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Revisiting old times in Kilmihil

WRITERS often have to deal with moments of alarming peril. Not all of them have had their wife chase them around the kitchen, issuing chilling warnings about deadlines however.

When Michael O’Gorman suggested to his wife Stella that he was thinking of contributing a chapter to Kilmihil Parish Revisited, which has been produced by the local Active Retirement Association, it was nearly his last act.
“It was about two weeks before the book closed. I said one evening, by mistake, ‘you know I think I’ll write something for the book’,” Michael recalled, in the presence of his wife and other association members in Kilmihil last Thursday. He has yet to blot out the memory of what happened next.
“She came across the kitchen with the rolling pin and she said ‘look, the Cotters have written half the book. You’ve done nothing whatsoever. Now you have two weeks to get it into Tim Kelly and that’s it.”
“So I got it done,” Michael said, proud of his ability to write while under the cosh.
The Kilmihil Active Retirement Association has produced a more than 100-page book, which includes fascinating personal stories of life in Kilmihil and accounts of some people who spent most of their life far away from West Clare.
Funding from Clare VEC helped to kick-start the project, which really took off when retired schoolteacher Tim Kelly was appointed to give 30 hours of tuition to the group.
“We met here for the first two sessions and had a great time. We talked about old times, didn’t get anywhere and really hadn’t much idea where we were going,” said Stella O’Gorman, when the group met in The Meadows, Kilmihil.
“Eventually Tim said, ‘let’s go off, write something down and it’s got to be something about Kilmihil. Then we can start getting the book together’.
“That’s how it started. People came back with some really good stuff. Most of the articles are written by people from Kilmihil, who had never ever done anything like that before. There are memories and stories written down, which if we didn’t record them, they’d be gone,” added Stella, who has penned an account of how she ended up in Kilmihil.
Among the contributors is Dorothy Crowley, who put together a family tree. Included in this is her brother Fergal, who joined the Christian Brothers aged 16 in the mid-1940s.
“He wasn’t let home for six years. He was 22 when he came home. It was a rule that time. He could only get one letter in the month and it had to be from his mother. He went to England then and he was teaching there for years. The last four years of his life he was in Galway,” Dorothy said.
Maura Cotter has contributed five pages relating to the history of Kilmihil, including a full list of gardaí stationed in the village since 1922. Intriguingly, she has also detailed how tricky it was for local women to get their hair seen to in the 1940s and ’50s.
“There was no hairdresser in Kilmihil so they had to go to Kilrush to have the hair done. They were gone the whole day-long because they had to have a hot perm. They were plugged in and they cycled home at night again after having the hair done,” Maura recounted. Even the possibility of it raining didn’t put off the Kilmihil women in their relentless pursuit of a hair do.
“It was a permanent wave so it wouldn’t go off. It would stay there for months,” Maura revealed.
Other writers include Paddy Quinlivan, who with Gerard O’Neill wrote about Kilmihil GAA club, while Margaret Slattery contributed an account of Nell Galvin’s life. Moyasta hosts an annual traditional music festival in her honour.
The mythology of Knockalough Castle, the story of Brigid Egan’s emigration to the US and a number of contributions from Paddy Cotter (RIP) are also included, along with an array of revealing feature articles.
“We had a panel of proof readers with Maura (Cotter) being the final adjudicator on the proof reading,” Tim Kelly said, perhaps making it known who to have a word with in the event of any slip-ups, although Michael O’Gorman expressed confidence in Tim’s capabilities.
“Tim was very careful. He had a beady eye on it all,” Michael joked.


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