Family Fortunes: What did I buy with my communion money? A kid goat
Three half crowns was a generous communion sum, enough for a goat at market
Mary McCarrick on her communion day
I am constantly amazed when I hear about the huge sums of money that First Communicants receive and now I read in the Irish Times that “the average sum of money taken in by children making their Communion this year was €617”. When I made my First Holy Communion in the early 1950s I got three half crowns which came to a total of seven shillings and six pence.
Apart from the odd penny to buy a penny cone on the way back to school after dinner (always in the middle of the day), and maybe the odd sixpence from a grown-up, this was the largest sum of money I had ever received. At the same time I was also given a money box – a round silver affair with slots for each of the differently-sized coins. My three silver half crowns – horse on one side and harp on the other – were “saved” in the appropriate slot.
One sunny afternoon, later that summer, I was at the market. There was a market every Saturday in Athlone in the square beside the castle near where I lived. Early in the morning, farmers brought their vegetables and displayed them in the upturned carts while their donkeys stood patiently alongside. Later, in the afternoons, others, like Cheap Jack arrived with their wares.
This day, some young men had brought a lorry load of kid goats to the market and I was delighted to find out that a kid goat cost 7/6d. Home I went for my 7/6d. The key was, as usual, in the door and very quietly I went to my money box in the sitting room. Goodness knows how I got the three half crowns out of the money box but I did and, just as quietly, I left the house again.
I carried my beautiful kid goat home. I reckoned that since it was a fait accompli my mother would have to accept it. This, however, was not the case. A goat, my mother said, would eat the roses and all the other flowers and even the clothes on the line. She sent me back to the market with my kid goat.
The young men were reluctant to take the kid goat back until the mother of a school pal who happened to be there interceded on my behalf.
Now what did I do with that 7/6d?