The Irish in America


Maureen’s Memories: Fair Day in Milltown

As Maureen remembers the excitement of fair day in Milltown, she introduces us to a few more of the Milltown villagers, and provides another peek at Ireland in the 1930-40s

Fair Day in Milltown

When we were children, fair day was always an exciting event. Early Saturday morning the farmers drove their animals to town to be sold on the streets. Our front door was bolted securely lest a younger child should wander out. We took our places at the front window, elbowing each other for a better view. As we watched the buyers (cattle jobbers they were called), some wearing plus fours—a certain type of trousers (knickerbockers) that were a sure sign of affluence. At first, it appeared that nothing would ever happen. Would any sale take place, we wondered? Finally, a flurry of action from the out-of-town jobbers. A great deal of haggling, followed by the hand stroke that meant a deal was struck! It wasn’t a handshake as we know it; one man offered his hand held palm-out, parallel to the ground. The other met it in an upward/downward chopping motion. An actual slapping sound could be heard. There was no written contract; none was needed in a time when a man’s word was his bond.

Among all the men stood one lone woman, Miss Emma. She was an old, grey-haired lady walking with a cane. Although she was about 70 years of age, she did not seem out of place to us young children, selling her few head of cattle at the temporary mart. Fair day was the rare time when her beloved dog, Laddie, wasn’t at her side. Emma Eager of Ivy Lodge—a quaint, old two-story house with an orchard and beautiful, lush garden–sold the flowers for funerals to make ends meet. She may have also supplied some of the lovely white lilies that always adorned our Church of the Sacred Heart. It’s said Miss Emma and her sister, Miss Millicent (a retired nurse) inherited the Lodge when their brother was disowned for marrying a Catholic. Their Aunt, Nano Eager, was the first wife of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, born 1831 Rosscarbery, Co. Cork. He was the famous “Fenian” of the (IRB) Irish Republican Brotherhood.

As the pace picked up and all the sales were concluded, the cattle were driven off. Our door was opened and the streets were ours once again. Somehow Main and Church streets were washed down of all signs of what had just transpired. Later, modernity came to Milltown; they tore down Ivy Lodge with a wrecking ball and put the cattle mart in its place. Now, no child will experience the simple pleasure that we did gazing out our window at the fair some eighty years ago!

About the author…

Maureen, 1953

Maureen Angela Teahan was born in September 1928, Milltown, County Kerry, Ireland. She was the firstborn of a large family. The household included a maternal grandfather and an older cousin, all living in a small thatched home. Maureen was educated at Presentation School and received her Leaving Certification from Presentation Secondary School, Milltown, 1944. She emigrated from Ireland in 1947 and lived in Lawrence, Mass.  Maureen worked at the Wood Worsted Mills for two years until they closed and moved their operations south. After that she was employed as a nanny for a year, also in Lawrence. Then she moved to Boston and worked for the First National Stores (FINAST) in the meat department. During that time she met her future husband and left FINAST when she married Patrick Murray in 1952. Maureen raised three children and was active with volunteer work, the church and community. Her hobbies included reading, sewing, cooking and gardening for as long as she was able.


For more of Maureen’s Memories…

Click here for Nono Goes to the Circus

Click here for An Orange for Baby Jesus

Click here to read about Maureen’s first days in America