Smorgasbord Short Stories – Milestones Along the Way – #Waterford – 1940s – The Hundred Plants by Geoff Cronin


Following on from The Colour of Life, my father-in-law Geoff Cronin wrote two more books with stories of life in Waterford and Dublin from the 1930s. He collected the stories on his travels, swapping them with others in return for his own and then treating us to the results of the exchange. Geoff also added some jokes overheard just for the Craic…Over the next few weeks I will be sharing selected stories from Milestones Along the Way.

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.

Just for the Craic

A good reason to be late.

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 2008

Geoff Cronin 1923 – 2017

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.

I hope you have enjoyed Geoff’s stories and as always your feedback would be most welcome – Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Milestones Along the Way – #Ireland #Waterford – How I met Joan by Geoff Cronin


Following on from The Colour of Life, my father-in-law Geoff Cronin wrote two more books with stories of life in Waterford and Dublin from the 1930s. He collected the stories on his travels, swapping them with others in return for his own and then treating us to the results of the exchange. Geoff also added some jokes overheard just for the Craic…Today the last story from Milestones Along the Way.

This week how Geoff met David’s mother Joan … a wonderful mother-in-law with an infectious laugh and much kindness.

How I Met Joan

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 was 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

Joan Cronin, 1959

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.

***

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 2008

Geoff Cronin 1923 – 2017

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.

I hope you have enjoyed Geoff’s stories and as always your feedback would be most welcome – Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Update – August 15th – 21st 2022 – Chart hits 2001, #Pavarotti, #Food, #Waterford 1940s, Podcast, Weight Loss, Stories, Reviews, Health and Humour


Welcome to the round up of posts you might have missed this week on Smorgasbord.

I hope the week going well so far for you. Nothing much to report on the home front as we continue to do our tidy up to sell.. it is the small fiddly jobs that seem to take the longest.

I continue with the online shopping for both location and properties that tick the boxes for what we hope is our last move. Whilst we are still hale and hearty, there may come a time in years ahead when we cannot drive and whilst we love being in a more rural environment, if there is no public transport close to hand it makes life a little more difficult. Also we are 40 minutes away from the nearest emergency department. Touch wood that has not been an issue and we do have a very good out of hours clinic. But I do think there would be some comfort in knowing you are not too far from emergency help should you need it.

Of course as the media is keen to point out in the UK, the wait for an ambulance in some areas is the issue not the distance. Being close to an ER certainly offers some options in many circumstances with taxis being one of them.

If you have to give up your car it is also good to have a decent size supermarket close by and again you can get taxis and to be honest with the cost of insurance, petrol, servicing and other car expenses you can get an awful lot of taxis in a year for a lot less.

Anyway, I have expanded our search to along the south coast of Ireland but we are not dismissing a return to the UK.

Stay tuned lol for the adventures to come.

As always my thanks to my friends who take time to share their expertise with us….

This week William Price King joined me for The Breakfast Show and shared the first in the classical music genre with the life and music of the great Pavarotti. William is returning from his summer break at the end of August and we are going to be busy preparing next year’s Breakfast Shows which will cover the Big Band Era. Music I grew up with and looking forward to sharing some more great music with you.

You can also find William Blog– IMPROVISATIONWilliam Price King on Tumblr

Debby Gies will be here on Monday the next post exploring our spiritual well being.. How Empaths Can Shield Negative Energies. Over on her blog you will find her posts including her Sunday Book Review – Journey of Souls by Dr. Michael Newton and a promotion for fellow author M.J. Mallon and her new delightful collection. Head over to D.G. Kaye

Carol Taylor  was here on Wednesday with an exploration of foods and culinary terms in her terrific series A-Z of foods with the letter E. On Carol’s own blog you will find Monday Musings a recipe for Pulled chicken and Coleslaw Rolls, an exploration of the wonderful potato...And her Saturday Snippets which is all about the word ‘Circus’. You can find the links in her CarolCooks2 Weekly Round Up.

