Article from the Grange Parish Book suggested for reading this week (week 3)
The Life and Times of Austin Cregan
Last week's suggested article for reading (The Grange Ambush) was about an event; this week we have chosen an article about personalities. The article titled The Life and Times of Austin Cregan is largely about Austin and his wife, Maureen. Sadly, Maureen passed away in August of 2016. Maureen was a wonderful person. May She Rest in Peace. The article was compiled by Mary Gallagher and Tommy Hourigan following an interview with Maureen and Austin.
The following are extracts from the article.
"On a December 2014 afternoon, we had the privilege and pleasure of meeting with Maureen and Austin Cregan at their home in Holycross. Before a blazing open fire, in a house steeped in history, the four of us carried on a conversation over tea and biscuits well into evening time. The sprightly octogenarian couple regaled us with colourful and captivating accounts of their lives and times, and, as proud parents and grandparents, they spoke affectionately about their family. What follows is an account of some of the information and opinion imparted to us during those memorable few hours. We were struck by the range and depth of instant recall by them both: of events, dates and people - going back over the entirety of their lives, almost. We are grateful to Maureen and Austin for their openness and great humour while sharing their lives with us."
"Before Austin was due to attend national school, pupil numbers were dwindling at the two-teacher school. Consequently, the local parish priest asked his parents if Austin could commence school on the same day as his older brother, Tony, in September 1938. Their parents agreed, and Tony and Austin commenced school on the same day. Tony was some year-and-a-half older than Austin, who was only three years and nine months when he commenced school. Austin recalled a big step up to the door of the school house. As he wasn’t tall enough to walk up the step, he had to manoeuvre up on his knees."
"Referring to a particular day, about twenty-five to thirty years ago, Austin said, 'I had been out golfing that evening'. Maureen took up the story: 'I was out gardening and after a while digging, I came across something with silvery-things on it - I thought I had dahlia bulbs at first, but then I knew from watching TV that it was some kind of a bomb, so I dropped it. I telephoned the Ryans and Madge’s sister was there; she expressed the view that it was probably a hand grenade. Anyway, I rang Bruff Garda Barracks, and Sergeant Pat O’Connor came down with two other members of the force, which I thought was amusing at the time. Sergeant O’Connor said, Maureen where is it? I showed him out the back, the two other members of the force remained inside, they just looked out. The next thing that Sergeant O’Connor said to me was, Maureen, have you a bucket? I gave him a bucket, and he put it on top of the bomb and he said, I have to call the army. I didn’t think there was a need to bring the army out, but the sergeant assured me that only one person would come. A quarter of an hour later, there were about eight soldiers across the road and about eight more at our side. They took the grenade out and removed it to Reardon’s field, where they placed a blanket over it. The grenade was about six to eight inches long and four to five inches wide; it was a fully primed grenade that Martin Conway would have been carrying around with him. It was oval shaped, the shape of a rugby ball.' The grenade was detonated by the Army in a controlled explosion."
"Nearing the end of our conversation, Austin returned his thoughts to his childhood days in Manister and particularly to his days at Ballymartin School. He recalled, with a twinkle in the eye, the day when he sat the national school examination. There were only four or five of them taking the examination and teachers had to leave the school that day. The parish priest was supervising the event. The supervisor, the PP, left the classroom at some stage and went to visit a nearby farmer, following upon which a female teacher came in the back window of the schoolroom in order to assist the children with the examination. The choreography executed by the Reverend Father and the Mistress was perfect. The pupils were in the middle of the examination, and the kindly teacher was circulating, checking each pupil’s examination papers, ensuring that the questions were being answered correctly. 'It would be a feather in her cap if pupils were awarded top marks.'
Suddenly, the school inspector pulled up outside, 'and if he did, the Mistress went out the back window, and Arkle never cleared a jump like she did!'. She then went over the wall into her own backyard, which was adjacent to the school, 'she hardly put a hand on a stone'. The inspector walked around the classroom; he was obviously not impressed that the examination was going ahead, unsupervised. In the meantime, the PP was with the farmer, 'most likely, drinking a glass of whiskey'. However, the supervisor did arrive back promptly, tendering plausible excuses to the inspector for his absence. Said Austin, nostalgically and with great feeling, 'They were the times'."
Next week (week 4), we will suggest another Grange Book Article for reading. Kind Regards to All.