Author of ‘Under the Thatch: Memories of a Longford Childhood' Seán Ó Súilleabháin with Brid Sullivan and Colm Ginty.
The community centre in Colmcille was a hive of activity on Thursday night last when local man Sean O’Súilleabháin returned to launch his new book ‘Under the Thatch: Memories of a Longford Childhood’.
Touching on education, religion, football, farming, emigration, traditions and customs as well as being laced with humour, ‘Under the Thatch: Memories of a Longford Childhood’ takes the reader on a colourful journey of Co Longford throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
The author adds, “The 1950s was a time when council workers were forever filling potholes with gravel from a horse and cart; lessons were done under the paraffin oil lamp and everyone was familiar with the ‘environment-friendly’ toilet that had neither walls nor roof.”
He also recalls trips to Granard and Arva as being as memorable as a visit to Paris or Venice and the great childhood delight of getting cones in Larry Cosgrave’s in Granard or Blessing’s in Arva.
O’Súilleabháin details too the ups and downs of rural life and points to a time when “there wasn’t a house in rural Longford with electricity”.
A storyteller, writer and collector of stories, Sean O’Súilleabháin’s memories bring to the reader all the local characters of the time, the fairs and the dancehalls, and it is full of local observations and commentary.
“In the 1950s, there was hardly a house in rural Longford with running water or an inside toilet, but 60% of houses had a thatched roof which could supply tinted “runningwater” after a bad night’s rain,” the author told a packed to capacity community centre on Thursday.
The book is both fascinating and humorous, and interesting and sad with the writer observing, that while there is Chinese food available in every town and village in Ireland these days, there isn’t a stick of boxty to be found anywhere in China!
“Religion was a big part of it all and in fact one of the biggest chapters in the book is based on that,” said the author, before pointing out that everything from the house stations, to the Easter ceremonies, devotions on a Sunday evening and serving at Mass are examined within its pages.
He spoke too of his “glorious childhood days” in the meadow or on the bog and recalled with great nostalgia threshing days and bringing home the hay.
“The loy, sleán, skeeveen and turf barrow were the ultimate in modern equipment at the time,” smiled O’Súilleabháin.
“There has been a lot of change and the 50s and 60s were innocent times in lots of ways.
“There were very few cars, in fact in 1950 there was only two cars in the townland of Aughakine and one of those belonged to the Parish Priest.”
‘Under the Thatch: Memories of a Longford Childhood’ is available now in all good book shops.