The Creamery in the 1930’s- Echoes of Ballaghaderreen 1990

On a bright and breezy morning in April, 1936 I set off on my mother’s Triumph bike for my first job in the creamery in Ballaghaderreen. The hours were from 9 to 6 and for that I got four pound a month which was very good at the time My first job was to make ice cream, but I Had many other duties to do also, bringing buckets of boiling water up 20 cement steps, washing out the big vats after the cream was in the churn and having to scrub them out with a scrubbing brush and “biddy” soap. I never had a dry foot, indeed my silk stockings (fish net) did not last long. Rinsing out acid bottles after testing the milk samples ruined them. During that first week my bike was stolen from an open shed at home, it had no mud guards and only the front brake worked but it did have good leather in the saddle. The tragedy was that my father had paid six shillings to get it in working order. Going to the creamery in 1934 for the farmer took a good deal of time. There was no such thing as tractors or cars for most of the farmers, so they joned in groups of 6 so that each farmer would have to go to the creamery only one day per week. Each man could look forward to his day. They would wait along the Lazy Wall, as it was called, with their asses and carts to have their milk tested and weighed. This gave the farmers the opportunity to catch up on all the local and international news. During that time the Spanish Civil War was the subject discussed. I remember the young boys used to accompany their fathers. It was a test of their manhood to be able to lift a milk can full of milk off the cart and empty into a creamery vat single handed. The day the young man achieved that task there would be plenty of back slapping and good natured banter between the different farmers, as for the youth in question, he seemed to grow a foot taller after such an achievement. The farmer supplied the evenings and mornings milk for 6 days. The Saturday night milk and Sunday morning was kept by the farmer’s wife to churn herself so she had home-made butter for the week. During the week the early morning milk had to be cooled, as the evening milk had been standing in a container of cold spring water and if fresh milk was put in on cold milk it would curdle. If a farmer arrived at the creamery with curdled milk and it had gone into separators, it would delay deliveries for the day. -all the separators would have to be cleaned out. The offending farmer was given a note on hygienic preparation of milk, this caused acute embarrassment to him as it showed him up as a bad farmer; as a result it did not happen often. At that time the Creamery was the only Industry in Ballaghaderreen, and the Creamery Committee thought it would help the housewife to get a good market for her eggs so they built an egg store. There were over 500 milk suppliers and they got a cheque on the 15th of each month; they also got a dividend at the end of the year as they were all share-holders. The old Creamery was at the back of St. Mary’s Hall opposite the cathedral. The new committee decided to build a new Creamery and it was opened in 1908 beside the railway bridge. If the farmer did not skim the milk off the creamery can for his morning cup of tea he would get a good price. Depending on the test the farmer would get two and a half pence, three and a half pence, four and a half pence per gallon. When the egg store opened there had to be personnel trained by the Department of Agriculture, otherwise they could not export eggs. The manager, Ned Doherty, made arrangements with the department to give a course in the creamery for about eight weeks. Twenty people attended from all over Ireland. There were only four or five boys on the course and the rest were young girls like myself. I remember one girl came from Aran Islands. She had very poor English. During the course we learned all the good things about eggs. How it was good for baby and also hard working men alike. We never heard about salmonella or cholesterol. We lived on eggs, cream and butter. We learned how to test eggs, how to kill and pluck chickens and turkeys and to prepare them for the oven. We studied hard and got our certificates from the Department stating that we were trained to the highest degree. It was worth more than an honours Leaving Cert as we could now get a job in any part of Ireland. What was nice, our jobs were secure. If eggs were scarce the management could not sack us otherwise they would lose the license to export eggs. As the boys went on to Agricultural Colleges and became Inspectors they ensured that our jobs were safe as then there were fewer testers available. Mc Arthur’s bread van called every day to the creamery. A plain loaf was three and a half pence, rich fruit cake six pence, seed cake six pence and buns one penny each. Currant buns as big as saucers were only one penny. Down at Shouldices, under the Railway Bridge, we bought our tea at one shilling per half pound, a pound of sugar two pence, and eggs, one penny each. The housewife who supplied the eggs got four shillings for 120 eggs and sometimes five shillings. Butter was ½ per lb. and one shilling to suppliers in the creamery. Bacon was six pence to nine pence per lb. a doctor at that time said one person could live well and be well fed properly on 6 to 8 shillings per week. That is 30 pence to 40 pence in today’s money The Irish Independent was one penny. Woman’s Own was two pence. We followed the romance of Wallis Simpson as she waited for the Prince who would renounce his throne for the woman he loved. Thinking about my days in the creamery brings back so many fond memories. I remember on one occasion a very serious young boy from Barrack Street came into the store for one dozen eggs. I was alone at the time and rushed up to the store to get a bag to put the eggs in. as I was going up the store I hit the weighing scale and cut my forehead just above my eye. The blood came pouring out. It seems that your man did not have a strong stomach, as he fainted. As I looked at him through blood spotted glasses I thought he was dead. Bea Regan came in and can you imagine the chock she got- I covered in blood and a young man stretched on the floor dead to the world. She did not know what to do On another occasion I was sent out to the bread van for a turn-over loaf. The bread-man asked me did I want a turnover or a roll over! I was so confused I did not know what I wanted one morning a woman came in with her daughter to see the manager. She was looking to get a job for her. While she was there the dairymaid took some butter from the churn to weigh it. In doing so she dropped some on the floor. The daughter of the woman thought she would help so she went over and picked up the butter with thick woollen gloves. The dairymaid let such a roar out of her that mother and daughter did not wait to see the manager about the job. I used to go to Lily Carty in Chapel Lane (Cathedral Street) who was the hairdresser. The style then was eton crop (or shingle) much the same style as ex minister Gemma Hussey has now. In Duff’s you could get beautiful cotton material at six pence per yard and a lovely taffeta and lovely heavy satin in different colours for blouses and evening dresses for one and six per yard. We always liked to be ready for gentlemen callers and for the Directors Dance in Swinford or the Military Officers Dance in Athlone where the men all wore white gloves or the Hospital Dance and dinner in Castlerea at Christmas Excursions to Sligo every second Sunday for two shillings return and to Strandhill for six pence where you could get high tea for one shilling and six pence. Woolworths in Sligo where everything was left on the counter and every article was just six pence each. We could get lipstick and powder and no one would say you are too young for make-up. There will never be times like those again.

By Kathleen Roddy Glynn