John McCullagh March 19, 2005
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1937

That was a good year!  Not many mere mortals get to have Newry, Co.Down, N.Ireland as their place of birth.  I got lucky….BIG TIME!

I lived for a very brief time in Mary Street

and that is where it happened….my very first memory.

I was about one year old and strapped into one of those baby "high" chairs.  My parents were entertaining visitors to "Tea".    "Tea" in those days in that part of the world would have consisted of cold meats like boiled ham, chicken etc with salads and, of course, the famous soda and wheaten bread with "country" butter.

 "Country" butter came straight from the farm and not from the shop or store.  It was always a sunshine yellow colour and slightly more salty than the more refined variety. And to my mind then and now, much preferable.  Scones, brack, apple tarts and a selection of cakes would also be on offer.  All home-made of course.

Aware that the adults had tea-spoons to stir their tea I apparently insisted that I should have one to stir my cup of milk.  A well brought-up young lady would, wouldn’t she?

Much to my mother’s dismay I proceeded to stir anti-clockwise!

Horror of horrors, how could I do such a thing?  My poor mother seemingly, had over-looked the fact that I was, after all, only one year old!

1938 Twelve months later we were living in Edward Street and World War 2 had started.   My mother had much more to worry about then!

The war and many more memories.

1939, Sept. 3rd. and England has declared war with Germany.  World War 2 had arrived!

Having just four days earlier, had my second birthday, I was not aware of what that meant or of the changes that war would bring to my young life and the lives of so many others.

There was soon to be another change in my life.  In December 1939 my brother was born and we moved to Edward Street.

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1940:  I’m packed off to school.  Conveniently situated, just three doors away was St.Joseph’s School and the "so called" Sisters of Mercy.  To this day I believe that Order of Nuns was sadly misnamed!   I wasn’t having any of it, with or without mercy and used to run home during recreation time. 

Well my mother wasn’t having any of that either and promptly marched me to St. Clare’s Convent on the High Street.  I was three years old and once through those huge wooden gates each morning, there was no escape!

Not that is, until lunch time.  And then began the long trek home again for dinner.  In those days the main meal of the day was taken any time between mid-day and 2 p.m.  And so back to school again for the afternoon session. 

All this coming and going proved too much for my young legs and I solved this by having my customary afternoon nap with head laid on top of my desk!  The nuns were not impressed!  I have to admit here and now that the feeling was mutual! 

There are of course always exceptions.  And in my case these were  Sr. Anne and Sr. Aquinas.  Sr. Anne was kindness itself to this three year old in the "babies" class and tolerated the afternoon naps.  At least she did while the dreaded Mother Paul was not around!

 And Sr. Aquinas encouraged my passion for books and would regularly send me home with a list of titles which she thought suitable.  The funds for these books were not, of course always available.  The books were not always available to purchase.  It was, after all, war time. 

And so I was introduced to the wonderful world of the Newry Lending Library.  By the age of nine I had read all that was available to me in the junior section of the library and on special request of Sr. Aquinas, the Librarian offered me membership of the adult section with the restriction that she would choose the books for me.  I remember so well signing my name and being issued with a small square card that tucked inside the covers of the books.

A "red letter" day in my life! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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