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/

Milestones along the Way – The Banks (of The Suir) by Geoff Cronin


The Banks (of The Suir)

In the 1930s, when I was a boy there were five banks in the City of Waterford. The Munster and Leinster, The Bank of Ireland, The Provincial, The National and The Penny Savings Bank. The population of the city at that time was approximately twenty five thousand.
The bank manager was regarded as a very important man in those days and in fact his employees, clerks and typists etc., were held to be a cut above the ordinary. The clerks were required to join the golf club and to be seen in all the best places – they were paid about thirty shillings a week!

Banking then was seen as reserved for wealthy people, shopkeepers, property owners, solicitors, big farmers and the like and people who could boast a cheque book or a bank account were thin on the ground. In general business was done in cash and wages were invariably paid in cash.

In the previous century, powerful families founded their own banks and produced notes for one pound, one guinea, two pounds, three pounds and fifty pounds and these were signed by family members or partners as guarantors. The prominent Waterford banks of the time were Newport’s Bank and Roberts Bank. Samples of their bank notes, now quite rare, are illustrated in this book and I learned that a Waterford Bank note for nine shillings was recently sold at auction in Canada for £800 sterling.

But back to the 1930s – at that time there was a bank in every town and village in the country, some of them in remote parts, and a story is told of one such bank in a small town. At this point I must tell you that the standard minimum staff in such an establishment would consist of a manager, a cashier and a porter. Bank Inspectors were employed by the head office to visit the branch offices without prior notice to check up on the operations of same. Needless to say the branch staff did not welcome such visits.

However, a visit from an inspector was scheduled by head office for this particular bank and he arrived at 11 o’clock on a Tuesday morning. The little town was not fully awake at that hour and there was nobody about as the inspector approached the bank. He checked the time as he walked purposefully through the entrance noting that the porter was not “on the door”.

There was nobody to be seen in the bank. No porter, no cashier and no manager! No customers either! The inspector was perplexed and as he pondered the situation, he heard faint voices coming from the manager’s private office. He went quietly towards and opened the office door a crack and saw the three boys engrossed in a game of poker. He retreated quietly and passing the cashier’s box he pressed the alarm button.

Well the bell went off with a deafening volume and the inspector stood in the middle of the foyer and waited for the inevitable panic to erupt. But nothing happened. No movement from the manager’s office. Nothing!

But while he stood there, perplexed and dumbfounded, the bar man from the pub across the road appeared carrying a tray with two bottles of stout and a large whisky, entered the bank and vanished through the door of the manager’s office. Almost immediately he re-appeared carrying the empty tray and as he passed the cashier’s box he reached in and switched off the alarm.

When he was dead level with the open mouthed inspector, he said “The manager wants to know what are ye havin’ ”?

One Pound note from Waterford Bank, 1880

Three Pound note from Roberts Bank, 1809

***

On his way home from school a boy, the extent of whose finances was one halfpenny, went into a cake shop and asked for “A halfpenny stale penny cake!”

My father recounted this story from his schooldays in the 1890s.

©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 and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

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

Milestones Along the Way – The Bed to Beat All and Rural Electrification – by Geoff Cronin

Status


To finish the series on books by Geoff Cronin I am going to share some of the stories from his last published book Milestones. I hope you enjoy.

The Bed to Beat All

Lady Lushington had died and there was an auction of the contents of her mansion, which was near Waterford City, and it attracted a large gathering of people including some members of the then wealthy pig buyers from Ballybricken.

Some days after the auction one of these men was telling his friends in the local pub about the magnificent furniture etc. which had gone under the hammer – “And there was a bed,” he said, “the biggest I ever saw and it must have been seven foot across.” There was a gasp from his audience.

In the moment’s silence that followed, the barman/ owner said “Sure that’s not a big bed! Did ye ever see the size of the bed upstairs where me and me brother slept for years?”

Heads shook and one guy said “Well, how big is it?” “Well I don’t know the exact measurements” he replied, “but I can tell you that when my brother died I didn’t find out about it for a week – that’s how big it is!”

*****

A man consulted his confessor in these terms:

“There is something I have prayed for over a long period and I don’t seem to get an answer. Can you advise me what to do?”

