• Tommy Hourigan, Raheen, Limerick

Article from the Grange Book suggested for reading this week (week 30)


John Joe and Peggy Hourigan of Upper Grange This week's (week 30) book article suggested for reading is about John Joe Hourigan of Upper Grange and his wife, Peggy (née Halpin). The tribute was penned by their son, Tommy, on behalf of John Joe's and Peggy's nine children, who were all living when the Grange Book was published in 2015. Sadly, one of the siblings, Tony Hourigan, passed away in August 2017.

John Joe was a well known rural postman who served communities for 56 years. While John Joe and Peggy (a native of Cahernorry, Co Limerick) lived in Upper Grange for the most of their married lives, where they reared their large family and were good friends to many, John Joe served as postman in the Caherelly and adjoining townlands mostly. In his public service over the man years, John Joe pedalled in the region of half a million miles, when bicycle was the postman's only mode of transport. In the earliest days, before a bicycle was provided, he walked as much as thirty miles each day. Peggy was a marvellous wife, mother and grandmother.

(In the photograph above are John Joe and Peggy Hourigan on their wedding day in 1950, flanked by Paddy Bulfin, Best Man, and Sarah Halpin, Bridesmaid) The following are extracts from the article:

"The 1911 Census recorded that John Joe (3 years old) lived with his father, Thomas Hourigan (40 years old), an agricultural labourer, his mother, Kate (28 years old) and brother, Thomas (1 year old) in a dwelling house in Lower Grange, identified as 'House No 17'. This was the original of the house that was later occupied by the late Nora Hourigan, widow of James (Jimmy) Hourigan, who was a younger brother of John Joe. The census also indicated that in addition to a private dwelling, the property included a 'piggery' and a 'fowl house'; it also recorded that Thomas and Kate were married for six years; four children were born alive, of which two remained living. Thomas and Kate both could 'read and write'."

"Following marriage, John Joe and Peggy resided for a few years at the gate lodge on the Flavin farm on the Limerick side of Lower Grange. The lodge was just inside and to the right of the imposing gates to the former Croker Estate. Those gates exist to this day, and I have clear memories of standing inside them as a very young child, looking onto the road. I have a few very precious memories of those early years in my life, which include the lovely woods and their flowers, the horse and float during the hay season when my father assisted the Flavin families with ‘saving’ and harvesting hay and the river that still flows gently on, overlooked and seemingly guarded by the ruins of the former ‘Great House’. The Flavin family of the time were very kind and generous to my parents."

"John Joe worked in the postal services for 56 years. His service commenced as the telegram boy, and then he progressed to postman. When he retired in March of 1982, he received a certificate from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs signed by the then Minister. The certificate reads as follows - 'Department of Posts and Telegraphs to John Hourigan. On the occasion of your retirement from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, I desire to express to you my appreciation of the Faithful service you have rendered to the State during a period of more than 56 years'."

"John Joe’s route commenced and ended at Grange Post Office. Between leaving in early morning and returning in the afternoon, the miles brought him through the countryside that he loved so much - from house to house, from townland to townland, up and down boreens, into dead ends and out again, up and down long entrances to farmhouses, up tough inclines and free-wheeling down the other side and even across a field or two in order to take advantage of short-cuts. Most mornings, as he commenced his route, possibly even before a letter was delivered, a ‘cuppa’ beckoned at the home of Kitty and Mike O’Brien and then, fortified, the journey began in earnest. Many hours later, if there was just a letter remaining in his bag for Tony Barry and family, then the thirty-mile route was at an end, and a relaxed discussion with Breda Bulfin was the prize."

"Our father took his work very seriously, and his philosophy was 'mind your job and do it well'. Every working morning, without fail, John Joe polished his boots and brushed his uniform and hat. He took great pride in being properly attired and presented for the job. During inclement weather, when his uniform or topcoat or footwear became wet, he dried each item in front of our No 8 Stanley Range fire or the two-bar electric fire, in readiness for the next day. There was no central heating."

"John Joe was a decent, honest and hard-working man, and he was widely appreciated by those whom he served. He was a kind and gentle man, a good listener and a man trusted with a confidence. Over the years, when written communication was the traditional medium available to most people, he delivered countless joyous and sorrowful messages, some from far away shores, to many homes on his round and shared in the range of emotions of the many recipients. Of course, delivery of a parcel from overseas was a happy occasion as relatives sent home clothing, footwear and other welcome items."

"While John Joe was a great father and provider, our mother, Peggy, was a tremendous wife, mother, a homemaker and in later years, grandmother. It should be said that John Joe was also very ‘good around the house’, which was a great help to my mother. He was good with the children. They were a team. She worked tirelessly every day from early morning until late evening, doing all the tasks that were necessary to care for a family, growing in number and getting older. Eventually, there were nine children, the oldest being fifteen years senior to the youngest. When it came to finances and scarce resources, she could make a little go a long way. People of that era were exemplary budget managers and home economists. She was an excellent cook, and we never went hungry nor lacked the basics in clothing, footwear, school books and other necessities. Nowadays, it would be challenging for people to appreciate how difficult it was to run a home and care for children, without running water, indoor toilet facilities and central heating, not to mention bathing facilities."

"For a number of years, we kept and fattened a pig for killing. Peggy was mainly responsible for looking after the new bonham and feeding it daily over the months until sufficiently fattened. Invariably she became attached to the animal. On the day of the killing, she did much of the preparatory work, boiling water and other essentials, but when the time came for our neighbour, Paddy Bourke, to expertly kill the pig, Peggy took to a bedroom wardrobe and covered her ears. Our brother, Tony, was allowed to stay at home from school to assist in collecting the blood that would be used in making black puddings; he seemed to relish the task. Nobody else was ‘up for the job’, despite the prize of a day out of school. As the national school was adjacent to our house, and within shouting distance, those of us at school knew when Paddy had completed his task."

"Paddy Carmody, neighbour and farmer and John Joe were good friends. Paddy owned mechanised transport when very few owned motorcars in the late 1950s and early 1960s. During those years, Paddy drove to championship hurling matches from time to time, and John Joe accompanied him. I was brought along to some of those games. Neither man was a habitual drinker - as I recall, they would both drink two pints of Guinness after the match, before setting out for home. As well as my lemonade, I occasionally managed the odd slurp from my father’s pint. One particular summer, Paddy and John Joe went to a game in Thurles. They travelled in what I believe was Paddy’s first van-like vehicle. This vehicle had, at times, to be pulled by a horse in order to start it. By midnight, there was no sign of the men returning home and my mother was at the gate, frantic with worry, waiting for a sign of approaching headlights. Paddy was a bachelor, so there was nobody waiting at his gate. Sometime in the early hours of the morning, the men arrived back home, safe and sound and the transport had not let them down at all. Apparently, the men had more than the usual two pints and elected to ‘sleep it off’ in the cinema before starting for home!"

"During the phenomenon of the ‘moving statue’ of the Virgin Mary at Ballinspittle, County Cork in summer 1985, my mother, in particular, was anxious to visit the grotto and to see for herself. My wife, Ann, and I drove Peggy and John Joe to the grotto, and with a lot of expectation, we all spent a number of hours gazing intently at the statue in the company of a large number of other visitors. Peggy felt that there was movement, but as I recall, John Joe remained sceptical. All of this made for interesting conversation on the journey home. We had a good day out."

The article may be read in full HERE.

Next week (Week 31) we will suggest another book article for reading.

Kind Regards to All.

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