Tea With Ruth O’Malley #100DaysOfOldDays

Day 100 #100DaysOfOldDays

My 100th post of our #100DaysOfOldDays project, is a little different to the others. This is a piece of fiction that gives an insight into some of the characters in my novel, Secrets in the Babby House, which I plan to publish later this year.

The story is set in Bailieborough, Co. Cavan and it spans over three decades; from the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies. You might recognise some faces in the photos, but these characters are completely fictional. Thank you to my very good friends Roisin, Jackie and Roza who came for “Tea With Ruth O’Malley”.

In the upstairs living quarters of a drapery shop in Bailieborough, Ruth O’Malley was preparing tea for her best friend—and fellow devotee of the Legion of Mary—Goretti Lynch.
Goretti and her daughter Flossie often went to Ruth’s for evening tea.

As Ruth shelled hard boiled eggs, she pondered over the prospect of her only son John, marrying Flossie. Not just any girl would suit her John. The Legion of Mary women referred to John as the most desirable bachelor in town. Eligible, they said he was.
Flossie was a quiet respectable girl with no intentions of gallivanting the world, like some people. She and John were still fairly shy in each other’s company but Ruth knew it was only a matter of time before they would begin a courtship.

She dressed the eggs with dollops of salad cream and a good sprinkling of parsley. She stood back and admired her spread. She had paid extra attention this evening because Goretti’s sister-in-law Bridgey, was coming too. (Extra sherry in the trifle.)

Goretti Lynch wished she could be more like her friend Ruth; popular, stylish, confident. And well-off! Goretti’s late husband Eddie, was a good man of course, and had provided well for his family so she shouldn’t complain. They did well bringing up their three children; Danny the priest, Catherine the nun and Flossie the soon-to-be school teacher. And if Goretti’s prayers were answered, soon-to-be wife of John O’Malley—the Catch of the Parish!

Goretti repeatedly praised her daughter’s talents in front of Ruth and Frederick and it was paying off. My John would be very lucky if he were to marry a girl like your Flossie, is what Ruth said one evening in Molly Fagin’s house. And she could tell that Flossie was growing more attached to John; that wistful and desirous look in her eyes lately. A courtship was on the horizon for sure.

Bridgey Lynch wasn’t the type of woman to be ungrateful towards others. But Ruth O’Malley irritated the hell out of her. The woman talked far too much—about herself and everyone else.
Bridgey no longer considered herself a country woman. After thirty years of living in Dublin, her natural affinity for Bailieborough had greatly diminished, just like her tolerance for meddlesome people.
The long bumpy bus journeys to the rural town where she grew up were for the sake of Flossie. It was her job as her aunt to make sure she didn’t get bullied into a life she might regret—like Catherine and Danny. Bridgey was in the humour for a good big glass of sherry (or two).

Flossie Lynch walked a few steps behind her mother and her auntie Bridgey as they headed across The Green towards Main Street.
She was relieved when Mrs O’Malley told them earlier that unfortunately John and his father would be out for the evening and they’d be having tea without them.

Flossie was quite certain she’d cope for the evening without John staring at her through his thick glasses and suffocating her with his mothball odour. They had absolutely nothing in common and she had no doubt that he found her just as boring as she found him. Flossie’s belly rumbled. At least Mrs O’Malley always served up delicious food…the only reason she liked going there.

Bridgey brought a big box of Lyons tea and cinnamon biscuits with her. And two bottles of French red wine. Ruth liked to see Bridgey having a wee drinkie, presuming that the only time she could be herself was when she back in her hometown. She’ll probably retire in Bailieborough when the time comes, thought Ruth.

Flossie brought Flowers and Goretti brought her usual homemade apple tart.
‘I’ll put them into the vase you bought me for my birthday,’ purred Ruth as Flossie handed her the bouquet of chrysanthemums and gerberas. Ruth knew rightly that it was Goretti who bought the vase and it was probably Goretti who bought the flowers too.

