Next up in the follow up of our Heritage Week event “Sharing Memories” is Jerry Gough. You can read more about the background to these oral history recordings, first made in 1992, here.
Jerry Gough was born in Ballymalone, Ballina in 1912. He moved to Killaloe in the early 1950’s and, following his time working on the Shannon Scheme, he spent the rest of his life working as a Farm Labourer. He passed away in 1996 aged 83.
Jerry firstly talks about his life as far back as he can remembers, including going to school, his time working on the Shannon Scheme and living in a very different Killaloe & Ballina to the one we know today.
Jerry: I haven’t much to say about the going to school part, only that we came down about three miles, in the wet, there was no such thing as buses,going or coming and we have our bit of lunch in the pocket and it was eaten before lunchtime would come at all. We had a very cross Priest in Ballina and when we would be going for Confirmation if we had our Catechism off, when the man would appear in the door we would forget everything. He’d let a roar and he’d rise you off the ground, the same man. That’s nearly the weight of the school going.
In the time of the Shannon Scheme, I was twelve days short of sixteen when I went down to the Shannon Scheme. Edward was working there before.
Edward your brother?
Jerry: Me brother, ya, he was there. I went down and got a job.
What year was that Jerry?
Jerry: 1927……1928. This man gave me a note to go down to Parteen to get an insurance card or something, he was taking particulars below and he asked me me age, I told him I was eighteen but sure I suppose I wouldn’t get work if I was only sixteen. In the questions, anyway, he asked me “are you married or single” (laughing) Well it frightened the life out of me. So I started off, me poor Mother got me a bicycle and the bicycle was paid for in installments and the price of a Raleigh bicycle that time was Three Pounds Ten in installments. I gave fourteen months in the Shannon Scheme at eight and a half pence ha’penny an hour. Eleven hour day, there was no such thing as 10 o’clock or 4 o’clock, you qot one bit maybe around half past twelve or one o’clock.
Where we had to get in at night above at home it was often half past eight and nine o’clock and we’d sit into a feed of potatoes, meat and cabbage and get up from the table and up into bed, we were called at half past six the following morning to be there again at work. We used to start at half past seven and finish at seven and I gave fourteen months at that and Edward gave eighteen at eight pence ha’penny an hour.
How many days a week?
Jerry: We had a five-day week and often had to work Saturday aswell. That would be a bit of over-time but it was the same rateas the ordinary day, you’d get nothing extra for it, the overtime.
What exactly were you doing?
Manual work the shovel, on the shovel, on the banks, out in all kinds of weather.
No in Forthenry where the “Arabs” are. The bank is built from Forthenry down into Parteen to stop the water, going out towards Birdhill, that’s banking all the water back along up to Lough Derg but they were a fairly good crowd to work for but there was no work anyplace. Now, there’d be men walk from Newtown out there and had to be abroad at half past seven in the morning, nothing unusual to have them walking from Newtown. There were several men, Paddy Connors, Paddy Corbett, Paddy Dea and many more of them had bicycles they were able to get there, we had bicycles but we will say just to be abroad there at 7.30am to walk from Killaloe out there and walk back in the evening, it was tough old going’, but there was no work at that time around.
How many years were you there?
Jerry: Fourteen months. Edward was I8 and I was I4.
And what did you do after that?
I worked with farmers then, you know around and about, the local farmers up there they might want you to go to Nenagh and they’d say ‘Jerry will you be down tonight at around 12.30 or 1 o’clock, we’ll be taking cattle to Nenagh for the Fair, we would drive the cattle out of the field after having a bit to eat, we would walk from our country down and you’d come out below at Kent’s, there was a “Boithin’ down by Minogue’s, where Jimmy Kent and John-Joe are living, there was a lane coming out there; walk the whole way to Nenagh with cattle, stand inside until they’d be sold, well and good you’d get a dinner but if the cattle were not sold you would have to walk them back again.
Was it always cattle you walked?
Never Sheep or horses?
Jerry: No sheep. For about ten shillings, that was your wage.
How many of you would be doing it?
Jerry: The main road…..everyone would be taking cattle to Nenagh, you know, you’d be behind a batch and another batch behind you but you would be strolling away all night.
Would you ever get them mixed up?
