'It's Us They're Talking About' :
Cassie and Sarah Frances Quigley

Margaret Farren

2 of 6

Cassie's lasting impression of life at the Cross is of the handiness of everything and the liveliness of her social life.

"You could run into any house for half an hour. Any house was an open house really. You could go and ceilidh and play cards. If there was an old melodeon there'd be singing and dancing. I remember trying to learn The Charleston. Eventually it would get late and you'd be chased out for making too much noise and you'd be home by 10pm. Some of the houses you could go into were Kate and Minny Harkin's, Eddie Devlin's and Liza Ann's".

Cassie also remembers getting up to the odd bit of mischief. "We'd be shouting into Wee Hughdie, and playing up on him. At Christmas he'd have drink on him and we'd be shouting at him 'Hughdie! You've the cap on the wrong eye!"

Cassie has such a gleeful glint in her eye as she tells me about taunting Wee Hughdie {the owner of a shop where the Keg 0' Poteen is now) that for a second you catch a glimpse of a younger, sprightlier Cassie, and can imagine her skipping off down the Cross street, giggling with her friends.

But it wasn't all gadding about town. Cassie had to be in school from 9am to 3pm, the same as everyone else. Lunchtime (dinnertime) was at 12.30, at which time she could come down home for her meal. Sadly their mother died young. Their father would take a break from his work to make the meal for the scholars.

"We would have to go up to the spout for clean water for the tea, which my father would make. Of course there would be a row about who would wash the dishes and tidy up. The dinner would be something like roasted herring, roasted on the coals, or whatever was handy. I remember having to learn how to make scones."

The house where they lived is better known to us these days as Snowflakes, or Cleary's, and Cassie and the family lived in one half of the house and Nurse Dowd lived in the other. She was the maternity nurse. It was when the house came to be sold that Cassie's father made the move to the country. "It was a change. Everything seemed a wile distance away. You couldn't just run out to the shops if you forgot something. You had to think hard when you were out to make sure you got everything you want."

According to Sarah Frances, she was reared more "in the country style". She lived on a farm with her uncles and helped with the cattle, sheep, horses, hens and geese. There was never any extra help. In Sarah's own words, she was "inside woman and outside man", meaning she could prove herself equally useful in either capacity, whether she was outworking in the fields, or inside cleaning the house and preparing the meals. She remembers also getting up at 6am to go to Carn Fair, which was the biggest fair in Inishowen. But as hard as she worked, she - like Cassie - has fond memories of having the crack in the neighbours' houses. "Mary Sweeney's was an open house. The young people were all Scotch and they were great singers. There was always a rush to get everything done so that you could get down to their house. If there was someone there with a melodeon or a fiddle, and if you had enough people, you could have a dance. "You never went to the dance if you could go to the open house instead. After they all scattered, you'd be lost down at the dance in the hall."

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