Aclare market, Co. Sligo

                                     1961 Aclare Fair Day

The country people brought the banabhs in on carts.  They’d sell them in front of Gallaghers. Touhy’s from Ballaghaderreen came with lorries for banabhs, which they kept in crates. 

On the fair day the village was hard to pass through. It was noisy with voices bargaining, donkeys braying, the mooing of cows and baaing of sheep. The smells were strong. The place used to be in an awful mess when the day was over and the animals were taken home. The next day the County Council would come and sweep the streets. There was no water or electricity that time. We didn’t get the electricity until the 50’s. In the late 50’s we got the water on tap. 

Of course there was many a row on a fair day. When the tinkers were around we often had fights with them. Mind you, not on fair days. One day there were only two guards in the barracks and a row got up. The guards came looking for help to put the troublemakers out of the village. Four or five of us tackled them with the guards. We put them out over the bridge and gave them a good hoisting. Nobody got injured and there were no bad feelings. The fair days were great.  I miss them.  They ended sometime in the 60’s.  Then the mart was started in Aclare by Kennedys.  That continued for about ten years. 

The village had a shoe maker called Dinny Walsh. Kate Fahy was another shopowner. She sold sweets. Other owners were Bretts, Sheerins, McAllisters and Evans. Each shop had a hardware section. Charlie Brett was the blacksmith. Years before I remember there were three bakeries in Aclare; Loftus’, Higgins’ and Lundys. There was also a cooper who lived down at the edge of the river where the car park is now. I don’t remember him but he was in it. There was also a butter house down along the river.  

But getting back to the fair day. It was one of the best fairs in Ireland. The jobbers used to come from Sligo, Ballina, Northern Ireland and Roscommon. The fair was held on the last Wednesday of the month. We stayed in the shops and protected the outside by putting barrels and bars on the streets. These stopped the cattle coming up on the footpath and breaking the windows. 

The jobber would come along and ask the farmer the price of the animal. They made the bargain and finished the thing with a slap of the hand. The deal was made. After that they’d go into the pub and have a drink.”

All-Ireland Inquest

Dear Danny,

Went to the Roaring Cock yesterday lunchtime for a pint and the post-All-Ireland inquest discussions. I overheard this bar-room conversation between two locals:
“What time did you leave on Sunday?”
“I dunno. I woke up in Charlestown, early hours Monday. Why – what time did you leave?”
“I dunno.”
“So – did I see you on Sunday?”
“I think so.”
The Irish really know how to celebrate big sporting events.

Gearoid, Ha ha, brilliant ! I was really sad to hear The Green and Red had been beaten again; I thought they might have done it this time around. I’m sure mighty craic was had whatever. Did you watch it in the Cock ? I was wondering if the Killybacside gang were for Mayo or Donegal.

Danny, as you should know – Mayo & Sligo are in the Connacht province, and even though Mayo “bet” Sligo in the Connacht final, healthy local tradition says that you support your neighbours – even after defeat. I know it’s the opposite in Lancashire. Could you ever support Burnley in the FA Cup Final if they beat Blackburn Rovers in the semi!! Then again, this FA cup final could only ever be played on Fantasy Island.

Donegal play in the Ulster Championship. They are close neighbours but they’re separated by a small strip of Leitrim. We were glad that the GAA final involved two teams from the West for a change, but the Green & Red flags were flying in our parish on Sunday. My great-grandmother was a Mayo lady, so I cheered them on too. I was first in the Roaring Cock on Sunday morning (before the bar officially opened), escaping early from yet another midday funeral mass. I even beat old Hughie O’Gara to the bar, and he is a permanent fixture on the bar stool by the turf fire. I took my car home when I was only 1 or 2 jars over the limit, and vowed to return if Mayo got off to a good start. They didn’t. Two goals down in no time. Game over – barring a miracle. So I got sozzled at home, channel-hopping between Premier League soccer, GAA & Formula One.

I think Mayo’s failure just contributed to excess partying in the Cock for no good reason at all. Many say they cannot remember the second half – or the next few hours – or the closed door session after midnight, etc. Where do they get the stamina? Years of practice, I suppose.

Gearoid, I am so happy. I slept ! I went out for dinner with the Dublin/Nottingham girls and had a few beers before I leave Pamplona; I put the earplugs in to drown out the phantom snorer and was dead to the world. Today’s another day. I woke at 6.00am today pleasantly surprised to have slept so well. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that ”Foghorn Leghorn” had kept half the dorm awake again. In the spirit of the Camino, I gave a spare pair of earplugs to an Australian pilgrim who looked like she was more in need than I was.

