An Interview with Padraig Greene





Padraig Greene was born in Co. Longford in 1900. He came to Ballingeary and Tuirín Dudh for the first time in 1922 to learn Irish.

Conchúr Ó Murchú interviewed him on the 15th July 2000 in Eilís and Pat O’Leary’s house in Tuirín Dubh, where he has holidayed in recent years. Laurent Baraton recorded the conversation. The following is an edited version of that interview.

Conchúr: Padraig, how did you come to Ballingeary for the first time

Padraig; I came to Ballingeary as a poor scholar in 1922 to learn Irish and to work on Johnny Twomey’s farm in Tuirín Dubh. I had been teaching for a year in Westmeath in a small school on the side of the road between Kilbegan and Moate in a small place called Horseleap. One day Johnny Collins, Michael Collins’ brother was visiting his sister-in-law, a Mrs. Moloney, in Horseleap. He told me that Irish was going to be the language of the new state and I'd need it to get a teaching job. "Where would I learn Irish?" I asked him. He told me to get in contact with Tadhg Twomey (Johnnie’s son) here in Ballingeary, to write him a letter and to say that he (Johnny Collins) had told me to write. This I did and after a while I got a letter back to come down. I arrived around Easter 1922 without a word of Irish and worked on the farm. After three months I went to Coláiste Na Mumhan. I went to the Coláiste for two months and then the Civil War started. I was here and no trains were coming to Cork as the bridge at Mallow was blown up. Eventually in October I got a lift to Cork in a lorry. The bridge at Tonnsbridge was down so we had to go over the hills and out on the Cork side of the bridge. I got a boat from Cork and arrived in Dublin the next day and I made my way to Longford.

Conchúr: When you were in the Coláiste who was teaching there?

Padraig: Tadhg Ó Scanláin, Padraigh Ó Suibhne, Conchúr Ó Muineacháin, Eibhlín Ní Chroinín. That was the group there that year. In charge of traditional music and singing was M. Ní Mhuirlithe, ó Coomhoola. ‘Smólach Na Mumhán’ a tugtí uirthí. The next year Maire Ní Chuill came to teach us singing. There was O Sé from Glengarriff was there one year. I don’t know was Sean Ó Ciosaín there that first year. There was a Diarmuid Ó Laoire as well for a year.

Conchúr: How many years did you spend here altogether?

Padraig: I came three years after each other. Then I was here two years later (1926) and then I wasn’t here again until the 1950’s. I’ve been here regularly over the last ten years.

Conchúr: Was Paddy Crosbie and Tadhg Falvey here at that time in the 1950s?

Padraig? Oh! Yes. I went fishing with Falvey to Borlin sometimes. The Maistir and his wife Bean A’Mhaistir. (Willie O’ Sullivan and his wife Maire.)

Conchur; They were from Toornafulla in Limerick.

Padraig: She was from Gleann Mór in Kerry and Bill was from out side Kenmare. His people had a pub on the side of the road. They lived in Toornafulla and retired here.

Conchúr; He was a bit forgetful, was he?

Padraig. Himself and the wife were going to the village one day when going around a corner she fell out and he didn’t notice. When he did he came back and said "Your dead, Maire!" No I’m not Willie, I’m not" she said. "You are," he said back.

Conchur: Did you ever go fishing with Mervyn Ruthenn who stayed in Turínn Dubh too?

Padraig; No. But I went with Willie. He had a great eye and would see a rise anybody else would miss. He and the wife were retired teachers. The salary at the time was £320. You retired on half salary so they had £320 between the two of them. It wasn’t much.

We used have great time here in those times.

Another thing I remember is when they were building the road out here (from Ballingeary up to the Pass of Keimaneigh). They were using stones from the stone walls in the fields. They could be four feet wide. Liam Twomey asked to draw stones for him. I was at it for four or five weeks. There were a lot of people drawing stones. Donalín Shea, Cronin Barrgarriff, Jerh the Keim. We drew stones and piled them in a huge cairn just out side here. The stone breaker came then with the man living in a van. His life was breaking stones. He crushed the whole lot. They were taken up to the Pass and steamrolled there. There was a lot of repartee and ganging with the big crowd.

Conchúr; Was it all locals?

Padraig; Yes. We were the carters. Then there were gangs breaking big boulders. You had Tadhg the Mon, Padraigh Ó Suibhne’s brother, he was the gaffer. You had Arthur Batt Leary, Con Cotter from Currahy, Patsie Creed, Paddy Harrington from the South Lake Road, they were workers.

Padraigh Greene arrived in Ballingeary at Easter 1922.

The Treaty had been accepted in the Dail the previous January. The country was going through the slow slide into Civil War, which started in July 1922.

Conchúr; When you were here in 1922 have you any knowledge of what went on politically in the country.

