Page 20 - The Kerry News 2019
P. 20

20 KERRY NEWS CHRISTMAS 2019
DREAMING OF A WHITE
ICHRISTMAS IN KERRY
remember an old country bought as they were at Foleys,
   REMEMBERING SOME SMALL SHOPS IN KILLARNEY 25 YEARS AGO
Hilliard’s on Main Street (now Centra & Mac’s Restaurant), the main clothing store for generations employing 100 people at one time in Ladies & Gents fashions.
The Lakes Triple Cinema was state of the art when it opened in the 70’s. Now a beautiful Cineplex with three cinemas.
            McCarthy’s Delicatessen, High Street, the shop that brought convenience meals to Killarney (now a clothes shop)
O’Meara’s Bar a great Legion House and Eagers Newsagent, toy and sweet Shop now trading a little further up the street on High Street.
DF O’Sullivan Main St. (now a restaurant) was the BIG toy store in its day. Also sold newspapers, smokes, sweets and tourist trinkets.
    Razzle Dazzle on Plunkett St The West End Petrol Station.
kitchen, the old— The Bridge, Or Jackie fashioned wall clock beating O’Sheas’ in Killorglin. One out time on the wall, the had Father Christmas knocking
firelightbrightinthehearth, the holly trimming the pictures.
The woman of the house in her blue print bib laying the table for supper, the voice of Bing Crosby coming from the wireless: ‘I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, with every Christmas card I write, May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmasses be white.’ A white Christmas was and probably still is every child’s vision of a perfect Christmas
IfourEnglishreaderatschool had a black and white photo of haymaking in summer, the domed haycocks standing in the fields, then it also had poems and prose about snow. Alexander Smith’s piece about a snowfall struck a chord at once ‘Winter in the country without snow is like summer without a rose. Snow is winter’s speciality, its crowning glory, its most exquisite grace.‘
The first snowflakes, he added took hold of the imagination in ways which meant that ‘even the most prosaic of mortals‘ were moved by them. Our Irish reader meanwhile had a piece called Titim Mor Sneachta, A Great Fall of snow. ‘When I woke in the morning, ‘the piece began ‘I saw a shining cloak on everything. There was snow on the hills, the houses and the trees. The peaks looked magical in their covering of white.’ When we were young, we were told that snow was a sign that the geese were being plucked in heaven, or alternatively it meant that the angels were having a pillow fight. In the early years of my childhood, we had a goose for Christmas dinner, the goose cooked in an old pot oven over the fire, the oven in question specially reserved for that purpose. As the years went on, though turkey became more popular, and so like so many others, I suppose we changed with the times.
We could readily identify with the notion of the geese being plucked in heaven. My mother kept for the Christmas market, some of which had to be plucked and oven ready for the customers. I liked the idea of the angels having pillow fights too. The angels portrayed in our catechism were serene and protective, but the thought of them indulging in pillow fights made them all the more accessible, understandable.
Many of our Christmas decorations were years old,
on an old blue door, the buttercup yellow of the walls wonderfully reminiscent of a colour that was very popular then. More than that, the chimneys, the roof, the eaves, the window ledges were piled high with snow the image of the old house flanked on either side by snowy firs and hollies.
I remember a childhood Christmas when the snow fell deep and long, the huge old fir trees fringing the grove looking for all the world like Christmas cards come to life. I remember my brown and white sheepdog, Rover, romping through the snow and giving chase after the rooksthatflewpastoverhead, a favourite diversion of his, though he knew that it was only a game and that he hadn’t the slightest hope of catching them.
I remember the hens in the yard, some black, some white, some warm reddish brown, all bemused and befuddled by the snow, as if they could hardly fathom its dazzling whiteness at all. We spent a good deal of our time setting up little tables for the birds, and though they were fairly makeshift at times, they served their purpose well enough all the same: the rich melodic warble of a redbreast in the snowy cypress tree in the yard more than enough recompense for our efforts. There was the fairy fort in the near distance, set as it was on the very edge of the cliff overlooking the bay. When the snow fell, it looked like a magic circle fine old trees, long since stunted and slanted by winter gales, suddenly transformed into wintry sculptures, all shining and gleaming and white.
It was well known that the fairies loved to play football on long summer evenings, when the purple—flowered foxgloves graced the grassy banks and the yellow flags dazzled in corners. It would have been the easiest thing in the world though to imagine the little people gathered round their firesides when the snow came down in drifts, and the stars glittered far and away in the night sky. I remember walking down the little country road to my aunt’s house, where she lived with her husband and family the snow so deep that my boots sank into it, the crunching sound that it made like the essence of winter then, the feel of it powdery, chill and soft when I took it in my hands. The grove that flanked the road, one of many in the place was layered in white the oaks and the beech trees bare and
sculptural, their evergreen counterparts etched against the sky.
I remember the old cobbled yard, the cobbles lost beneath the shining mantle of snow, the Muscovy ducks, with their greenish black plumage, just like the hens unable to make sense of it all. Meanwhile the cows,the much—loved Kerries were safe and snug in their shed across the yard, plenty of 35 fodder provided for them there. Sometimes I imagined that they missed the summer and the sun and the fields of clover, the sunlit bay stretching far and away to the blue horizon when they grazed in the high fort field. I remember the snow covered hedges and garden: the old moss roses, their fragrance scenting the air, and the dahlias where the hens shuffled to their heart’s content in summer no more than a memory then.
The rooks meanwhile looked like twists of dark silk on the snowy branches in the copse at the back of the house. What they made of the snow was anybody’s guess, but even then I imagined they were not too keen on it: the old yellow house itself like a Christmas card house in the snow.
I remember the fire piled high in the hearth, the red and orange of the flames providing the perfect contrast to the dazzling white beyond, as if
the cold outside and the warmth inside were shaped and defined by one another still. We made a sled that winter and went sliding down the snowy incline in one of our neighbour’s fields. I don’t know how we thought of the sled we must have read about it somewhere, but looking back it was in its way what snow at Christmas was all about, freedom, adventure and the joy of being young.
And if we were lucky, when we called to a neighbour’s house we might be treated to a glass of Nash’s Wonder Orange each, the orange poured from the dark bottles that seemed so familiar then, but that now in memory seem so different and unique. A plate of biscuits, Marietta or U.S.A. from a tin set before us, while some of the old timers reminisced of heavy falls of snow from earlier Christmasses that they themselves had known: the longing and nostalgia in their voices almost palpable then.
And when I came home, Rover waiting at the gate to greet me, eager as he was to give chase after rooks again or simply to go for a run down the old boreen. That snowy Christmas of old: it’s no great surprise, I suppose that I remember it still for there was not only the joy of the season itself but a little bit of winter magic into the bargain.
by Patrick OSullivan
 




































































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