Tuesday, 12 November 2019


We cut turf with the sleán and pike in Kate Keeffe’s bog for very many years.

Himself had bought a high bank from Kate in 1939 for the princely sum of ten pounds. It proved to be a sound investment as it kept our home fires burning brightly for the next thirty years.

Good value considering the cost of coal and briquettes today!

Receipt for the high bank of turf purchased from Kate Keefe in 1939. It was witnessed by the late James Collins T.D.
The turf bank was one of several that stood in the heart of the mountain on Abbeyfeale Hill. 
The short-cut down to Jamsie Simon’s shop ran close by and passed through a series of deep, dark, water-filled quarries which legend claimed were bottomless. Stone had been lifted from these quarries in earlier times to build local cottages. The quarries have long since been filled in and no trace of them now remains.

Turf cutting operations would usually begin in late March.

Himself would sharpen the sleán and spade and gather up the pikes and a roll of hemp to mark out the ground.

Off we would go, marching over the road carrying our implements on our shoulders like soldiers heading for battle.

The bank would be covered by a light blanket of heather. He would strip a narrow layer, three sods wide and lay the scráws in a bog hole to be replaced later.

Turf-cutting was normally a three-person job. One man would work the sleán, a second would pike the sods on to the bank and the third would spread the turf in rows along the bank to dry.

However, in our case, there were only two of us. Himself would cut out the sods, driving the sleán down with his right foot and making sure to slope the cuts outwards so that the bank would not afterwards collapse. I would be tasked with piking the fresh sods on to the bank and ensuring that the mouth of the sleán was kept clear at all times. We would pause from time to time and step up on to the bank and spread the turf more evenly before resuming our positions.

As each layer was completed he would leave a step so that we could step down to the next level. The first two levels consisted of dry, corky sods which were difficult to cut. The middle layers were rich and thick and were the best of the turf. The bottom layer was black and brittle and would harden when dried. Below that that was the mud. And below the mud we hoped to find hidden treasurers from bygone days, but all we ever found were stumps of bogdéal and more mud.

We would work away at a steady pace while he regaled me with stories of olden days and times long past. He had a vast store of local knowledge and folklore. He knew the history of every townland and every family that lived there. Every meadow and stone gap had a story to tell. Even the very ground we worked on was steeped in history and myth. Sadly, much of this is now lost and gone from us forever.

Herself appearing over the rim of the mountain with the mid-day meal was a welcome diversion. We would down tools and sit on the verge of the bank while she handed out thick cuts of cake bread liberally smothered in creamery butter. There would be cold bacon and dressed cabbage and mugs of strong, sweet tea. It was a feast fit for a king and we would devour every morsel.

Himself would then light up the pipe and puff away contentedly while she slowly gathered up her accoutrements and complimented us on the work before disappearing once more over the brow of the hill. There were hens to be fed and bread to be baked.

We worked on until evening, two solitary figures moving in harmony through a peaceful landscape of bog and mountain. It was as if we were the only humans left on earth.

The six o’clock angelus bell tolled distantly from town and finally called us from our labour. We lay our weapons carefully down by the bog hole and paused to survey the bank of freshly cut turf.

“A good day’s work.” was his judgement before we turned and headed slowly for home.

Turf is no longer cut in Kate Keefe’s mountain. The forestry has most of the land now and the magnificent views across the Feale valley in to Kerry are all but obscured. 
The last of the high banks are crumbling and will soon disappear and become a distant memory, as will those who worked on them all those years ago.