Early start for me too, today, Danny. Got to research some Dubliners called Costello, a typically Irish surname – but they turn out to have been the Costa family originally from Lucca in Tuscany 200 years ago, and then they started to appreciate their Italian heritage in the 20th century and they start calling themselves Castello after further emigration around the world. Irish genealogy is never straightforward, especially as many Irish folk “adopt” forenames in adulthood which were never mentioned on their baptism records. I have Irish three aunts; my dad’s sisters. They were always known to me in Lancashire as Maureen, Eileen & Doreen. It turns out that they were born as Mary, Attracta & Joan ….. and even Hughie O’Gara (Cock fixture & fitting) was never christened as Hugh or anything like!

Danny, as you’ll appreciate, drink-driving around our parish involves keeping your vehicle in the two well-worn ruts in the single track lanes separated by the green strip of overgrown grass which has sprung up from the ancient tarmac last laid decades ago. It is impossible to leave the road, but meeting a fellow drink-driver coming the other way is a difficult challenge. And if the approaching fellow traveler is perched upon a rusty old red (unlicensed) tractor, then take evasive action. My shiny new motor now has the scars of one of these encounters.

But a bump or two on the family car is like a badge of honour around here – as is the 12 months driving ban for those heroes daft enough to venture into town after a few pints in the village “shops”. Liver complaints are unheard of – but bowel cancer seems to be the price you pay in old age for a lifetime of living off nothing more than Guinness soup. The recommended local medicine for bowel cancer is more Guinness, so that’s alright then.

By the way – Happy Arthur’s Day! Will you find a pint of the black stuff beyond Pamplona – if you dare venture off today.

Arthur’s Day is a great Irish invention which now ensures that the 12 month wait for Paddy’s Day is halved. It’s always better to have a reason to get totally “locked” as the Dubs say. But with Arthur’s Day falling midway between the GAA Football Final and the All-Ireland Hurling replay this year, there won’t be much turf cut this week ……

Which reminds me – a great headline in the Western People this week, as follows:No sun, no silage, no turf, no Sam – a Bad Year for Mayo.

Up Galway, in the replayed hurling final. Might venture out for a drink.

Gearoid , that cracked me up. You should write a book. Oh I forgot , you already have! Did you see the news? Rioting in Pamplona by Spanish austerity protesters.

The Spanish are mid-table rioters as far as I can see on the TV news. Be thankful you’re not passing through Athens. The Greeks really know how to trash the place.

Meanwhile, in parallel to your long trek, the 9-Day West of Ireland Drinking Olympics reached midway on Arthur’s Day. I gave up work early and ventured into the main stadium (aka The Roaring Cock) at about 4pm to check on progress. After patiently waiting for landlord Con’s middle daughter, Mae O (from Sligo), to set me up the perfect pint of Guinness, I jokingly asked whether I was too early for the Happy Hour free black stuff which I knew officially commenced at precisely 17:59. Hughie O’Gara in his familiar corner piped up that in Charlestown they had free drinks for two hours. Now Hughie has an odd Sligo accent which combined with the effects of a mild stroke makes him speak in a strange Dalek-like tongue. To me, it sounded like Hughie said that our Mayo neighbours were offering “free drinks for chihuahuas” – so as my pint settled right on cue, I was able to raise my glass to the regulars and exclaim (as per the Guinness TV ad) –
Chihuahuas!
Hughie didn’t get it. He just said, “I’m not kidding ye. Two hours.”
The session had been re-invigorated. Mae O gave everyone a free pint ahead of time as we giggled like kids and saluted our hero – “TWARTA!”

Next up, Matt The Truth explained that a new word had been invented locally. He told us that the definition of the word is – “to fall into a drunken stupor whilst watching your sporting heroes not unexpectedly let you down yet again in the biggest match of the season.” He advised that this word is DEJAVOODOO.

And then we saw the story in the Irish Independent newspaper on the bar top, wherein a Hong Kong business tycoon is offering $50 million to any man who will “woo his lesbian daughter”. This headline gave ample scope for a prolonged debate about different folk’s interpretation of the art of wooing, especially if the lady prefers to bat for the other side. As you might expect, the conversation degenerated and made young Mae O blush, and cannot be repeated here. Pious Peter was cringing, and said with his lisp, “Now, that’s what I call wooed [rude]” – so I retorted with “as the Chinese millionaire said to his spread-eagled dyke of a daughter.”

My drinking companion, innocent 89 year-old bachelor ‘uncle’ John asked his usual question when female homosexuality is raised. “What do lesbians actually do?” he enquired. Matt The Truth gave him a subtle clue when he said that there’s two lesbians who live on his lane, and they grow a lot of courgettes. John was baffled and advised us that he prefers cabbage.

Sore knees are nothing. My guts are starting to ache this week. Is it the porter, the side-splitting craic, or both?

Keep going Dan. You’ve progressed about 1.5 inches along the Camino map on my 12″ screen.

camino de santiago

Where’s he heading?