Memories of Ballybunion
Stephen Twohig is an exile from his native Kanturk. On our Facebook group, Kanturk Memories, he is sharing his childhood memories. Day trips and holidays in Ballybunion were an important part of his young days in the 1970s.
Ballybunion, our Disney!
On day trips one could take the bus from the Square on a Saturday or Sunday, all your gear packed in bags. You were laden down with shovels, buckets, fishnets and armbands , blankets and picnic baskets.
When driving the long road through Newmarket, Rockchapel and Listowel the journey seemed to take forever. When we reached Listowel we knew we were on the home stretch. Finally cresting the last hill and long stretches of these last nine miles we would call out “Ballybunion here we come”” when we saw the gable end of the first row of houses in the town.
Ballybunion was our Disney. It had a magic and mystique about it. It was circus~ carnivaL sun and fun all in one place. Even the harsh winter Atlantic couldn’t erode all the warm memories we have from this seaside town. There are two long beaches split in the middle by a long outcrop into the ocean. On the tip are the remains of a castle, still standing guard. In the olden days the women went to one beach and the men the other and one still called them by those names. God forbid one saw the other in their long drab flax burlap costumes.! Doubtless there was any big run on sun block back then.
We always went to the men’s or right hand beach. You would scoot down the hill trying not to fall through the coarse sandy grass and finally plop down on the dry white sand. We would stay on the beach from morning until near sundown. More often than not we would be the last few stragglers left behind all huddled around each other in goosebumps from the cold. We would erect a windbreaker for a wall and drape a blanket over it if the showers came. When others ran for cover we were staunch and held our ground.
To give mother her credit she stayed with us from morning until dusk and never complained of getting bored. Dad on the other hand would last about an hour on the sand, on a good day. He would wait for us above on the grass and wave down and wonder when these kids were going to get fed up of the beach and want to go home. He would have a long wait. I like to imagine that he still watches over us, and still waits.
When the tide went out it left warm pools to bathe in over by the cliffs and in some cases small caves that you dared not venture in, in fear. Mike and I would pull plastic boats or ships behind us. When with us Dad would hold us high on his shoulders as he waded out into the tall waves scaring the daylights out of us on purpose. You could hear the screans and yells of children as they jumped the incoming waves. played ball or held on to flapping kites, or just made castles in the sand. And there sitting uncomfortably on the edge of the blanket looking out of place in his heavy tweeds, shirt and tie and cap is your man from the front of Roches, waiting. Out of place again, on the edge of more than the blanket. He will spend the required time then hoof it up for tea in the shade of a Hotel. Or head to the pub to wait it out.
Every few hours we would hop from foot to foot on the hot tar up the steep hill to the two shops near the bathrooms. These shops had all you ever wanted as a child. Little plastic windmills spun in the wind like propellers, balloons, kites, boats, bright buckets and shovels stuck out from every possible place. There, laid out was an array of sweets and delights that would leave your mouth watering if not so already in the sweltering heat. The smells of cotton candy, cones, periwinkles and sun lotions filled the sea air. We would each buy a ninety-nine cone with a chocolate crumbling “flake” stuck in the top. Then before it melted you would climb up the coarse grass to the hill on top and look down on the beach far below trying to see your own blanket. When finished scoot down the hill again with a runny and melting cone for the mother. In the late afternoon we would be left to ourselves as the parents went over and had tea at the far end of the beach. If indulgent they would treat themselves to a warm seaweed bath. All we could think about was the slimy. shiny fronds of the bubbled seaweed and we couldn’t believe they would willingly bathe in it.
If it was wet or rainy we would go for tea and Club Milks at Dana’s. There you would pick out postcards from the revolving racks and write and send them, though we probably would be home before they got there. There were always treats in the front window of Beasleys that would catch your eye and we wouldn’t be happy until we had emptied our pockets and had it in our hands. There were toy cars. diaries . seashells, boats, storybooks and the ever favourite candy rock. This was a long piece of hard candy, the o
utside pink and inside white and cleverly had the word Ballybunion ingrained in the white centre . You would bring them home as gifts or ruin many a good appetite or tooth.
Up the street were two arcades. We would spend every penny we had saved or borrowed on the bumper cars or many video games. There was one driving game called “Superbug” and the brother and I would challenge anyone to beat us such was our dedication and devotion to it.
At night we would go to the Bingo with mother and if you won, the lady calling the numbers would have you choose from a number of balloons tied above her tied on a string. Having chosen she would pop the balloon and as dramatically as she could unravel the winnings. Therein would be a brown fiver or if lucky a big red twenty pound note. On the way home we would buy a burger and bag of chips from the caravan across the street and head home.
If left alone in our room we would hang out at the window and watch the people go by outside. There was an alleyway between the Central and The Ambassador and at the back was a dance hall. All night long there would be a stream of people coming and going and in the distance the rhythm and boom of the muffled music. It was near impossible to sleep with all the excitement, the shouts, the loud motorbikes, scuffles, the odd smashing bottle but much laughter in the streets outside. Outside was the grown up world we longed for and would pass through, way too soon.
Yes if you had to choose, these were the good old days. And you had better remember them as you would have to write about it every first week back at school in “La Cois Farraige” (Day by the sea).
Ballygologue Park Entrance
Molly and I love to walk on the John B. Keane Road
We took a small detour one day and went up Ballygologue Road. Their flower displays at the entrance to the park and along the grassy area are definitely worthy of another prize.
This is the little island at the exit.
Listowel Pitch and Putt Course
If there is a picture out there of the founding fathers of Listowel Pitch and Putt Club please send it to me. These men are heroes. They had the vision. They planted the trees in whose shade they never sat. We are so lucky to have this lovely oasis in the middle of our town. I don’t play the game but I love the course. It is a joy to walk beside it every day.
Barry O’Halloran, whose father Tom was one of the early committee members has sent us copies of the receipts for the early planting.
I’m sure it seemed like a lot of money in 1974. It was money well spent.
I must not forget today’s committee and groundsmen who have built on that early course, enhancing it with trees, shrubs and flowers. They have kept the dream alive and I think you will agree with me that the course nowadays is a credit to those who look after it.
You Couldn’t Make it Up