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Another preview from our Women’s History project
With almost seventy chapters now written and in the final stages of editing, this week we provide yet another sneak preview from our forthcoming publication dedicated to the stories and histories of the women of Cappoquin. A subcommittee is working hard on the organisational details for the launch on November 10 next, and everything is going to the printers in early September.
For the moment, we hope you enjoy the following, from our oldest author Maureen Hackett, aged 96 and three quarters!
A Lifetime of Memories
I was born on the 26th December 1921 to John and Brigid Regan, in Derriheen House, Cappoquin. My mother’s maiden name was Doyle. Bartholomew (Batt) Doyle the local photographer was my uncle, in fact, and my late brother Jim certainly followed in his footsteps.  I was the eldest of five: myself, Eileen, Monica, Phila and Jim. I went to school in the Convent of Mercy school in Cappoquin and made my Holy Communion in St. Mary’s Church in May 1928.
I can remember that my mother was on the local Jubilee Nurses committee for several years, and I used to go with her to the meetings, which were held in venues like Tivoli House and Belleville. There were wonderful garden parties in Belleville for the Jubilee Nurses, fancy dress parties for the kids, fishing games on the grass, and so on. My mother had been a teacher in Grange, near Ardmore, and also in Affane. She also taught music and taught me the piano, as well as being the organist in the local church. I also fondly remember going with her to visit Mrs White in Derriheen House, where fancy dress parties were also wonderful. My mother had taught the White children before they moved to Cappoquin.
We spent a lot of our time as children down ‘the bank’, catching ‘cobbeleens’ (‘stickleback’ fish) or waiting for the express train that used to pass every night. We used to get on the black railings waving at it. Otherwise, we spent a lot of our time playing ‘Picky’ on the footpath and skipping down the middle of the street. No cars then! We played camogie in the ‘Nuns’ Field, where Dr. Murphy’s house now stands. Miss Gorey from Co Galway started the camogie in Cappoquin, she was an intercounty camogie player who later became Mrs Phelan – her daughter Mary (Ryan) still lives in Lismore today.
Times were hard in Cappoquin during the 1930s. My father’s wages from the bacon factory were 31 shillings a week (around €2) and, like in many households, it was handed over to my mother to help feed and clothe us all. Both my parents worked hard to educate us all in such difficult times. They were great parents indeed. I well remember how Mrs ‘Sha’ McGrath and a lot of other local women used to knit to make money for their families. I learnt to knit when aged 3-4 and used to make dolls’ scarves even before I began school. Mary Kerfoot was a cousin of ours and many local women used to supply her shop with handcrafted goods. I can still remember how Mrs McGrath made a pair of men’s socks for a shilling, in one day, and Mary Kerfoot sold them. It was a great thrill for me when I was asked to make a pair of gloves for Adele Astaire at Lismore Castle in the late 1930s.

After primary school I attended St. Anne’s secondary school, being in the school’s very first Leaving Certificate class in 1939, and afterwards I did a commercial course in St. Anne’s. My first job was teaching and mentoring Dr. Dennehy’s two sons in Lismore for twelve months. I remember my first new bike, bought in Sargent’s Garage around 1940 for the grand total of £5.19/6 (about €8) and I used to cycle to Dennehy’s on it every day, via the Kilbree road. My time in Dennehy’s was a very rewarding experience, but then, like many more at that time, I went to England to work in St. Anthony’s Hospital in North Cheam, Surrey where my sister, Eileen, had commenced her nursing training earlier the same year (1942). I had applied to do nursing but had no desire to do it really. I worked first as receptionist and then in administration, and I later worked for some Harley Street specialists who were among the staff at St. Anthony’s in a similar capacity.

