When Ann Gardiner (nee Kearney) sold the thatched house that had been home to four generations of her family. she decided to write a book, recording her life growing up on a farm in the shadow of Galtymore and showing what day to day life was like in the 'forties and 'fifties in South Tipperary.
Ann, husband of ace accordionist Bobby Gardiner of Burncourt, Cahir, and a former Clerical Officer with the Dublin Health Authority, has written an honest, insightful book, "The House Remembers" (A Childhood on a little farm at the foot of Galtymore) which is one of the most important books about Tipperary ever written and deserves bestseller status.
Ann, an Ireland's Own" writing award winner, who hails from a very literary family, tells of her early school days in Skeheenarinky and later of the ups and downs of life in boarding school! But, one feels, it is the rich, daily happenings on the farm that left a lasting impression - like taking the milk to the creamery, saving the hay and thinning the turnips. Times when the meitheall were called in to help with the threshing of the corn and stayed for the dancing and singing in the kitchen later on. Fair days were held regularly in every town when farmers bought and sold their animals and maybe got drunk or had a row afterwards if they had a successful day.
Saying the nightly rosary was a sacred ritual from which nobody could escape, even the visitor. There is a story of Aunt Esther, a returned Yank, who, not being used to the nightly recitation, got up off her knees half way through, declaring lightly
'Why not finish it to-morrow night folks!'
Ann thought that her mother would be completely horrified and would reprimand her aunt in no uncertain terms but she excused her on account of her being ' a "Yank and maybe not having any religion"!
Ann recalls:" Visitors were a great diversion and children could get up to all sorts while the parents were distracted". Ann remembers one grand old traveller man called Jack who came twice a year with his dog and sang several songs in exchange for a bed in front of the fire!
Card-playing and gambles also drew in the neighbours and there was many a mighty row about 'the count'. Ann describes her close association with farm animals and pets and in particular her lovely gosling who met a sticky end. There was also an unfortunate incident with some chickens and a fire machine. The horse and trap was the mode of conveyance to Mass and to town until a car was purchased in 1952, which created great excitement and took them to faraway places like Ballylooby, Cahir and Clonmel.
Ann Gardiner recalls "Washing clothes in those days was back breaking work especially as the water had to be drawn from the river and heated over the fire before the job could even commence. Children were handy on these occasions and were run off their feet carrying water and fuel. Most farmers were self-sufficient when it came to food and only bought bags of sugar or flour. The pig was killed for meat and salted away in the barrel and cabbage, turnips and potatoes were always on hand to make a good decent dinner. Hens provided the egg for your breakfast and chickens sometimes had their heads unceremoniously cut off on the chopping block if you wanted a change from the bacon and cabbage.
The Station Mass was a chance for the neighbours to 'see what you had in the house' and go to confession in the room. Only men were chosen to have breakfast with the priest. The Stations were always preceded by a huge clean-up by the lady of the house which occasionally involved house painting as well. It was not unknown for women's good skirts to stick to newly painted chairs or for houses to fill up with smoke depending on the direction of the wind as the breakfast was prepared.
Parcels from America generated great excitement too as people's wardrobes were limited and the Yankee clothes smelled of camphor and excitement even though they were rarely any good to keep out the cold. But nothing could compare to the thrill of the advent of electricity and the new electric radio which brought the world into Ann's home in the 'fifties. Life would never be the same
Ann recalls going to dances with her sisters and the magic and innocence of the young boys who would offer 'a bottle of minerals' in the hope of getting the walk home! The stage dances were also popular but had to be over before it got too dark!
Ann's move to the 'big smoke' in Dublin showed her a new world of cinema, dances and "living dangerously in flats". Once there was enough money for entertainment, food or other necessities were forgotten about!
Christmas in the 'Forties and 'Fifties is recorded in 'The House Remembers' with great affection and nostalgia. Even though money was scarce, Santa always came to the old thatched house and Christmas morning was mad with fun and excitement as with chattering teeth and bare feet they examined the treasure throve of toys and books. Later there was the goose, roasted in the bastable over the fire with that unforgettable taste.
Ann returned to Ireland in the seventies, having spent some time in America with her husband, Bobby Gardiner, and they played music for ballad sessions and weddings for many years. They live in Burncourt, beside the old thatched house which provided all the inspiration.
Ann worked in the Dublin Health Authority in Dublin with Thurles writer, Tom Ryan, Rahealty,, who said - "This sparklingly beautiful down to earth, heart warming book is just so delightful and beautifully evocative. It will make you laugh and maybe even elicit a tear for an era of innocence gone with the wind. Ann deserves all the success possible with this work that captures so insightfully the grand spirit of old Tipperary. of which we have much need in the modern age"
The book costs 13 Euro, including p and p. It's on sale in Easons' in Thurles, Nenagh, Clonmel ,Cork and Dungarvan and in Greene's of Tipperary, Bru Boru , Cashel, Sampsons, The Granary and Black Bee Gallery , Cahir, and O'Mahony's in Limerick. Cost in the bookshops is j10.