It was dusk on Saint Martin’s* eve in a small village in County Clare, and there was commotion a plenty.  John, the Postmaster, was not sure who made the most noise: The goose abroad in the yard having its neck pulled in readiness for the feast day dinner, or his wife inside in the bed bringing forth her latest child.

The wailing subsided both indoor and out to be replaced by the gentle cry of a newborn son.  Daniel Martin was their ninth child, one of whom was stillborn, and the family was completed a few years later with the addition of two more boys.

Dan, with his four sisters and five brothers, were part of a large family circle that stretched across the county.  He grew up in a busy household.  Besides running the Post office, their father John became:

Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths
Travel Agent for all the Trans Atlantic shipping lines
Insurance Agent,
The Inspector of Gunpowder and Gun Licenses.
An Import/Export Agent
He opened a grocery, so stamps and postal orders were sold at one counter and groceries at the one opposite.

Certainly Dan’s father was the man who anyone wishing to emigrate to America or England went to for his or her Identification Papers.

John later extended his portfolio, as we say today, by buying a farm – he had a large family to feed and rear, and the boys took their turn at bringing home the cows for milking and taking them back to the fields before and after school each day.

Dan’s mother worked in the shop as well as keeping hens, geese, a goat and I think the couple of pigs were under her charge too.

After supper, each school day, it was time for homework.  Dan’s father sat at the head of the table and presided over this task. Catechism, spellings, reading, writing and mental arithmetic were all part of this school outside school.  He had a Ready Reckoner, which he used in his Post Office work. This he explained and taught the older children how to use.

After the homework the concertina was taken off the dresser and John played jigs, reels and hornpipes.  Now and again the floor was cleared and the Siege of Ennis, the Walls of limerick or a hornpipe was danced.  On Sundays, fair days or pension days, friends came into the kitchen for a cup of tea.  At night a mug of porter was mulled and the old songs were sung to the accompaniment of the concertina.  The kitchen was certainly the heart of the home.

At the age of eleven Dan’s world changed.  His father died.

Leaving school at the age of fourteen Dan went to serve his time as a Draper’s assistant, first in Ennis, before moving on to the Midlands and eventually landing up in Dublin.  In those carefree early Dublin days, his spare time was spent playing golf, dancing the nights away and travelling the land with his friends while wetting his whistle with a pint and a chaser (or three…)!

Young Dan

Shortly after the outbreak of World War 2, he met and married a Dublin lass and they added to the population four boys and two girls.  He lived to see all but three of his grandchildren and he insisted that he be called Dan and not granddad. He felt that if he were called by the latter name he would be expected to have all the answers!

Dan & Nana

Ill health interrupted his life for over twenty odd years and he died at Christmas in 1981. RIP.

Stories of his childhood travelled down the years to our young ears round our fireside.  We lived the vividly told tales….

Walking to school through the fields in bare feet on an early spring or summer morning with the dew squishing between his toes or carrying turf for the school room fire to battle away the chill of the draughts and howling winter winds.

The annual killing of the pigs.  The hams hung on great big hooks over the fire to cure and the making of the puddings.  The more faces we made, the more embellished the stories of pudding making became. We almost believed we were back in those days holding the scalded intestine and trying hard not to let it slip or fall in case Granny’s wet and bloody hand landed across our ear!  We lived it, I tell you!

There was the art of milking a goat without it kicking over the bucket or adding fresh little nuggets to spoil the flavour! 😉

Days in the bog cutting turf and stacking it to dry. The late afternoon tea brought to the workers by the women folk.  Tea brewed in a billy-can, and buttermilk to drink, griddle bread with home made butter and curranty cake.  All the fresh air and hard work made for good sauce.

Although only three when Dan died, Elly has her own story about Dan’s magic tin.  I will let her add it herself….




Today on this Saint Martin’s eve, the hundredth anniversary of Dan’s birth, my siblings and I, our children and theirs will spend a few minutes in quiet reflection and perhaps raise a glass to the memory of Dan, our father, their grandfather & great grandfather.


*St Martin of Tours Feast Day is November 11 (Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion)

** Thursday Special will return next week

14 thoughts on “Dano

  1. Rummuser

    What a way to pay tribute to a wonderful man! I shall wait for my weekly fix till next Thursday. This post deserves to be among the best that you have ever written.

  2. Delirious

    Grannymar, Do you also do geneology? Although I do feel that keeping histories is an important part of geneology, I was thinking more of the collecting of names/dates etc.

  3. Grannymar Post author

    WWW – I’d agree, only people might think I was biased! 😉

    Delirious – I do have a Family Tree, (the oldest entry is for 1763) and covers eight generations. I am now on the top shelf of the living, and there are two generations below me. There are over 500 individuals listed and please don’t remind the great He/Her who decides… the average is 61 years and six months! 🙁 That average is actually incorrect as there are some entries from way back, that we don’t have accurate or full dates of birth and death.

  4. paulo1

    Why do the old days always seem so filled with energy and discovery and most of all with family. I know that there were things we couldn’t even dream of dealing with today, killing our own food, sleeping four to a bed and, god forbid, walking a couple of miles each way to school but all in all, is the “modern world ” really all that much better?

  5. Marianna

    I’m glad I popped in here tonight. Thanks for sharing your family history in such a thoughtful way.

    Perhaps it’s the Irish way to say “spellings”?

    A “Ready Reckoner” – Off to see Google for that one.

  6. Grannymar Post author

    paulo1 – Perhaps it was a lack of electricity. Ireland’s first large scale electricity plant was only established in 1927. Everything had to be done manually. Water had to be drawn from the well, The fire provided heat for cooking and bathing. It was slow food before it became fashionable! Newspapers and books were hand set. Life was lived at a slower pace. AND there was no TV!

    Marianna – Did you find it? A “Ready Reckoner” was used for calculations.

  7. Grannymar Post author

    BWT – Thank you. Older cousins often spoke about how well they (Dan & Nana) looked and danced together, back in the days of ‘real dancing’!

    Nelly – Thank you.


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