Click on THIS link to see an interactive map showing when places in Ireland got electricity. As you can see from the screen shot below Greystones got electricity in 1930. Delgany had to wait until 1932. Templecarrig had an even longer wait and it was 1949 before Templecarrig had electricity.
Before Christmas the children in St.Brigid’s interviewed their grown ups about Christmas when they were young.
They remembered. ‘Trying to be good. Asking for a surprise. Letters to Santa being sent up the chimney (not advised nowadays) or by post to the North Pole. Shouting up the chimney to Santa. Counting the days on the Advent calendar’.
‘Making a wish when stirring the Christmas cake mixture. Putting a few pennies in the plum pudding mix. The moving crib. Making paper chains. Midnight mass. It was great going out so late! Going to Mass in new clothes. Leaving Santa something to eat and drink. Spiced beef’.
‘Being excited and finding it hard to get to sleep. Trying to stay awake to see Santa! The wind whistling in the chimney made me afraid in case I would be awake and Santa wouldn’t leave presents. The excitement of waking up early to see what Santa had brought. Big thick colouring books and markers and spending the day happily colouring in. I wish I was a little girl again!’
‘A family time. Seeing all the family together in one place. A special dinner with turkey, roast potatoes, brussels sprouts and gravy. Christmas pudding for dessert. Selection boxes. We didn’t get sweets every day back then. We had no TV! Christmas simpler then. It’s very commercialised now. But it’s better now because I have children!’
What Christmas was like in my grandparents childhood.
My story is about Christmas in the time of my mum’s parents, who were children during ‘The Emergency’ in Ireland (the 2nd World War 1939-45). My Dad’s parents were born during the First World War are not alive anymore so I couldn’t write about them. My Grandad was born in 1934 brought up on a farm in a rural village called Garryvoe in East Cork. My Granny was brought up in Blackrock in Cork City. She would have been three when World War 2 began and nine when it ended. My granddad would have been two years older.
At this time most of the world was at war and food was being rationed greatly to keep the armies going. And the other thing was Ireland was in an emergency because there was the threat of being invaded by the Allies if they joined the Axis power, or being invaded by the Axis powers if they joined the Allies. A lot of people had a grudge with the English over the War of Independence and wanted to join the Axis powers and others wanted to join the Allies to defeat the Axis powers and the rest want to stay neutral which they did. My other grandparents went and fought with the Royal Airforce.
The church played a big role in life and people washed and dressed in their best clothes to go to mass. Neither of my Grand parents had Christmas trees, it was not a tradition at the time. The crib was more important. My Grand mother remembers snow and the cold when walking to mass in Blackrock. My Grandad said he was an altar boy and had to walk from Garryvoe to Ballymacoda to serve the half eight Christmas morning mass. He said it was freezing. This walk would have taken about an hour so he would have had an early start. The rules for taking communion were different then, so he would not have eaten since the night before and would have gone to mass without a breakfast.
My Granddad’s family ate goose and my Granny’s ate turkey (My Granddad who lived on a farm reared his goose for Christmas). Goose is a very fatty meat so they had potato stuffing. They also had bread sauce, brussel spouts and plum pudding. There wasn’t much because of the rationing due to the war. Sugar in particular was in short supply.
My grand dad didn’t write letters to ‘Santa’ but my Granny did and her Dad had a tradition to bring his children to go into Cork city to see ‘Santa’ who gave her and her siblings balloons as the present that you get when you go to see ‘Santa’. For both of my grand parents ‘Santa’ brought very little compared to what ‘Santa’ brings today. ‘Santa’ brought dolls, hats, scarves and gloves for the girls and he brought wooden toys like hurls for the boys. And for my Granny ‘Santa’ put oranges in the Christmas stockings. You might say ‘An orange, Why an orange?’ The reason she got oranges in her stocking was because at the time oranges were considered exotic.
On the day after Christmas, Stephen’s Day people would call round to each other to visit and a group called the Wren Boys called round to the houses singing carols. The Wren boys were thought as being the hard lads from around the town. My granddad used go with them. If he made a half a crown he’d be very happy. This is about 25 cent today. Christmas was very different when my grandparents were young.
Christmas past and present.
Some students interviewed parents and grandparents
about Christmas when they were young. They remembered.
‘Trying to be good.
Asking for a surprise.
Letters to Santa being sent up the chimney (not advised nowadays)
or by post to the North Pole.
Shouting up the chimney to Santa.
Counting the days on the Advent calendar’.
They also remembered
‘Making a wish when stirring the Christmas cake mixture.
Putting a few pennies in the plum pudding mix.
The moving crib.
Making paper chains.
It was great going out so late!
Going to Mass in new clothes.
Leaving Santa something to eat and drink.
Being excited and finding it hard to get to sleep.
Trying to stay awake to see Santa!
The wind whistling in the chimney made me afraid
in case I would be awake and Santa wouldn’t leave presents.
The excitement of waking up early to see what Santa had brought.
Big thick colouring books and markers
and spending the day happily colouring in.
A family time.
Seeing all the family together in one place.
A special dinner with turkey, roast potatoes, brussels sprouts and gravy.
Christmas pudding for dessert.
Selection boxes. We didn’t get sweets every day back then.
We had no TV!
Christmas simpler then. It’s very commercialised now.
I wish I was a little girl again!
It’s better now because I have children!”
Thank you to the parents and grandparents
who shared their memories with us.