Thanks too for all your visits, comments and shares this week… they mean a great deal..♥

The Breakfast Show with William Price King and Sally Cronin – Chart Hits 2001 Part Two – Train, Usher, Geri Hellewell, Depeche Mode

William Price King meets the Music Legends – #Classical – Luciano Pavarotti – The Early Years

Carol Taylor’s – Culinary A – Z Rewind – ‘E’ for Egg Plant, Escargot, Elephant Ears and many more Eezee recipes and foods

The Fair, Ballybricken – before the tractor! From a photo by A. H. Poole, Waterford

A fishing story – Cattle Dealing and The Ferguson Tractor 1948 by Geoff Cronin

#Waterford #Ireland #History – The Colour of Life – The Dance Scene 1950 by Geoff Cronin

Size Matters: The Sequel – #Morbid Obesity – #CandidaAlbicans – Starving the fungus and feeding the body by Sally Cronin

What’s In a Name? Brian the Birthright

#Cancer – The Winding Road: A Journey of Survival by Miriam Hurdle

#Comingofage #Fantasy – Knuckleheads: Dreamer’s Alliance Book 1, by Dan Antion

#Crime #Thriller #Preorder – Haloed: Grafton County Series, #5 by Sue Coletta

Guest Round Up – Final Part – Richard Dee, John W. Howell, Staci Troilo, Annette Rochelle Aben, Hugh Roberts, M. J. Mallon, Judith Barrow

Posts from Your Archives 2022 – ‘Potluck’ – #Endofyear #Letter by Jennie Fitzkee

#Scammers #SocialMedia by D.G. Kaye

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! – Guest Round Up – Part Three – Jacquie Biggar, Harmony Kent, Jan Sikes, Gwen M. Plano, Darlene Foster, William Price King, Toni Pike, The Story Reading Ape, Jennie Fitzkee

#Children’s #Jungle Joyce Murphy, #Mystery Elizabeth Merry

#Crimethriller Carol Balawyder, #Thriller #Haiti Mark Bierman

#Romance Ritu Bhathal, #Mystery Lisette Brodey

Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Dolly Parton and Chain Letter

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Milestones Along the Way – #Ireland #Waterford – The American Connection by Geoff Cronin


Following on from The Colour of Life, my father-in-law Geoff Cronin wrote two more books with stories of life in Waterford and Dublin from the 1930s. He collected the stories on his travels, swapping them with others in return for his own and then treating us to the results of the exchange. Geoff also added some jokes overheard just for the Craic…Over the next few weeks I will be sharing selected stories from  Milestones Along the Way.

The American Connection

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.

Their programme was to go to Glasgow to meet her family, which they did and then did 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”!

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

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.

 

©Geoff Cronin 2008

Geoff Cronin 1923 – 2017

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.

I hope you have enjoyed this weeks stories from Geoff and I hope you will pop in next Saturday for another episode. Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Milestones Along the Way – #Waterford – 1940s – The Hundred Plants by Geoff Cronin


Following on from The Colour of Life, my father-in-law Geoff Cronin wrote two more books with stories of life in Waterford and Dublin from the 1930s. He collected the stories on his travels, swapping them with others in return for his own and then treating us to the results of the exchange. Geoff also added some jokes overheard just for the Craic…Over the next few weeks I will be sharing selected stories from  Milestones Along the Way.

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.

Just for the Craic

A good reason to be late.

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 2008

Geoff Cronin 1923 – 2017

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.

I hope you have enjoyed this weeks stories from Geoff and I hope you will pop in again next Saturday. Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives -#Memoir #Waterford #Ireland #History – The Colour of Life – The Dance Scene 1950 by Geoff Cronin


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.

This week Geoff talks about the most popular entertainment anywhere in Ireland.. the dances and he with various of his band members played for the best part of 18 years from 1948 to 1962.. including in the packed dance hall where we now live in Courtown, Wexford.

The Dance Scene – 1950

In the 1940s, in Waterford, dancing was popular with young and middle-aged alike and was where boy met girl.

There were several dance halls, the principal one being the Olympia Ballroom, which had originally been a roller skating rink. Situated in Parnell Street it had a maple floor and could hold about twelve hundred dancers.

Next was the Large Room at the Town Hall, on The Mall. This was upstairs in the Municipal building which also held the Theatre Royal, one of the oldest purpose-built theatres in Ireland, dating back to the mid eighteenth century. The “Large Room,” as it was popularly known, had a pine floor which was regarded as the best in Waterford for dancing. It was said that you could dance all night on that floor and not feel tired – and having danced many a night there I would have to agree. Last but not least was the Red Cross Ballroom, over Burtons, in Michael Street.

