Smorgasbord Afternoon video – Parrot accompanies Pavarotti!! and Pavarotti’s most ardent fan by Geoff Cronin


I have to give this little guy A for effort as he leaves it all out there on the stage… I have shared another parrot who loved Pavarotti before but this one is in a class of his own.. earplugs available…

 

My father-in-law Geoff Cronin who died in February was 93 and had a memory like a bear trap… and who is also a great raconteur.. and I had a conversation one weekend about the music series on the life of Luciano Pavarotti with William Price King. He reminded me of this story that he had told a number of times..   I know that since his death you have been enjoying his stories and this one was one of the favourites.

A Pavarotti Fan Achieves a dream of a lifetime

Michael lived in Donegal and his mother, who was a music teacher and introduced him to opera and specifically the work of Luciano Pavarotti back in the 1980s.

This began a lifetime’s obsession with the singer and despite being short on cash, Michael bought every recording the great man released. He would also record any television appearances and cherished the DVD of the one film that Pavarotti made.. Yes Giorgio… and successive girlfriends were forced to watch copious times during predictably short-lived romances.

Eventually Michael set up his own business with a record shop and bookstore. Over the years he saved up money in a large cake tin, hidden on the top of his kitchen cabinets in his flat above the shop. His friends down at the pub on a Friday night would indulge Michael’s fantasy of one day attending the great Pavarotti’s performances; laughing behind his back when he would enthuse about the singer’s most recent album release.

Finally, after twenty years, Michael had saved enough to buy a front row ticket for a performance to be given in Modena, Italy.  There was also sufficient left over to hire a tuxedo and spend a night or two in a modest hotel on the outskirts of town.  He headed off to Dublin and the airport on the train. This was his first flight and excursion out of the country and he was beside himself with fear and excitement.

Eventually he arrived in Modena and was grateful that the lady who ran the small hotel spoke English.. She was very helpful in getting his suit pressed and getting a taxi to take him to the concert on time.

Three days later Michael arrived back in Donegal in a state of bliss. He couldn’t wait to get to the pub on the Friday and tell all his friends about the most amazing experience of his life.

Sure enough his friends were all ears when he began to tell them about his adventures. None of them had ever left the country nor flown in a plane and they plied him with questions about every aspect of the trip. Finally one asked about the actual concert.

Michael, relishing being the centre of attention, and with all eyes on him, talked them through the evening moment by moment.  The venue, the beautiful women in their expensive gowns, the men all in black tie and the champagne in the interval. His front row seat had offered him the most wonderful view of the performance and his heart had beaten rapidly at being so close to his beautiful Pavarotti.

One of his friends asked him if the singer was as good in person as on the recordings.

‘Oh he was superb and it was so thrilling to see him live; I cannot tell you how amazing those two hours were.’

One of them piped up. ‘And what was he like as a man, you know did he interact with the audience.’

Michael shook his head and grimaced slightly. ‘Well he doesn’t like it much when you sing along with him!’

I hope you enjoyed this little musical interlude…. and will pass it on… thanks Sally

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Milestones along the Way – How I met Her by Geoff Cronin


Sadly my lovely mother-in-law Joan died at only 74 years old in 1994 and was sadly missed. She was a woman who loved crosswords, Rubik’s Cube and a patch of sunshine. She and Geoff had six terrific children and I am sure that she would love to have seen her great-grandchildren, some of whom remind me of her and her smile.

In the last of the stories from Geoff based on his three books, I thought it was appropriate to end with the tale of how he met Joan.

How I Met Her by Geoff Cronin

In the summer of 1944 I joined the boat club in Waterford. The headquarters of this club was situated on the Kilkenny side of the river Suir, opposite the Adelphi hotel. It was a wooden building and it was painted white and green and it housed several outriggers. These boats would be approximately 60 to 70 feet long and could be carried easily by eight men.

The club could be reached from Waterford by walking along the quay, across the bridge and down on the Kilkenny side of the river – which would have taken a considerable length of walking time. But, for convenience sake, a member of the club could stand on the Waterford side of the bridge and whistle or signal to the boat club who would send a punt across the river to ferry the member over to the club.

In those years, my brother Dick, who was an expert musician, ran a small dance band, consisting of himself on the accordion, Ken McKinnon on tenor sax and Peerie White (The Gunner) on drums. They played for small club dances around the town. Well, my brother secured a booking to play at Sunday night ‘Hops’ in the boat club and, being a member, I always supported those dances for the joint reason that my brother was in charge of the band, and I was a member of the club.

