“I love nothing more than an aul’ chat, the simple life”

PROFILE: MATTIE POLAND

As part of its efforts to highlight the need for a new community centre on the site of the old Macra Hall in Killeigh, the development committee has been putting together a series of profiles of local people from the village and beyond. Mattie Poland, an 88-year-old former council worker, is the latest person to be featured.

"I was born in September 1932, and lived all my life in Ballinvalley, where I am now. There were three of us in the family, myself and two sisters, Mary Langton, who passed away a few years ago, and my other sister Christina Condron, who lives down in Derrybeg. My mother was Sarah Young from Kilcaven and married my father, Con.

I went to school in Killurin, where Paddy Fay lives now. It closed up when the school was built in Killeigh, and all the children went there then. The Meelaghans' school was sold at the same time. Everyone walked to school back then except for Doris Green, now Doris Murray, who had a tricycle, I think! I remember going to school also with Jim Murray, Tom Kelly, the Meehan lads and the Hickeys who used to live beside me, and a good few more from Gurteen and Killurin area. There were two classrooms and two teachers.

I didn’t stay as long as I should have in school, for the few days I went I think I managed to get to about 14 years old. I had a good bit of work to do on the farm and was quite happy doing that. School wasn’t really for me, but I stayed as long as I had to. Back then everyone lived on a few acres and grew their own vegetables. Working the land with the horse was hard work, but if you had a good horse and you looked after him it was half the battle.

I got my first tractor in the early 70s, a TVR Grey Ferguson. An Uncle of mine by the name of Chris Young, from Derrybeg, died in a road accident. He was on a bicycle and got hit by a car coming from town in 1971. I never drove a car, never needed one, I had my tractor, but the ones back then are not as good as the ones now.

Over the years I worked with the council, on the roads. Those were great days, travelling around the county and meeting different people. You’d never be idle, there was always work to be done, the bit of farming and cutting the turf and if you had all yours done, you’d be willing to give the neighbours a hand out.

The hall in Gurteen, was built from the local labour and was a great meeting place, an open fire was lit in the evenings where everyone took their turn bringing a few sods. We would play cards and tell stories until the early hours of the morning, it was a great meeting place and wasn’t far from home.

In my younger days there were two shops, but I only remember the Horseshoe Shop. One didn’t need to go to Tullamore often - the local shop nearly had everything you wanted. I never really went to pubs. I couldn’t afford to drink when I should have been drinking, so I never drank!

I remember the Carnival days in Killeigh, and people would be trying to save a few bob coming up to it. It used to go for seven or eight nights and finish on the Sports Day on the green. People from all over came to the village, and it was great craic.

The electricity came in 1956. Back then, some people were afraid to take it, for fear of a fire starting if you had a thatched roof, or that a mouse would get in and eat the wires. The electricity lit up places that you would never have seen before, and plenty of dust and dirt could now be seen. Water was carried up the road from the drain, you wouldn’t be using it for drinking water and it was great to finally get the water from a tap - we didn’t know ourselves when we had both.

I played a bit of hurling but very little, I wasn’t very good at it, but I loved going to the matches. I also got to Croke Park a few times, when Offaly would be playing. It was a great day out, and you’d be looking forward to it. We would get the train from Tullamore but all the jobs were done before we went, in case we got delayed coming back.

It’s great to be able to tell a story, like Phil Deering and myself and a few of the others that are still around at our age. Once we can remember back to the old days, and be able to tell a story or two, and get looked after, what more do we want?

For me, I’m very fortunate to have the carers calling in daily and the Meals and Wheels volunteers, someone different every day. It’s great to have these services in Killeigh and I love nothing more than an aul' chat .I always lived the simple life and never cared for much more.

Someone rang me once looking for me to go to the Day Care Centre in Tullamore a few days a week, seemingly you would be collected from the door and be dropped home after but, sure, I had no interest, aren’t I grand the way I am?"

*If you would like to learn more about the development of the proposed Killeigh Community Centre and how you may be able to assist, please visit the website: killeighcommunitycentre.com

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