Jerry: Sometimes it could happen, if a beast went in over the ditch you had to go in in the dark, there was no such thing as flash lamps or anything like that at that time.
I remember a neighbour of mine telling me onetime that a heifer went up a by-road on him and he went to go out over the ditch and the field was level with the ditch and when went in over he dropped about six feet and his legs nearly came up into his stomach with the shock he got. You know t’was hard earned.
Then I worked below in Adare in 1937 with the Clarkes that lived above now. Where Stanley Barker lived in Grange above the Ball Alley. The standard agricultural that year for twelve months was £2710 and I was getting as much as we’ll say anyone at each side but I must say this it was a great house to be in, they looked after you the very same as themselves, good grub and everything perfect.
What can you remember about the lake in those days…the traffic on the lake…..the entertainment in the town?
Jerry: The traffic on the lake wasn’t much, of course you had barges coming that time with coal. Chris McGrath now had a big barge that time, he used to deliver the coal to Forthenry it was called the Sand Lark. He used deliver the coal and it often might come in in the evening when we would be ready to come home and next thing the foreman would say ” five or six of ye has to go down and unload that boat of coal”, maybe 35 or 40 tons on it and it had to be shovelled three times, shovelled from the boat up onto a platform and that onto maybe another one and from that out onto the top, you mightn’t get home until the following morning and you would be fair tired then.
Would you get paid for that?
Jerry: We would
Did ye mind having to do it?
Jerry: No, well it was a case of have to do it.
And what about other boats on the lake, was it just all barges?
Jerry: It was all barges. There were canal barges then, they used to bring Guinness’s stout from Dublin up and down, they were carrying alot of stuff. All the transport of heavy stuff that time was on the lake, of course then when they turned on the water and when I was backed up the bridge wasn’t able to take it, so the boats had to stop.
Do you remember the Railway line?
Jerry:I don’t know what year now the Railway closed but I do remember the railway,and probably maybe travelled in it a few times to Birdhill but it was a great pity that they ever took it away because you know an excursion used to come out from Limerick of a Sunday and the Bridge would be black with people, after that stopping and all of them left a certain amount of money in Killaloe.
You could do with that today?
Jerry:You could. T’was a pity they ever took it away.
Did they ever use the train for carrying goods?
Jerry:Oh they used. Coal used to come and bagged stuff aswell for the shops in the town.
What are your memories of the shops?
Jerry: Keogh’s is nearly the main shop in Ballina that time and Keogh’s was a very good shop that time. Keogh’s yard of a Sunday morning was opened at 7.30am, the facility for the Creamery cars when they’d go to the Creamery, come up from the creamery, they had rings along there for every animal, you could drive into Keogh’s yard, tie up the animals and go away to Mass, it was opened especially for their customers that way they were very good but it was the main shop in Ballina at that time.
You had a couple of Public Houses and that. In every Public House then there was a ‘snug’ inside the door and if a woman or two wanted a drink they never passed that. You’d never see a woman standing at the counter to order a drink. They used to call it a ‘snug’, they were nearly in every Public House a small little place, for two, only two. There was no such thing as night drinking that time either.
And what did people do at night?
Jerry: I don’t know, they stayed at home I suppose telling stories. Our house now was a ‘Curdai’ house, there was often 12 or 14 in our house of a night.
What was a Curdaí house?
Jerry: Neighbours would come in, a big fire down, we would fill two big bags of turf on a winters’ night, they would be gone by the following morning. They told stories, ghost stories or chatting, you kept in touch with relations that time because t’was all discussed, who this one was related to, it was interesting, but we let it all slip. I knew people up there that nearly had all the prophecy and t’was a pity it was ever let go. There was one man by the name of Micheal Mc Mahon, Ballymalone, and I’d say he nearly had all the prophecy, it was a pity they were not kept.
And what about the dance halls and the cinemas in Killaloe? Did you ever attend those?
Jerry: I used come to Ryan’s Hall where Jimmy Whelan’s is below, that was a dance hall and on a Sunday night if there was no special dance on it might be only a shilling or two to go in. I played there with Eddie Durack, we used to play for some of the dances there. The practice dance would be over at 12 o’clock, the other dance then might go on until three in the morning.