About this time, I had returned from working in a timber gang, where I developed a considerable amount of muscle, I was also in the boxing club where I did not meet with great success, being too short in stature for my weight. Nevertheless, I stripped out at eleven stone and felt somewhat invincible.

In those days, anyone who had a respectable job went to work in a collar and tie, long-sleeve shirt which usually boasted some kind of cuff-links, and I was no exception. So, on attending the boat-club dance one particular Sunday night, I took off my coat and rolled up my sleeves until the fold was well above the biceps. This allowed me to show off my muscles and at the same time display my doubtful dancing prowess. I was at that age when, as they say, ‘a young man’s fancy turns to love’ and I had my eye on Joan Flanagan.

Now this girl was probably the best looking girl in the in the city and I liked the way she walked with a very straight back, and when she looked at you her gaze was steady, and I was quite smitten.

However Joan was three years older than I was and I felt that she was beyond my reach. Imagine my surprise therefore when at this particular Sunday night dance she walked into the ballroom accompanied by a fellow who had been my junior at school and I felt a surge of anger the like of which I have not had felt since or before.

She was still taking her coat off when I walked up to her and asked her would she like to dance. This was very rude of me, really, but she agreed and we had a nice couple of rounds of the floor. During that time I was racking my brains to think how I might “anchor” the conversation.

Joan Flanagan, 1944

Again, on impulse, I said to her “by the way, do you do the Tango”? Now, to be honest, I hadn’t a clue how to do the Tango but I knew that she was interested in dancing because her cousin ran a dance studio and had a very large clientele.

Anyway, she said, “No I don’t do the Tango” but I wouldn’t mind learning.

Well, I said, “I’ve been taking lessons,” which was a downright lie, “and if you would like to come to the Atlantic, in Tramore, with me on, let’s say, on Thursday night of this week, and I can show you what I know and we could practice together.

So, she smiled deliberately at me and she said, “Well, yes, that would be nice.”

“OK,” I said. “I’ll see you on Thursday.”

Now, that was okay and to some extent it was a bit of a victory for me. But from that moment on her escort guarded her as if she was Fort Knox, and I realised that I hadn’t made any firm arrangement where to meet her, or how to get to Tramore, or whatever, and I was at pains to get back to speak to her again and I couldn’t because he kept hovering over her and blocking my entrance. Anyway, the dance came to a close and I was in a corner there, getting ready to put on my coat and I turned down the sleeves of my shirt and my cuff-links were dangling off the end of the shirt. And as I saw her getting ready to leave I went the length of the ballroom and I confronted her and I said to her, “Joan, listen, could you help me with something?”

“Yes,” she said. “What is it?”

And I said, “Joan, would you ever fix my cuff-links, I can’t get them right?”

So she smiled at me and began to fix my cuff-links.

And then I looked her straight in the face, and she looked back at me, and I felt myself sinking into those grey eyes with the feeling that I never had before. And I’m sure the angels felt a bang when I hit the ground, because I fell for her hook, line and sinker.

So, I arranged to meet her at the train station – there was a train to Tramore on a regular basis at that time – and we went to the Atlantic ballroom in Tramore together on the train, and back again and we had a most enjoyable evening. I arranged a further date with her and that continued on for four years and at the end of four years we were married.

In all we spent 50 years together, the happiest time of my life and in all that time we never had a cross word. So, there you are, that is the story of How I Met Her.

©GeoffCronin 2008

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – February 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chapters of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/books-by-geoff-cronin/

 

Milestones along the Way – The Saga of Selby and Snippets by Geoff Cronin


This weekend sees the last of the stories from my late father-in-law Geoff Cronin with the final chapter tomorrow. I am so pleased that you have enjoyed reading his tales about his life and also the history of Waterford for the last century.. If you have missed any episodes you can find them in the link at the end of this post.

I thought that you might like to read about the saga of the family home in Waterford where my husband grew up.

The Saga of Selby by Geoff Cronin

In the ’50s Joan and I were still living in Ursula’s Terrace. We had three children and even though I had built a kitchen on to the house, we were hard pressed for space. We badly needed a bigger house and our prospects of achieving that were extremely remote. The company which was parent of my employer would have given me a mortgage but it was limited to two and a half times my salary which worked out at £700. At that time the going price for a ‘starter’ house was £1,200–£1,500, so obviously the odds were stacked against us.