Then Ruth noticed the slit up the side of Flossie’s pencil skirt. ‘That’s hardly a skirt you’d wear to work Flossie.’
Goretti sniffed sharply and looked sideways at Bridgey.
Flossie flushed slightly and glanced up at St. Therese hanging on the wall. ‘It’s not for wearing to work Mrs O’Malley. Auntie Bridgey gave it to me.’
‘What’s wrong with it?’ Bridgey snapped.

Ruth scrunched up her face. ‘The big slit up the side.’
‘She’s not a child anymore. And it’s only a wee slit. ’
Ruth handed Flossie a glass of red lemonade. ‘Is that what they’re wearing up in Dublin?’
Bridgey didn’t answer.

‘Auntie Bridgey said I can have sherry seeing as I’m not a child anymore. I’m eighteen now.’
‘What do you think of that Goretti?’ asked Ruth.
‘Ah Ruth, a wee sherry will be fine.’
‘Well, you may drink that lemonade first,’ said Ruth.

Flossie liked her auntie Bridgey. She was different than her mother and Mrs O’Malley. They have small minds, Bridgey once said. And Bridgey also said that Flossie could go to Dublin and live with her if she wanted—as soon as she was eighteen.

After what Flossie heard about Frank Connolly she might just do that. Get away from this place and everyone in it. Then she wouldn’t have to think about him…and Alice.

Goretti and Ruth drank wine at the table. Auntie Bridgey drank more sherry—more than Flossie had ever seen her drinking. Flossie didn’t care much for it at all and just had tea.
‘Did you hear about the young Connolly lad?’ Ruth began.
Bridgey helped herself to a serving of sherry trifle. ‘I hope you’ve plenty of flavouring in this Ruth.’
‘Just for you Bridgey…plenty of it.’

‘What about the Connolly lad?’ Goretti probed.
‘Well, he’s got himself involved with that Ward lassie from the mountain and…’
Bridgey interrupted again. ‘I was saying to Flossie here that she should come to Dublin and study teaching…get the right qualifications.’
Goretti turned her attention from the gossip to her daughter. ‘Qualifications? You can’t do that. Sure isn’t Miss Kennedy teaching you all you need to know!’

‘I’d die if my John talked about moving away from home,’ Ruth sighed.
‘Flossie won’t be going anywhere and that’s final.’ Goretti poured herself more wine.
‘Come out to the good room Goretti and I’ll tell you what Molly Fagin told me yesterday.’ Ruth guided her friend out to the sitting room.

Bridgey smiled sympathetically at Flossie. ‘I’ll talk to her tomorrow. Tonight wasn’t the right time.’

A different plan formed in Flossie’s head. She looked at the framed portrait of John that hung on the wall below his parents’ wedding photo. Maybe she should get to know him a bit better after all.

Pub Shenanigans #100DaysOfOldDays

Day76 #100DaysOfOldDays

The rules are different now…when you go to the pub! The whole scene has changed.

Once upon a time in Bailieborough, which was quite a small town years ago, there were about 32 pubs.

The weekend began on a Thursday night and finished on a Sunday night. We went out early—8 or 9pm. We didn’t drink before we went out, which is a common thing now. In my early pub days my drink was Harp lager and lime. I later upgraded to cans of Tennants. Then as I became more sophisticated (so I thought), my tipple was dry Martini and red lemonade. Wine was not something we drank back then. We knew of Blue Nun and it was bought at Christmas time.

We’d traipse off to town in our miniskirts and high heels; Julie, Tricia, Eileen and me. One summer’s evening, I was wearing a pair of light pink cotton trousers and a white jacket. We were walking down the hill from Drumbannon (where we lived) and I slipped and landed on my butt in a big dirty puddle. I had to go home and change all my clothes but we laughed the whole night afterwards. A small incident like that wasn’t enough to stop me from a night out!

Our favourite haunts in the 80’s were Kangleys, The Chariot, The Town and Country, The Green Lizard, The Lemon Tree, and Dicey Reilly’s. Yes, there were a lot to choose from.