Padraig; Oh yes, we were aware of it. I was never a follower of politics as such, as I was of the belief that the wheel is continually turning and what’s popular today will be unpopular tomorrow and some new God will rise.

I knew that I was in an area where there had been much activity in the Troubles. There was a felling when I came here of things not being the same, a sort of a boil needing lancing. People were objecting to the Treaty, there weren’t many rows about it. There was a meeting of local people in Twomey’s Tuirín Dubh around a week after I arrived. A man arrived in a car from Cork, called Hegarty. ( This was Sean Hegarty, who had been exiled to Ballingeary in 1916. He was a Officer Commanding the IRA in Cork City during the War Of Independence). There was a big talking session in the parlour. The crowd here said they wouldn’t accept the Treaty. Hegarty said he’d never lift a gun against a fellow Irishman, so he left and took neither side in the Civil War. At the time of the Civil War there was no great activity around Ballingeary. There was a bit of a rumpus in Limerick and a few fellas went to that. And the night that the Free State troops took over Macroom Castle the walls were perforated with bullets from the hills. The road the other side of The Mouth Of The Glen from Ballingeary was down so the Free Staters couldn’t come that route. I can’t say for sure but I presume the Toon and Gearagh bridges were down from the east.

I remember Scottie as well.

Conchúr; There’s a ‘cuimhneacháin’ plaque to him up the road.

Padraig; That’s right. He disappeared one day with his rifle and big bicycle. The people here tried to stop him. They were moving to try and stop the Free State troops coming up the Lee and landing in Cork. He was shot straight away. (In Passage West, August 1922. His name was Ian McKenzie Kennedy from Scotland.). He was supposed to have been the last male descendant of Robert the Bruce according to his family pedigree which is here in Tuirín Dubh. He was a character.

He decided one day to make gunpowder. He said to me one day, "Longford", (he used call me that because there were too many Padraigs around. He was very nice.)

"Longford" he said, "do you know how to make gunpowder?"

I said "I don’t

"I do" he said, "And I’ve some made and we’ll test it this evening when you’re finished after the tea."

He had the cast iron box at the centre of a cartwheel. He had one end of it plugged with wood. He had a 26-ounce iron road-bowl which fitted into the box and by putting a certain measure of gunpowder into that he intended to measure the strength of the gunpowder by how far it would throw the 26-ounce bowl.

I said "All right, after the tea I’ll see you". He was busy all evening making his preparations. He had more gunpowder in a saucer on a shelf in the kitchen.

After tea though Liam Twomey asked me to put the saddle on the ‘capaillín liath’ and take it west the road because his father was going to Macroom the next day and the horse hadn’t been on the road for a while. I was delighted and saddled the horse and road to the top of the Céim (The Pass of Keimaneigh), and when I was coming back down I heard a boom. I rode back and found the Bean A’ Tígh looking very glum. Scotty’s hands were all black marks on them and his eyebrows burnt.

He had put the powder into the box of the cart and dropped the bowl right on top of it. He didn’t put a wad between the two. This was being done on a windowsill of an outhouse. He lit it, the thing exploded and the ball hit the stone over the window and cracked it. He was lucky he wasn’t killed. If I’d been there standing beside him it would probably have taken the head off me.

That quietened down his experimenting. The bean a’ tigh told him to get rid of the gunpowder in the kitchen a few days later so he threw it in the fire it exploded and threw ash all over the kitchen and burnt the corner of his moustache. He was a loveable character though.

Conchúr; He was a Scot. Who were his people?

Padraig; His father was a Major in the Norfolk regiment and his brother was an officer with them. Both of them were killed early in the First War. According to his pedigree he was the last male descendant of Robert the Bruce and possibly Brian Boru, but I don’t know.

I remember one night in August 1922 a week after Scotty was killed that we were in the hall in Ballingeary when four armed men came in to the hall and sat down with their backs to the ardán (stage). Liam Twomey recognised one of them and said to me "What’s Mick Donoghue doing here?" I didn’t know who he was. So Liam went up and shook hands with the man. He had a few words and came back down looking very glum and said, "Padraig, Collins was shot today"

Donoghue was from Glenflesk. According to Fr. Patrick Twohig’s book Donoghue and his chums were at the battle around Cork Harbour. They were on their way back across the country and across the fields near Beal Na mBlath they heard firing. They began to be careful. They looked down into a valley and saw a man, as Twohig describes it, standing with a revolver in his hand. One of their crowd fired a shot and Donoghue pushed him down, rifle and all and said "Do you want them to catch us?" The man on the road fell. They didn’t know who shot him. Fr. Twohig interviewed Donoghue in later years and he wasn’t saying who fired the shot. They then made their way west here and called into the Halla in Ballingeary on the way.

Conchúr; It’s an interesting anecdote to history that they called here

Padraig;It is all right

Conchúr Go raibh míle maith agat

Padraig; Failte romhat