Being without a car meant that our weekend recreation was limited to a walk round the suburbs or to the local park and it was on one of these Sunday walks that we noticed the house. It was a four-bedroomed terrace house and the name on the gate was ‘Selby’. It was vacant and up for auction in a couple of weeks’ time. On enquiry, it turned out to have been vacant for three years and it looked a bit shabby. Sheer curiosity led me to enquire further and I discovered that the previous occupier had emigrated and the property was mortgaged to the Royal Liver Insurance Company, who had foreclosed and were therefore the owners. I rang the auctioneers who told me the reserve was £1,200. Now the house in my opinion was easily worth that money, but why was it unsold? What was the catch? On impulse I asked if I could have the keys for the purpose of viewing the property and having obtained them, I went to have a look.

I was in the act of opening the front door when a man who said he lived nearby approached me and putting his hand over my arm he said, “If you’re thinking of buying that house I would advise you not to because the man who lived there previously never paid the rates or the ground rent for years. And, as well as that he owed a lot of money elsewhere and whoever buys that house will be saddled with all that debt. I told several people about this and I thought I should warn you.” He departed and I was left standing with the keys in my hand.

Now I was never one to rely on hearsay or gossip, so I let myself in and saw that the place had been sadly neglected. Off the hallway there was a drawing room with a bay window which was connected by double doors to a small dining room and at the end of the hall was a kitchen. This was floored in old tiles most of which were broken, there was a tap dripping into a sink of sorts on the floor, one small window overlooking a narrow yard and a small pot-bellied stove – solid fuel – at the end wall. The ceiling was cracked and dirty and the remaining wall had been completely covered with wallboard which had come adrift from the wall and now lay halfway across the floor. There was a boiler house adjoining and it had no roof. There was a coal-house next to that.

Upstairs there were four good sized bedrooms and the master had a dressing room also. A bathroom was on that floor too and then on the third floor, which consisted of one large room with a dormer window and a small fireplace. The ‘piece de resistance’ was the heap of ashes piled up in a corner of the room.

Outside was a large garden which was completely overgrown and it had an apple tree in the middle. So this was Selby, a wreck for sure but the building was dry and basically sound and I saw the potential, given that a huge amount of work was required to make it habitable.

That evening I brought my wife to see it and when she saw the kitchen she literally wept and she said, “I wouldn’t want to live in this hovel and anyway you’ll never buy it for £700”.

At this point I began to believe that by some chance, I might possibly be able to buy the place and I knew I could handle the renovations. Next I found that the Royal Liver could be held liable for the outstanding rates and ground rent and there appeared to be very little interest in the forthcoming auction. So I went to my solicitor and instructed him to attend the auction and bid to buy on the very strict understanding that the price would have to include auctioneers fees and his own fees, and the total could not exceed £700 because that was all I had.

At first he refused quoting the fact that the reserve was £1,200 and while he was considering the matter, I told him to remember I wanted clear title as well. Finally he agreed saying the offer was ridiculous and that he didn’t know what the auctioneer would think of him on making such an offer. Well I arranged the mortgage at £700 and held my breath until the day of the auction.

So came the day and the solicitor rang me that afternoon. “You must be the luckiest man I ever met,” he laughed. “You’ve got the house.”

“And the price?” I asked.
“£700 plus the auctioneer’s fees,” he said. “Withdraw the bid,” I said, “the offer has to include the fees as I told you, I haven’t any more money.” There was a moment of silence and then he said.

“For God’s sake man, how am I supposed to do that?” “I don’t know,” I replied, “but I gave you my instructions and you better see the auctioneer immediately.” He hung up the phone!

About midday the next day he rang me at work. “I don’t know who you have been praying to,” he said, “but he’s delivered the goods, the house is yours clear and free and the price agreed is £700 including auctioneers fees. Incidentally, only one guy came to the auction and he left before I made my bid.” I could hardly believe my ears and left the office and went to tell my wife the news. “Don’t you worry,” I told her, “when I have finished with that house it will be fit for a Queen.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it,” she replied.

A day or two later I was on my way down town when the manager of the Provincial Bank accosted me. “Mr. Cronin,” he said, “I want to congratulate you on your purchase of Selby and could you stop by my office for a minute.” I did so and he then said, “You will be aware that my bank holds a second mortgage on that property and you now owe me £180.” I replied that I would be in touch with him and left. I went straight to my solicitors and asked him to confirm that I had clear title to Selby.

“Indeed you have.” he said.

“Well now, tell me if I’m right in thinking that when there are two mortgages on a property which is then sold for a price less than the first mortgage, then the second one is null and void?”

“Correct.” he said.

“Well,” I said, “would you ever ring the manager of the Provincial Bank and tell him what to do with his bill for £180 which he asked me to pay on foot of a second mortgage.”

“Consider it done,” he said.

Late that day I was passing the bank when the manager saw me and stepped out to meet me. “I’m glad I met you,” he said, “I’ve been on to my head office and I’m happy to tell you that they have agreed to waive the mortgage charge of £180.”