“Continue praying fervently, my son, and have faith in The Lord” said the priest. And the man did as he was bid.

On meeting the priest two years later he said, “You know, Father, I’ve prayed and prayed for that favour, and I never got an answer.”

“Well, said the priest, “did it ever strike you that “NO” is an answer?”

The Rural Electrification

In the 1940s the powers that be decided that the electric light should be brought to every hamlet and village in the country and to that end the E.S.B. sent an official to a certain village in West Waterford to canvas the locals as part of the grand plan. Accordingly that man visited each household in the single street and the people signed up “for the light”.

The canvasser noted that one line of poles would be sufficient for the job, provided that the person in the last house signed up. But, Katie, the occupant, well known to be cross-grained and cantankerous, had decided that she would not have it despite her conversations with the canvasser. He had explained that if she decided at a later date to change her mind it would then cost £50 to put up a pole especially for her. Still she could not bend!

So the light came to the village and people said what a blessing it was especially in the dark evenings when you could still do a bit of work outside even at a late hour.

Well things rested so and Katie stuck it out in spite of all the “digs” she suffered from neighbours on a Friday when she went to the Post Office for her pension. But after some months the peer pressure became too much, even for Katie and she quietly “signed up”.

The gossip spread as the single pole went up at the end of the street.

Katie didn’t appear at the Post Office for two weeks and when she did there was no shortage of comments like “so you got the lights in after all” and “sure it must be a great change and comfort to you Katie”.

Well, when the ‘well-wishing’ subsided, she addressed the gathering in these terms. “To tell you the truth it is indeed a great comfort to me for the E.S.B man put a thing on the wall in the kitchen called a switch and when I press it the light comes on and then I have no bother finding the candle”! “A great comfort indeed.”

***

Q. Who was Florence Nightingale?
A. A nurse who sang in Berkeley Square.

©GeoffCronin 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 and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

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

The Black Bitch and other Tales by Geoff Cronin – Street Musicians and Snippets


We have come to the final chapter of Geoff’s book of tales but next weekend I will begin to share his last book that he wrote.  Tomorrow, one of his favourite shaggy dog stories.

Street Musicians by Geoff Cronin

In the 1930s and early 40s in Waterford there were many street musicians to be seen and heard. They varied greatly in appearance and expertise and they appeared on different days of the week for reasons which never became clear to me.

One such character who comes to mind was a tin whistle player known as ‘Cock Up’ and his repertoire consisted of traditional Irish music. After playing a selection he would call on all the shops within earshot and collect whatever few coppers the occupants offered. In this way he covered the length of the main street and then went on to the areas where doors were closed rather than open.

Another well-known man was an ex-army band master whose pension was not sufficient to match his fondness for ‘the bottle’ and he played the piccolo with a flair which showed that he was not an ordinary ‘busker’.

This man was a practised entertainer and without a sheet of music to guide him, he presented a programme of classical, operatic and popular numbers, always finishing with a military band tune. ‘Colonel Bogey March’ was a favourite and featured a particular part for a piccolo.

There were many others, singers as well as musicians but the pair which really took my fancy were a real Vaudeville turn who became known as ‘The Beery Fiddlers’.

One of them played the violin and the other played the tenor banjo. I fondly remember their version of ‘Lily of Laguna’ which they always played and sang. I can see them now, strolling along the footpath in time to the strains of ‘She’s, my, lady-love’… These guys were great musicians and even played requests on occasion – my mother got the violin player to render a number called ‘Humouresque’, which had been popularised at that time by Fritz Kreisler, and he did it in expert fashion.

Those were the days when cars were few and streets echoed with human voices, the sound of a messenger-boy whistling a tune as he cycled by, an occasional hawker shouting his wares, the laughter of children playing and the sound of a dray cart as it went along delivering heavy merchandise to the shops and overall, completing the wonderful mosaic of sound, the street musicians.

* * *

A bachelor is a man who never made the same mistake once.

How to get the maximum heat from a bag of coal:-

Put it up on your back and run around the garden for ten minutes. By then you will be warm and you’ll still have the bag of coal intact.

A Short Answer

On meeting an old friend, recently, we were reminiscing about our young days when he mentioned the name of a very good looking girl who happened to be an old flame of mine.
I was curious to know if she had married and when I put the question, my friend said, “Well no, she never got married, but to give her her due I’d say she flattened a fair bit of grass in her time.”

