Childhood Memories of The Brosna

I was born in 1937 in the townland of Coole. Coole is about a mile East of Ferbane in the
County of Offaly. Our house is about two hundred- and fifty-yards from the River Brosna and
our pasture went to the river. From the time I was able to walk I followed my two older
brothers and sister, along with our next-door neighbors the Kenny’s and the Egan’s from
further down the road, to fish there. We got our drinking water from a spring well a few yards
from the riverbank so that meant daily trips there as well. When fishing, we never caught
much, but there was one deep spot that wasn’t too bad. I remember one of the girls falling in
one evening and we all froze. As she came up the second time her long hair spread out on the
surface of the water and one of the older girls reached in and gathered up her hair and landed
her out on the bank. We all got a huge fright but thank God it ended well. We were barred
from fishing for a while after that.
Coole Castle was about four hundred yards down the road, and we would play on the top of it
on a Sunday in summertime. How none of us never fell off I’ll never know. There were spiral
stone stairs, with one step missing near the top. I noticed on a recent visit back there that all
the cornerstones within reach of the ground have been stolen. What a shame. The first town
reservoir was being built on the other side of the river on a hill called the White Hill, on the
grounds of Gallen Priory. The River used be quite shallow in one place and sometimes we
would wade across to look at the building works. I was too small so Paddy Kenny who was
about 13 or 14 used carry me on his shoulders.
Gallon Priory was also across the river, about a half mile downriver. It was the novitiate of
the Saint Joseph of Cluny nuns. On a fine Wednesday afternoon in summertime the nuns and
novices would walk the bank of the river as far as Coole Castle, cross the bridge at the castle
and up through Coole back into Ferbane. My older siblings could see them coming on the
other side of the River, and as I had blonde curly hair they would have me washed and my
hair brushed and my best clothes on, and I would sit on the wall. Some of the nuns and
novices would have sweets and would give me one or two. Needless to say, I didn’t get to
keep many of them.
I remember one time when I was very small my father was out cutting a swathe of corn
around a field of wheat before the reaper and binder would come. He had me sitting on his
coat and there were two hens picking grains of wheat, one each side of me, when a fox
popped out of the corn and took one of them. I was afraid of foxes for years afterwards. I left
home when I was six years of age when my Mam died and went to live with an uncle and