“I know,” I said, “I was listening to that conversation and by the way, I have a small current account with you – close it! Good day”.

There is a further chapter to this saga… A week later I was in the house when there was a knock on the door. I opened it and there stood a man I had never seen before. “Are you Mr. Cronin, the new owner of this house?” he asked. I answered in the affirmative.

“Well, “he said, “I’m in a difficult situation. I’m a solicitor and I was instructed to bid “£1,200 at auction for this property but when I went to the auction I saw nobody there but your solicitor and I panicked and left without bidding. I have now to offer you the £1,200 if you’ll sell me the house.”

“No,” I said, “I don’t want the money, I want the house.”

He repeated the offer and I again refused and he left expressing deep disappointment.
Well, subsequently, I managed to squeeze another £100 from the company to “redecorate the home”. I got £126 for the back kitchen at No. 30 St Ursula’s Terrace from the incoming tenant and with that money I was able to do all that was required to turn the wreck into a lovely home where we lived happily until 1964 when another chapter began involving a home in Wexford. But that is another story.

One abiding memory of the renovations at Selby remains. I couldn’t get any charlady to tackle the cleaning of that top room with its pile of ashes and had to do it myself – it took a hundred and fifty three buckets of water to complete the job.

Selby today.

*****

Did you know that a song thrush has a favourite meal, which is a common snail, but in order to get it out of the shell the thrush will seek out a stone or even a kerb of just the right height. He will then bring the snail to the stone and picking it up by the soft part, he will swing it up and bring it down on the stone in hammer fashion until the shell is no more and he can then enjoy his meal.

If you watch out you may see a stone with a number of snail shells littered about it and this is ‘The Thrushes Anvil’ – not many people know that!

*****

After a certain funeral, the following conversation took place:-
“So, how did the funeral go?”
“Oh, there was a big crowd there, but still it wasn’t great.”
“How’s that?”
“Well, at the graveside Jimmy Walsh tripped on a kerb and fell and broke his leg and spoiled the day for everyone.”

©Geoff Cronin 2010

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – February 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chapters of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/books-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the Way – Bacon by Geoff Cronin


When I was a boy early in the 1920s the industry of the city of Waterford was dominated by the firm of Henry Denny & Sons Ltd., one of the largest bacon factories in the British Isles at the time, with branches in Cork Limerick and Waterford. The Pig trade was always a mainstay of industry in the city and this firm had been had been established round about 1800. In my geography book at school Denny’s was labelled as ‘one of the most important bacon factories in Europe.’ The export trade in Waterford was very lively indeed around that time, and hundreds of animals were exported live to Britain on a weekly basis while the factory at home employed about five hundred people.

One of the main elements in that contribution was the constant production of offal which supplied many of the shops and was a welcome supply of cheap meat to the natives. The offal consisted of pigs heads, which were sold whole or in halves, backbones kidneys and a variety of items which could be used for stewing and produced a handsome soup. And in addition to that the employees of the factory were able to purchase, for a nominal amount, any amount of the offal produced in the factory.

Much of this offal found its way into small shops known as hucksters, which were scattered throughout the city, and these hucksters specialised in selling cooked, hot, “crubeens” which had to be boiled for several hours to make them perfectly edible. These little shops stayed open very late at night, especially when the pubs closed, and a gentleman who had imbibed throughout the evening would be perhaps ravenous with hunger, and could purchase, for a few pence, a couple of crubeens ready cooked to take home and have for supper. This procedure was quite common and the city was noted for it.

The many different bones which could be stewed with dumplings formed a large part of the diet of the poorest people in the city.

These bones, incidentally, had specific names like chucks or puzzlers, etc., – the backbones were also known as ‘chicken on horseback’ or ‘pigs mud-guard’ – and were for sale in most of the bacon shops around the city.

Traditional demand in Ireland was for bacon rashers and boiling bacon and the old-fashioned renowned bacon- and-cabbage was a very popular dish at the time, and probably still is. The fact that crubeens had to be cooked slowly for several hours meant that a person who wished to produce cooked crubeens needed a fair amount of fuel. When the war came – or the emergency as it was called in Ireland – fuel became scarce, but that did not prevent the natives from cooking this delicacy. They cooked by means of what was called a sawdust cooker.