Would you not be tired from all that dancing?
Jerry: You would but you would put no heed on it.
How much was it to get in?
Jerry: It was about half a crown that time.
And that included supper?
Jerry: No supper, no supper, you had to live in your belly.
And what about the cinema?
Jerry: Well Joe Keoghs, it was at the Canal side of Maggie Ryan’s, the Old Cinema is still there yet, Joe Keogh used to run pictures there and I think one and four pence or a figure like that. It was seldom that we were at the pictures, unless a great picture, we didn’t come down much at all, we gave a couple of winters above now in Grange at Mrs. Gleeson’s, that would be Mary Grimes’s mothers house and we would pass the Sunday nights there maybe playing music, five of us often played together and dancing sets and go home at 12 or 1 o clock in the morning quite happy, we never came to the town at all them nights.
And you were a great hurler in your day Jerry. You’ll have to tell us a bit about that. What age did you start hurling at?
Jerry: 17 I think, I was on the Ballina team at 17 and it will tell you the crowds that used to go to matches those times, we played a semi-final beyond in Ballina in 1927 against Youghalarra and the entrance fee to the field was six pence and there was £35-17s-6d taken going in the gate.
You had the whole town supporting you!
Jerry: The parish, maybe 12 or 13 hundred people. Well Youghalarra gave us an awful beating the same time, we were not good enough for them.
Donie Nealon’s father was playing the same day and I think he scored 19 or 20 points. I was corner forward that time, the first match I played, I was centre field with Harry Mooney and we were down 3 points and one of our players got hurt and John Nash lord of mercy on him,came up to me and said ‘Jerry go up corner forward’ we were down three points now at the time we were playing the Silvermines and after a while, after I going up, John Nash got a seventy, he came out to take the seventy and the ball was hit up and it hopped outside the square and now ever I got away from my man, I chanced to score and it levelled up, we drew with the Mines that day, so that’s what brought us into the semi-final to Youghal, so the following year we won it out, 1932, we won it, that was 1931, the North Final. There was no county final in those days. I played with the Club about 18 years.
I enjoyed it, there was nothing else much, I was never ‘put off’ or never taken of. I had to go off one day with a stoke I got across the muscle, that rose uplike that inside in Nenagh but we had a fairly good team that time, fairlygood.
We trained in the evenings there was no such thing as a trainer or anything like that, the whole team would do a bit, and then practise there where the new school is in Ballina. We had one little piece of ground there owned by Jimmy McKeogh, McKeogh’s shop there now and he charged nothing, that was the actual grounds. We had no dressing rooms, not at all, that time you had to go to the most sheltered corner of any field and tog out and I remember one day we were playing a match in Ballina and Jim Mc Loughlin was with us, he was a baker in McKeogh’s and you took off your clothes and you left them down on the ground in a lump and when he came back the shirt was destroyed 3 or 4 fellows around watching the team togging out and threw down cigarettes and his shirt was burnt 3 or 4 holes and it was destroyed, that’s what you had to put up with that time. There were no dressing rooms anyplace except maybe in Nenagh and it was in the Show Grounds in Nenagh that we won the night in 1932 not in the Grounds that are there now, above in the Show Grounds, out the Borrisokane Road.
Did you do any other sport at all?
Jerry: I played a bit of Handball and played football, I wasn’t much good at football, it was more or less all hurlinq.
And can you remember the hotels in Killaloe?
Jerry: Well the Mc Keogh’s had a hotel, there was a hotel now over right the Anchor, it’s gone now, tis a vacant spot there now. Duggan’s had a hotel there, the Shannon View, it used to do well during the fishing seasonal ways, Miss Grace had a hotel just overhead that again, that’s where I think Sean Ryan lives at the present moment, she used to do well.
Did you ever go into those hotels?
Jerry: I never went into them no, no.
Jerry: I remember the morning that the four boys were shot at the bridge. I crossed the bridge that morning.
Will you tell us about that?
Jerry: There was a fair in Killaloe the same day, the seventeenth of November, I think it was.
What year was that now?
