Home from England with her new fashions, my sister was soon back to work on the farm

Family Fortunes: That summer saw the first shorter-than-short mini-skirt with knee-high boots being worn around Ballymote

Kathleen working on the farm with her father and brothers.

Kathleen working on the farm with her father and brothers.

 

The ‘Call to Training’ for national school teaching was the great aspiration of many Leaving Cert students of the 1960s and 1970s. It would have been the passageway to a career sincerely longed-for by my sister Kathleen. She knew the requirement for honours in Irish meant this would not happen for her and so the route to teacher training in the UK was the other option. This involved a leaving-home-for-Manchester scenario with intense heartbreak for a girl who loved home. Enough tears were shed at Ballymote train station the day she left to fill an ocean.

The letters from Kathleen arrived in the weeks and months that followed as she made her best efforts to settle into a new life with all its challenges in England.

In what seemed longer than the intervening months, Christmas was near and the long-awaited trip home on the boat from Holyhead for the two-week holiday break was planned.

However, foot and mouth disease was taking hold in the UK and curbs on passenger traffic between Ireland and the UK were being put in place. That journey home never happened in that long winter of 1967, and a lonely first Christmas for Kathleen away from family and friends.

The months trundled along to summer and eventually the time for her first visit home had come. Her joy in the homecoming paled against the excitement and euphoria of her younger brothers, who patiently waited that summer day for the hackney car to arrive with their only beloved sister and the frolic and fun that followed as we teased Kathleen of having developed an “English twang”.

That summer saw the first trousers suit and a shorter-than-short mini-skirt with knee-high boots being worn around Ballymote as the latest UK fashion hit the local scene.

Much to the dismay of our mother, the flowery skirt with shift was abandoned for the hot-pants when Mick Delahunty and his band played at the local carnival.

We even heard our normally quiet dad mention the word “hippy” as new variations on traditional dress were worn heading out to dances. But any pretensions to grandeur were thrown aside when it came to helping out on the family farm, as Kathleen more than played her part that summer. The photo alongside shows Kathleen in charge, with her dad and brothers all hard at work.

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