Here I have to give you some detail about what the sawdust cooker was, and how it was made. First of all you had to have a steel, or metal barrel. A two-inch hole had to be made at one end of the barrel and the other end had to be cut off. Then a broomstick would be stood in the hole at the bottom and held upright while the barrel was filled with damp sawdust and packed fairly tight. The filled barrel would then be stood on a base of three bricks on edge, leaving a space underneath into which a large piece of crumpled newspaper would be inserted. The newspaper would be lit and as the flame travelled up the space left when the broomstick was withdrawn, it would ignite the sides of the hole as it travelled up and thereby start the process of smouldering. If the open top end of the barrel was covered by a sheet of iron, or a grill, a pot could be boiled on it, in time.

Sawdust could be had for nothing, at any of the sawmills in the town, so the cooking could go on, and did in fact go on unabated for many years after the war. In fact, there are still small shops that sell hot crubeens at night, and on your way home from the cinema or theatre you could get the delicious smell of these bacon delicacies.

Lid/Grill Barrel
 

©Geoff Cronin 2008.

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the way – The American Connection by Geoff Cronin

Status


Welcome to this week’s story from my late father-in-law’s memoir of his life as a boy growing up in Waterford Ireland.

The American Connection by Geoff Cronin

My great uncle Richard Condon who was my grandfather’s brother in law lived in Chicago for most of his life and was reported to be worth at least three million dollars. In 1930, my father was his sole heir and was to inherit the fortune. However, my father received a telegram about that time to say that his uncle, Richard Condon, had just got married. The man was near eighty years old at that time and my father said “he’s got married now with one leg in the grave and the other on a bar of soap!”

Apparently, he had been involved a car accident and was seriously injured. A long period of recovery ensued and he was nursed back to reasonably good health by a lady nurse called Jessie Barr? And this was his new bride. She was a Scots Presbyterian, twenty nine years old and weighed about twenty stone. Quite a handful! Anyway the happy couple set out on a sort of world tour in the process of which they came to Ireland and visited my family for about three weeks, during which time they enjoyed lavish hospitality at my father’s expense, including hiring a car for the duration of the stay.

Time came for them to depart and my brothers and sister and I were given a present each – a five shilling sweep ticket! We were not ecstatic at such munificence needless to say.

Richard Condon, Chicago 1909.

Their programme was to go to Glasgow to meet her family, which they did and then do a tour of the Scottish Highlands. It was during that tour that the old man collapsed and died and we learned that he was to be buried in Waterford in the Cronin grave.

So the funeral took place and the widow accompanied by her brother and his wife stayed at our house in Woodstown and were royally entertained. She stayed on for ten days or so and the others remained on for three weeks. During the ten days she gave me his gold penknife and all his ties, about fifty or so and my brothers received his watch and his cufflinks as their inheritance. I don’t remember my sister getting anything but his new will was produced, leaving everything to his widow, and it had been recently prepared by her brother in law who was a lawyer.

Jessie Barr Condon, Mary Jo Cronin, Richard Condon

So that was that so to speak. But as a sort of goodwill gesture, my elder brother and I were taken back to Glasgow for a ten day holiday and the Empire Exhibition was on at that time. We stayed with her people there and had a good time, though I was reprimanded for whistling on the Sunday – those people were strict Presbyterian and I retaliated by putting an Irish shilling in the collection plate at mass on the same Sunday knowing that it was not legal tender in Scotland.

During that visit we saw the “Queen Elizabeth” still under construction in 1938 and re-visited John Brown’s Iron Foundry which was interesting.

But back to our home in Woodstown before my great uncle died:

At that time the ‘local’ post office, which was run by a Mr. Delaney and his wife, was two miles away, in Rosduff, and during my great uncle’s short illness there were telegrams arriving daily with the news.

These telegrams, of a strictly confidential nature were delivered by the postmaster, Mr. Delaney on a bicycle. The fee for delivery was sixpence, paid on delivery and being a courteous man, Delaney when handing over the sealed envelope would always remove his cap and announce, “I think he’s failing ma’am” or “’tis not looking good”. On delivery of the final telegram, he announced, “I’m sorry for your trouble ma’am, the poor man is gone”.

My mother remarked, “I suppose it saves me opening the envelope”!

The inheritance of fifty American ties on my part caused a stir in another area altogether because at school I had a very dapper English teacher who used to wear a new tie every day and when I noticed this I too began wearing a new tie each day, only mine were multicoloured and garish. My teacher nearly had a heart attack as I upstaged him with these outlandish offerings and the class spotted what was going on. When eventually the teacher came in wearing the same tie I knew he was “out of ammunition” and next day I did likewise and so retired undefeated. Oddly, not one single word was said about this matter.

Extract from Richard Condon’s Will, dated 9th March 1937

©Geoff Cronin 2010

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – February 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the way – The Sailor’s Mass #Waterford by Geoff Cronin


The Sailor’s Mass

In my Grandfather’s time the village of Passage East, Co. Waterford, was famous for its sailors, and most of the local men went to sea at an early age, signing on for trips to foreign parts on the many sailing ships out of Waterford Port. Many of these men were what was called Longshore Men, and could be at sea for months at a time depending on the length of the voyage.

