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/

The Colour of Life – The Ferguson Tractor 1948 by Geoff Cronin


The Ferguson Tractor 1948 by Geoff Cronin

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! and will be here shortly” 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 luck” 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 – 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 – The Mobile Cinema 1947 by Geoff Cronin


The Mobile Cinema 1947 by Geoff Cronin

In March 1947 I went into partnership 50/50 with my brother David J. Cronin, to form a company, which would be known as “C Mobile Pictures”. The proposition was to bring cinema to all the villages within a ten mile radius of Waterford, where we figured people were starved for entertainment. To this end we purchased the following:

1 Baby Ford Car (Taxed and Insured)    £170.0.0
1 Film Projector and Sound Equipment £248.0.0
Total £418.0.0

We booked the Fisherman’s Hall, Dunmore East for one night per week at a rent of 30/-. Our film rental was £8 to £10 per week and we rented on a weekly basis as we intended booking five more halls almost immediately. Our first show was on March 4th 1947. However, when we went to book the other halls, we found that they were not on mains electricity. We ran on one show per two weeks and then we got a second hall in Passage East. We got a third hall in Slieverue, a fourth in Piltown, a fifth in Glenmore and a sixth in Portlaw. The venue in Piltown faded out after our third week there, so we had a circuit of 5 halls left. Half of these halls had no electricity, so we had to buy the following:

One 1000 Watt Generator – Deposit          £50.0.0
Delivery and Insurance                               £14.0.0
1 Van to carry Generator (Net)                 £195.0.0
Insurance and cost of fitting out the van    £34.0.0
Total £293.0.0

In June we were doing fairly well, and we rented an office at 11 Blackfriars, over Fennells Barber Shop. A legal agreement and cost of painting and first week’s rent at £4.6.8, came to £25. About this time we took on a helper at 15/- a week as there was quite a lot of physical work involved in setting up each night and taking down the screen, the lighting where applicable, packing all equipment into the van etc. There was no seating in half the halls, and we had to supply same – mostly long benches – which had to be stored and stacked each night. We ran a full six-night circuit by mid-July and we had opened a joint current account, putting in £13 each – total £26 – into which all takings were lodged.

On August 8th we lost a hall, due to a disagreement with the landlord, and we got another one at the end of that month. Then a bombshell hit us. Government tax on our ticket – we had to buy rolls of taxed tickets – went up from 10% to 25%, and since we could not pass on the increase, we lost heavily and had to borrow £100 from our father to keep going.

At this point, following burning much midnight oil going through the Entertainment Act and its Statutory Instruments, we discovered that if more than 50% of a performance was live entertainment, you were no longer liable for Tax.

Immediately, we hired six pianos and installed them in the various halls and advertised “Cine-Variety” – live performance from 5 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., and film show from 8 p.m. to 10.15 p.m. David and I supplied the live part by playing piano non-stop in relays from 5 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.

It was customary for the Tax Inspector to visit our halls and check the numbers on our ticket rolls – and books were kept to enable him to see what had been sold and also spot check the audience to see that everybody had got a ticket.

Well, when he arrived he found us playing to an empty hall, but we were open on time to support our advertisement and we got away with it. Incidentally, after we had come up with that solution, all the big cinemas in the town followed suit, and had scrap bands playing for a period exceeding the film time.

As winter arrived, we hit another big snag – there was no heating in our halls and bit by bit attendances dropped off and we finally closed down the business on the 4th February 1948.

We had drawn approximately £80 each out of the business between July and February, and after repaying our debts and selling off all the equipment – mostly at a loss – we had £150 left, which we split 50/50.

We had worked like slaves while the business was going, as jobs were impossible to find at that time and there was little alternative. I was in digs at the time and was selling off my wardrobe to keep going, and had made up my mind to emigrate.

Then on April 3rd I quite fortuitously got a job with Irish National Insurance Co. as a clerk at the handsome salary of £3.15.5 per week, and I was very glad of that job I can tell you. I stayed with that company for the next 33 years and wound up as General Manager and Director.

©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/