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16 October 2014
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Christmas Past

Poetry and tradition on Christmas day, before the days of computer games and interactive Barbie dolls


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It's not that long ago that the majority of people didn't have much money and the variety of goods in the shops was very limited. It didn't stop people though making the best of what there was, to ensure the yuletide season was celebrated in style.

In 1980 (for a Radio Ulster series "Up Country") retired teacher, Joe Doran, recalled life at Christmas in the Mourne area. Much of his chat was about the festive food eaten. How beef replaced fish on the menu at that time of year.

Kilkeel Harbour
Kilkeel Harbour
A Kilkeel bakery's speciality was currant loaves, which made the mouth water just thinking about them. Plum puddings were made well in advance in all the homes and Joe remembered them hanging up to dry in their cloths in the kitchens, reminding him of cannonballs.

He also had dim memories of a Christmas meat market in Kilkeel, on the side of the brae down to the river, where local grocers put their stalls out on Christmas Eve. They hacked, parceled and served all night by lamplight.

On Christmas morning his family walked to church in the dark, and here and there they could see the bobbing lanterns of others making their way in the same direction. Joe described a great feeling of fellowship between neighbours as they greeted each other.

Listen to Joe Doran's memories of past Christmasses in the Kilkeel district.  Extract from 'Up Country: Mourne Christmas' (1980)
Listen to retired headmaster, Joe Doran, recollect past Christmasses in the Kilkeel district.
Extract from Radio Ulster programme "Up Country: Mourne Christmas", broadcast in 1980.

Share YOUR memories of Christmas past. What food did you eat? What presents were given and received? Do you know anyone who remembers the Christmas meat market in Kilkeel? Did you ever eat any of those mouth watering currant loaves? May be you've written a seasonal poem we could display on the site. To share your stories or add a contribution either use the form at the bottom of the page or e-mail .

A Christmas poem

snow capped Donard, in the Mournes (M Johnston)
Snow capped Donard in the Mournes

I looked up on Christmas Day,
to see the Mournes not far away.
They looked so tall against the sky
and on their heads snow did lie.

Down in the valley in a house full of joy,
lived a happy little girl and a happy little boy.
Santa called at their house last night
when the moon was up and the sky was bright.

A long time ago on this very day,
three wise men from the east came to stay
in a stable bare where Christ was born,
that's why we get gifts on Christmas morn.

Listen to Christmas poem written and read by Kilkeel primary school child.  Extract from 'Up Country: Mourne Christmas' (1980)
Listen to the above poem, which was written and read by a Kilkeel primary school child.
Extract from Radio Ulster programme "Up Country: Mourne Christmas", broadcast in 1980.


Visit 'Christmas Past - Page 2'

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