Updated: Jun 12, 2020
Photo: my parents on their honeymoon in Rome - seen here at the Trevi Fountain.
My Dad turned 90 on 16th October and in time for his celebratory dinner in Ireland tomorrow night, he will be presented with his memoires for the years 1927 - 2017. Growing up in the West of Ireland in the 30s and 40s they had little or nothing and yet he claims they were happy. Times were so very different back then, and the following extract reveals a flavour of the closeness and bonds that held people together.
I have happy memories of an interesting day in our lives in 1942. It was fair day in Kiltimagh and Dad, Mom and Willie were at the fair selling cattle. I was 14 years at the time and James was 12 years. During the morning we decided on cooking a meal and I went to the cupboard to find plenty of bread, butter and vegetables, but no meat. I knew we had some pigs almost ready for the factory and I said to James that we should kill one. James agreed, however at our age, we were in doubt about our ability to catch and stun a pig without help - but not worried about our ability to draw its blood. We enlisted the help of Tony McLoughlin, a 30 year old batchelor farmer who lived alone next door and after some protesting, Tony relented and was of great help in helping us catch the pig, which James stunned. I drew its blood, carefully retaining it in a large bowl for our mother to make puddings. Tony made himself scarce, fearing that my father would come home and blame him for the killing of the pig. We thanked Tony sincerely for his help and told him we would give him a nice piece of pork for his services; and this I did the following day.
My mother had a great reputation in the neighbourhood for making good, tasty puddings so we were careful to apply salt and oaten meal to the blood to prevent clotting, just as she would do. She would add other ingredients later. We shaved the pig, gutted it, retained the liver, heart and kidneys, all of which we loved, and gave the intestines a thorough cleaning in preparation for our mother's pudding making the following day. We put the carcass on a ladder by the gable of our house, positioning it so that it could be seen by anyone approaching from the public road.
We were now waiting for Dad and Mom to return, wondering what their reaction would be to our production. James and I waited in the kitchen looking out the front window every now and then in anticipation of their arrival. As they came up the driveway, we could see Dad smiling and he went to the gable end of the house to inspect our work. Walking in to the kitchen and hugging us he said "I am proud of you both, you did a great job". On the following day, Dad removed the bones before cooking and salted it thoroughly to ensure the curing process didn't fail.
The news that the Sloyan boys had killed, cleaned and prepared the carcass ready for boning and salting by their father spread like wildfire throughout the parish and I was with Dad at mass the following Sunday when people came over to congratulate him on the sons he'd reared. I could see he was clearly proud at the recognition given to our endeavour at such a youthful age.