3 Ages of Summer: Making hay when the sun shone - Doireann Ní Ghríofa

My childhood memories of summer are from growing up in Kilnamona, Co Clare. It all centred around gatherings — gathering the hay in stacks and stuff.

3 Ages of Summer: Making hay when the sun shone - Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Childhood

My childhood memories of summer are from growing up in Kilnamona, Co Clare. It all centred around gatherings — gathering the hay in stacks and stuff. We used to love it because we were outside the whole time. My father would be forking the hay, or he’d have the tractor. We’d have armfuls of hay. When we were out in the bog we were a bit lazy. We’d always be away playing in a stream that was there. My dad had to resort to giving us 5p per bag so we would bag turf. We didn’t make much profit out of it. We’d go up to McDonagh’s shop — which is gone now — and be in for all kinds of toffees and sweets that would pull the teeth out of your head. We used to go to Lahinch often on a Sunday for a drive — and sometimes we’d go for a spin up to the Burren — but usually to Lahinch. We’d go for a paddle in the sea, never past the knees. I was never a strong swimmer. I remember we’d always have a 99 ice cream as a treat, with the flake inside in it, on the beach.

Young Adulthood

When I was a teenager what I remember most was going to the Gaeltacht for three weeks in the summer. I used to always go to Connemara. I’d be down around the beach. I have such strong memories of the beach in Connemara and big gangs of teenagers roaming around the little bohereens, up to the usual mischief that teenagers get up to. I’ve still such fondness for the Galway accent. I absolutely love it — those memories of the Connemara Gaeltacht colour those teenage years.

I did the J1 one year when I went to Boston in 2003. I loved that experience. I talked my way into a job working in a bookshop in a university. I don’t think I’m unusual as a young Irish person when you’re in America in that I gravitated towards ideas of home. You can almost recognise home in it but it’s so different.

For example I remember vividly watching the All-Ireland hurling final in McGann’s pub in Boston and thinking to myself about the McGann’s pub in Doolin, thinking, ‘This is so different’. It was hard to believe that I was so far from home yet surrounded by so much familiarity. I can hardly remember the match, which will tell you how well the session was going. We were having a ball. It was Cork v Kilkenny and Kilkenny won. Boo hoo.

Today

All the summers now just gravitate around the kids — I have four kids aged between three and 10 — which is lovely in its own way. I love the summertime because the kids are on holidays and we’ve great freedom to just pack up and drive off to the beach or just spend time with them in a way that you’re not tied to school runs. I grow a lot of strawberries and raspberries so we often bake little cakes and that kind of thing. It’s just easy days.

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