Listen to me tell my story:

My name is Sheila Reilly and I was born in the County Louth, in Ardee hospital if you ever heard tell of it. It was a little maternity hospital at that time, but it’s an old folks home today. I came from a very big family I think it’s eleven. I had eight brothers and three sisters. And they’re all nearly dead now. One sister is dead, she was the oldest, she would be very old if she were alive now. Five of my brothers are dead – the Lord have Mercy on them all.

My father and mother are dead, they used to camp around Louth, Cavan, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, and they’d take an odd trip down the north as far as Newry and Warrenpoint and they would stay there for a while. That was before the troubles.

My father was a tinsmith and he would make the cans and buckets and stuff for the cows. Me and my mother would go out into the country and sell it. The other two girls were married and gone, me two sisters were much older than me. I was the youngest of the girls. Me and my mother – I used to help her. We walked to the houses and the people knew us as well as anything. You wouldn’t have to ask for a thing. They knew what we wanted and we knew what they wanted out of the basket of what we were selling. We swapped the things for the food and even if you never swapped the farmers would give you the food anyway. They were very good and if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be alive. There was no dole there was no money at that time, we were getting no money only the couple of shillings me daddy would get.

And I’d make the flowers. I’d make the flowers around the Christmas and sell bunches of them around the houses. The people of Ireland made little altars in their houses at that time. I’d sell them in the pubs. They’d use them as decorations around Christmas in and out of the bottles and the glass. You know, for the Christmas. You couldn’t keep them made. I’d sell them in the shops and pubs. But you’d get tuppence or truppence but tuppence and truppence at that time was grand.

I am talking about, I’m eighty-five and I was about fifteen so seventy years ago. It was very good anyway we’d a great time and the people was very healthy. Thank God.

Then around that time I got married. My husband came from Tuam in the country Galway. We got married in Co Meath in Kells. We were married twelve years and he took a massive heart attack and died. We had six children and one on the way. He was thirty-two years of age. God help him. He was a lovely, lovely man. He was a lovely gentle person he got on with everyone. He died anyway and he’s buried in Dundalk in the Co Louth.

I came to live in Dublin where I am now. I knew I wouldn’t be leaving Dublin anymore because I was getting a little Tighin there before we got the houses then we got lead. It was very good for me and the likes of me. I had no husband I wouldn’t be able to lead ponies down the road and yoke the ponies and bring them in. I stood there and all the Travellers stood there. I’d seven children and I put the children to school and they got confirmation and holy communion and they are all baptised thanks be to God. They got bits of jobs and went off and got married. My eldest son is dead about ten years. My husband is fifty-three years dead the first of next April. Ten years ago my son died.

Then I had a grand young girl she was absolutely lovely, God love her and she was as helpful, she’d help anyone who needed help. She was as soft as butter, she died.