The reputation of Passage men was legendary among Shipowners and merchants trading in and out of the port. My Grandfather, who owned several ships, always signed Passage men to crew his ships and there was also a tradition of Pilots living in the village, in fact, when I was a boy, living in nearby Woodstown, I knew several of the then pilots who were Passage men and I would see them from time to time at Crooke Chapel where we went to Mass.

Waterford, in the old days, was known as Waterford of the Ships, such was the volume of traffic through the port, and most of the ships were Brigantines or Barquentines of about two hundred tons, and they sailed as far afield as America, New Zealand, Australia and South America. Record has it that up to eighty ships per week went to Iceland, where people found seasonal employment in the fish factories and allied industries there.

But back to Passage again where the local population were justly proud of their sailors. So much so that a cohort of pious ladies of the village used to collect a shilling a week from the various families whose men were at sea, and when they had collected a total of thirty shillings they would give the money to the curate at Crooke Chapel to say a Mass for ‘the prosperous voyage and safe return of the following who are at sea…’ a list of the names would be furnished and the men’s names would be read off the altar at Sunday Mass. The list varied very little and I still remember some of the names:- Edward Gunnip, James Heffernan, Richard Donnelly, Patrick Walsh, etc. etc. The Christian names are a bit hazy with me after seventy odd years, but you know the general idea.

Luggers at Passage East, 1961.

The practice was indeed laudable but there was a slight problem. When times were hard, people would miss out on the collection and it could take several weeks to get the required thirty shillings, with the result that by the time that the names were read out at Mass, many of those listed would be back in the bosom of their families and would, in fact, be sitting in the congregation. This was quite amusing, especially when those guys would turn a hugely smiling face to neighbouring pews, acknowledging the honourable mention of their names. Even so, it was a tribute not only to the sailors, but to the whole village, and it continued all the years I lived in the area – it might still be going on – I hope so!

©Geoff Cronin

***

N.B.. At the same time as Geoff is talking about my great-great-grandfather William Walsh was a pilot working out of Kinsale in Cork. His son my great-grandfather was also a pilot but then joined the Royal Navy in 1868.

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the way – The Money Ball Shop and Snippets #Waterford by Geoff Cronin

Status


The Moneyball Shop

In the city of Waterford in the 1930s there was a shop which drew kids to its windows like a very powerful magnet. It was run by the O’Neill family and was situated on the corner at the top of New Street hill. It was known as the Moneyball Shop because in the centre of the window there was a tray filled high with bright red coloured rock sweets and you could see money sticking out of them. Half crowns, Sixpenny pieces, Shillings, pennys and threepenny bits would be peeping out of these red lumps of lusciousness which were also rolled in sugar.

On entering the shop you saw three trays of Monneyballs marked one penny, twopence and threepence and you bought according to your purse. Then the appropriate tray would be put before you and you could take your pick in high hopes of getting one with a prize inside.

Outside the shop the corner, the shop doorpost and even the iron downpipe at the end of the shop bore witness to the activities of kids who banged their purchases there to see what luck had brought them. On breaking them open the lucky ones would contain for the most part a halfpenny or a penny, and on rare occasions a sixpenny piece and kids would boast about the time they got a shilling. Nobody was ever known to get a half crown but now and again there would be a peanut inside and it would be wrapped in a piece of paper which could be retrieved carefully and it would say “Goldfish”. This was indeed a prize to boast about and would be given in a jamjar to be carried off in triumphant fashion.

Generation after generation of school kids gambled their pennies in the Moneyball Shop and to put the prizes in context you should know that in those days a cinema ticket was four pennies. Also there was one consolation when the Moneyball contained nothing – at least you could eat the fragments, which on the whole were very tasty.

The shop had another claim to fame – it was the only shop which would sell you a halfpenny fag and a match, no questions asked, so if you felt like living dangerously the opportunity was there!

***

Q. What would you find in a quiver?
A. Jelly.

***

Precisely

Three professors were walking out the driveway of their university on their way home when one of the noticed a gathering of ladies of ‘easy virtue’ standing by the gates.

“Now gentlemen”, said one of them, “what collective term do you think we should use to describe such a gathering”?

“How about a Cadenza of Strumpets”, suggested the professor of music?

“No.” Said the professor of humanities. “I prefer A Jam of Tarts”.