These three places were the venues for the main social occasions such as the Hunt Ball, The Beagle Ball, The Military Ball, The Red Cross Ball, etc. Incidentally, functions like the Hunt Ball were known as Dress Dances, which meant white tie & tails (or dinner jacket) for the men and Ball Gowns for the ladies, and ran from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. with supper included.

Admission would be ten shillings to twenty one shillings for the most prestigious and there would be a bar.

There were also four lesser venues: the LSF Hall (local Security Force), in William Street – now Keighrey’s Furniture Store – which emerged during the war; The Regal, in Thomas Street; The “Tubs of Blood” at the junction of the Glen and Thomas street, and the NUR Hall (National Union of Railwaymen) over Hill’s Salt Store in O’Connell’s Street. Incidentally, The “Tubs” was where the soldiers went and fights were not infrequent there, hence the name!

My first venture into the band business was in 1943, when I formed a four piece outfit – two accordions, drums and myself on piano – and I rented the “Regal” from the then owner, a man called Mullins, who had a dance licence for the hall. The rent for the hall was thirty shillings for the month and I charged one shilling and sixpence per head for admission. I also had to hire a piano, plus a cashier for the door. My career in that location was short and sweet. The opening night was packed, the second night was half full and things got progressively worse and eventually it faded out and I had to close down.

My enthusiasm had overtaken my judgement. Had I done my sums properly I’d have realised that dances, though popular, would only succeed if (a) Sponsored by a club and (b) if held on either Friday or Saturday. No dance hall could hope to run seven nights a week – and with the same band. Anyway, it was a relatively cheap lesson and I put it down to experience.

For the record the two accordionists were “Togo” Quigley and Jimmy (Fitzy) Fitzgerald and the drummer was Pierre (The Gunner) White.

***
At this time the people who “fronted” dance bands in Waterford were;

Mick O’Shea, Busty Griffin, Billy Tuohy, Hugh Dunphy, Frank King, “Pop” Walsh, Big Tom O’Brien, Billy Fahy, Geoff Cronin, Dick Cronin, Paddy Rafferty and Sadie Byrne.

The Musicians working in those years were:

Saxaphone:  Big Tom, Paddy Rafferty, Ken McKinnon, Johnny Bourke, Eddie Carroll, Jimmy Power, Tommy McGrath, Dick Cooper, Billy Fahy (Clarinet), Harry Martin.

Trumpet: Johnny O’Connell, Monty Clooney, Johnny Whelan, Charlie McGrath, Frankie King.

Drums: Davy O’Brien, Pierre White, Billy Hayes, Eamon Phelan, Michael Cahill, Sean Mulcahy, Algy Fitzgerald, Eric Bremner.

Guitar: Des Manahan, Val Doonican, Bruce Clarke

Double Bass: Dick Dunphy, Paddy Kavanagh, Ernie Mosyer, Geoff Cronin.

Accordion: Drohan Brothers, Sadie Byrne, Mick O’Shea, Geoff Cronin, Dick Cronin, Billy Twohy, Busty Griffin, Jackie Chester, Jimmy Fitzgerald.

Piano: Gerry Dunne, Bruce Clarke, Geoff Cronin, Joe Manahan, Ned Roche, Martin Sullivan, Claus Cantwell, Paschal Kennedy, Maudie Tuohy.

Trombone: Derek Hyder

Vocals: Ena Galvin, Johnny Hodgers,

Apart from the above there may have been others which have escaped my memory. Also, I have not included the members of the Royal Showband who were just emerging as I was exiting the scene in 1962. By that time I had been in and out of the music business for the previous eighteen years or so and my experiences over the period would fill a book – a large one! I can, however, give you a “brief” outline of what went on.

***

Summer season in the New Ballroom in Courtown Harbour. Left to Right – Jimmy Power (Alto Sax) Mikey Denn (Drums), Jimmy Fitzgerald (accordion), G. Cronin (Piano).

To begin with I played piano with “The Hep Cats”, a six-piece formed by my brother Dick. When he went into partnership with Paddy Rafferty and the band became Paddy Rafferty’s, I continued on Piano and eventually got fired because I could only read guitar symbols.

