Santy visited the Offaly house twice on the same Christmas

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I am the oldest of four children, two sisters, Bernie and Irene, and a brother Seamus from Loughclose. I am married to David and we have two children, Ciara and Niall.

Both of my parents are from the Killeigh area, my mom Marie Molloy from Gurteen and my dad Jimmy O’Rourke from Ballinasragh. My parents spent many years dancing in the carnival which brought many famous orchestras to the village.

My siblings would say I was bossy, which probably sounds like the truth, I wanted to be a guard or a groom when I grew up. Our house was a very busy place, we had all kinds of animals, pigs, dogs, sheep, ponies, myself and my siblings learned to ride a stubborn but adorable pony called Brandy than my youngest sister received from Santy a year.

Santy visited our house twice a year, I had a doll for Christmas but someone sat on it on Christmas night at my aunt and uncle’s annual Christmas party, the poor doll’s leg was all crushed so on St. Stephen’s Day who arrived at the door only Santy with a brand new doll for me and smaller gifts for my siblings. Without knowing it, my father had come into contact with the North Pole through Patsy Walsh RIP and his brother Gerry. Patsy and Gerry had a Christmas toy store above their grocery store across from the church, many children received gifts from their store. I was only seven or eight years old at the time and I remember them as clearly as yesterday, I will never forget their kindness and generosity.

Loughclose at that time had a lot of kids my age. During the summer a bunch of us would get together and pick up all the glass minerals and milk bottles and go to Spollen or Walsh’s to exchange them for money that we would immediately spend on candy. We would then leave for a day of adventure through the fields. Paradise Island in Kearney’s Field was one of the favorites, actually it was just a mound of grass in the middle of a pond, but we had a blast.

I went to Killeigh National School, now the GAA clubhouse which also had classrooms in pre-fabricated buildings in the backyard with the dining room. My mom told me that when she picked me up after my first day of school I refused to come home and sat in the ditch because I wanted to wait until 3pm with everyone other kids, I don’t think it happened that often. Every Christmas we went down from school to Macra Hall for a day of Christmas plays and performances. I remember one year I played Mary in the school nursery and was dragged across the stage on a wooden donkey.

Growing up in old customs and beliefs was a big deal in our house, the May Bush was still installed on May 1 and maintained for the month. We attached bouquets of primroses and primroses to it as well as eggshells and ribbons made from scraps of fabric. Then it was Halloween we didn’t go cheat or treat like kids but we played the old traditional games like apple snap, apple bobbing and blind man’s buff and we always liked to scare each other with a good story ghost. I remember my grandfather telling me about the time he saw the banshee combing his hair sitting on a nearby wall, or the time my dad saw the ghost of the Irish Wolfhound in Lord’s Lane or my mom was saw Will-o’-the wisp across the bog. On St. Stephen’s Day we would always go hunting for the troglodyte calling neighbors’ houses, we were all newbie tin whistle players and of course if we only knew one or two tunes it didn’t have to be. important because that was all you needed for each home.

My dad was crazy about sports, especially GAA, athletics, cycling, boxing, everything really and I’m the same, I love sports but especially hurling. Growing up, if we showed an interest in a sport we were encouraged to participate in, I played camogie, javelin, shot put and even high jump. We had our own high jump with a not too soft landing on fertilizer bags filled with grass mold and hedges in our front garden. Every Saturday morning, a bus full of children gathered in front of the church to head to the Clara pool for swimming lessons. I took part in art competitions for the parish community games and attended Irish dance classes in the Macra Hall. I ran cross country with the Clodiagh Valley Track Club and spent many winter nights running around the village green. The 1981 All-Ireland Cross Country Finals were held at Loughclose, I was delighted that day not to run but to get the autograph from Eamonn Coghlan’s father.

Monday in August Sport was a big event in our house, if the lawn was at home and in the shed even better, we could enjoy it all the more. Held in the GAA field, we had races and matches, swaying boats, a roulette wheel, a fortune wheel, and hawker stalls selling us everything shiny and plastic. It was one of the best days of the year as we got to meet friends and family before the summer ended.

I was a member of the local branch of Macra Na Feirme in the late 1980s and we had weekly meetings in the dining room at Macra Hall. Macra and the Hall thrived during these years. We participated in amateur theaters, badminton, basketball and nightclubs were held there. We competed against other Macra clubs in the county.

The Village and Parish of Killeigh is a wonderful community and I am very proud of it. The enthusiasm of all the volunteers from the different clubs is fantastic. We have many sports clubs and organizations all working together to give all Killeigh residents, young and old, a chance to meet and socialize. The only thing the village lacks is a center that belongs to the whole community, no matter what your interests that we can all share together, this is one of the reasons why I became a member of the committee of the Killeigh Community Center Development. Association in the hope that one day soon as a community we can make it happen.

If you would like to learn more about the development of the proposed Killeigh Community Center and how you could help, please visit our website www.killeighcommunitycentre.com


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