Jerry: It would be 1921 I think. Not sure now. But sure tis down on the plaque now. But there was blood on the bridge. We, Michael Durack was with me now, crossing. There was blood on the bridge, a couple of pints of blood there, and another farther over. And we thought it was maybe a beast fell and cut himself, bleeding. And sure we went up to the Green here in Killaloe, there was an auxiliary or two standing outside the barrack, and you’d see people, groups of people talking, talking here and talking there, and the four bodies thrown in a heap outside the back house of the barrack.
Is that where they were?
Jerry: That’s right.
We’ve heard different stories. I’ve been told they were executed on the bridge and taken back and put in a cage down by the lakeside, and we’ve also heard that they were put on the back of a truck, or donkey and cart, and they were brought up the street…
Jerry: I think they were thrown over the cart, into the lorry, the same as bags.
And they were brought up inside, up to the barracks?
Jerry: Up to the barracks, and they were kept in some house in the back.
They weren’t local lads?
Jerry: They were from Scarriff, mostly. They didn’t give ‘em to their relatives for two or three days.
Why was that?
Jerry: I don’t know. Oh sure, on account of being wrong.
I remember another incident, Edward and I were above, did you ever see a settlebed, in a house?
We’ll say, a settlebed now, is the very same, something like that, that piece of furniture now, and there’s timber here at the back, and at night time – you could sit on that now, during the day, you know, but at night time, you pull out this, leave it down, and your clothes, mattress and things, were rolled up inside there, brought out then…it was a very comfortable bed and it took up no room once you had it left up.
But during the Tans time we were above one morning, and I think two IRA men came into our place the night before, and my mother and father got out of the bed and gave them the bed for the night. Actually my mother did some sewing for them the same night, sewed in buttons and things … But they left about four, and at seven o’clock in the morning, the Tans was lined up in the front of our yard and whacked at the door with butts of rifles then. My father opened the door anyway and they rushed up to the settle-bed and pulled down the clothes, and one of them said “Oh good God, only two kiddies”. He could have fired…..Edward and I were two youngsters in the bed, could have shot us the same morning.
And would your mom and dad have taken them in voluntarily or would they have been forced to do it, when they took them in during the night?
Jerry: Oh yes, they were in our house, they were gone. Oh, they’d have maybe shot them before they moved, or maybe set fire to our house.
Ye had to take them in? You had no choice?
Jerry: Well, we’ll say, they were welcome.
They were welcome? You didn’t mind taking them?
Jerry: Oh not at all, no. They were the IRA, trying to get the Tans out of Ireland at the present time because… In that time, at that time, behind every kitchen door, there was a list of the household. Father and mother, and how many was in it. Sons or daughters, they all had to be down there, in big print. And if the Tans came to your house, and looked there, if there was anyone missing, they’d think nothing of setting fire to the whole thing. They’d think that there… especially if it was sons was missing.
They’d presume they had gone to the IRA?
Jerry: Yes, gone to the IRA, or out, we’ll say… Oh, it was tough times.
And the two lads you took in there that particular night, would they have been locals?
You would have known them?
Do you remember that?
Jerry: I do.
And whatever happened to those lads? Were they executed or what? Did they get away?
Jerry: Oh they got away. They escaped, they escaped.
But I know of one poor fellow, that was in the IRA, and he, the time when split came, … and the troubled time between the Free State and the Republic, there was 77 of the best Irishmen we had executed. There was four executed below in Roscrea, one of them was a local there above from this side of Tountinna, and Jack Lyons now, I’d say, would have a letter, that this man Pat Mac, wrote to Jack Lyons’ mother. His mother, his own mother, was dead.
He’d have a copy of the letter?
Jerry: I’d say he… my mother had it but…
Was he the chap who was executed in Roscrea and brought back here?
And he was buried in Ballina?
Jerry: Buried in Templehollow. And he was very good during the troubled times, the time of the Tans you see.
And he was only a young chap, wasn’t he? Twenty?
Jerry: Probably more. He’d be shoving on, he would, he would. His name then, the four that was executed was MacNamara, Patrick Russell, Frederick Bourke, and Martin Shea. And there was one, there was a song made up about it. And one few lines of the song was:
“At eight o’clock next morning, They were marched out from their cell, They shook hands with one another, And they bade their last farewell.
Calmly standing to attention, Up against the old jail wall, And a dozen Free State soldiers, Opened fire and they did fall”
There was ready made graves made there and they fell into it.
