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16 October 2014
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Fermanagh memories

Contributed by Roseanna Donohoe.

(May 2004)

Fermanagh

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Keep the Memories

Although I am still on the right side of fifty, I am totally amazed and very sad at the cataclysmic changes that have occurred in the small village and townland communities in County Fermanagh in my own lifetime.

Reared in a fairly remote rural area, one cannot but remember the way our daily lives were lived at that time. The eldest of a large family we had nothing but the most basic of amenities and life was busy but happy. We were no different from lots of other families who struggled but coped with that tough but necessary daily routine. At a time when electricity was just being introduced into many homes and older houses and cottages were being renovated to include bathrooms and heating systems. The technology and change that ensued, changed a whole way of life, much of it for the better but more unhappily a lot of those changes were for the worse. I know that milking and washing machines, electric irons, hot running water and warm homes were a heaven sent gift to families who had struggled with so much less, but not everyone was in a position, financially or geographically to avail of these marvellous innovations and it took almost twenty five years to introduce these to the more remote areas of the country. So to those of us who still lived with the old regime and somehow managed to get by, it was a special time.

I mourn the passing of many of the old characters who were part of my childhood and the death of a lifestyle that was uniquely Irish. Those neighbours who came to ceilie and the deep down common sense, or sense of the ridiculous, which enabled us all to cope with whatever life presented, at any given time. My writing, painting and poems are always based on that time and I enjoy chatting with people who remember how it was when progress changed a lifestyle that had remained the same for so long.

So to those of you who came through those years with me, enjoy and applaud progress but keep the memories!

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Simple Country Folk (June 2004)

In this time of tv, cd, dvd, computers, comfy bars, modern cars and all the wonderful things we need to prevent boredom setting in, I can remember a time when the best entertainment one could choose, was to go and visit the neighbours. The generation gap didn't seem to matter so much then and we were always sure of a laugh, a tall or tragic tale and a genuine welcome from our kindly hosts. I listened to and remembered all the tales of triumph and hardships they shared with us. That feeling of belonging and your place and mine has never left me and I'm proud to have lived in that special time in Fermanagh. Much of what I am and believe in is the result of my country upbringing and the ability to see good in people and be there for others is my direct response to the way I was treated, when rural Ireland was peopled by simple country folk.

Johnny's thoughts on ninety years

As I look back, I remember, far off childhood happy days, country fairs and friendly gatherings, in the good old fashioned way. Many simple souls, lived all their lives,working hard to just get through. With their humour to sustain them, struggling by and 'making do'. So unique and so endearing, with their innocent wit and charm. Always helpful to each other with hearts so big and warm. They endured the pain of partings, emigration stole their kin, only God knows how they suffered as they quietly wept within. Work was tough and we had little. We all tried hard to do our share and if we ever got in trouble, we'd know so well our friends were there. Save the corn and dig potatoes, milk and plough and make the hay. Thatch and whitewash on the cottage, working long 'backbreaking 'days. Potatoes, swedes and cabbage, this staple diet served us well. Though our lives were hard and times were tough, we were very rarely ill. Hired to work hard for the stranger, we all left school when we were young. On winter nights by the fireside we had ceiliedhs in our home. Our concern was for each other, not for new or better things. No clever gadgets or fancy clothes but we were as happy as kings. The basics of life kept us going, life was rich with traditional ways.

Our prayers and our songs, helped to keep us all strong, the years flew away with our days. I've seen so many things in my lifetime, now I'm resting my tired old eyes. My youth came and went and my life's almost spent. I'm enjoying old age as my prize. Many people have left here before me. I've lived well but I do understand. Each age has its problems, its joys and its tears. Thank God I'm a happy old man.

(Johnny was a neighbour of mine for many years. I used to sit and chat with him on an old seat outside his house.)



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