I decided to change the subject.

©Geoff Cronin

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 and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

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

 

 

The Black Bitch and other Tales.. Technique and The Soliloquy and Snippets by Geoff Cronin


Technique

The Bank of Ireland, at College Green, Dublin is the head office of that establishment and it is a most impressive building, being originally designed to house the Irish Parliament. The massive iron railings at the front serve to set off the granite façade perfectly and complete the picture of grandeur and gravitas.

The man standing with his back to those railings, however, did nothing whatever to enhance the scene. He was middle aged, unshaven with a flat cap and stooped shoulders, over which he wore a shabby gabardine coat. His general appearance was just pitiful and he stood there, motionless, watching the people passing by and occasionally looking towards the bank entrance.

Quite suddenly he stepped out to intercept a man emerging from the bank carrying an umbrella.

“I beg your pardon sir,” he said, “I am sorry to trouble you, but could I borrow your umbrella just for a few minutes, please sir?”

“Whatever do you want my umbrella for,” came the reply.

“Well you see sir,” said the man, “I haven’t eaten since yesterday, I’m very hungry and there’s a crust of bread behind the railings and I can’t reach it but I could perhaps poke it out with the umbrella.”

As he spoke he pointed to a dirty piece of bread just out of reach behind the railings.

“Oh, my God,” came the response, “don’t eat that – here, take that and get yourself something decent to eat.”

The man took the coins saying, “may God increase your store sir,” and walked off.

But some minutes later he was back again at the railings again – just watching.

His technique was immaculate!

* * *

The Soliloquy

The bakery shop stayed open till 9 pm on Saturdays and at about ten-to-the-hour a tramp walked into the shop, just as the owner and his son were preparing to close the premises.

He addressed the owner directly saying, “Would there be any chance of some bread to feed the hungry – there’s three of us sir and we’re camped out the road a bit – we’d be grateful if you could spare us something.”

The owner said nothing but handed him a misshapen loaf. The tramp thanked him and took the loaf and held it in his upturned palm. He stared at it for a moment and then said.

“A loaf between three of us – little enough for two of us and God knows one of us would eat it!”

As he paused the owner handed him a second loaf, also misshapen, saying, “there take another one, you’ve earned it.”

The tramp tucked both loaves under his coat and as the owner shut the door behind him he was smiling hugely.

Snippets

A hotel porter reporting to his manager, said. “The electric kettle in the night porter’s station is broken; I think it needs a new elephant.

* * *

A woman reporting on a sick neighbour:-

“She’s gone into the hospital – I heard she had to have an ex-directory.”

* * *

A young entrepreneur, who was by way of being a high-flying business type, quite suddenly was declared bankrupt, unlike his father who was a successful and wealthy man.

When I asked my father what had caused the man’s downfall, he gave a short answer:-

“I’d say he thought he could fart like his Da!”

* * *

An application form for a vacancy in the Civil Service had the usual sections for name… address… And in the box marked ‘sex’, one applicant had entered ‘twice in Tralee’.

* * *

A boy who was late home from school was asked by his father why he was late. He replied. “The teacher was telling us all about Yates.”

His father was sceptical and said. “Well I think you wouldn’t know a yate if one came up and bit you.”

©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 and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

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

The Black Bitch and other Tales – The Cure and other smippets by Geoff Cronin


The Cure

Mikey was a well-known character in our town. He was also a sporadic drunk and had the reputation of being witty. In his bouts of sobriety he used to hire out to local farmers for a week or two and the proceeds would go towards his next binge.

He was doing a week’s work for a certain farmer and was ‘living in’ for the week. On the first day when he went in for ‘the dinner’, a rabbit stew was served up. This proved to be generally acceptable but next day it was roast rabbit and in fact it was rabbit every day for the whole week.

On the final day, however, Mikey complained of severe stomach cramps and seemed unable to work, going constantly to the lavatory.

The lady of the house expressed concern and asked if he needed the doctor, to which Mikey replied. “I think, ma’am, ’tis a ferret I’d need!”

Secrets of A Shop Assistant

While serving behind the counter in the family bakery shop one morning, I overheard the following conversation between two old ladies who lived in a laneway nearby:-

“Mornin’ Mrs. Barry.”

