It's Us They're Talking About: Liam Grant

Margaret Farren

1 of 4

Liam Grant, like all his family, has a reputation for being friendly, neighbourly, and a lively storyteller. He didn't disappoint me. Liam had a cordial welcome for me and that annoying little dictaphone, which he took to like a professional, speaking clearly and distinctly, and only pausing to warn me that he was about to enter into a bit of mutual family history that I might like to censor. Not for a second was I made to feel uncomfortable as I interrupted the daily routine to chat to Liam, his sister-in-law Delia and - when he could spare the time -his brother Paddy, about the changes they've seen come over the parish since they were at school.

I got the distinct impression that whether "sib-friend" or not, no one has ever been made unwelcome in the Grant household. In fact, Liam and Delia took time to bemoan the fact that one of the many changes to our lifestyle was the introduction of radio and TV , which they believe has put paid to the honoured tradition of "ceilidh"ing. Add to this the laying of carpets all over people's houses these days and "that finished it off all together! You couldn't go into houses that'd carpets in them unless in your stocking soles! Carpets on the floor couldn't be kept in a country house!"

"They were far better times" , Liam says, "Everybody went to ceilidh. If you went to one house the night, then you went to another house another night and maybe you'd be trembling with fear to come home because they'd be telling ghost stories. People are terrible far advanced compared to that these days."

Liam is adamant that we have also advanced far beyond the kind of schooling he received back then, which he remembers not all that fondly, in spite of the great learning of the masters. What with the long walk there, the perishing cold and the temperament of the master to contend with, it seems schooling sixty years ago was a bit of an ordeal. By all accounts the teachers were often disposed to meting out very severe punishments for some thing as sometimes unavoidable as not understanding your lesson. Liam remembers with a shudder -and yet with surprising good humour -the times he was hit so hard he was knocked unconscious.

The stories about going to school in the bare feet are familiar to most us by now, but Liam manages to bring the whole scenario alive to my imagination like never before with some of the more specific details.

"The people round here started school at 6 or 7 years, but the people from Cluainte, Mindoran or Gortfad would start later, say at 9, because they had to walk and it was a wil' distance. They had to be hardier. Everyone was in the bare feet. You didn't put on shoes 'til you absolutely had to. There were no tarred roads so your feet were really hard. You could run along on the stones like anything and many's the time your big toe would be cut. I could go out there ye through the street in the bare feet!" I didn't doubt him. But the children didn't always have to walk, it seems.

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