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The following memories are extracted from transcripts of recorded conversations with local people housed in the archive at Newry and Mourne Museum. The original interviews were carried out in the 1980s and 1990s.

Castle Street in Newry pictured in the 1960s. Photograph:  Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Castle Street in Newry pictured in the 1960s. Photograph: Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

My mother had a guest house in Castle Street. Pigs were kept in the back yard, sometimes they were taken to the market and other times would be slaughtered at home from which brawn would be made. 

A Corpus Christie procession passing the Frontier Cinema in John Mitchel Place c.1934 Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
A Corpus Christie procession passing the Frontier Cinema in John Mitchel Place c.1934. Photograph: Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The house was lit by oil lamps made from tin bought in Gray’s and run on paraffin oil bought from the shop next door.  These lamps had glass globes and tended to break in the wind and had to be mended with brown paper and flour paste.  The house was heated by open fires.

The Hiring Fair

Girls coming to town for the hiring fairs would often stay in the guesthouse bringing only a small amount of clothes with them.  Country men came to the fair to find strong workers for their farms.  While staying in the guest house, tea was made in ‘tea drums’ by travelling people on their way between fairs a lady would make sweeping brushes in the evenings to sell in the markets in the day.  Flower sellers from Dublin came to stay at weekends, they made flowers from paper and fine wire.  The bought the flower paper from Rafferty’s and made sweet peas, roses, etc. 

The fair was held on Thursdays at the site of North Street flats and it had a creamery in the centre.  Jazz bands from Belfast played in the same square in Castle Street and had drums, piano accordions and megaphones.  There would also be singers, escapologists and other entertainers in the hiring fairs.

Shops in North Street pictured before they were demolished in the late 1960s. Photograph: Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Shops in North Street pictured before they were demolished in the late 1960s. Photograph: Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Geese were bought for Christmas from the market and brought home live, kept in the garden until it was time for them to be slaughtered for Christmas.  The farmers would always give a ‘luck penny’ back after paying for your goods. 

School Days

When going to school in St Clare’s in High Street, black boots were bought from ‘Wardie’s’ shoe shop which took threequarters of an hour to put on with a button hook.  Older girls would wear a white calico pinny over their dress.  School lunches consisted of bread and a tin mug full of soup.

Programme from the Imperial Cinema in Newry listing films on show in April 1963 Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Programme from the Imperial Cinema in Newry listing films on show in April 1963. Photograph: Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Domestic life

After marrying and moving into a new home, floor would be kept clean with Lifebuoy soap and Jeyes fluid which was bought from Connors Chemist on the corner of Mill Street and Hill Street.  Liquorice was bought to make homemade cough mixture, most ‘medicines’ were made at home.  Jelly soap was used to wash hair and in tobacconist’s you could buy ‘manchies’, a book of thin paper leaves that held rouge for your face, often with a picture of a film star on the front.

The 'Pictures'

The Frontier Cinema was popular for matinees and while the reels were changed entertainment was provided, also the Imperial Picture Palace operated talent shows with winners receiving gold watches.

Life back then was hard work, but times were happy.   

Newry and Mourne Museum is open to the public seven days a week with admission free of charge. For opening hours, information on events and exhibitions, other services and bookings please phone 028 3031 3178 or visit www.bagenalscastle.com

Written by: Dympna Tumilty

Programme from the Imperial Cinema in Newry listing films on show in April 1963 Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Programme from the Imperial Cinema in Newry listing films on show in April 1963. Photograph: Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
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