Musings – Discovering my old life in Ballybay via Facebook

This is an old post from a previous blog on a different platform which I was reminded about today, so I thought I would share it on here. It’s from March 2014:

I don’t know if you ever check the OTHERS option on your Facebook messages. I don’t check it that often but did so today at lunchtime today and I found a message there from a girl I have not been in touch with for 35 years.

Her name is Maria Cosgrove and she is from Ballybay – a small town in Co Monaghan. I used to live there with my family until we moved away in 1978 after my dad, the local Garda, was transferred, as was the custom in those days.

We had great friends in Ballybay. I started primary school there. We had a gang called The Hall Street Gang. We had adventures like those kids in The Goonies, or the Famous Five or Secret Seven had. The Hall Street Gang was the gang of kids who lived in a cluster along Hall Street. We met in the lanes and the fields and sometimes in the Garda shed.

The Drumms, Maguires, McMahons and the McItaveys were the main members of the Hall Street Gang (I hope I am remembering the names correctly).

A photo taken sometime in the mid seventies, captures us in colour, outside the Garda Station which was really in our front garden, underneath the three big Cherry Blossom trees that adorned the grass verge on the way up to the door of the station.

There was no email, text, Facebook or Twitter in those days and the house we moved to did not have a phone. I recall a lot of tears the day we left as we hugged and promised to keep in touch and I do remember a few visits back for different things. Some of our friends from Ballybay also came to visit us too in our new home.

But time passed and we grew up in a brand new town and made new friends. We sadly lost contact with our friends from Ballybay.

But I have never forgotten Ballybay and the gang of friends we had.

I remember happy times in the house we had behind the Garda station.
I remember being outdoors in all weather, getting lost in the fields on purpose, collecting blackberries and selling them to local shops – sometimes the money went to the nuns in the Convent of Mercy and other times it went to buy sweets for the gang.

I remember plays we used to stage in the garden and in the Garda shed. We would charge people 10p to come and watch a variety show which was never very good, but which people (well other children) came to watch.

I remember Community Games in the big park. Relays, hurdles and my breath being almost taken away with the exertion.

I remember the teachers we had and moving from the small school to the brand new purpose-built school with the new carpets, the new desks and chairs that were proper chairs and not old benches with ink wells.

I remember Sister Philomena, who was small and gentle but very capable of keeping things moving. I remember a few years ago learning of her murder and trying to understand how something so awful could happen to someone so gentle.

I remember swinging and balancing on the bars and railings and my sister breaking her arm.

I remember being run over by my Dad’s car in the school yard and all the visitors to the house who I bet could scarcely believe I had survived – what four year old survives being knocked down, trapped under a car and driven around a tough tarmac school yard ? I remember our postman and Miss Salmon chasing the car and shouting STOP before it pulled out onto the main road.

I remember swinging on the gate and getting that little scar under my lip when the gate slammed shut. I remember walking the walls on the way up home.

I remember the embankment at the back of the corner shop where we disturbed a wasps nest and where my sister was stung several times. I remember the smell of vinegar on the stings.

I was part of an Irish dancing troupe in Ballybay. The costume was cream with purple Celtic designs. For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the Irish dancing school. I remember my dancing partners Damian and Catriona Carragher. We were a great group for the three-hand reel.

I do remember the sweet shop at the top of Hall Street, conveniently located on our route to school. The shopkeeper Mrs Daly always seemed old to me in those days. She had a counter with a glass front filled with trays of sweets. Depending on how much (or little in my case) money you had, you asked for the corresponding tray and knew that everything on it could be bought for halfpenny, a penny, two pence or five pence. I am not sure if there was a ten pence tray. Katie Daly was her name and through my conversations and subsequent connection with a Facebook page called BALLYBAY AND ITS PEOPLE, I found out that she is alive and well and in her 90s. How I would love to sit down with her for a chat.

I have been hanging out on this Facebook page for the past few days and I shared this picture taken as I mentioned earlier, in our front lawn adjacent to the Garda Station.

hall street gang
The Hall Street Gang sometime in the 1970s

Since posting the picture I have chatted to three of the people in it. I have not spoken to them since we left Ballybay in 1978. 35 year’s later and it’s all come back to life through the power of social media. It’s been great.

I am looking forward to having more memories refreshed by these new old friends from Ballybay. So do check that OTHERS folder on Facebook and if you are ever in the area do give Ballybay a visit.

It seems it has always been the place where everybody knows your name!

Brenda xx

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