Granny’s memories of the Mulkear river

My granny grew up beside the Mulkear river at the foot of Keeper
Hill in the Silvermine Mountains in Co. Tipperary. It was so close that
the house flooded a few times during the winter, and Granny
remembers being carried out in the middle of the night. Until the
1970’s you could only cross by a foot bridge. For granny and her
family, the river had many uses. It was a playground, the laundry, a
bath and fishmongers.
Granny used to play imaginary games such as ‘treasure island’ on a
rock in the river with her siblings, they also used to play school and
use a big flat stone as a blackboard. Another thing they used to do
was catch little fish called minnows in jars. They called them
‘killocks’. Granny and her siblings used to swim in a deep place called
the ‘big hole’. The Mulkear river also ran adjacent to granny’s school
so she could play with her friends in the water as well.
Granny and her family washed their clothes in the river. They would
bring soap and a wash board to the river to scrub them clean. They
also used to bring towels and soap to the river to wash themselves.
The river was also a source of food. It was teeming with trout,
salmon and eels. Granny’s father or my great-grandfather used to
catch eels in a cloth bag with metal rings around it to stop the eel
escaping. One time my great-grandfather threw it to my granny and
told her to look after it, but she was scared of them because once
one bit her on her toe so she put it in her father’s wellington boot.
After they caught it, they would wash it, chop it up, and cook it on
the pan, but the funny thing is that the eel still moved while it
cooked on the pan. My great-grandfather also used to fish for
salmon during the night because it was illegal. He used to dip a sod
of turf in paraffin and light it to see where the fish where swimming
but someone kept an eye out for a bailiff so they could quench the
turf in the river quickly if needed.
Granny can thank the river as well for saving her father’s life during the War of Independence. The Black and Tans called to the house looking for him, he escaped through a back window and hid under the foliage at the riverbank.
Granny still loves to visit her former home where her sister-in-law and nephew now live. Her older brother Jack sings a song of the Mulkear river – ‘Where the Mulkear River Flows’.
‘Its through that rich and fertile Vale Each day I used to go And oft’ times lay on the grassy banks Where the Mulkear river flows’