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Nostalgic look at old country traditions

Friday, 31st October, 2014 10:05pm
Nostalgic look at old country traditions

Author Alice Taylor with Weeshie Fogarty of Radio Kerry, who launched her latest book ‘Do You Remember?’ at the Private Collector Gallery, Innishannon, at the weekend

BY ÁILÍN QUINLAN

MORE than 200 people attended the launch of the latest book by popular author Alice Taylor in her home village of Innishannon.

‘Do You Remember?’ – Taylor’s 21st book – is a nostalgic look at the old country traditions of living and working, many of which are now long gone.

Funny memories of the family rosary – Taylor’s father used his cap as a ‘scud missile’ to bring young miscreants into line by throwing it at them during the prayers – an examination of our deep connection to ‘the homeplace’ and memories of the iconic Sacred Heart Lamp are celebrated in the book.

Alice’s latest offering was launched by Kerry Radio broadcaster Weeshie Fogarty at the Private Collector Gallery last Friday – Fogarty, Taylor says, is a man who would ‘completely understand what the book is about’.

“I love writing,” says Taylor, author of the best-selling “To School Through the Fields” and “The Gift of a Garden”. ‘I garden in the summer and write in the winter,’ adding that her latest book focuses on a rich way of life which is now gone.

In the book, Taylor remembers her childhood home – the farm with all its tools and animals, how cooking was done on a huge open fireplace where a big black kettle hung permanently from a crane over the flames.

Different chapters examine the ritual of lighting the oil lamps, the excitement of threshing day, and the satisfaction of a good harvest, along with recollections of the family horses, the neighbours and social occasions like the stations, visits to the dancehall and the cinema.

‘What I am trying to capture in the book are the values we had, which are still of importance in today’s world – values such as honesty, integrity and reliability,’ says Taylor.

She recalls an observation by the poet Seamus Heaney that the values he learned in his County Derry childhood, which he had considered archaic and irrelevant to the modern world, were in fact to be trusted.

Symbols of traditional country life such as the Sacred Heart lamp were a part of every house, she says: ‘The Sacred Heart lamp usually came down through the female line. It was the women who passed these pictures on,’ adding that for many this light was a symbol of home.

There’s a chapter on saying the rosary: ‘This was often quite funny, with young children elbowing each other – my father used his cap as a kind of scud missile to throw at the fella who was causing trouble and bring him into line.

‘I was born on a hillside farm in the depths of rural Ireland. On this farm, as on many others all over the country, people worked with the most basic tools and with their beloved horses, to wrest a livelihood from the land,’ she says, adding that these people coped with a world that had yet to hear the buzz of an engine or light up at the touch of a switch.

‘Life was loved at a slower pace, though not less hard-working. But without modern machinery everything took its time.’

•‘Do You Remember?’ by Alice Taylor is published by Brandon; €16.99 hardback.

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