“Mornin’ Mrs. Whyte.”

“The weather is very changeable Mrs. Barry.”

“Indeed it is Mrs. Whyte, you wouldn’t know what to pawn!”

“Tell me Mrs. Barry, were you at the weddin’ up the street?”

“No I wasn’t axed but I heard all about it, and I can tell you it wasn’t up to much, in fact I’m told they had a bread puddin’ instead of a wedding cake!”

“Well now Mrs. Barry tell us was the bride far gone?”

“Not at all girl, she wasn’t even pregnant!”

“Well, well! There’s swank for you!”

Time and Motion Study

Jack and Joe were two bachelor brothers who lived in a house with a garage at the end of a long garden approached by a back lane.

The small greenhouse, also at the end of the garden, was Jack’s pride and joy, where he grew tomatoes, early lettuce and cucumbers. The rest of the garden was a lawn which always looked absolutely perfect.

The pair lived separate lives which were carefully dovetailed, especially when it came to lawn maintenance and the push type lawn mower stood permanently by the back door.

Jack was always first out every morning and he came out by the back door and walked down the garden, pushing the lawn mower till he came to the greenhouse where he parked the mower and entered his greenhouse. After inspecting his plants he walked out by the back lane to his place of work.

Joe would emerge from the house about half an hour after Jack, also using the back door and after walking to the garage, took his car out and drove off to work. Now when Joe returned and garaged the car he took the lawn mower with him on his way to the house and in that way two strips of lawn were cut each day.

The thing was that each brother only cut his strip in one direction – never the opposite way – but the net result was a perfect lawn.

* * *

A noted drinking man was heard to declare. “We must be near a hostelry – I detect a dark green sound like the smell of broken bottles!”

* * *

An elderly lady, living alone on her farm, was rarely seen outside after dark and when I enquired if it was always so, I got the reply, “indeed it is so, sure they say she goes to bed with the hens!” Meaning she retired when the fowl were locked in at sunset!

* * *

Descriptions

A well fed man:- He’s as fat as a butcher’s dog!
A satisfied Man. He has a smile on him like a butcher’s dog!
A thin man:- He’s as fat as a hen across the forehead!
A happy man:- He’s as happy as a lamb with two mothers!
A mean man:– He’s as tight as a nun’s knickers.
He’s as tight as a camel’s arse – Dust-proof!
A notorious gossip: Her tongue is hinged in the middle like the clapper of a bellows.
She has a tongue fit to cut a hedge!
Politicians: Trying to pin down a politician is like trying to catch eels in a barrel of lard!

©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 and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

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

The Black Bitch and other Tales – Clerical Errors by Geoff Cronin


Clerical Errors

An Irish priest, stationed in London, was charged with the job of looking out for Irish lads who were coming to England for work and ended up on building sites.

His priestly duty was to see that these lads were kept on the ‘straight and narrow’ and introduced into good Catholic environments. To this end the priest had cultivated a network of builder’s foremen, whom he visited regularly, and these men would tell him of any new recruits from the Emerald Isle.

On one such visit he learned that one Jack Murphy had started work that week and he asked the foreman if he could meet Murphy.

“Hold on for a minute Father and I’ll see where he is and I’ll get him for you,” said the foreman.

The priest followed him out onto the site and the foreman looked up.

“There he is father, on the platform on level four – the man wheeling the barrow.”

Murphy was there alright and the priest could see him plainly, a distinguishing feature of the man being the fact that the sole of his shoe was coming adrift and was flapping dangerously with every step that he took.

“Get him down here immediately,” said the priest.

The foreman duly obliged and within minutes Murphy was standing in front of the priest.

“What in God’s name do ye think yer at boy, marching around sixty feet up on a scaffold with half yer shoe hangin’ off – are you trying to kill yourself?”

“Well Father,” said the lad, “I know I need new boots but I don’t get paid till Friday and the old ones will have to do till then.”

“That’s not good enough at all,” said the priest, taking a roll of notes out of his pocket, so big that the roll was contained by a big rubber band.

The priest carefully removed the rubber band and handing it to Murphy said, “here boy, put that around your foot and it might hold ye till Friday!”

