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Patrick O'Laughlin

Interviewed by Patricia Greene

Patricia: How long have you lived in the area?
Patrick: I’m 83 years now, just since last month and I have lived here all my life since I was born.

Patricia: Do you have any fond memories of you living here?
Patrick: One of my first memories was Hunting the Wren. I began hunting the wren with a friend of mine for a few years, walking through the countryside for the day and then I hunted the wren with different crowds. I hunted it for the Wren Dances, for the school actually. Then I finished up hunting the Wren for a good few years for the Hurling Club. On the hurling field, I remember winning the County Championship in 1957 after 49 years and being carried shoulder-high off the field after playing. Also playing in a Munster final against Tipperary with the likes of Babs Keating and Mick Roche, two famous hurlers. Another fond memory as an adult was winning the Munster title for instrumental music in the Scór competition (run by the GAA) with two of my friends from Kilnamona.

Patricia: What instrument do you play, Patrick?
Patrick: I play the accordion now, I started on the tin whistle and I played the flute. I played the flute with a good number of céilí bands. I have played the accordion for over 50 years- 60 years I suppose. I used to play down here in the (old) hall with a group from Newmarket. I was with Vincent Griffin who played in the All-Ireland (fiddle in the Fleadh competitions). I play the tin-whistle and I play a bit on the tin-whistle all the time but I get short of wind.

Patricia: During your time with this community, have they come back from any hard times before?
Patrick: We didn’t have a hall or a meeting place for a long time, so we wanted to erect a hall. It was decided to erect a hall, so we bought a hall back in Cahercon Convent in Kildysart. We went to security for the purchase of the hall and erected it and it was in debt. I organised meetings and socials and card games to raise the money. I organised and acted in two plays written by Joe Keating, which were very well received. The Christmas night socials were a great success. It might have been a bit cold but it was a lovely place for meetings. Before that it was done in the school, I remember going to a play in the school – it was for the parish.

Patricia: What does your community mean to you? What sort of things are you doing now to stay connected to your community and family?
Patrick: I have done a lot of community work since I left school. The first job I had was secretary of Macra Na Feirme. They had some machines to help the farmers: potato diggers, seed sowers, horse sprayer, etc. I arranged meetings, lectures and had a junior quiz team which won the county final. I was then elected secretary of the hall for 10 years until I went to the USA and then when I came back, there was a new secretary and I didn’t have to do as much work.

Patricia: What are the things that have helped you through lockdown and what brings you joy?
Patrick: I did a lot of family research on my family tree on a very slow internet. I did a lot of Sudoku and some crossword puzzles. I listened to a lot of music and played accordion with a few friends. I felt very lucky to live on a farm for exercise. I was involved with Clarecastle Men’s Shed who produced a book of 18 of us writing about our early memories. I would like to be back entertaining in the local daycare centres as a few of us used to play in Ennistymon, Kilmaley, Páirc na Coille (Ennis) and Clarecastle. That was about it really.

Patricia: Were family visits as regular during lockdown?
Patrick: They weren’t as regular as the family was scattered all over the place and a lot of them didn’t get to visit me or us. We got the shopping delivered to us, most of it anyway. We have a daughter in Ennis and she would bring us the paper or light shopping. The ones that are far away in Dublin, Louth, Sligo, they didn’t get to visit as much at all. There were some periods there in the summer of the first year where they could come, but it was very limited anyway.

Patricia: Do you have a message that you want to share for yourself and this community in a decade?
Patrick: I hope that it does not go back to the world that I was born into. No electricity in the house until about 1958, no water or toilet in the house, no telephone, and we had to rake the fire to have coals in the morning to boil the kettle. I hope things keep progressing as they are with broadband – it’s great to have email and Skype, television and mobile phones.