My name is Missy. I was born in the Co. Westmeath in Mullingar I’m one of twelve. There were six boys and six girls. There is three of the boys dead and the two of the girls dead. That does be very sad for me because with me being the oldest girl, I nearly reared them, in the hard times we say.
We’re talking about the cake bread, some people call it the soda bread, we call it cake bread. I was only eleven years of age when I had to bake cake bread. I never forget it even when we were stopping at Athlone and me mother went in to have one of my brothers at the time. Me father told me what to do. Me daddy was in the army for a while and he was a good cook. This man and woman came along that we knew, they would be cousins of me mammy’s. They said Mick ‘who will bake the cake bread if Dolly (me mammy was Bridget, but she got Dolly) is in the hospital?’ He said, Missy there and fair play to her he said. At a very young age, I had to do that. I had to put down spuds and cabbage, other bits and bobs, make the bottles for the childer, make the goodie (babyfood). At that time there wasn’t much. There was a lot of childer. I’d boil the white bread and strain the water off and I’d get a fork and I’d blend it up and then I’d put the milk in, so that was that bottle of goodie.
We didn’t have all of those grander foods what they have today. You ate what you got, you did not say you were not eating it cause you would be dam glad to get it and ate it. It was really and truthfully the farmers that fed us, we would have been lost only for the farmers. Me brothers would help out and pay them back that way. But you got the fresh vegetables, spuds and their bacon and stuff like that. I was very used to hand washing the clothes, no other choice, and then a scrubbing board came out and of course they got me one of them as well.
My mother and father and grandparents were very good people. My mammy’s father was an awl horse dealer and would love the pieballs. He would go on to the fairs and me grandmother would say don’t get rid of my white pony on me, but he would. He’d send up to Dublin for the sphag (butter dishes, mugs all sorts of stuff you could sell, blessed pictures and everything). They would come back down to the station. The boxes would be very high. He’d go to the farmers houses selling them but the people had that much trust in them, that he could have a big square basket with stuff in it and he could leave that on top of the table if that woman was three sheds down outside. I remember that as I was with my grandparents a lot.
Daddy’s people were Co Longford and Leitrim. Me mammy and daddy was married in Athlone, they would go into Athlone and go over the bridge to the Connaught side, Roscommon and that. They’d venture out there in the summertime. It was different places for different things, you knew the county that was the best for tin smithing. I always remember one thing, with my parents and me grandfathers and grannies, me father told me, he said ‘Missy, if you have respect for people, he said, then them people he said should have respect for you’ and I always remember them words. We learned, it was put into our heads not to touch anything, you will get enough off the people by asking or doing something in return for them.
Me father would be gone in the morning, he would go on a bike, he would have horses. He would always come back by a drapery shop and he’d bring back red wellington boots for the girls and black ones for the boys and shirts and cord trousers. He was a great man.
My children never experienced that cause they never travelled and to me they missed out on life with things we done. When my father and mother would go, I would know what to make the tae from and to share around the bread or put out the spuds. We wouldn’t go hungry, but the childers today, sure they won’t hardly eat that food, they want chips, something else. We didn’t know what chips was at that time and they were only a spud. I used to go to the farmers, they’d know ya but the woman could be churning the butter and I said, misses your arm must be tired, let me have a go and I’d have a go at churning because I’d be waiting for me pound of butter and me buttermilk. I would get a lovely pound or two of lovely country butter and cans of buttermilk, it was lovely.
I went into a shop beside the church where I made my confirmation. The dress I wore for my confirmation was made by the woman in the cottage, she had a machine and she made me a pinkie cap. Now, when I went into that shop, the girl behind the counter knew me father off course. Awh come in she said, til I see ya, I’ll give you what you want for your confirmation. She said ‘what would you like’, what do you think I done? I want food for my brothers and sisters, she got a cardboard box, she put the bread into it, she put the butter into it, she put tea and sugar into it and she said ‘what about yourself’, I said miss so and so, you can put me in a packet of biscuits. I will put you in more than one she said, she gave me three or four. I always put my brothers and sisters in front of me.