Peggy Coonan.

Reflecting on changes over the decades in Killeigh

"I was reared in Ross but was born in Nurse Barry's, High Street, across from Dr Lees in Tullamore on July 24, 1938. There were seven of us but now there are only six - I lost my brother, Richard, in Manchester in 1970. Mammy had six home births but I had to be swanky and was born in High Street! Mammy was Maggie Clarke, from Glaskill, and my Daddy was Johnnie Larkin from Tully in Rahan.

Growing up, our house was always a place for card players and ramblers, people coming and going. My uncle Christy, Daddy's brother, was a great card player, and I remember when I was very young, and Daddy didn’t have a cow, Christy went off to Rathangan, to play a big card drive, and won first prize. A few days later a cow was delivered to our door from Christy, and then over the years we had a few more.

I used to love nothing more than seeing the calves being born and would stay up waiting for the newborn. We churned the milk twice a week and made our own butter, grew our own potatoes and vegetables and Mammy baked of course. We also kept ducks, hens and geese. If anyone had a clocking hen they'd come to us for eggs, but you'd always give an odd number for luck - if they wanted a dozen you'd give them 13.

Bog time in the summer I still recall like it was yesterday. The first thing Daddy would do when we arrived on the bog was dig a hole for the bottles of milk and water, to keep them cool for the break time. Mammy would have prepared all the food to feed us and everything in neat jam jars, the loose tea, the jam, the butter. Daddy always brought the ass and cart and we all cycled.

Come 1 o'clock, we had our lunch, and a fire would be lit to boil the kettle. We had great old times on the bog. Daddy taught us so much, he used to tell us the names of the birds singing on the bog by their sound and Mammy would make little baskets from the rushes to collect the pinkeens in the drain, and I can still make them to this day.

Mammy always wore a cross over apron, where she would keep the key of the house, and many a time her packet of woodbines would fall out when she would be working. My father never liked her smoking but never said anything. My father never broke his confirmation pledge and neither did his brothers Christy, Paddy and David and their sister Mary. They were lifelong pioneers. Paddy was as wild as a hare and did a lot of acting in plays and could do anything for a bit of crack.

I'm 59 years in Killeigh, I married Mick Coonan and settled very quickly here. We got married in 1962 in Mucklagh. We had our wedding breakfast in McCanns in Daingean afterwards and then headed to Dublin. Mick had an uncle in Ballsbridge and we stayed with him. I went and got tickets to go to England for our honeymoon but Mick wouldn't go, as he had a fear of flying. In later years I travelled to Lourdes for four years in a row, from 1997 to 2000, but Mick stayed behind.

We came back to Killeigh and settled in Ballinvalley. Mick's father had passed away earlier that year and we moved in with his mother and I have been in Killeigh ever since. In 1985 we moved down here to Hill View Cresent. Mick didn’t settle for a long time, and would have preferred to be in Ballinvalley but over time he settled and we made some great memories and have family and great neighbours around us.

I am 59 years living in Killeigh and was 58 years married last September, when Mick passed away. We have six in the family William, Michael, Mary, John, Jacqueline and Maggie, 24 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.

There is only one shop now in the village but when I came to Killeigh you had many more - two shops at Gurteen Bridge, Casey's and Kelly's, down in the village the post office, and Mrs Plunkett had a lovely shop there. McEnroe's pub had a grocery shop. Down across from the Church was Paddy Columbas shop and he sold everything and anything from animal feed to bicycle repair kits. Then Buckley’s shop, and Phelan's had a little business too if I recall.

You can't leave out Pat Connell’s garage either, my son Mick learned his trade there. A little bit out of the village, in Castlebrack, Pat's mother had a lovely little shop and if you were looking for anything you couldn't get in the village you would be sure to get it there.

Killeigh is steeped in music, especially with the Brady family, but Mick's family the Coonans were also big into music and great singers. Mick was a great accordion player and I learned how to play the spoons myself over the years.

We both went on holidays for many years with the Tara Group for the Senior citizens in Tullamore and stayed in hotels in every county in Ireland. The day care centre was also very important to us both for the past fourteen years. Before Covid hit, we would go three times a week and be collected at the door. I learned to do art there and a picture of red poppies in a field which I painted from memory hangs proudly on the wall in Riada House. We have great friends there and had great fun and I hope to get back there again soon.

Killeigh is steeped in history. I always admired the thatched houses in the parish, which are kept so well. I recall the council pump on the green before there was running water in the houses. We also had a pump up in Ballinvalley, at Matt Briens, and I remember carrying water daily, which was no joke.

There was a priest by the name of Fr Seal buried in the old graveyard and on the coldest day of the year if you put your hand on his headstone it would be warm. The sports day in August was fantastic every year and people would book their summer holidays and come home for the two weeks and meet up with everyone and have a marvellous time, and not forgetting the carnival where great fun was had by one and all.

Fair play to everyone that keeps the village looking so well - I'm very proud to be part of this small village. I always remember my Mick saying to keep traditions going in Killeigh and make memories for the generations coming after us. After all, he was the reason I came to live and spent my life here and have made many fond memories with many people."

* 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: [www.killeighcommunitycentre.com]www.killeighcommunitycentre.com

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