During that time, World War 2 was on and it was a very scary and terrifying experience. We often worked 24 hours at a time, especially when the silent ‘doodlebugs’ were dropping. Air-raid messages coming through our hospital switchboard were my responsibility – I had to communicate to the whole hospital, ‘red’ to indicate danger and then ‘white’ when all clear. Our hospital was once just missed by a doodlebug. However, there was also a great camaraderie among the staff, doctors, nurses (many of whom were Irish) and myself. At times, including when the London fogs were very bad and we couldn’t venture out, we used to have ballroom dancing lessons in the hospital itself, which was a great morale booster.
I used to come home to Cappoquin every summer for my holidays. At the time, during the summers in Cappoquin, the local rowing club often took part in competitions on the River Blackwater at Cappoquin. My uncle, Batt Doyle, was one of the founding members of the club, while my father and mother (both committee members) and my brother Jim were heavily involved in my time too. It was at one of the club’s summer competitions that I met my first boyfriend. I was about 19 at the time and he was taking part in the races. He asked me if he won the final, would I go to the rowing club dance with him that night and I agreed. He won his race and I kept my promise.
The first summer after I went to London, I went home to Cappoquin along with my sister Eileen for my annual holiday. The first weekend, I went for a walk towards the boathouse with no intention of going to the dance. The band was playing away inside and even though I had little or no money on me and no intention of going to the dance, I went in anyway. Inside, a handsome young man by the name of Tom asked me for a dance. I danced several dances with him and he walked me home afterwards. We ‘went out’ together for the rest of the holidays – little did I know at the time that this encounter was to change my life, for the handsome young man was none other than Tom Hackett, who was to become my future husband. When I returned to England, we conducted our courtship by letter, and occasionally through a pre-arranged call to the switchboard at my workplace. Tom was with the Irish army, based at Cappoquin during the War, though he came from Offaly originally. His army career would later bring him to places like the Congo and Cyprus too, of course.
By 1946, with the War over, I returned from England and Tom and I were married in Mount Melleray Abbey on the 12th June 1946. We had four children and a long and happy marriage together. Over that time, I suppose I also got involved in many things in the locality at different stages – I was on the board of directors at the Credit Union for several years, did a stint on the committee of the GAA club, and kept a record of the questions and answers at many a table quiz, a great hobby of Tom’s.
All the time, I kept up my interest and work in handcrafts and knitting all through, while rearing the family. I was particularly proud when a daughter of Calvin Coolidge, former US President, came to Fort William and I was asked to make a shawl and deliver it to her at Fort William. I worked for Clodagh and Sybil Connolly, the fashion designers, making crocheted shawls, including some for customers in France. That contact came about while Tom was working on an army history, for the new schools’ Civics course, and I was in Dublin with him. Grace O’Connor in Cappoquin was a great help too with contacts when I was getting started in craftwork. I also did work for Ashford Castle and for Myrtle Allen at Ballymaloe House, and for my very good friend Olive, for her shop in Blarney. I also recall meeting a young teacher in Lismore, Sheila Heneghan, only to discover that I had been supplying craftwork for her mother’s craft shop in Cong, Co. Mayo for many years.
I got great pleasure out of working at home, and being involved with Villierstown Handcrafts for many years. Tom did their accounts as well. I was also honoured to win two national ICA ‘brannra’ proficiency awards with Ballinameela ICA, one for knitting and one for crochet during the 1970s and ‘80s. So no regrets, as I had a lot of opportunities to do the work I loved and made many good friends into the bargain.
Speaking of good friends, as Tom and I reached our 80s, we realised that living in our house in Mill Street was becoming increasingly challenging. Thus, we moved to Dungarvan in 2005 and, sadly, I lost Tom on the 1st February 2008. Yet I still have the fondest of memories of Cappoquin, my home place, and recall the fun we used to have at the home of Breda Keating in Green Street. Breda used to have ‘gatherings’ in her house every night – Johnny Gorman, Norman Walsh, Johnny Pender, Paddy Morrissey, Helen Cunningham from across the road, and others would be there – and we would have large amounts of tea and scones and cake. Then there were the visits to the Tailors, invariably to check on progress with a skirt, or trousers, but always sure of a lively conversation, whether the work was done or not.
Places are all about people, really, and Cappoquin had some of the best.

 

M Hackett

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
     
 

 

 

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