The Diddly

@damienmulley the High King of the Irish Blog Awards, was asking about savings clubs for Christmas, on Twitter the other night.  Not those Clubs organised by the large stores but private ventures.  It brought the memories rushing back.

When I was a youngster mammy belonged to such a club and it was called The Diddly.

Gus and Nora friends of my parents (they were like adopted family to us) ran the Diddly.  Week by week from early January, mammy set a sum of money in the silver teapot on the sideboard, for the Diddly and it was given to Nora on her next visit.  No receipts were needed, it was a matter of trust.  Nora diligently collected instalments from all those taking part right through the months until the end of November.

Round about 8th December Nora passed over an envelope with our families contributions.  There was never a need for checking or counting, each side knew how much the envelope would contain.

The Diddly paid for Santa Clause and the Christmas fare too.  In those days it was one present per child and no filled stockings or pillowcases.  Back in the pre TV days of Ireland, brand names and peer pressure were unknown.  Santa brought surprises and we were grateful for them.

Cidona an apple-based soft drink, was the ‘Coke’ of our childhood and it was very much a treat for Christmas, alcohol was available for the adults.   A tin or two of Jacobs Afternoon Tea biscuits, and a large tin of sweets were all taken care of by the Diddly.

We were never just eight to table at Christmas, Granny, an uncle, an aunt and sometimes if we knew of someone on their own they were asked to join the noisy throng.

A large hen turkey, a full ham and a joint of pork with stuffing, sprouts, carrots and celery sauce, roast potatoes & parsnips, and gravy were all prepared in the kitchen.  This feast followed a starter of mammy’s soup, it would put hair on your chest, or so daddy told us.  After a rest we had a choice of Christmas pudding, trifle, or mince pies and tea or coffee.  Christmas cake was saved for later in the day.

I sometimes wonder how we all remained like stick insects with all that food!

16 thoughts on “The Diddly

  1. Marian

    My other half’s mom runs a Christmas club like that, it operates the exact same way. It’s lovely to see that some traditions still exist.

  2. Grannymar Post author

    Marian – The good thing about it was you saved the money first before the spendfest, unlike today with plastic, the pain comes later!

  3. Nancy


    We were all stick figures,too! Thin as rails because although we ate a huge Christmas feast such as you described, the rest of the year was just nice plain and, not too plentiful, food.

    We always had a beautiful tree that we all helped decorate ,and on Christmas morning we could expect one gift and our stocking which usually held an orange and a few walnuts.

    We thought we were RICH!

  4. Alice

    While we didn’t have Christmas clubs, the scene you’ve set is very familiar to me…and whatever small gifts we got from Santa were deemed as pretty special whether it matched other things we had or not. There is a such a thing as too much, which I think is far worse than not quite enough.

  5. wisewebwoman

    OMG GM, what memories you bring back! With us it was “macroom Dairies” on North Main Street in Cork and I would toddle down on Tuesday afternoons to pay the money into the pot of “Miss Hegarty” who took care of us all and Christmas fare would be all taken care of.
    What a good and healthy way to live with no debts and the present each of us got brought so much delight!

  6. Grannymar Post author

    Alice – I agree about the ‘too much’! How are children to learn if they have everything they want from an early age!

    WWW – I called them pain free gifts with no after effects.

  7. paulo1

    My father wouldn’t have a bird of any kind in the house so I only tasted turkey at other peoples houses the next day. What we had instead was something called spiced round. It had to be ordered a couple of weeks ahead from the butchers and it was a huge wheel of beef that had been rubbed daily or every second day or something like that with a mixture of spices. Everybody felt sorry for us not having the turkey but I’ll tell you, if I could get my hands on a spiced round today that’s what would be on my Christmas table.

  8. Maria

    I love hearing about the Diddley account. Ours was not so personal. However I remember Christmas Accounts at the bank. My mother put a little away each month and took it out before Dec. 8th. Why the 8th?That as you know is a Holiday of Obligation and for me., it meant my school was closed. My mom and I would go to early mass and then take the bus downtown to shop. We bought all the presents that day before heading home.

  9. Baino

    Really hungry now! I’ve always meant to have some sort of Christmas club going but it’s never happened. Although I get a free ham from work this year so can contribute that. And I like the one present thing. We do it for our immediate family and it means you can afford something substantial instead of lots of rubbish that people neither really want or need.

  10. Brighid

    My mother had a Christmas savings account that she tucked money in each month. She was good at getting us a present we could love for a good long time.
    We went hunting and fishing every chance we got, so we had a freezer full of deer, elk, turkey, quail, salmon, trout & abalone. As well as all the veggies from the garden we canned.
    Not much money, but we were well Loved.

  11. Grannymar Post author

    Paulo – Spiced beef sounds wonderful. I suppose it would take a week at least to prepare with the spices. It brings to mind Corned Beef – soaked in brine – and needed a long slow soaking for the salt to penetrate. I think it was only a Dublin dish, but I loved it.

    Maria – You are a jump ahead of me! See my new Post today (8th)!

    Baino – I think the ‘one present’ is a good idea and time we went back to it.

    Brighid – We didn’t need money to prove we love or were loved!

  12. elly parker

    Spiced beef is still (or again) available in Dublin – we were at A Taste of Christmas Festival the other weekend and 2 butchers gave us some to taste. They said it was a very Dublin thing, not really available round the country.

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