Pigsty's, Haybarn's and Boxty!
When I was a child I had this friend who's family came from Gurteen (my village) but lived in England. Every year they would return home for a few weeks and I always looked forward to my friend Adrian arriving home.
His grandfather owned a small shop in the village and I remember they lived in a small thatched cottage across the road from the shop. They had a big barn at the back of their house where the stored the hay for winter feeding their cows. This shop called Tansey's was at the crossroads in Gurteen, across (going clockwise) the road was Hunts shop, across the road from that was the creamery and across the road from that was O'Gradys drapery shop. Just below O'Gradys was another shop called Tanseys (no relation to the other shop) and that shop had a pigsty behind it. They raised pigs and slaughtered them to sell in the shop. All of these shops were about a two min. walk from where our house was.
So my friend would arrive home and we were always excited to see each other. I would go to play with him every day he was home. We would play in the hay barn out back even though we were always told not to, but we used to have such fun there. There was a rope hanging from the beams going across the roof of the barn and there was always a lot of hay in the barn so we could climb up the hay and make a run for the rope and then swing back and forth until we fell onto the hay. The game was how long we could hang on to the rope. The other place we were told never to go was the back of Tanseys shop (the one that had the pigs), because not alone were the pigs there but also a pit where all the pig manure was housed. This manure was used to fertilize the farmers land. But it looked like a cement patch. Anyway, having been told many, many times not to play there, we decided one day to play football in the piece of ground beside the pit.
We were having great fun until the ball landed on top of the manure, so of course I ran to get it and down I went into the pit of manure. Adrian ran as fast as he could to catch my arm before I disappeared. I could feel myself sinking and it was up to my neck when he caught me, he pulled and pulled and finally he got me out of there. The smell was horrendous and I had to walk home with pig manure dripping off me. My worst fear was not dyeing in the pigsty but how was I going to face my mother. If the pigsty did not get me, I was sure that she would.
My grandmother who was living with us at the time came to my aid and got me cleaned up before my mother saw me, but I had to tell her what had happened, and even though she was really mad at me she was also very grateful that I did not lose my life that day.
Another great memory I have is of my father making boxty. This is a very simple potato dish that has grated potatoes, flour, and salt in it but it is delicious. I or one of my sisters would peel some potatoes and give them in a bowl to my father. He would then grate them and would add the flour and salt. What makes great boxty is the amount of salt you put into it. It has to be just right. So I always loved watching my father grate the spuds and I would wait for him to get down to the last little piece of potato and I or one of my sisters would eat the raw potato piece. He would then mix everything in together and when it was ready we would fry it on the pan. We would only fry a little to see if the mixture needed more salt, but usually he just knew how much to put in. We would fry the whole mixture in small thin sheets and when it was golden brown we would put it on the plate and but butter on it and eat. It is one of my treasured memories. I make it here in America for my husband and he loves it. My sons love it too.
Well the haybarn is long gone as is the pigsty, but the boxty will live on for ever.
Driving through the countryside in Ireland you can still see hay being cut and saved, you can see the turf been cut and and saved, and depending on what time of year you go to Ireland with us at Secret Ireland Tours we can even bring you to a working bog or show you farmers saving the hay. Throughout our tours we tell you of different customs and traditions of Ireland and its people. We share our musical traditions with you too! For info on any of our tours please go to SecretIrelandToursLLC.com and book you place with us.
Thank you for reading.