“Not precise enough”, said the professor of English, “but I think I have it… An anthology of English Pros!”
©Geoff Cronin 2010

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the Way – The Yards of Waterford by Geoff Cronin



In the 1930s the shops in Waterford City were dependent on farmers from the surrounding county for a considerable slice of trade, particularly at the weekends. Tradition was that a farmer and his wife would travel to town on a Saturday and as public transport was thin on the ground the pony and trap was the most common way of getting to the city.

At this point I must explain that well established pubs would have a yard with some stabling attached and a yard man would be in attendance, also many of these would be “bar and grocery” shops. So, having arrived in town the farmer could park his pony and trap in the care of the pub yard man, while he and his wife went up the main street – she to order bread for the week and to sell her eggs and home-made butter and he to visit the bank and the hardware shops, to order seeds and tools and the like. Instructions to the shopkeeper would be “send it to Dower’s yard, Grace’s Yard, Pender’s yard, Power’s yard”, or wherever the pony and trap was lodged.

Now in those days no woman would be seen in a pub but in a ‘bar and grocery’ establishment there was always a ‘snug’ where a lady could be seated while giving her grocery order and waiting for her husband. And, what harm if a glass of port or a beer on a warm day, or even a whisky in the cold weather, was served in the process. And when himself would arrive he could join in with a pint of stout and chat for often times there would be several ladies in waiting in the snug.

Serving behind the counter in my father’s bakery shop, I was quite familiar with the programme of the country people as we had a big proportion of our customers in that category.

There were great number of bars in Waterford and I often wondered why a pub should be called “A bar” until one day I noticed a very ornate, polished brass bar, elbow high across the window of a pub called the Dew Drop Inn in Greyfriars. After much research, I discovered that the origin of the “Window Bar” could be traced to a time when fairs and sales of cattle and horses took place in the street, or wherever there was a convenient square or open space. On such occasions, the bar prevented large animals from leaning against the window and probably breaking it. The bar served another purpose too. When a patron of the pub who was the worse for wear was leaving the premises, he could grasp the bar and ease himself along the window and thereby make a dignified exit.

In recent times I spotted a not so decorative iron bar across the window of a very old pub in a narrow street in a small provincial town. But it was many a bygone year since a horse or a cow was sold in that street.

In the ’30s the horse was king of the road and you could see iron rings sunk into the street kerbs where a horse or donkey could be tethered while his owner went shopping. Also there was a huge variety of trades, related to the horse, blacksmiths, farriers, saddlers, feed stores, leather and harness makers, coach builders, coach painters, wheelwrights, tackle shops, stables, hay and straw merchants and even street sweepers. But gradually all these trades and the employment they provided disappeared with the demise of the horse drawn traffic and even the skills associated with those trades became largely extinct.

Horse racing and breeding still support some of the old trades and the now dying sport of fox hunting plays a part too, but it’s only a fraction of what used to exist. Such is progress.

***

Definition: Syncopation, an unsteady movement from Bar to Bar!

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the Way – The Tin Chapel Men and by Hook or by Crook by Geoff Cronin


The Tin Chapel Men

In my father’s day there were many crusades against the demon drink, in fact there was a slogan popular with politicians of the time, “Ireland Sober, Ireland Free”. Hence it was no surprise when a company of evangelists appeared in local halls around the country, preaching about the evils of drink among other things. They were known variously as The Hot Gospellers, The Sankey Mudie Men and The Tin Chapel Men. Incidentally, men whose surnames were Sankey and Mudie were associated with this movement.

The modus-operandi was the same wherever they appeared. A local hall would be hired and leaflets advertising a free evening lecture distributed around the town and free tea and biscuits might even be suggested. So the hall would be peopled by a selection of layabouts, drunks and those who had nothing better to do and the meeting would begin with one of the preachers speaking about the evils of drink.

To illustrate the point he would hold up a glass of water in one hand and a common earth worm in the other and he would say “See what I hold in my hands, a glass of God’s own fresh water and a lowly earth worm. Now I drop the worm into the glass and you can see he swims about quite happily. But now I show you a glass of the demon whisky, I drop a worm into it and the unfortunate creature shrivels up and dies immediately. And now, my dear people, what lesson may we learn from this?” He pauses dramatically, holding the glass containing the whisky and the now dead worm and a semi drunken voice from the audience says, “If you drink whisky you’ll never get worms”.

All I can say at this stage is, if it didn’t happen it should have!

***

A man whose neighbour was recovering from a serious illness was asked by a friend how the man was doing and he replied,

“Well, sure he’s between the bed and the fire.”

***

A tourist being shown over the Irish countryside by a local, paused when he saw some red berries growing on a plant at the roadside.

