Nollaig Doughan submitted an original letter from her Aunt Eileen which was written to Nollaig’s family. Eileen O’Meara lived in Manchester but was reared on a very small farm in Dunkerrin on the Offaly/Tipperary border in the 1930s. Her father (Nollaig’s grandfather) died at the age of 46 leaving his wife with 12 children to bring up on her own. That was no easy task in rural 1930s Ireland. This letter paints a picture of how life was back then…


Dear Teresa,

After Daddy’s death (your grandfather Thomas O’Meara) Christy got Daddy’s job drawing stones for the Council to mend the roads. Big potholes would appear on the roads from bad weather and frost on the country roads.

Mammy and Annie took on the farm and housekeeping. Mammy started to cultivate the kitchen garden and sowed onions, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes and vegetable marrows. The garden was a small piece of land next to the house.
At the time home industry was encouraged and Mammy’s motive was to feed our big family. Vegetables like green peas, cauliflower and parsnip were being introduced into the countryside. Struggling families didn’t always have them.
The government was giving small grants to help pay for seeds and Mammy applied for these benefits. A nice gentleman with a posh accent used to come around, give advice and inspect our garden

One year she sowed most of the garden with onions. She would still have her little beds of salad produce. Even the word salad had not come into our vocabulary. The next year the garden was sowed with green peas. The produce was sold to the shops in town (Roscrea). Of course Uncle Pat would plough, sow, reap and mow (as the song says) the big field. From the time I was very little I used to help Mammy with weeding. I always loved the soil.
Onion seed used to be sowed copiously and we loved the thinning with lettuce between our bread.

Annie had a lovely recipe for salad cream brought from Dublin by Breda, where she and Lizzie were in service, as it was then called. It is a pity none of us ever kept the recipe.

Mammy always had the earliest potatoes. She grew great flowering sweet pea and wall flowers. I can still remember the lovely perfume. Danny was just a toddler, but his day came and he left school at twelve years.
Mammy was a great woman, as was Annie.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own