A short time afterwards I went back to that outfit on Double Bass and did a year with them.

Meantime, Dick and I, plus drummer, did a lot of gigs in hotels as a three-piece, with me on piano.

Then Dick went to Dublin and played with Phil Murtagh the resident band in the Metropole Ballroom. He later went on to become a chemist and emigrated to Canada. At almost the same time I went to work in Dublin and did a year’s apprenticeship in Confectionary at the Swiss Chalet in Merion Row – without pay! On my return to Waterford I picked up a job with a “scrap” four-piece outfit and played for the summer season in the Tara Ballroom – May to September – in Courtown Harbour, Co. Wexford.

While living in Dublin I also pursued an interest in Ballroom Dancing which had begun when I took lessons from Irene Murray in Waterford – she had a school of dancing at the top end of Colbeck Street. In Dublin I went to the Graham School of Dancing where I took my Bronze Medal and Silver Medal. It was there also that I took my first course of study to become a teacher of Ballroom Dancing.

For various reasons I became disenchanted with the Graham tuition and I moved on to the Evelyn Burchill School where I finished my studies and passed the exam for Associateship of the National Association of Teachers of Dancing, which I got with a commendation – ANATD Comm – and also got the associateship of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing – AISTD. These qualifications enabled me to teach, which I had in fact been doing while a student in both the schools.

All this was hard going and meant that in addition to my day job (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) I was dancing every night of the week as well. It took all my spare time.

On my return to Waterford, however, all sorts of other things happened to interrupt my music “career”. First I tackled the bakery business, which my father had, and set about converting a bread trade into a confectionary business. This involved stripping down the existing bakehouse, selling off all the machinery, building a new bakehouse on a site behind the shop, building a new double-deck oven and getting new equipment installed. But just as I was preparing to launch the new venture the bank foreclosed and my father was forced to sell No. 12 John Street – it went for just £3,000!

Having received my share of the proceeds, around £400, I went into partnership with my younger brother David and we set up a mobile cinema outfit – which is the subject of a separate story.

When I returned to the Band game, a year and a half later, it was to form a three-piece – Piano, Alto Sax and Drums – and I played the first dance at The Haven Hotel, Dunmore East. This outfit grew to a four-piece and at a later stage became the resident band at the Haven when Dinner Dances became the rage and spread to the Grand Hotel Tramore, and the Majestic Hotel Tramore.

In tandem with this I ran a seven-piece band and got regular bookings at the Olympia Waterford and also the Collins Hall Clonmel, The Mayfair Kilkenny, The Town Hall Dungarvan and all points in between. On occasion I strengthened the outfit to nine pieces – Vocalist, Piano, Bass, Drums, two Alto Saxes, one Tenor Sax, and two Trumpets.

The dance scene in Ireland at this time was really swinging, to the point that it was rumoured that Bands from England would soon be coming to cash-in on the Irish market. This idea, when I thought about it, seemed quite possible and took root in my head. While I was still thinking about it I had a visit from the then Chairman of the Irish Federation of Musicians, Paddy Malone, and the General Secretary, Paddy Donaghue, who confirmed that certain promoters in Dublin had already booked the top English Bands to tour Ireland.

The Geoffrey Cronin Trio is the up-to-date combination which plays strict tempo dance music at such well-known hotels as the Grand, Tramore, and the Haven, Dunmore. (Times Pictorial, Week ending July 8th, 1950.)

On the spot we formed the Waterford branch of the Irish Federation of Musicians, and I enrolled all the members of my bands – I being the Secretary of the new branch of the “Fed”, as this powerful Trade Union was known. The Fed was going to insist that a Fed band would have to be engaged as support to any imported band appearing in Ireland.

Well, nothing happened for some months and although I tried to get other bands interested I did not succeed because people thought it wouldn’t happen, and if it did the Union would be unable to enforce the arrangement.

Meanwhile, a Sax player, whom I knew, had come back from England and settled in Waterford. He was Big Tommy O’Brien and he promptly formed his own band and got some bookings. I didn’t mind much until he began poaching some of my musicians and this I did mind because I had the best of them.