“Tell me,” he said, “what are those berries?” “Those are blackberries,” he was told.

“But they are not black, they’re red,” said the tourist.

“That’s true,” said the guide, “but you see sir, they’re always red when they’re green!”

***

By Hook or by Crook

There is a saying attributed to Oliver Cromwell concerning his approach to Waterford, Hook Lighthouse being on one leg of the estuary of the Suir river and Crook being a townsland on the far side of the estuary.

In my opinion this saying has nothing to do with Cromwell, but instead refers to the terms on which an old time landlord let a cottage on his estate to a tenant.

The conditions allowed the tenant to gather firewood on the estate limited to what could be obtained by Hook (meaning a Billhook) or by Crook meaning a long pole with a metal hook at one end by which rotten branches could be pulled down from the trees.

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/

Milestones along the Way – 100 Plants and snippets by Geoff Cronin


The Hundred Plants

When I married Joan Flanagan we went to live at number 30 St. Ursula’s Terrace, a rented house where Joan had lived all her life. As we had been courting for four years prior to the marriage, I knew all the neighbours in the area and they had decided that I would need good advice especially when it came to gardening as the garden was my first priority when I moved in.

It all began the moment I took a spade in my hand and went out to tackle the garden, which had been sadly neglected for years. My immediate neighbour on my left appeared the moment I sank the spade into the ground.

“I see you’re making a start there” he said, “and you have a tough job in front of you”. “I’ll tell you how to clear that land of weeds, first of all get yourself a hundred (cabbage) plants, next get a short stick and put a point on it, now get a bottle of water. Then when you have the ground dug and levelled come along with your pointed stick and put holes in the ground about two feet apart in rows and have two feet between the rows. Now get your bottle of water and put water in each hole. Then drop the plants in the holes and bring soil in around the stems and there you have your cabbage patch and those plants are so hungry that they’ll starve the weeds by eating up all the nourishment in the ground.

Then the following year plant your spuds in that patch which will be clean of weeds by that time. And there you have it!”

As I thanked my neighbour (for nothing) and as he left the scene, my next door neighbour on the other side appeared and approached me with the comment. “I see your thinking of making a start there and I noticed your man giving you the benefit of his experience. Well, let me tell you, he’s talking bullshit and you should pay no attention whatsoever to anything he says. Now I’m tilling this garden this last fifty years and I know a bit about it. Given see, you have a neglected garden on your hands there and there’s only one way to clear the weeds out of it and here’s the plan…

“First of all get yourself a hundred (cabbage plants) and then you’ll need a bottle of water and a short pointed stick etc. etc.” There followed precisely the same instructions but with this addendum. “I knew all belonging to you boy and I know the way you were raised and how could you know anything about gardening?”

So, not wishing to hurt his feelings, I thanked him for his advice and since by that time the daylight was fading I went back into the house for my tea.

A few days later I was walking down the town when a man from three doors down, stopped me. “Hello there” he said, “I see you’re making a start on the garden and I noticed that you were getting plenty of advice from your two next door neighbours. Well you can ignore whatever they told you because they know feck all about gardening and I’m going to put you right here and now. You can see what you have here is an old neglected garden and there’s only one way to clear the weeds out of it. Here’s what you have to do. First get yourself a hundred plants (cabbage), then you’ll need a short stick with a point on it and a bottle of water etc. etc.”

The recipe was exactly the same as before and I had to smile but I thanked him for his advice and went on my way.

In the event I made a hen run in the section nearest the house, a row of loganberries was next followed by rhubarb, onions, carrots and lettuce and guess what a small cabbage patch!

My neighbours were decent and helpful in every way over the years that followed and I still cherish those memories of a happy if frugal time of my life.

Postscript

Joan and I lived at number thirty for several years. I built a kitchen on to the back of the house as the family grew and turned the existing kitchen into a living/dining room.
The building of the kitchen, which I did single handed, is another story. We left that house in 1955 and moved to ‘Selby’ and that is yet another story.

***

An apprentice shop assistant was ten minutes late coming back to work after lunch and the manager, who was a stickler for timekeeping, stopped him at the door and the following communication ensued:-

Manager: Why are you late back after lunch?

Boy: I had to get a haircut, sir.

Manager: You’re not entitled to get your hair cut in the firm’s time.

Boy: But it grows in the firm’s time, sir.

Manager: Well, it didn’t all grow in the firm’s time.

Boy: I know that, sir, but I didn’t get it all cut!

©Geoff Cronin 2010

About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – 2017

There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.

Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.

Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life, The Black Bitch and the previous chaptes of Milestones in this directory:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/the-colour-of-life-by-geoff-cronin/