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Changing Times

Extract from the Clonmany Festival 25th Anniversary Souvenir Booklet 1992 

My earliest recollections of life in our village, centre on Christmas mornings. In those days early Mass was at 6 a.m. and the scene in the countryside conjured up thoughts of a magic fairyland. In every window candles were lighted and along every road hurricane lamps were glowing like a moving river winding its way along every road to the Church. The only lighting in the Church was from candles and oil lamps at intervals along the panelling on the walls. The crib was a rough wooden structure set in front of Our Lady's Altar. Everyone fasting, Christmas was the main event of the year in those days. As many emigrants as could possibly manage came home for the celebrations. Sometimes as many as three buses came into the village on Christmas eve, bringing tired but happy travellers from all parts of Scotland and England. Cars were a rarity then and when the buses were due, neighbours and friends gathered to welcome home the passengers. Poverty was rife in the country and there was nothing for young people but to emigrate as soon as they were strong enough. Many did well, while unfortunately some never came back. For a week or ten days there were parties and dances until it was time to return to their workplaces.

On the week preceding Christmas, on either a Friday or Tuesday, which ever was nearer the feast day, there was much bustle about the Market Square from early morning, heralding the beef market! Tables would be set up along the houses, flour bag sheets spread out, then the hacking and sawing would commence. Beef was a rarity then, In some cases Christmas was the only time of the year some families could afford such a luxury. Rivalry among the "butchers" was keen. The customers were cautious, they stood in groups debating which "standing" had the youngest animal, or where the best value was to be had. All this information had been passed around from household to household, was in fact the main taking point in the "Ceilidhe" houses long before the event. The men did most of the bargaining and when a satisfactory deal was done, another flour bag was produced to carry home the days purchases.

A satisfactory days trading left nothing but the blood stained sheets to be rolled up and taken home to be well bleached for another year. Soup and stew warmed many a hungry mouth, and helped to make Christmas the most welcome feast of the year. 


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