* * *

Years ago in a certain village it was mooted that a factory was going to be put up and when I asked a local what might be produced there he answered ‘camel hair cheese’.

* * *

An Irish priest was stopped in the street in Cricklewood, London, by a young man who shook him warmly by the hand.

“How are ye Father Clancy, you wouldn’t know me but I’m one of the Murphys of Ballybeg,” said the man.

“Of course I know you,” said the priest, struggling to remember.

“Just refresh my memory now, was it you or your brother that was killed off the tractor?”

* * *

During the time when priests drove around the parish in a pony trap, a boy who was late for school was running past the local shop. The priest had just pulled up his pony and trap outside the shop and he grabbed the boy saying, “here boy, hold the pony while I go in here for a paper.”

“I can’t father, I’m late for school and the master will kill me.”

But, the priest merely tightened his grip and said loudly, “if ye don’t do as I say I’ll stick ye to the ground.”

“Well,” said the boy, “why don’t you stick the pony to the ground.”

“Man, Take up your Cross and Follow Me.”

Once upon a time there was a man who was carrying his cross through life and the weight of the cross was biting into his shoulder cruelly. His back was badly chafed and his arms ached as he trudged along his way and his knees were bruised and swollen, for he had fallen more than once.

In the distance he heard faintly the sound of a carpenter at work – mallet hitting chisel, short sawing strokes – and then he noticed a large shed from which these sounds were coming. As he drew nearer he saw the large door was open and he decided to go in and

rest awhile, if the carpenter didn’t object.
As he entered the shed he saw that the walls were lined with stacks of crosses, hundreds of them. So, he leaned his cross against one of the stacks and as he did so he saw that the carpenter was none other than Jesus, who was busy making crosses for people to carry through life.

“Come in and rest yourself son,” said Jesus, “you must be weary from your journey.”

“Indeed I am,” said the man, “weary and sore all over for that cross I’m carrying doesn’t suit me at all. Will you look at the state of my back and my shoulders, let alone my poor knees where I fell. It’s not that I want to complain, you know, but I thought you might have chosen a cross for me that would be a better fit, so to speak.”

Jesus smiled. “There are hundreds of crosses here, my son, and you’re welcome to try them all and select the one that suits you best.”

Well, the man thanked him profusely and went off about the shed trying each cross carefully and hefting it on his back and shoulders and finally he came back to Jesus.

“I’m very grateful to you for giving me such a choice and I’ve found a cross which fits me perfectly and I will be able to carry it for the rest of my journey.”

With that he picked up the cross and headed for the door, a happy man.

“By the way,” Jesus called after him, “That’s the one you came in with!”

* * *

Question from a small boy to a man with a sour face:
“How much would you charge to haunt a house?”;

©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 and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

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

The Black Bitch and other Tales – The Last Public Execution by Geoff Cronin


The Last Public Execution by Geoff Cronin

My father told me that my grandmother’s people owned a pub in Ballybricken, from which there was a clear view of the old gaol. At this time in the late 1800s the custom was that criminals would be hanged publicly and Waterford gaol was the scene of many such hangings and so the pub did good business on those occasions.

The Waterford gaol is long gone, replaced by municipal buildings now. But in its day it had a very imposing cut limestone front which housed a massive arched door about twenty feet high, above which there was a superstructure rising to perhaps fifty feet which framed an arch with an opening some eight feet high.

When a hanging was to take place a platform and a gibbet emerged from this archway and the unfortunate criminal would be dropped through a trapdoor in the platform in clear view of the assembled gathering. This of course was a horrific sight and was meant to be a lesson to all would be wrongdoers.

The last hanging at this site was witnessed, I am told by my grandmother and her story as passed onto my father is as follows:

The man to be hanged was convicted of killing a relative and the family was well known in the area but as the date of the execution drew near the official hangman refused to do the job and the authorities were forced to hire an out of town hangman. This man, however, was killed, being hit by a brick on the back of the head while walking up a dark alley in the city and the hanging had to be postponed pending the appointment of a substitute.

For some unknown reason another professional could not be found and the job was on offer to anyone who would take it. In the event a man was given the job as a once off and he agreed provided he wore a hood and thereby remained anonymous, but he was not a professional.