From Thursday nights to Sunday nights certain pubs had live music playing; Kangley’s on a Thursday, the Town and Country on a Friday and maybe a Saturday too. The Town and Country had a dance floor, so it was a great pub for a hooley. Dicey Reilly’s had music at the weekends but they didn’t have a dance floor; we danced anyway. Many a late night we had in Dicey’s, many lock-ins when the music was long finished and we’d have a great big sing-song. Whiskey in the Jar, The Wild Rover, Spancil Hill, The Fields of Athenry, Fiddler’s Green, Summer in Dublin and Molly Malone were just some of the songs we’d belt out! It was even better when someone would have a guitar.

People bought drinks in rounds. Everyone had their turn, although the odd lad might disappear when it was his round! And it was the same with the cigarettes. You didn’t light up a cigarette without first offering all the smokers at your table one. Everyone smoked at the same speed in the pub—ashtrays were filled within an hour. No wonder a box of twenty was gone before the end of the night!

We were known to have the odd session that ran into the early hours. Once or twice the Guards came knocking and we’d all scarper out the back door and hide in the yard until they were gone. We’d go back in and carry on with our night’s craic. If you were caught in a pub after hours, the Guards took your name and you were fined. But worst than any fine was getting your name published in the local newspaper, The Celt.

Old Mrs Kangley used to say at closing time, “Do yas want your name in The Celt?” She wasn’t fond of the late night drinkers.

Julia Giles from The Green Lizard used to say, “The clock is ticking. Have yas no homes to go to?”

Our pub nights out weren’t restricted to town. The Royal Breffni in Tierworker, owned by Brendan Reilly at the time, was a great venue for live music. They had a great big dance floor too and the place would be packed. It was a great place for country and western music, and Irish bands like the Wolfe Tones.

These photos were taken in The Royal Breffni during the 70’s.

The Hideout on the outskirts of town was a great venue for parties and dancing. It’s still there but I think it’s a quiet place now compared to what it once was.

These smoke-filled pubs would have been busy every weekend. They hummed with cheer and tomfoolery. Very few people drank at home back then and everyone drove to and from the pub.

Here’s a typical pub scene from the 70’s/80’s. These photos of the West End Bar belong to Justin Kelly, whose parents owned the West End Bar for many years.

There’s very few pubs left in Bailieborough. The only ones of our 80’s haunts that’s still going is The Green Lizard and The Lemon Tree also known as Miko’s—a family run pub that hasn’t changed much over the years, apart from a bit of refurbishment.

Here’s my list of the 33 pubs that used to be in Bailieborough, including the few that still are. Starting from the bottom of Main Street. I may be double counting because I believe there were only 32.

Crossons, The Snug, Ted Reilly’s, Tom Reilly’s (Post Office), Peter Murtagh’s, The Bailie Hotel, Tommy O’Brien’s, The Cusack Stand, The Lemon Tree, Petey Clarke’s known as the Fiddler, McDonnells, which is now The Green Lizard (Giles) but I’ve also been informed that it was called Dowd’s. The original Green Lizard was beside the Lemon Tree. There was McGuigan’s, and Mary Geelan’s behind Sheanon’s house (later became the Pop Inn Chipper). Apparently there was a pub at Mrs Pat Brady’s on the corner of Main Street/Barrack Street, that you entered on Barrack Street.

Henry Street ; Brady’s on the corner.

Anne Street; The Welcome Inn (Mary Ann’s), The West End Bar on the Back Road.

Back to main Street; McCabes, Clarkes, Kangley’s, The Chariot, Sullivans (later The Town and Country), John Reilly’s, Benny Duffy’s, Brennan’s Lodge, The Beaver Dam, Clarke’s, Mickey Brady’s, O’Hanlon’s (later Dicey’s).

The country pubs on the outskirts of town; The Hideout on the Cavan road, Killan, Smyths at Raelbeg and The Royal Breffini.

If you’re a Bailieborough native can you fill in any gaps?