My father-in-law, Geoff Cronin was a raconteur with a encyclopedic memory spanning his 93 years. He sadly died in 2017 but not before he had been persuaded to commit these memories of his childhood and young adulthood in Waterford in the 1920s to the 1940s.
The books are now out of print, but I know he would love to know that his stories are still being enjoyed, and so I am repeating the original series of his books that I posted in 2017. I hope those who have already read will enjoy again and that new readers will discover the wonderful colour of life in Ireland nearly 100 years ago.
Geoff had a band that was hugely popular for dances in Waterford, but also further afield… including here in Courtown where they used to play throughout the summer at the then ballroom. They stayed at the Tara Vie hotel.. which had a rather interesting story with the regard to its name. Tara hill is close to us and from certain angles you get a very good view.. this led to us questioning as to why the hotel is called the Tara Vie… Geoff explained that in about 1914, the ‘W’ fell off and was never replaced!
The Nuns At The Glue Pot 1946
It was five o’clock in the afternoon on the 16th of July 1946. The sky was dark and thunder rumbled intermittently. The rain came down like stair-rods and steam was rising from the warm road. I roused my three friends and we went downstairs for a drink before tea.
Being billeted over a pub wasn’t such a bad idea on a day like this, especially in a seaside village. We were playing in a dance band in the local hall for the season – we were the dance-band – and we would start work about eight o’clock.
The pub was known locally as “The Glue Pot” and as the evening wore on and people ventured out after the rain and made their way towards the dance hall which would be packed with holiday makers. Right now, there were only two old fishermen sipping pints by the window, the barman, Pat, and the four of us at the back of the bar.
I was lifting a lager shandy to my lips when I heard voices and the door burst open and three men came in, all laughing uproariously. Two were fishermen and the third, called Ritchie, was obviously a returned exile. It turned out he was back from the building sites in England and had been ‘trailing his coat’ around the village for days, drunk as a lord and looking for fights.
Apparently, he had got his belly-full the previous evening when he had insulted an army gunner in a neighbouring pub and been promptly “butchered on the spot” by the said gunner.
Looking at Ritchie now, I knew he has both truculent and dangerous and when, he offered us a drink we declined with “much thanks”. So now, he stood at the bar with his two henchmen, smoking, shouting at everyone at large and drinking rum and blackcurrant “to keep out the wet.” He looked a sorry sight. The cheap brown suit was stained and limp. The black eye was green at the edges. A large cut adorned his swollen mouth and his high cheek bone was grazed.
He was glaring at no one in particular when the door opened quietly to admit two very young nuns of the order of “The Little Sisters of the Poor” and they were “on the quest”, with small collecting boxes held before them.
They looked fearfully past Ritchie and approached the barman who gave them a shilling out of the till and tuppence out of his pocket. They passed by the two old men and came towards our table. We were delving into our pockets to oblige when Ritchie reeled over and looked malignantly down at the two young girls as we dropped some coins into their boxes.
“Over here, Pat,” he bawled, “these two ladies are going to have a drink on me, isn’t that so Sister?” he leered.
Pat came up to the bar counter obediently and the little nun said, “alright so, you can buy us a drink.”
They both put down their collecting boxes on our table and stepped up to the bar beside Ritchie, as he regained what composure he could. Grinning hugely at all and sundry, he threw a pound note on the bar counter and said quietly, “what’ll it be girls?”
The little nun replied without blinking, “two large Powers, please.” The barman blanched visibly and Ritchie crowed, “fill ’em up Pat, bejazus, I never saw a nun drunk yet.”
Pat placed the two large whiskies on the bar with a glass of water and set up Ritchie’s glass beside them. A hush fell on the room as we watched the little nun pick up her glass without adding water and her companion did likewise. They turned to face Ritchie as he absently raised his glass, his battered face wore a bewildered look.
“Good luck and God bless you,” said the nuns in unison.
“Aye, good luck,” said Ritchie, downing his by now badly needed rum and black. As he did so, the nun produced a bottle from the pocket of her robes, and her friend produced a small funnel and placed it in the neck of the bottle and, while we watched, the two glasses were emptied into the bottle, the cork replaced and the lot disappeared under the robes.
In the silence which followed the nuns picked up their little boxes, smiled angelically at everyone, said “God bless you all,” and left!
The Little Sisters of the Poor cared exclusively for old people in their many convents and hospitals throughout Ireland and accepted any kind of donation which would contribute to the comfort and well being of their patients.
©Geoff Cronin 2005
About Geoff Cronin
I was born at tea time at number 12 John Street, Waterford on September 23rd 1923. My father was Richard Cronin and my mother was Claire Spencer of John Street Waterford. They were married in St John’s Church in 1919.
Things are moving so fast in this day and age – and people are so absorbed, and necessarily so, with here and now – that things of the past tend to get buried deeper and deeper. Also, people’s memories seem to be shorter now and they cannot remember the little things – day to day pictures which make up the larger canvas of life.
It seems to me that soon there may be little or no detailed knowledge of what life was really like in the 1930s in a town – sorry, I should have said City, in accordance with its ancient charter – like Waterford. So I shall attempt to provide some of these little cameos as much for the fun of telling as for the benefit of posterity.
Thank you for visiting today and I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of Waterford in the 1930s and 1940s courtesy of Geoff Cronin. As always your feedback is very welcome. thanks Sally.