Reminiscences of a Postman
For three decades, I enjoyed the pleasure and privilege of bringing news from all nations to the people of Liscarroll postal district. I served under three postal officials, Mrs. Mary Cremin, the late Mrs. Hannah Canty and the present postmaster, Donal O’Cáinte. Their kindness and co-operation contributed everything necessary to making a postman’s work all that could be desired. I must freely admit, that, looking back, it appears more like one continuous holiday, rather than thirty years work.
In the early years, deliveries were on a three day frequency. This, for a brief period, was extended to a four day frequency, before the introduction of the six day delivery. This was followed by the five day week. The area originally extended from elevated Cappanagoul to Ardprior’s extensive plain, and from Coolafora, beside historic Annagh's verdant island, to the banks of Allow.
In the revision of the late fifties the townlands of Knawhill and Cappanagoul were transferred to Freemount postal district and deliveries to Lackeen went to Churchtown. The townlands of Rathnagard, Mahanagh, Lackeel and Gurteenroe were brought into the Liscarroll area.
The Liscarroll postal district was an exceedingly picturesque countryside. Elevated Knockloona presented a magnificent scene on a summers morning, as the lark ascended to the blue sky, singing its beautiful Carlew over the lush green meadows. The route, then, went on over that vast extended plain of Curraghs, where the skyline extends from the towering Galtees to the Paps, the Reeks and Mangerton and from Hilary’s holy range to the Clare hills.
The frosts and snows of the occasional Winter rendered travelling conditions extremely hazardous creating the only real problem, in what was otherwise, very pleasant work.
The people of this postal district, by their great kindness, help and co-operation made a postman’s life a very happy one. Their appreciation of his services was clearly demonstrated by their great generosity at all times and, especially at Christmas, when he was the recipient of many gifts. Refreshments were freely available and sometimes, a little problem might arise when endeavouring to decide where to accept the continuous wonderful hospitality. One question frequently put to postmen is the problem of dealing with the canine species. A postman, or a tinker’s wife, would not at all be fitted for their respective jobs if they were afraid of dogs. The first, and possibly the most important thing to do, when approaching a house, is to have something, a dog will relish, accompanied by a kind word. Under no circumstances shout, "Lie down, go home o’that". Almost inevitably, you will have conquered the first obstacle. Then greet a child as best you can, if it appears on the scene, and then by the law of averages, you should be able to achieve your objective.
A postman must, invariably, encounter funny incidents, and of course, I was no exception. I can vividly recall the great snowfall of 1963. It started on the last day of 1962 and the roads were snowbound until the 15th of February. One morning, an old man had great pity for me, as I endeavoured to plough through the snow. He said, "Do you know Denny, what I’d do with them letters this morning?" "I’d be very happy if I could solve the problem, sir”, I said. "I’d post them to them, Denny", he said.
On the occasion of another freeze up, I had cards for a farmer who had hoped to take cattle to Mallow mart. He had requested, on the previous day, that I would endeavour to arrange the delivery as early as possible. My best efforts failed, due to the hazardous condition of the roads. When I eventually arrived, he shouted, "I expected you’d be here in time." I replied, "I did the best I could sir, but, every step I took forward I went back two". He said, "Why did you not turn around and you could have made it?"
Some forty years ago, there was a house, some six fields from the road, where resided a very protective father, who had five charming daughters. Naturally ,they had many admirers and received numerous letters, which contained "S.W.A.L.K.s” and numerous "Xs," which resembled thorny wire along the backs of the envelopes". I had great success on delivering these letters personally to the respective addressees, but, eventually "himself" became suspicious and had me under observation. One morning. I arrived at the farmyard gate and there he was awaiting my arrival. I had five letters, each one vividly displaying the dreaded "thorny-wire".
“I’ll take the post," he said, following a stern greeting. I stopped for a moment and apologetically replied “Sorry sir but I have no post this morning". "It’s a likely story", he exclaimed, “that you came in six fields without a letter". "Well", I said,”Yesterday morning, your sister up the road asked me to bring her a clutch of hatching eggs from here. I had no letter yesterday and had little time left again this morning. I have no letter for you, but, since she told me the hen was laying I decided I’d come in this morning for the eggs".
As I was about to get on my bicycle, he said, “You had better go in so to the women". I quickly delivered the letters and requested a box with straw, but, the eldest girl insisted in putting in thirteen eggs lest "himself" might investigate. So the postman had thirteen breakfasts!
Around that time there was the odd person, who could not use the pen, and a few, even though they had acquaintance with it were lost when it actually came to writing. The postman was, occasionally asked to assist. On one such occasion a farm hand, who came from the west, asked me to write a letter to his mother. I duly obliged, but, on asking for her address, he said,"They hadn't them things at all back our way." But, scratching his head he suggested I’d write “My mother in Kerry a small bit in from the road."
I worked in a city for a little while, and, on one occasion was sent out with a special delivery. I did not know the way very well, but, eventually arrived on my bike at the terrace. Then, I realised that the surname was not written clearly, and fearing there might be more than one family resident in No. 5, I knocked on the door to check. Suddenly, a woman of great physique appeared “Pardon me, Madam”, I said. "I know I am at the right house but unfortunately your name on the packet seems obliterated." "I beg your pardon, you ---, my name is O’Brien and I’m proud of it" and the name was O’Brien.
As already mentioned, problems were very few in a postman's work. One very important factor was however, to pay particular attention to the delivery of each item. It would be exceedingly embarrassing,if, through human error, any item in the post should be delivered into wrong hands.
The most glorious feature of a postman’s life is that no day seems long and this is very evident, if a person has the opportunity of comparison, having been engaged in other employment, where hours and - days- seem unending.
In conclusion,what is it like to be retired? Admittedly, you miss the wonderful people of the postal area, and there are always those nostalgic memories of meeting any one of them from time to time.
However, following nine years of retirement, I can freely admit I have yet to find a day too long, since there are so many different things to do.
Denny O’ Connell
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