Now I should tell you that the rope at the gibbet was secured to a drum, which had a stop mechanism, allowing a selected length of rope to run off when the weight of the man came on it.

On the day however, this inexpert hangman, neglected to check the stop mechanism, which was ‘off’ and when he shot the bolt opening the trapdoor, the rope paid out without stopping and the unfortunate man fell down into the street. At this point the hangman, not to be outdone, operated the drum manually and winched his victim back up through the trapdoor and declared him dead.

A sequel to this story occurred, when my father was a boy and happened to be in my grandfather’s shop one day when a rough looking old man came in for some bread. One of the shop hands, whose name was Neddy Eustace, had some words with this man and a fierce altercation erupted between the two. It ended abruptly when Neddy shouted. “Who shot the bolt?” and then ran down John Street with the man in hot pursuit. Neddy however, being the younger, soon lost him by running up Crossbottle Lane and down the back lane

Later on Neddy told my father that the old man was the one who did the last public execution in Waterford. The secret was not as well kept as it might have been.

©GeoffCronin 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 and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory:

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

The Colour of Life serialisation – The Rosary 1955 by Geoff Cronin


The Rosary 1955

On February 16th 1949 I married Joan Flanagan in St. John’s Church, Waterford at eight o’clock in the morning. The priest who officiated was Rev. John Flynn, my wife’s first cousin, the best man was Jack Flanagan and the bridesmaid was Irene Murray, both first cousins of my wife.

I was employed by Irish National Insurance Company Ltd. As a clerk, and my pay was four pounds twelve shillings and seven pence weekly. My wife earned three pounds a week working as a book-keeper in Jack Flanagan’s Fish and Poultry business, and our rent on 30 St. Ursula’s Terrace was nine shillings and sixpence per week.

Pregnancy dictated that my wife quit her job in June of that year, and it soon became obvious that my income would not support us, so I went “moonlighting” as a free-lance pianist for local dance bands. The rates were one pound for an 8–12 dance, and one pound ten shillings – maybe two pounds – for a 9–3.

In time, we moved house to 46 Lr. Newtown, and by 1955 I had my own dance band, still moonlighting, the job was slightly better, and I had four children, but that’s another story.

At the outset of our marriage, my wife being a religious woman, it was decided that we should say the family Rosary every day. So, each evening after dinner, the family would kneel down, elbows on chairs, and recite the five decades of the Rosary plus “the trimmings”. The latter consisted of prayers for deceased family members, for the souls in Purgatory, for the canonisation of Blessed Martin etc. etc. and took half as long as the Rosary.

But, what with travelling all day and moonlighting until four or five in the morning, the Rosary had a hypnotic effect on me and I would “nod off” after the first decade. I just could not stay awake and only responded with “Holy Mary, Mother of God etc.” whenever my wife gave me an elbow in the ribs, which was frequently! She was a pragmatic woman, God rest her, and it was agreed that however short my night’s rest would be, I would not be disturbed before 8 a.m., and if any of the children woke during the night, she would get up and attend to them.

I came home one morning about 4.30 a.m. after playing at a dance, fell into bed exhausted, and fell fast asleep immediately. I was not to know that one of the children who was teething had got my wife out of bed five or six times, and she was exhausted too, and her temper not the best. When the child woke again and cried fit to wake the house, she prepared to get up yet again when she beheld me fast asleep and snoring gently.

It was the last straw! She decided that I should be the one to get up and see to the child now crying loudly. To that end, she gave me a smart elbow in the ribs and got the instant response “Holy Mary Mother of God” etc. Well, worn out as she was, that good lady just had to laugh as she resignedly got up and soothed the child, and she told this story many times against me over the years that followed.

©GeoffCronin 2005

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 previous chapters of The Colour of Life in this directory:

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

The Colour of Life – Work on a Timber Gang – 1942 by Geoff Cronin

Status


Work on a Timber Gang – 1942

In September 1942 I had just left school and had decided I was going into the National Forestry Service. I made an application and found that I would not be admitted to the forestry college at Avondale, Co. Wicklow, unless (a) I was a farmer’s son, or (b) I had experience in forestry. I could not meet either of these criteria, and so I decided to join a timber gang and gain the necessary experience.