They say they used to have them digging their own graves?
Jerry: Well I never heard that but Pat Mac wrote to Maggie Lyons to have him prayed for next Sunday morning in Ballina and I’ll be with my God before you’ll get it. He knew he was going to be executed, oh he did, it was coming, they were picked out and named and told to be ready. Well they were probably IRA, you know, they were against the Free State,that misfortunate split that came between the FreeStaters and the IRA, oh it was worse than today because you had brother over right brother, one in the Free State and one in the IRA, a whole family split, oh yea, yea, it was a pity it ever happened because there were 77 brought out in fours we’ll say, in different stages, different times, oh it was tough.
Jerry, what was that other song you were talking about at the start of the interview? Will you tell us the story behind it?
Jerry: T’was my father that brought down a few pigs, down to Ballina, banbh and he sold them.
“I was standing by my creel, when up comes Julie Sparrow, and oh my the Lord says she, what for the speckled barrow? 30 bob says I, I’ll give you nine and twenty; Begore says Pat Molloy and p’on me word it’s plenty”.
It was two banbh’s he sold and I wouldn’t have anymore of it now,but then there were a few that went in and had a few drinks, according to the song and the publician, the Policemen came in anyway and they were summoned and they were fined a pound and my Father said ” I wish my pound would burn or I should have bought a hundred of bacon”, it was a pity the song was ever lost because he was noted for it too, he used to sing it several times.
Did your father make it up?
Jerry: I don’t know who made it up, but that was a song that was made up that time.
What would you think of present day Killaloe? How would you describe Killaloe & Ballina compared to your younger days?
Jerry:Well at the present day I wouldn’t know a third of the people in Killaloe, and at that time we’ll say when I was young you could nearly stand at the chapel gate and name every person going in and out but with so many people now buying houses, changing houses, switching here and there you don’t know who’s who.It’s a different atmosphere altogether, you knew everyone that time but the ways of living is different altogether, there was no such thing as night drinking in our time and we’ll say money wasn’t there either, if you £1O at Christmas week you were going to have a great Christmas, £10, you would load a pony going home with what you’d be able to buy, that time,you wouldn’t nowadays, no, no, no.
What do you think is needed in the town now?
Jerry: I think there is a factory or two needed in the town to keep the youth there, a couple of good factories, it is a great pity that Peak Electronics ever went because it was employing a good lot of people that would have nothing else and if you had a couple of good factories like that in the town, the town would be good.
And what do you think now of the lake and the traffic we have on the lake now?
The traffic on the lake isn’t doing an awful lot for the town at the moment unless it can be harnessed or improved a bit.
How would you see ways of doing that?
Jerry: Oh God I wouldn’t be able to say much about that part of it.
What about all these holiday homes?
Jerry: They are a help,they bring people in and of course every person that comes in leaves so much money in the town.
Do you see any other ways that the place could be improved?
Jerry: To keep the youth working would be the biggest problem and I’d say if you had that you would have alot done.
The meeting place now for the young people is the pub but it wasn’t the done thing in our day, it is the done thing at the present time, that the youth, if they have spare time, will go in and spend it in the public house, of course you have the attraction of the television and maybe a game to watch or something like that but otherwise there was no such thing as that in our time.
If you had a cinema or maybe a good sports complex or something like that, it would be a help?
Jerry: Ya a cinema would be a help, if you had healthy plays, we’ll say showing, natural ones, it would be a help.
But otherwise could you see anything else that is badly needed?
Jerry: I know very well that the dole isn’t a good thing at the present moment, if there was maybe £20 or £30 given more with the dole and give them some type of work, community work,anything, that some value would come back from it. It is a bad habit for young fellas at the present moment, I think anyway.
In Jerry’s younger days and up to present time, he was known as a great fiddle player. He is now going to tell us a story about what happened to him one particular night.
Jerry: I went up to Lyons and I never took the fiddle, the same night and Mrs Lyons wasn’t too happy at all when I went in but about 12 o’clock or 1 she organised that she put the son up on a horse and he rode to our place and he called my father between 12 am and 1 to hand out the fiddle, my Father got up and gave him out the fiddle and Jack arrived back and I had to start playing from that till next morning.