We were “daggers drawn” for a time and a regular vendetta ensued. This got neither of us anywhere and when I realised this I went to see him and we came to an “arrangement”. He would “join” my band and I would “join” his! – only it would be the same band! The difference would be that if he got the booking he would stand up and lead the “Big Tom Band” and I would sit down and If I got the booking I would lead the “Geoff Cronin Band” and he would sit down.

In this way, I gained a top class Alto player and he had the best pianist on the local scene.

The public never spotted this move and both of us did well, as we split the leader’s fee.
When the big English bands finally arrived we got ALL the support work, as the “Fed” had won their battle and we were the only “Fed” band in the area. We played support to such famous names as Jack Parnell, Harry Roy, Sid Phillips and many others.

Self on accordion at the Haven Hotel late 1950. NB. The piano needed tuning

On one memorable occasion we had a great laugh when Geraldo came to town with his 26-piece orchestra. He appeared at the Olympic Ballroom and the admission was five shillings. The attendance was about 1,200 people and during the dance my “fans” put up posters all around the hall advertising the Dunmore East Sailing Club Dress Dance, Music by the Geoff Cronin Trio – Admission 21 shillings!

To add insult to injury, at the end of the dance when Geraldo stood majestically on the band-stand, cigar in hand, preparing to sign autographs and I was at the other end of the stand merely collecting my gear, a crowd of my fans gathered in front of me screaming for my autograph and waving programmes in my face! It was a total send-up and Geraldo looked shocked and amazed. What a laugh we had.

As time went on I progressed in my day job and pressure of work, among other factors, led me to wind up the seven-piece. I continued, however, with the four-piece, doing just the Haven and the other hotels plus small club dances at the weekend. I also formed a different quartet to perform at the local Jazz Club concerts in the Municipal Theatre. In my “Spare time” I also set up a Barbershop Quartet just for fun. I called it “The Time Travellers” and it was quite successful. The members of the quartet were Eamon Phelan, Donal Gough, Des Manahan and myself.

The last performance of my band was in 1962 and though it had all been tough going I enjoyed every minute of it.

Early 1950s Trio at Haven Hotel. Left to right – Eddie Carroll (alto sax), Pierre White, “The Gunner” (drums) , Self (on piano).

Saturday Night at the Haven Hotel, Dunmore East – Summer 1959

©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.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives -#Memoir #Waterford #Ireland #History – The Colour of Life -Cattle Dealing and The Ferguson Tractor 1948 by Geoff Cronin


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.

Cattle Dealing and The Ferguson Tractor 1948

ACT I

It was the first Monday of the month, “a Fair Day” in Waterford, and the Hill of Ballybricken was a hive of activity. “The Hill” was an open space with the Bull Post standing roughly in the centre of a 250 yard triangle. The perimeter was lined with small shops, and houses interspersed. Most of the shops faced north, and most of the better houses faced south. Two of the largest pubs faced south also, and consequently enjoyed whatever sun there might be.

Corcoran knew from long tightly held experience how important it was to stand your cattle on the sunny side, and when he woke his son Willie at three o’clock that morning he was already planning his strategy. They had to walk the bunch of white faced cattle eight miles to Waterford, and he knew only too well the folly of driving the animals too hard and having them arrive exhausted and looking limp and God forsaken in the cold dawn light. No, he told himself, start early, bring them along nice and handy, rest them and let them get a drink at the stream in Callaghan and get them to the sunny corner in Ballybricken near the first pub at the rise of ground.

Oh, Corcoran knew his business alright – two days before the fair he had moved those cattle into the old four acre field behind the house. The grass was long there and the ditches thick for shelter, and the beasts ate well in the heavy grass, which also cleaned their legs and hooves.

The cattle looked well now as the sun topped the hill and Corcoran knew it, and the best of luck attended him with the arrival right opposite of that “Mane little ferret”, O’Toole, with his four dirty old worn out cows, and two of them with only one horn apiece. The contrast was perfect and he stood there quietly and patiently with Willie; his son, and his seven white faced bullocks … and they waited.

Willie was leaning over the back of a bullock, watching the road to the main shopping area when he spotted his man. Corcoran had his back to the lamp post at the corner, looking the other way.

“Watch out, Father” said Willie, “Cooper the butcher is comin’ straight for ye.”

Corcoran never moved as he replied “Tighten up them beasts now boy, and get their heads up.” Willie deftly obliged.

