"I look back at my childhood in Killeigh and know just how lucky I was to have grown up there"
What is my story and what are my connections to the village of Killeigh? Surely, I'm a blow in only moving into Hillview Crescent at the age of 6 months with my father John and mother Goretta Walton (nee Gallagher).
My father came to Killeigh from Ballinagar via Ballymahon, Co. Longford, but long before this his grandfather and grandmother, Joe and Mary Walton arrived in the village. Their arrival was shortly after the marriage of their daughter Mary Anne, in 1920 to a local man William Brady. They all lived in Graigue, before moving to Fenter after Joe’s death. My mother a Ballinagar native also had previous family links to Killeigh on her mother's side the Dunnes and the Kirwans from Newtown.
My Family was well known in the village, my father was like doctor Dolittle and our garden was on par with a petting zoo. Daddy was seen as the local vet and anyone who had an injured animal would take them to him. We had all sorts of animals but were known for birds and Jack Russell's. Many a person in the parish and in the surrounding areas owned a pup or a canary that originated at our house.
Mammy worked in Tullamore and is remembered for her time in Colm McCabe's and Texas Department Store. She carried many a person into town and home again. In the late 80’s early 90s there was no public transport into Tullamore, and many had no transport of their own. Over those years half the village had taken a lift with her. A popular thumbing place for town goers was at the end the church lane on the corner of Mathew’s farmyard. Anyone who cut the village out coming from Ballinvalley drove past, it was the ideal spot to catch lift. A rare sight these days with the town link and nearly all with their own mode of transport.
Christened Constance, I go by the name Connie many of you may already know me but for those that do not, I grew up in Hill View crescent, Killeigh, with my younger sister Victoria or Vicky for short. I am an Art Teacher and I teach at Coláiste Naomh Cormac, in Kilcormac and also in the Art Department at Abbeyleix Further Education Centre, Laois. Though I no longer live in Killeigh, I continue to play camogie with St. Sinchills and I like to support the community in any way I can.
I have so many happy memories of growing up in Killeigh, Saturday mornings the village came alive. The place was bustling with cars and people, the soccer pitch was full of players and spectators alike. The green was busy with walkers and talkers, the symphony of those sounds echoed in the Ball Alley and across the village itself.
We were spoiled for activities to do, Music, Irish Dancing, Soccer, GAA, Camogie and of course the legendary Youth Club and not to forget the Christmas parties and Soccer Club Discos. I took part in all the activities and as my father would say ‘You’re in everything but the crib’. The clubs and lessons took place in various buildings around the village, the GAA rooms, the Old School or the Macra Hall, all but the later were too small to host the growing numbers of the parish. It was a sad day when the Macra Hall closed its doors to the people of the village. As a teenager I joined a group hoping to reopen it to the public; we cleared out a lot of the rubbish and did a general tidy on the place but there were no funds available to complete the necessary repair work that was needed and with time all enthusiasm fell away, and the committee dissolved.
Some of my happiest memories within the community were taking art classes firstly in the GAA rooms with Mark O’Neil and then the old school hall with local Edel O’Connell. There were children of all ages in the class and a huge amount of talent came from our small and humble little village. During my time at the National College of Art & Design four villagers passed through its door. This is quiet astounding as only 150 students were selected per year.
On completion of Art College, I began to teach in a school in North Dublin, to my surprise I was not the only person from Killeigh ever to teach there, as a previous art teacher was a Miss. McCafferkey from Newtown. What a coincidence two art teachers from the same rural village had taught in the same school in Dublin. Even though I was far away from the village the village was never far from me.
Its only now, in my adult years, do I look back at my childhood in Killeigh and know just how lucky I was to have grown up there. I left home at 17 for the big smoke but continued to come home at weekends and meet up with friends and talk about how exciting life was, or at least seemed to be, outside of the village.
Now when we meet up and chat we talk about the good old days and the adventures we had; like the walks from the estate to the village and how dark it was at night, the street lights only started at O’Rourke’s and we would sprint from ‘The Rock’ (the entrance stone to the Hillview Crescent) down to the light, not stopping for love nor money; or if we were late for something in the Macra Hall we could have taken the short cut via the church lane, but that decision was never taken lightly. The church lane was a lovely walk during the day, but once night started to fall only the brave used it. Legend had it that the Banshee was seen hovering over a tree or the lamp post some argue. There were many ghost stories and urban legends about the church lane and the Lords Lane that runs alongside Hillview; headless cats, black magic and wicked witches, underground tunnels that ran from Killeigh to Gurteen or where the other six wells of the ‘Seven Blessed Wells’ were located.
The memories we shared of the youth club, the trips away, of Sports Days, Wheel of Fortune and of the Rocking Boats. We laugh at the memories of certain people screaming to get off, and others making it a competition to try completing a full 360. Those days brought many outsiders to the village and the atmosphere was electric. August Bank Holiday weekend was hugely anticipated by all every year.
Looking back on the village I call Home, I am so grateful for the friends I made, the community that raised me and for the general craic we were lucky to have. Many younger generations of villagers never got to experience what we had. Hopefully, this will all change with the completion of the Community Centre and a new generation will continue to tell the ghost stories and the legends will live on, and they too will have their own stories to tell; and just like me they might find out that they are far from blow ins and they too have several stories linking them to ‘Killeigh and Beyond”