The war was at its height and at the time timber was at a premium both for firewood and for commercial purposes. Consequently there was a lot of activity on farms and estates, which had saleable timber and so there were many timber gangs active in my area.

There was a big old estate originally owned by Lord Bessborough – one of the Ponsonby family, which had been bought by the Oblate Fathers. The mansion had been converted into a Seminary, and they were selling off the timber to recoup their original outlay.

The Timber gang – Mikey, Jack, Dan and Petey

Carman Petey Welsh and helper at Bessborough Estate Winter 1942.

The estate was in the village of Piltown, Co. Kilkenny, twelve miles from Waterford where I lived, and two and half miles from Carrick on Suir. This village had a Creamery, a hardware shop, a pub, a grocery shop, an undertaker, and a population of about forty or fifty people.

There were two gangs of timber men working the estate, one gang was felling the hardwood, mainly huge oak trees which dotted the parkland, and which were going for firewood to fuel the steam boiler at the Creamery, and the other one was felling the softwood, Spruce and Scotch Fir, which went to a sawmill in Waterford. The man who ran the softwood gang was a friend of my family and he agreed to let me join his team for the experience.

So it was when my mother and I went to Piltown one Saturday seeking a place for me to stay five days a week. We found a vacancy with a Kerry woman, Essie Brosnan by name. The digs would cost four shillings per day, sharing a room with an assistant from the local shop, and I could get a bus to go home at the week-end. All was agreed and the following Monday morning I reported for work, carrying my own axe, with a certain amount of self-assurance. I had been working on a farm in Woodstown during the summer, and I felt very fit and tough enough for anything the timber scene could throw at me.

The gang consisted four men, Mikey, the foreman, Danny, his right hand man, and two car-men, Peter and Jack, whose job it was to pull out the timber after it was felled, and cut it into lengths of twelve, fourteen and sixteen feet, and cart it a mile and a half to the railhead at Fiddown. They were paid by the ton. I remember particularly the wonderful smell of resin from freshly cut Spruce, mixed with the smell of leaves on the ground and the faint smell of the camp fire where the men were having their lunch break. It was midday when I cycled into the camp on that first day and was welcomed by Mikey the foreman.

Yours truly On the Timber Gang

“Will ye have the tay?” he asked. I declined, having had a snack in the digs when I checked in there earlier.

This was a Specimen Scots Fir Tree – 78 feet to the first fork – Which Mikey Wall (on Right) and I felled at the Grand Gates of the Bessborough Estate in Piltown, Co. Kilkenny in 1942.

“Show me the little hatchet you have,” he said smiling indulgently. I did so and he examined it “That’s not a bad edge ye have,” he said. The others examined it and there seemed to be a general air of amusement. I had no idea why this was, but it got my hackles up slightly.
“Here” said Mikey, now engrossed in filling his pipe, “While I’m having a smoke, maybe you’d take the front out of that tree there,” indicating a black Spruce, about three feet in diameter.

I took off my jacket, spat on my hands and squared up to my task, determined to show these guys a thing or two. My first two strokes took out a piece of wood about two inches wide, and half an inch deep, and the shock to my arms and wrists was unbelievable. A quiet snigger from Danny and the Car men reached my ears as I went in again with no better results.

Mikey let me go on for ten minutes, by which time the Car men had left to get their horses, and then he said “Here boy, take a rest for yourself and let me give you a hand.” I did so, and watched this little man – he was five foot four inches and in his late fifties – as he picked up an axe with a seven pound head, and addressed the job – my “axe” had a three and a half pound head.

Well, as he hacked into that tree, chips four and five inches wide, and two inches deep began to fly and in ten minutes flat, it was ready for the saw.

“Come on now,” he said, “get on the other end of the saw” – it was a five and a half foot cross-cut saw, and I knew how to use it so I knelt down and Mikey passed one end of the saw to me and we began to cut until we were about a third of the way into the tree.

“Now boy, get a hammer and two wedges out of the bag there, and knock the wedges into the cut to keep the weight off the saw.”

I picked up the seven-pound sledge hammer, and did the needful. We continued sawing and when we got two inches or so from the breast cut, I uncoupled my handle and he withdrew the saw from the far side.