Cooper advanced up the hill to the fair, his eye scanning, sorting and marking automatically as he surveyed the scene. He had his own reasons for heading in Corcoran’s direction – it was a sunny corner where you could stay and talk harmless blather to whoever was there, while you checked and spotted what was on offer, and anyway, the thought of a nice hot whiskey by the fire in the corner pub had filled his mind as he drew near the lamp post.

Corcoran’s heavy voice cut through his vision –

“Willie, go over and tell Mr. Molloy I haven’t all day to wait.”

Willie, well schooled, headed off through the crowd towards Molloy’s Butcher shop where he would buy a pound of beef sausages, wait in the shop, and “rush” back with the news.

“He’s gone to the railway, Father! but will be with you soon” Just as Cooper was engaging Corcoran senior in what might be regarded as civil discourse.

Cooper opened – “A hardy morning there.”

“’Tis nearly dinner time,” parried Corcoran “and I can tell you there’s no bargains left this time of day.” Willie glowed with admiration as his father casually stepped on to the footpath while speaking, making himself a foot taller than his adversary.

Cooper mentally slaughtered, quartered and weighed the seven beasts with a glance as he replied, stepping up easily beside Corcoran “Ye know, there’s nothin’ here today only small, miserable little beasts… no good at all for a butcher.”

Corcoran bristled “Yer not by any chance callin’ them cattle miserable, are ye?”

“Ah not at all me dear man, sure I was sayin’ only the other day that a mejum size bullock could have his place in a butcher’s shop – although they have a lot of bone, ye know like.” Cooper said easily.

Willie had gone back to leaning on the nearest bullock – he sensed the line tightening between the two, but as yet he couldn’t make out who had hooked who, so he concentrated on watching the rivulets of urine and dung which flowed along the gutter between his boots.
“Keep your head down boy” he told himself “and don’t distract the oul’ fella while he’s puttin’ manners on the butcher.” He was not, however, prepared for what came next as Corcoran displayed his mental agility.

“Ye know,” he said looking straight into Cooper’s eyes, which were watering slightly with the cold, “I owe you an apology.”

“For what?” said Cooper, completely mystified.

Corcoran hung his head ever so slightly and tapped the toe of his boot with his stick and said in a quiet voice “I was at your wife’s first cousin’s funeral three weeks ago, and I couldn’t get near ye with all them big shot cattle dealers that was there, and I was sayin’ to the wife goin’ home “God dammit ye know, I’m friends with John Cooper these years and many a good beast I sold him and he was always a decent man to deal with and here I am now goin’ home and never even bought the man a drink, will you have a hot whiskey with me now to make amends and never mind the cattle?”

Cooper hadn’t a hope, and he knew it. They disappeared into the pub, and the deal was done. He gave Corcoran twenty pounds less than the cattle were worth, and Corcoran gave him back a fiver for luck, as he knew full well he had got twenty pounds more than he really expected.

He turned his benevolent eye on the steaming glass as Cooper faded to the doorway —

“Good look” he murmured as the door closed.

ACT II

Corcoran leaned back and belched profoundly. Nobody in the crowded pub noticed. Half an hour had passed since Cooper had left with Willie to take the cattle down to the yard behind the butcher’s shop.

A third hot whiskey had warmed him down to his toes. He had sent a kid across to the far side of the fairground to bring back three hot crubeens from the huckster’s shop which specialized in that delicacy. Two of these glutinous morsels he ate ravenously, and having carefully thrown the bones in the fireplace, he wiped his fingers and face in the newspaper wrapping, and delicately rolled up the remaining one in the rest of the newspaper to keep it warm for Willie. Then he opened the top button of his flap, paid for a large bottle of stout and sighed contentedly as he fondled the roll of notes in the inside pocket of his waistcoat under folded arms.

Willie’s mind was soaring with speculation as to what he might do with the half note Cooper had given him for helping with the cattle as he strolled back to the pub. He was feeling hungry now, thirsty too as the sweet smell of stout reached him. Just then there was a hand on his arm…

“Hello there Willie, I heard ye sold the cattle and I’m hopin’ to see yer father.” It was Jim Kirwan the tractor salesman.

“He’s inside in the pub here,” said Willie, “come on, I’ll find him for ye.”

