Holidays in Bushfield (Boleymealagh): Childhood Memories

The Cottage
Bridie Jennings McMahon

Bushfield will always hold a book of memories for me.  It was where I spent my first summer holiday as a child with my grandmother Margaret Gibbons and my two aunts Aggie & Dell Gibbons, my mother’s sisters and my brother Michael Joe.

Lived at Lissatava

My two aunts never married and Michael Joe my eldest brother was ‘taken in’ as the saying went by my mother’s family at a very young age.  We lived in Lissatava and Michael Joe the eldest wandered out onto the road one day as the teacher Mrs McHugh was driving home from Lehinch School to Ballindine. Very few people owned a car then. He nearly got killed. After that my grandmother took him to Bushfield and he remained there but, he was still our brother. He went to Lehinch N.S. and was still in touch with our village and the local school children.

First Summer

My first summer was exciting walking up from Lehinch N.S to Bushfield and seemed a long way off like another country. The Nevins and Connolly’s walked as well and the Forde’s and Angela Lavelle.  I got to Delaney’s avenue as it was known and crossed over the stile into the big field in front of Delaney’s house. I made my way to the corner where there was a stile and then the thatched house came into view. I wondered what mystery lay under that thatched roof.  Crossing Garret Ally’s land, as it was then, I could hear ducks quacking.

The Ducks

My grandmother had about twenty and they all marched in a line towards me and began to follow me up to the house and made their way out under a small ‘poreen’ as it was known, crossed the road into the farmyard.  There was ruaile buaile, a lot of loud quacking. It was always a relief when the fowl left the farmyard and went grazing down in Garret Nallys’ land.

A Fascinating Place

I was greeted with open arms as I entered the thatched house a fascinating place with much to discover. A half door to keep the hens and other fowl out. Small windows to the south that let in much sunlight.  An open fire with a black crane and a kettle swinging on it.  A large mantelpiece with brass candlesticks a box of loose tea a large calendar with big circles special dates; fair day in Ballinrobe, the fair of Hollymount or times when the cows were due to calf.

Cottge Interior

A lovely eight day clock that rang at every hour. A settle bed used for people to sleep in when opened out. A large picture of the Sacred Heart, an open dresser with lots of willow pattern large plates, jugs, cups and saucers all shining spic and span. Underneath in the dresser were large basins of milk with cream floating on the top.  This cream was collected daily and put into the dash churn and turned into butter at the end of every week. It was known as churning day.  A regular ritual in the kitchen of every thatched house it provided the butter milk used to make the brown bread and the supply of butter for the week.

Gathering the Eggs

Gathering the hen eggs and duck eggs was such an adventure. It took one on a mystery tour into the cowshed, under hedges, into the barn and returning with a bucketful of eggs was rewarding. These were cleaned and sold to the travelling shop Mick Cunningham to buy the weekly groceries.  We always had eight to ten score of eggs sometimes twelve. White and brown hen eggs, blue and white duck eggs. Groceries were bought for the week

A Treacle Cake

Aunt Aggie was a great cook and excellent baker always made a treacle cake every week. Christmas was special as she really displayed her cooking skills then.  Nothing has ever tasted like it since.

Friends & Neighbours

Many neighbours came to visit, Tommy Henry, Mike & Tom Nolan, Nora Nolan, Joe Gibbons, Jack Reilly, Robert, Mary, Maggie Mooney, Mary Rattigan and lots and lots of nieces, nephews of my grandmother especially when they came home from England or America.  She was Margaret Brennan from Roose.


Summer holidays took in the haymaking time and saving the turf in the bog and early harvesting. These were special times round the farmyard and haggard.  Rides in the hay bogey being drawn by the brown horse back and over the boreen.  Listening to the corncrakes as they beat out their song in the meadows before being cut and saved as hay long before silage making.  Michael Joe always made lovely stacks of barley and oats sometimes we had nine or ten.  Half of them were threshed in November for the winter feeding of the stock and some were kept for springtime threshing.

New Potatoes

Summertime also saw the digging of new potatoes and making ‘Cally’ as we called it.  It was so tasty and wholesome. Aunt Aggie also baked apple tarts and blackberry tarts. They always spoke of Tess and Winifred Delaney as they went to school with them to Roundfort N.S.


We always had our own onions and lettuce, beetroot, carrots, parsnips, turnips and potatoes.  We had our own chickens, ducks and geese. Every Sunday we had chicken soup and roast stuffed chicken. Every farmer had the same and was self-sufficient.

The Travellers’ Arrival

The travellers always pitched their tents in featherbed lane and down the road between Nevins’ and Mannions’ old house in Bushfield.  They called to every house for food or clothes and the older male travellers always repaired buckets and saucepans. They were skilled tinsmiths and were respected by the farming community as they picked potatoes as well in the autumn if a farmer needed extra help. Some owned horse drawn caravans either red or green.  The women sold clothes pegs and paper flowers which they made themselves and hair brushes and combs.  They were also very musical and great singers.

Stories of long-ago

I loved to hear the neighbours when they came visiting telling old stories of people long past and of by gone days. This in a way sparked my imagination piecing together how families were related, cousins from England and America.  In later years I developed a great interest in local community history and family genealogy. I always put it down to my holidays spent in Bushfield listening to those stories that gave me in a way that sense of place and who I was.

Easter & Christmas

When it came to returning home I was always sad and cried a lot on my way home to Lissatava.  I always looked forward to going to Bushfield again at Christmas and Easter.  Those became the special holidays of long ago and that special place of learning about my early parish history and Bushfield.

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