Carman Petey Welsh

“Now” he said, “stay close to the butt and watch the top of the tree.” He took the hammer and drove the wedges in until the tree went out of the perpendicular, and down she came with a crunching thump. I sat down on the stump, and Mikey filled his pipe, and when I tried to get up, I found I was stuck! Mikey laughed – the resin had flowed up in the stump, and I had to yank myself free.

“That’ll only season the trousers for ye,” he said.

In that first day, Mikey and I felled four big spruces, and I honestly thought the day would never end. When Mikey said, “We’ll knock off now,” the relief was immense.

“We’ll hide the gear here ’til morning,” he said. “Bring up the bag with the other two wedges.”

Left to right – Jack Roche and Petey Walsh (Carmen), Larry Cantwell and Claus Cantwell , Mikey Wall (Foreman), Danny Sullivan, G. Cronin, Dick Cronin..

I went to oblige but when I caught the neck of the sack, though the wedges in it weighed no more than three pounds, I just couldn’t lift it off the ground. I was completely exhausted, and just about managed to walk the short distance to the spot where we had left our bikes.
Then I discovered that Mikey would cycle seventeen miles to where he lived near Clonmel and he would cycle the same distance back to work the next day! This little man was made of IRON!!

When I got back to the digs, I just ate my dinner and fell into bed and slept around the clock. The process of waking and getting up is something I shall never forget. Every muscle in my whole body was screaming in agony, and it took me quite a while to loosen up. Fortunately, I was left with Danny that day, trimming the trees we had cut the day before, and cutting them into lengths for the car men. This was a different exercise, equally strenuous but at least I was not on my knees punishing every muscle in my back.

Mikey had been off through the woods checking trees marked for felling, and deciding how they might be got to the nearest road or track for transport. After the lunch break he said, “Come on now young man. We’ll go to the shop and get you a proper hatchet” – he never called it an axe – “That thing you have is only fit for making kindlin’.” At the hardware shop I watched while he went through the rack of axes, and finally he handed me one. It was a “Black Prince” with a hickory handle and a five and a half pound head. “This should do ye nicely,” he said, and as we took it to the counter I saw that the assistant was my room-mate at the digs. “That will be thirteen shillings,” he said, and I paid up.

On our return to the camp Mikey showed me how to sharpen the axe with a file. Then he demonstrated how exactly to use it, left handed and right handed, how to cut the boots – big roots – off a tree prior to putting the saw to it, how to under-cut when starting the breast cut etc. In fact, the things expected of an efficient timber man. Then he left me on my own to practice as I trimmed the trees already felled and he departed with Danny to fell some more.

On the days that followed, I got to know the car men, and I marveled at their expertise in getting two and three-ton logs past all kinds of obstructions on the tracks where a cart could be used. I learned how to use levers, skids, stobs, squeezers, wire ropes, chains, combinations of block and tackle, shear legs and Weston Block for lifting logs onto a cart and tricks and dodges too numerous to mention. Nothing was impossible to these guys and no stick – their term for a sixteen foot log – was too big or awkward to be got onto a cart. Their horses too were expert in their own way and they knew the routine for each kind of procedure.

The whole experience amounted to what today would be termed a steep learning curve, and it stood me in good stead for the rest of my life. The work was physically very demanding in dry weather and even more so when movement was hampered with wet clothing, but very rewarding.The lunch time breaks were great fun and very educational in more ways than one, and as time went on and my body became attuned to the work, I could sail through the day, go shooting duck after dinner, and later on, cycle into Carrick-on-Suir to the Forester’s Hall and dance the night away to the strains of a band who knew only three tunes!

I stayed with that gang until the end of January, when I was being paid twenty-six shillings a week, and the friendships I made at that time lasted for many years. In the event, I never joined the Forestry Division, and instead went into my father’s Bakery business, as he needed my help at the time. However, the knowledge and experience gained came in very useful later in my life. But that’s another story.

Lunch break with my brother Dick
***

On the timber gang when we’d be packing up in the evening, we could see flocks of crows (Rooks) making their way to the roosting place called ‘The Mountain Grove’ ten or twelve miles away. Mikey recalled a night when the weather was so bad that the crows had to walk to the mountain grove.

©Geoff Cronin 2005

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 previous chapters of The Colour of Life in this directory:

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