FEALESBRIDGE SOCIAL:  It's the 50th anniversary of the Fealesbridge Social and it is taking place in the Devon Inn on Friday, November 22.  Neily O'Connor from Killarney will provide the music following the meal which year after year has been superb. Ticket price has remained €25 this year. Come out and support your local farmers' cooperative and enjoy a mighty night out.
CHRISTMAS LUNCH:  Join Abbeyfeale Community Alert in celebrating the Christmas Season in style with lunch and dancing and afternoon tea at Fr. Casey’s Clubhouse on Sunday, November 24 from 1-6pm.  Short talks from Community Gardai and Fire Officer on how to stay safe this winter.  Lunch catered by Conor McCarthy of The Kitchen Table.  Tickets €20 available from Batt Harnett, The Square, Ann Lyons, The Square, Kathleen’s Foodstore, Convent St.and committee members including Mossie Gleeson, Mary Mc Arthur, Marian Harnett. Music by Paddy Quilligan.
YOGA CLASS:  Wednesday from 7 – 8.30pm Abbeyfeale Rugby Club.  Ring Mike on 087 2732591.
NOONAN’S CHRISTMAS LIGHTS:  Official switch on will take place on Saturday, November 30 at 4pm.
NIGHT AT THE OSKARS:  St. Ita’s Sheltered Housing extends an invitation to everyone in the parish and surrounding districts to attend a public meeting in the Day Care Centre on Tuesday, November 19 at 8pm.  It will be attended by staff from Kevin Rowe Events to explain how our fundraiser- the Night at the Oskars works.  We hope to recruit volunteers to help us with the fundraiser which will provide very necessary funds for St. Ita’s Sheltered Housing and Day Care Centre which provides  services  to the elderly in our community.
GLÓRACH NEWSThe supremely talented O'Leary sisters, Ruth and Joyce, who go under the name of Sephira, will be bringing their impressive live show to the Glórach Theatre on Friday, November 29.  Tickets are at present sold out, but keep an eye on our facebook page and the weekly notes section for the possibility of a second concert.  This evening, Wednesday, November 13 at 7.30pm, there will be a crime prevention meeting held in the venue.  A week later, on the evening of Wednesday, November 20, there will be an open meeting of the AA.  All welcome, there will be light refreshments served.  For any enquiries about these events, please don't hesitate to call us at 0871383940 or email at glorachabbeyfeale@gmail.com.
ABBEYFEALE PARENT & TODDLER GROUP: 11am – 12.30pm every Tuesday and Thursday, St Ita's Hall. New people always welcome. Suitable for parents/care givers and children aged birth to 4 years including children attending pre-school. This group is an opportunity to meet other parents and play time with your baby/toddler. This is a free service and priority is given to those in receipt of social welfare payment or living in social housing. Contact Mary on 087 9382883.
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS UPDATE:  Annual Church gate collection will be taken up next weekend.  Contact Geraldine O’Brien if you can give a hand to bag pack in Twohigs SuperValue either Friday, November 22 or Saturday, November 23. The Christmas Lights committee will hold a table quiz in Jack O’Rourke’s Bar on Saturday, November 16.  All support will be much appreciated.
ABBEYFEALE FOR AFRICA CAKE SALE:  The annual cake sale to support Fr. Tim Galvin’s Mission in South Sudan takes place on Sunday, December 8 at St. Ita’s Hall from 9-1pm.  Calling all our usual bakers and supporters.  Home baking can be left into Batt’s in the Square for collection or delivered to the Hall on the morning of the 8th.
ARA COFFEE MORNING:  Abbeyfeale’s Active Retirement Group are hosting a coffee morning on Friday, December 6 with the proceeds being donated to the Christmas Lights.
TRADITIONAL MUSIC CLASSES ATHEA:  Tutor Michael Broderick, Top of the Town Friday nights; Beginners 7.15 – 7.45pm, Advanced 7.45 – 8.15pm.
ANNUAL VISIT OF SANTA TO ABBEYFEALE:  He’s on his way and hopefully will arrive on Friday, November 29 around 6pm for a recce to check which children have been naughty or nice.  There will be great excitement in the Square with stalls and music and Mrs. Claus and the elves directing operations.
 BEREAVEMENT MASS:. Abbeyfeale Parish  Bereavement Mass will be celebrated on Friday, November 22 at 7pm. Olive Foley will speak on loss and bereavement. Names of those who have died over the year  and names of people from outside the parish that you would like remembered should be submitted to  the  Sacristy during the coming fortnight.  Tel 068/51915 during Mass times.
 KNOCK ALL NIGHT VIGIL:  Pro-Life Vigil on Saturday, December 7 Saturday midnight to Sunday morning departing Dero’s Main St at 3pm on December 7.  Contact Deros  064 6631251.
MICHEAL ENGLISH COMES TO CHURCH: Sales have picked up a pace over the last week with enquiries from as far away as England. Tickets at €25 are available by ringing the dedicated ticket line on 089 4356981 or from Moss the Farmers, The Coffee Pot, Ann Lyons. O’Donoghues Spar and Kathleen’s Foodstore.  Doors open at 7pm.

GLÓRACH:  Bingo every Monday night at 8.30pm

FR. CASEY’S CARD GAME:  Cards have resumed on Friday nights in GAA Clubhouse @ 9pm.  Cards have also resumed on Tuesday nights in Meenkilly N.S. at 9pm.
CHRISTMAS NEWSLETTER:  Articles and photos are invited to fealechurch@eircom.net before November 20 for inclusion in the Christmas newsletter.
 SCHOOL OF MUSIC AND DRAMA:  Sephira School of Music and Drama has opened on Main St .  All ages are welcome.  Contact Ruth Joyce on 085 2052384 /info@sephira.ie or look them up on Facebook.

ABBEYFEALE BOOK CLUB:  St. Ita’s Hall, the second Wednesday of each month September – June from 7.30 -9pm.   All welcome.  Refreshments served.

ICA:  Abbeyfeale ICA meet at the Adult Education Centre Mountmahon.  A craft night has been organised for November 19 next.  We are always looking for new members who will be made most welcome.  Do come and join us in our many and varied activities.  Slan go foil.

ST. VINCENT DE PAUL:  Annual church gate collection  on the weekend of December 7 and 8.  All requests for assistance should be sent in writing to the Parish Office in Convent St.