It was just after the Second World War
in the early forties when Robyn’s granny
was about seven or eight. She said:
“Fruit that grew in hot countries
like bananas and oranges was scarce.
These could only be got if a cargo ship
made it through from Lisbon in Portugal.
These ships had to come through the Bay of Biscay
and many vessels were lost making the trip.
So it was a big treat when someone got…
an orange in their stocking.
This is not to say Christmas was not the most magical of times.
For weeks even months preparations were being made.
The Mammies were arranging with the butcher,
the baker and other shop keepers to keep stuff for them.
There were no supermarkets then
and very little money so people would go to these shops,
pick out what they wanted and pay a little for them every week,
so when Christmas week arrived everything was paid for.
The children had jobs to do too.
They would go to the woods
and gather holly and ivy to decorate the house.
We also collected for the neighbours
who had nobody to do it for them.
If they gave you a penny, it would be riches indeed,
but if they didn’t, it didn’t matter
as we had such fun gathering it.
To us they were wonderful times
and even if everything changes,
the message of Christmas remains the same.
Christ was born to us in a stable
bringing joy to the world and goodwill to man’.
Click HERE for a Historical Cookbook
from the CookIt website.
For example you can see what the Vikings,
the Victorians and our GREAT grandparents liked to eat.
Click HERE and you can design a menu for a Viking
or a family during World War 2 who were living on rations.
‘Christmas in Ireland was very much a family festival
when sons and daughters who were working away from home
returned home for Christmas.
Many families looked forward to a letter or parcel
from family members who had gone to America.
This was sure to contain not only good wishes
but also a present of money.
Shopkeepers gave a Christmas box to thank families
for shopping with them. This was often a box of biscuits or a bottle of port.
A candle was lit and placed in the window on Christmas Eve.
The eldest member of the family helped the youngest to do this.
This was done to show that Joseph and Mary,
who found no room at the inn in Bethlehem,
were welcome in the house.
It was believed that at midnight on Christmas Eve,
cows and donkeys knelt to honour the Baby Jesus
and that at that moment, they could talk.
The animals were given an extra feed on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day was spent at home.
It was very much a family festival
and people didn’t visit unless specially invited to do so.
On Stephen’s Day the branch of a tree was decorated
and the ‘wren boys’ went from house to house
singing in the neighbourhood in return for treats.
These are my memories of Christmas
in Ireland in the 1940s and 50s.
In ways it seems so long ago
but in other ways it only seems like yesterday..’
We made early shelters from plasticene, twigs, cardboard and felt pieces. Staying in one of these shelters for one night would be an adventure, but we prefer the comfortable houses of today.
This is a slideshow of a copybook
a teacher who used work in the school gave us.
Mrs. McGloin has now retired.
These photos show samples of needlework.
She had this copy in college,
when she was learning how to teach.
We do not learn needlework in school these days.
We had fun making models of stone age shelters.
We used twigs for branches,
elastics for vines, ropes and strips of leather,
felt pieces for animal skins
and plasticene for daub.
Stone age man moved from place to place in search of food.
They had to put up shelters quickly but they were not meant to last.
Can you guess how old Teddy is?
This is a reader from 1934.
How is it different from the readers we used today?
The children in the infants classes in our school
used wear a smock like this one to protect their clothes.
Grandparents may remember writing on a small blackboard
with a stick of chalk instead of using a copybook.
Children used play hopscotch using an empty polish tin.
The History Corner is an interesting place to visit.
Students interviewed their grown ups, their parents and grandparents
about what school was like when they were young.
The earliest account was from 1938.
“Many children walked and when it rained they ran.
Some drank a little bottle of milk at break time.
The boys wore shorts, a jacket and cap.
The girls wore a smock or pinafore
over their clothes to protect them.
When it was cold children
would wear their coats in school”.
This is an account from 1946:
“There were 55-60 boys in a class
and the classroom was heated by a fire.
The children all sat in rows of desks all facing teacher.
In the summer term, many children came to school barefoot”.
Some people remembered high windows.
They let in plenty light but the children
couldn’t look out and be distracted.
“There was wooden desk with a top that lifted up
where we kept our books, copies and pencils.
We enjoyed playing with friends, chasing,
football, hurling, skipping and hopscotch.
Great times, loads of fun no worries”
“When we are eager to grow up and leave school,
we hear people say that they are your happiest days
and we aren’t sure if we believe them but later
you realise they were right and your school friends are friends for life”
Thanks to all the ‘older people’, who agreed
to be interviewed about school long ago.
We can see that some things are the same
and some things are very different.
In 1903 Rev. Nicholas Donnelly
Parish Priest of Bray and Greystones,
asked the Holy Faith Sisters
to take charge of a school at Blacklion.
It was situated to the left of
the entrance to Applewood Heights.
The Sisters already had convents in
Newtown since 1892
and in Kilcoole since 1897.
From 1903–06 Sisters Mary Dionysius, Joanna and Anthony
travelled from Kilcoole each day by pony and trap
to teach in Blacklion School.
They were driven by one of their students.
In 1906 the Sisters came and built a convent
beside the church in Greystones
on land bought from the La Touche family.
Sisters Mary Winifred, Peter, Bertrand and Reginald
stayed in Kilcoole Convent
for a two weeks or so until the convent at Greystones was completed.
Seven pupils were enrolled at first but these numbers gradually grew.