by Anne Banks
My father, John Banks, used to say that the Banks family ‘came from the foot of Knocknarea’ and there are Banks families still living in that area today. In fact, there are Banks graves in Scarden cemetery on the Strandhill road.
My grandfather Patrick Banks is listed in the 1901 Census and is living in Calry. The census form shows him as Head of Family with occupation Farmer and Domestic Servant, born in Co. Leitrim and resident at house #7 in Faughts townland. He has a wife Anne, son John, and three daughters named Ellie, Rose and Teresa. He also states that he can speak both Irish and English but cannot read. I know that his wife was Anne Wynne a sister of Willie Wynne from Clogher Lane (no relation to the Wynnes of Hazelwood). The only boy, John, was my father. By the way, Ellie married Johnny Cunningham of Carrickoneileen and they had a son Paddy who then married Nancy Davey (sister of Johnny Davey) and had a family of six, two boys and four girls. I used to visit my aunt Ellie and stay in her house for a few days.
The 1911 Census form has more information than the 1901 form. The 1911 form shows that Patrick and Anne Banks had 6 children born but only 5 were still living at the time of the census. The form also shows that at that time (1911) they were married for 36 years so they must have got married in 1875. I know that my other two aunts, Katie and Mary, went out to New York in the 1890s and left on a boat from Sligo Quay. Teresa or Tess as she was known died shortly after making her confirmation and she had red hair. My father kept a lock of her hair in an envelope in our house and I would often sneak a look at it.
I’m not sure when exactly my grandfather, Patrick, came to live in Calry but since he is listed in the 1901 Census, I’m guessing that he must have arrived some years before he got married in 1875. He came to work on the Wynne estate in Hazelwood as a labourer and lived in the Goldwrappers. The Wynnes built houses for the staff who worked on the estate and a whole row of these ‘labourers cottages’ were built on the upper road in Calry on either side of the gatehouse at the top of Shaw’s Avenue. These houses were called the Goldwrappers because each door had a brass doorknocker which looked golden. Our house in Faughts townland was the last of the Goldwrappers on the left side at the top of the hill almost opposite the small wicket gate leading into Ballyglass House. Andrew Dodd lives on the same site now.
After all the girls moved out of the house in the Goldwrappers, my father John, or Johnny as he was known, remained there and, like his father, he too worked on the Wynne estate. He married Mary Anne Dolan from Dromahair. They got married in Dromahair and my mother’s sister Winnie was bridesmaid. His neighbor and friend, Charles Hargadon from Colgagh, was best man as my father had no brother. Charlie was the younger brother of the poet, Michael A.gadon who went to Canada. He wore a new suit made by Tailor O’Boyle. It was made from blue serge cloth and had a waistcoat. People said that he looked very well in his new wedding suit. At the time of the wedding my father was 50 years old and my mother was 39 years. There were straw boys at the wedding reception to entertain the guests. My mother actually gave birth to seven children but six died. I was the only child that survived. I’m not sure if I was named after my mother or my grandmother on my father’s side.
I entered Dunally National School in the late 1940s and the teachers back then were Miss Beatrice McGowan and Miss Molly Patton, the Principal. Miss McGowan had a sister who taught in Calry National School around the same time. Molly Patton was very skilled at many crafts – woodwork, gardening, needlework and leatherwork. She had all the tools for making leather handbags. However, she could be very cross and she kept sally rods in a cupboard behind her desk. One day I came home from school with three welts on my left hand and three more on my right hand. My father asked me that night what happened and I told him. He made ‘goodie’ (which was our usual supper made by boiling milk and white bread in a saucepan) for me and put me to bed because I was very upset. I was kept home from school for three weeks and I was never slapped again.
I was very fond of my father. He was a good man and very kind to me. He liked to dress well and he wore a hat. He was very intelligent and could read Latin. His prayer book was called The Key of Heaven. He also bought and read Old Moore’s Almanack.
My father travelled everywhere by bicycle and I remember a funny story about him. He was riding his bike down Knox’s St (O’Connell St) one evening in winter time without a light and a policeman stopped him and wrote out a summons on the spot. He came home and told us the story. He put the summons safely away in a press saying “I’ll not pay that.” About forty years later Florence Melly and I were tidying the house on eday and we found the summons. I told Florence the story behind it and we both laughed.
Johnny was fond of horses and very good with them because he looked after the horses on the Wynne Estate when Percevel’s were running it. Percy Anderson in Colgagh House had high regard for my father and he always trusted him to bring Anderson’s horse into the blacksmith in Bridge St whenever the horse needed to be shod. My father would oblige and then he would ride the horse back home to Andersons with his new shoes.
The Goldwrappers were all semi-detached houses but they were very small inside. On the ground floor you had a living room with an open hearth and a small kitchen at the back. Upstairs we had two bedrooms but the back bedroom was very small with a low ceiling owing to the low slanted roof. At some stage, my father bought the house next door to us which was Connollys so we then doubled the size of our house. Mrs Ethel Connolly was a midwife.
When I was a child the people who lived in the other Goldwrappers below us on the Sligo town side were:
Paddy & Sarah Melly (west side) + John McLoughlin & wife (east side)
Tom McGuinn & family (west side) + Tom & Ethel McLoughlin (east side)
Gillispie family (west side) + Polly Casey (east side)
Mc Gowan family (west side) + Joe Henry (east side) [McGowans eventually occupied the Henry side of the house]
Miss Emma Liddy (west side) + Gerry Mulligan & wife Bessy nee Liddy (east side)
Then up a short lane (Fowley’s Lane) at the top of the Blackmud Hill, there were two separate houses: Angela Kerins (west house) + “Ruckie” Fowley (east house)
All the people who lived along the Goldwrappers were good neighbours and we helped each other out.
We had about 14 acres, mainly in Hazelwood townland opposite our house in Faughts and my father kept a few cows for milking. We had another 8 acres behind the house in Faughts. We also kept geese and hens so we always had our own eggs. The hens were fed with mashed potatoes, barley meal and clarinda all mixed together, which produced good eggs with yellow eggs.
As my grandfather, Patrick, was a gardener at Hazelwood, he passed his love of gardening down to his son, John, my father. We had a lovely garden with boxwood hedges growing around our house. He also planted rose bushes on our gable wall and the house looked lovely when the roses were in bloom. We also had rose bushes growing on the gable wall of the henhouse. My father would often cut the roses and give them as presents to friends and people he knew. I remember he used to give roses to Curries the bakers in Sligo and we would get lovely sweet cakes from that shop. They were delicious.
After I left Dunally N.S., I went to the Technical School on Quay Street for two years and passed my Group Cert without any problem. I did Book Keeping, Secretarial/Typing, Home Economics, Art, Maths, Irish and English. I got on well at the Tech and liked all my teachers.
I remember when I was around thirteen or fourteen, I used to babysit Gerard Cunningham the only son of Mick and Bridget Cunningham on the Two-Mile Hill. I used to push him in his pram up and down the hill. He was a good little boy, very quiet and never cried. After my father died in the early 1960s, my mother and I used to visit the Cunninghams in their little bungalow in Ballyglass townland usually during the dark winter nights.
Growing up in “The Goldwrappers” was a pleasant and simply way of life, far from the hustle and bustle of today. I miss those times.