Barrack Lane / Abbey Row in the early 1960s – May 1997

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During the 60s, this part of town could be considered a mini farming area. Tom Milmo had cows and calves, hens and ducks housed in his back yard beside the river. One remembers a favourite black calf called “Silky”, named because of her particularly smooth coat. How our tears flowed the day we returned from school to discover “Silky” had gone to her new home.

There was a pond in the yard, dug especially for the baby ducklings. When they were considered big enough, the mother led them over the bridge to spend their days in the river, not returning until dusk. One evening, a fast-approaching car, a rarity in those days, rounded the bridge and ‘flattened’ one of the ducks. Fred Whyte could be heard shouting “Draw the Blood, Draw the Blood”. It was explained to us children what Fred meant. There was no waste in those days!

Elizabeth Whelan of Abbey House kept hens and one brown hen was known as “Penny”. She was so called because of her treatment with penicillin she had needed after an attack by a dog. Until the day of her demise Penny bore the scars of her encounter. Every week, we walked the few yards to Taylor’s mill with a canvas bag, to collect a stone of oats for Mrs. Whelan’s hens.

Over the years, if my memory serves me correctly, the price of a stone of oats went up from one shilling and three pence (1s/3d) to one shilling and eleven pence (1s/11d). We were rewarded with the change of two shillings or half a crown. The oats were kept in a big tin bath under the kitchen table.

Mary Connaughton-Kelly reared pigs in a shed by the river where Rooney’s Monumental Works are now situated. That was another haven for us ‘townies’. We looked in wonder at those small smelly pink bundles with the blue eyes. Agnes (Aggie) Qualter ran a successful dairy business from her home in Abbey Row.

As we approach the millennium, one tends to compare life over the past thirty-five years. Our lane is now called Barrack Street. The river is now called the Clarin. The mill, long gone, has been replaced by Castle Park. One cannot deny the marvellous improvements, but give me, the days of the cows, the ducks, ‘Silky’ and ‘Penny’ and of course the smelly pink bundles anytime.

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About this record

Written by Helen Tully

Published here 13 Feb 2023 and originally published May 1997

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