Traditional Ireland

I was looking at a photo of a white donkey and cart pulling an entire family of eight and wondered at the simplicity of life as it was back then. My mother grew up in the forties at a time when life was tough; when there wasn’t always food on the table, when they had to walk to school barefoot, at a time when some had to start work at the very early age of twelve or thirteen to provide for the rest of the siblings. 

She told me this photo was of herself, her brothers and sisters and her parents. They were dressed in their finest clothes on the way to mass. Bertie the donkey brought them everywhere she said and was their only means of transport. The donkey could be relied upon most times except for one occasion.

She went on then to tell me about the time her father took her to the dentist on the ass and cart. It was a bright sunny morning and they had about seven miles to go when all of a sudden Bertie stopped in the middle of the road and refused to go any further no matter how much coaxing and prodding her father did. To make a point, the donkey lay down under the cart and there was no budging him. He’d had enough. Granddad had to go into a neighbour for help and eventually between them they got the donkey going again and my mother made it to the dentist. 

They had that donkey for years she said and were heartbroken when he died some months later; someone had left the gate open, he went out on the road and got killed. 




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