Some people are lucky enough to have both set of grandparents.
I have only ever had my Granny Elizabeth - with my other grandparents passing away before I was born.
I had the pleasure and absolute honor to interview not only my Grandmother for the Sligo Champion Down Memory Lane supplement but also I got to interview my best friends Teresa's Grandfather.
First featured in the Sligo Champion Pictures: Sinéad Healy
Making Poitín and the Big Snow of ‘47 recalled by Elizabeth
89-year old Elizabeth Haran was born in Flowerhill, Bunninadden in 1928 along with her three sisters and one brother. Going to Carrowreagh national school was her earliest childhood memories and she recalls fondly the memories of playing with her sister Christina as they made the 5 mile walk home.
“We would be all evening coming home; there was no hurry on us. We would sit down on the tar road, playing with marbles and spend the whole evening outside. But we would be killed when we got home.
“Then it would be books for the evening, our neighbour Pete would come in and the pencils would be missing - there would be none to do the sums. He would put a rod or a stick in the fire, blacken it and that’s what we used to write with.” she says laughing.
“We eventually got bicycles to go to school, buying the tires was hard as they were scarce but we had a great time.”
Her mother stayed at home with the children, while her father worked in a pub in Bunninadden, moving barrels of whiskey and stout from Ballymote on a horse and trap while also working as a post-man for some time.
“There was no such thing as cars back then” explains Elizabeth.
World War Two made life difficult for many living in Ireland as Elizabeth recalls. “Tea was scarce as there was a ration alert and you only got so much and you had to make do with it. Everything was cut back then. It was scary you wouldn’t get everything, you just had to mind what you got and spare it.”
After her time in school she got a job in Gurteen minding children.
“I was there a good while with the Tansey’s. I liked doing it I had a great time, we used to go to dances and have boyfriends – oh ya I had a few of them!”
1947 was the year of the ‘Big Snow’, the coldest and harshest winter in living memory and while it was 70 years ago it is something Elizabeth will never forget.
“I was 19 at the time and everyone had to cut their way through the snow. People were walking on ditches and they didn’t know, the snow was as high as the house. No tractors could go, you couldn’t see outside.”
It was at this time she came to Coolaney and worked with a family housekeeping. This is where she met her late husband, John Haran. She got married at the age of 21 and began living in Carrownaboney, Coolaney with John and his mother Mary-Kate.
“There was no such thing as a wedding or any of that back then, we just came down from the chapel and drank tea in the house and got on with it. We had a great time when we were younger: we were in the dances in Coolaney, sometimes I would sit on the bar of the bike. We would go card playing in houses full of people.”
From there life become very busy for Elizabeth, she went on to have 11 children – four boys and seven girls, while also being a busy working wife of a farmer and helping to care for her mother-in-law.
Every morning she was up at the crack of dawning, milking the cows and cutting silage to feed the cows.
“The rest of the milk went into a creamery can: a 15 gallon can. I used to put it on the peddle of the bicycle and wheel it out the road to meet P Mc Hugh and he brought it to the creamery.
“That’s where we got our flour, butter and milk. You paid in milk if you wanted the groceries. At dinner time I would draw water from the spring well and bring it back to the house. I turned the garden into ridges planting potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, every type of veg and I baked all my life.”
Poitín making was generally produced in remote rural areas, away from the interference of the law.
“We were never caught, thank god” she says laughing as she explains the cooking process in detail. “You had to make it on a foggy night so the Guards wouldn’t see the smoke. We would then hide the bottles in the ditches, the older people before us taught us how to do it.”
Tragedy struck in June 1974 when her husband John (48) was killed after the Honda 50 motorbike he was travelling on was struck with another vehicle and Elizabeth was left to rare the children.
“I have no regrets in life, I wouldn’t change a thing. Although I never learned to drive, I didn’t try - I hadn’t the time to do it. I was never sick in my life; I didn’t have time when the creamery can had to be over the road at 9!” she said laughing.
She credits hard work as her secret to her long life: “Work, Work, Work, plenty of work. I never looked back, thanks bit to god and I worked very hard all my life. Never marry a famer if you don’t want lots of work.” she smiled.
Apart from a short spell of illness in the last two years, Elizabeth is in great health: she does her own shopping every Friday in Ballymote, cooks the dinner, gets her done in the hairdresser and goes to Mass every Saturday evening and still has plenty of time to entertain the great-grandchildren.
Elizabeth still lives in the house where she reared all 11 children along with her son Noel who still keeps the farm. She has 30 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.