It wasn’t a long way from Tipperary to the village of Offaly for Joanna

We came to Killeigh over 30 years ago in the early 90s. We were from Tipperary, my mom Ellen was from Nenagh and my dad Patrick was from Templemore.

I myself was born in Nenagh. Most of us were born there, however three of my sisters were born in Portlaoise and my second youngest brother and youngest were born in Limerick. There were 16 of us in total; 12 girls Mary, Ellen, Bridget, Theresa, Winnifred, Ann, Elizabeth, Kathleen, Geraldine, Phyllis, Margaret and myself and 4 boys Patrick, Terrance, Micheal and John. My sister Margaret died at birth and sadly John committed suicide a few years ago leaving behind a wife and 9 children.

After my older brother got married to a daughter from Birr, we as a family decided to go down to Offaly and we stayed. However, my siblings and I would go to Ballinasloe in the summer and come back here in the winter. We have lived by the side of the road for many years. We had no relation to Ballinasloe but loved going back every summer and traveling, we always did from the early days and loved it. We got used to the people there and they got used to us, great memories.

We settled in Killeigh fairly quickly, we have some really good neighbors. The opportunity arose when we were living for a while in a trailer by the side of the road. We were looking to buy a permanent site in Killeigh but there was nothing available. I guess people were anxious to find out who would use the site, but we only wanted it for our family, the McInerneys and it was hard to tell people.

My father has always blended in over the years with his own family relationships and that is where we are today. We were always raised on our own, we went to Tullamore for a while after our mother died, but we didn’t like it so we came back to our site in Killeigh. This house where we now live was put up for sale and the council brought it for us on a traveller’s grant and we were delighted.

The only sad thing is that my mom never got to see it, she would have loved it but never got the chance to enjoy it. She died at 61 from lung cancer. Love living in the house now, it was a great transition between trips. We feel very lucky to have this house. I know a lot of my connections live in houses on estates, but for us living alone in Killeigh in the country is so much better. Six of my sisters are married and three of us live here or around Tullamore. We love the area and the people are very nice.

I vividly remember how the local neighbors gathered around us and helped us out when Jimmy, my parent, fell off the bike at Scrubb Hill on the main road and passed away. It was a difficult time for all of us, but the community helped us in all ways and very grateful to all of them. Jimmy lived with us because he was a cousin of my father. Mick his other brother also came to live with us and still does, his wife died only a year ago, they had no family and his wife had been in a house in Kilkenny for a few years.

It’s just me, my dad and my sister who live here now with Mick. Dad will be 87 in June. I take care of my father and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I got used to it because before my mother passed away, she took care of all of them. We have always helped her grow and she was our home teacher and taught us everything we know from cooking and cleaning to sewing.

We no longer travel in the summer, I still want to go there as we have loved over the years. My father is too old now to travel but a few years ago he would have left, he liked nothing more than to go for a few weeks but now because of the Covid it is impossible to go and his health is declining somewhat and his view. His balance is not very good and the death of my brother has taken a toll on him, as has, of course, the loss of my mother. He also misses his cousin Jimmy as they would both go away together for a few weeks every summer.

My father never knew how to read or write, but we all had the opportunity to learn, my mother always made sure that no matter where we were, we went to school. In fairness to my parents, we never lacked education, but we just didn’t stay in one place long enough to stay in the same school. It never held us back and they were the best parents you could wish for.

We have learned to have our own independence more than the kids who are growing up now. We know how to pick up fireworks, light a fire, how to feed ourselves and we learned that from an early age. I myself stayed in school until 6th grade and went to Scoil Mhuire in Tullamore. After my confirmation, I left and went to Ballinasloe. Ann my sister went to Fas and continued her education there, but not me. My younger siblings have had better opportunities than me. Most kids these days would go to high school.

We always maintain the customs of the traveler regarding the care of horses and the like. We still have OTM Pride Week at Chateau de Charleville, although it has not happened in recent years due to the current pandemic. My two sisters Ann and Mary are heavily involved in the organization of the event. It’s such a big event. It goes back to the roots of the Travelers where we light fires and the kettle and the pans, the bakers and bake the bread. When we were young I still remember my mother lighting the fire to bake the bread and bake the meat in the baker’s hotplate, boil the onions and mash and we would still have the traditions. We also loved the horse fairs over the years my dad never drove but loved horse drawn carriages. It is extinct now, but the younger generation will not have what we had. We would not hesitate to prepare my father’s cart and from there we would know how to put the material on the cart and the cart on the horse, build a tent and survive. Most of the younger generation would have no idea how to do this now. However, at the Pride event you would see it all and some of the younger ones would get involved or the horse fairs in Ballinasloe maybe. One of my brother’s kids loves it all, he has three girls and three boys and one of the boys is training to be a farrier which is great to see. This is what we used to do when we were young, helping my dad with the horses because there were more girls than boys in the family so we all helped out and loved it. It’s no different from living on a farm I guess everyone helps out with all the chores that need to be taken care of.

Faith has always been a part of our lives and always will be, I have been very lucky to arrive in Medjugorje and Lourdes and Knock over the years but there is something special about Lourdes, it is my favorite and hope to return someday. Until last year, my dad loved going to Killeigh’s Mass on a Saturday night, but hopefully we can bring him back soon. She misses him terribly. Placing the May bush was also a tradition and would always be decorated on May 1.

A community center would be great for the Killeigh area and I look forward to getting involved in the activities and hopefully learning more about the locals. I would love nothing more than maybe joining a knitting or sewing group. Another memory of my mom was sewing aprons and garlands in a bag and who knows maybe I might teach someone that someday. As you grow up you learn survival skills and you learn how to survive and that is the most important.

If you would like to learn more about the development of the proposed Killeigh Community Center and how you could help, please visit our website www.killeighcommunitycentre.com


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