Water Water Everywhere

My childhood home was perched on the edge of the Atlantic in the village of Mullaghgloss, in
Renvyle. From our front door I could see the Mayo coast, the cliffs of Achill, Clare Island and Inish
Turk. The sea was a constant in our lives with all its moods. Sometimes it would be flat calm with the
morning mist rising off it. Other times it would be a raging torrent, waves crashing against the rocks.
After big storms it would look brown and murky, churned up and heaving and other times “white
horses” would dance on its surface.
From June to September we swam constantly sometimes two or three times daily. We would race
down the cliffs like young goats and doggy paddle in rock pools depending on whether the tide was
in or out. After our swim we would throw our togs and towels on the fuchsia hedge ready for the
next time. After saving hay we would be allowed to go swimming. We also worked on the bog and
afterwards would race down the cliffs for our swim. There was a little pool with sea moss where we
would scrub the bog off our skin. Mam always warned us to bless ourselves before our swim in the
hope that it would keep us safe.
Of course you can’t drink sea water. One of our chores as children was to go to the well as we didn’t
have running water when I was very young. The water from the well was so cool and clean. It was
kept spotless and the whole village got their drinking water there. As we got older we would use
Dads bike to get water and walk home very carefully with two buckets full. Needless to say we
spilled a bit but not too much.
Washing clothes for my mother was a nightmare. Water had to be collected from a stream, heated
over the fire and washing was done in a tin bath. This same bath was also used to wash us but not at
the same time as the clothes: A washing powder came on the market called “Drive” which was
supposed to eat the dirt. There was a very convincing jingle about this magic powder. Mam was
delighted, but alas, despite soaking and scrubbing all she got from “Drive” were chapped hands. She
had to resort to the trusted lifebuoy soap. We would pour the soapy water into the grass and gather
worms in jam jars for fishing for “brownies” in Keeraun River.
At some stage Dad dug a large hole in the meadow field for water. It was six foot deep but the water
was brown and muddy. Once my brother, while trying to retrieve frog spawn fell in and was almost
drowned. The hole was rapidly filled in. Eventually we got indoor plumbing. Our water supply was
from a mountain stream so it was a bit brown and we still had to go to the well. My mother and
some of the neighbours got together to start a water scheme. It took endless work and canvassing to
get people involved. Mam worked on it for years and the day the water came through the taps was
greeted with great joy.
My water supply is now from beautiful LoughI Carra and I still hate to waste it because it is such a
precious commodity. I don’t mind paying for it. Water was never free and the last generation
worked so hard to provide us with clean running water.