They turned in to the pub and Kirwan took his arm again, “Here, Willie” he smiled, “you’re a go ahead man – you wouldn’t mind having a nice new Ferguson Tractor now, would ye?” But before Willie could answer his father’s voice cut through the smoky air and Willie detected an almost jovial note in it.

“Over here Willie, boy, pull a large stout there for me son will ye, sit down, sit down, here’s a crubeen for ye boy, ye must be hungry.” And looking at Kirwan he continued “Ah God save us all look what the cat brought in.”

“Could I see ye Mr. Corcoran?” Kirwan ventured.

“Of course ye can boy,” replied Corcoran, “as long as yer not trying to sell me one of them cursed Fergusons – what are ye havin’ anyway?”

“A Lemonade thanks,” said Kirwan. Corcoran looked at him pityingly and said loudly “If ye want to talk to a man, ye better be a man – give him a small stout there Miss.”

The stout arrived and the three sat down. Willie tackled the crubeen with enthusiasm and Kirwan tried vainly to control the foam rising rapidly in his glass as he poured the stout with an unpractised hand. He cursed his plight as he saw Corcoran wink hugely at Willie. “I heard ye got a right good price for the cattle Mr. Corcoran, and more o’that to ye,” said Kirwan raising his froth filled glass – “Good luck – good luck” they chorused and drank.

After a pause Kirwan said “The new Ferguson is only £375 for cash.”

“Well now that’s very interesting” said Corcoran “for anyone that would be buying one, but of course I always used horses and me sons the same. We have a right good breed of a horse out our way ye know. He’d be a sort of an Irish draught with a dash of the Clydesdale in him and he’d pull anything.” Another pause as Corcoran rested on his oars and waited.

“‘Tis getting right expensive to keep horses shod nowadays,” said Kirwan studying his glass.

Willie was lifting his chin to nod his agreement when the boot hit him on the ankle bone. He froze and looked at the fire.

“Not when we does it ourselves” lied Corcoran defiantly.

“I heard right enough, that a blacksmith can hardly make a living anymore.” said Kirwan as he watched the colour rising in Corcoran’s face. “But” he added quickly, raising his voice to be heard by others, “I suppose it’s because really the ould horse is finished in the farms. Sure ’twould take ye all day to bring a churn of milk to the creamery and your day would be gone for nothing. And sure with the tractor you could be in and back in an hour and not only bring in yer own churn, but carry in the churn for a neighbour, maybe, who wouldn’t be so lucky or maybe wouldn’t have the price of a Ferguson.”

“Faith then” said Corcoran, raising his already big voice, “I heard on good authority that them tractors are no good on hilly land and ye could get kilt off of ’em.”

“Only in the hands of an amachure,” said Kirwan, his voice rising.

“An’ there’s another thing,” rapped Corcoran, “tractors cost money from once you bring ’em into the yard ’till ye get rid of ’em – with oil and repairs and God knows what else – when with the horse ye have his diet for nothin’ and his manure for the land in return and he’ll work away for ye and even if he drops dead, ye have his carcase to sell to the knacker man for a pound or two.”

Ears were cocked all around the pub now as the combatants circled mentally, seeking an opening. There was a hush while glasses were raised and stout was sipped carefully. Kirwan drained his drink, put down the glass and stood up wiping his mouth.

“That’s all history Mr. Corcoran” he said “an’ I’ll tell ye what, I’ll bring out a Ferguson to your farm on Friday at ten o’clock and give ye a free trial and demonstration and you’ll see for yerself that any damn thing your horse can do, my tractor will do it better.” He held out his hand across the table to Corcoran and they shook hands. “Thanks for the drink and Good luck, I’ll see ye Friday. So long Willie.”

“Ay, good luck Jim” said Willie.

Kirwan picked his way towards the door unhurriedly with all eyes on him. “That shook the oul’ bastard” he told himself as he buttoned his gabardine. He was one step short of the door when Corcoran’s voice called out.

“Hey Kirwan, I didn’t ever hear of a Ferguson having a foal.” The door slammed and bawdy laughter followed the salesman down the street.

The Fair, Ballybricken – before the tractor! From a photo by A. H. Poole, Waterford

***

Postscript

Within ten years the horse was gone from the farm, but here and there you would see an odd one. I think that Corcoran’s was one such place.

©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.