I grew up in the heart of the country within a whisper of the longest river in
Ireland. The Shannon known as the “wise river” meandered through eleven
counites almost separating the East and the West.
Electricity had been connected to our house in the very early nineteen sixties
but the running water inside and outside the house was not installed until I
was eight years old.
As a young one growing up like many other of my generation we all had
household chores that had to be done. In most households it was the duty of
the daughters to bring buckets of water for drinking and cooking. There were
one boy and four girls in my household.
When I was six years old, seven and eight it was one of my chores to fetch
water from what we called the well but was a spring underneath the ground.
Springs were naturally occurring features where water emerged sometimes in
gushes to the surface. At that time there were many thousands of holy wells in
Ireland which people visited and prayed at but it was forbidden to use any
water from these wells for household use.
To draw home the water I used an empty tin sweet can which had been given
to me by the local shopkeeper. I remember being able to see my reflection in
its’ silver surface as I strolled sometimes twice a day to the well.
To get to the well in the neighbours’ filed I had to walk a quarter of a mile on a
road with grass growing in the middle of it. Then I had to climb over a moss-
covered stone style to access the rectangular field and walk a few hundred
yards more to the well.
In childhood innocence I often filled the can to the top but by the time I got
home the can would only be three quarters full due to natural spillage.
Although tempted I don’t remember drinking any of the cool, clear water from
the can but do remember scooping water into my cupped hands and drinking
thirstily directly from the well.
On return to the house my sweet can of water would be transferred to the
kettle and boiled for the evening tea. The water used for washing clothes and
the Saturday evening stand up tub bath was rainwater collected in brightly
coloured barrels positioned under the eve-runs of the house roof.
I loved these daily strolls to the well. They instilled in me a great love for
nature. It was a time for me to take note of what was around me. There is
always something special about the first time you see or hear a bird, or animal,
an insect or a plant in the great outdoors.
I remember chasing the elusive butterflies, staring back at the wildlife peeking
out of the bushes, picking daisies and buttercups to put in the jam-jar on the
window sill when I got home.