More memories from the past


‘She rooted through the archaeological ruins of her mind and remembered much.’ I came across that sentence last week and loved it.

I’ve been rooting through the archaeological ruins of my mind, remembering the clothes we wore, as young children.

When I saw all men’s sun hats on sale - a vision came to mind. Do you remember how men protected their heads, when we were small? They took a big white handkerchief from their pocket. They tied knots in the four corners and then placed it on their heads. That was their sun-hat!

‘Ne’re cast a clout ‘til May is out’ is a saying which our wise mothers heeded. ‘Clout’ is an old English word for clothing.

Nowadays children wear a variety of tracksuits all year round.

We, as young children in the 1950s, had very specific winter and summer clothes. Throughout the winter, girls wore skirts, jumpers and knee socks (held up by garters.) On the first of June, these were washed and put away. We then wore ‘our summer clothes,’ lovely dresses, cardigans, white ankle socks and sandals. Little girls wore bows in their hair, to keep it off their faces.

Male readers will well remember that they wore short trousers until they left national school. Boys wore them right through the cold winter, as well as in summer. Getting into long trousers was a big occasion and made ‘a man’ of you.

Very few women wore trousers when I was young. They were called ‘slacks’ and were considered slightly indecent! Nowadays, very few women wear skirts. We love the comfort of trousers!

Men wore the same clothes all year round. On ‘Reeling In The Years’ we see them sitting on the beaches in Ballybunion and Bundoran. They are wearing their full Sunday suits. Now, most men wear suitable summer clothes, shorts, tee-shirts and proper sun-hats.

All our mothers had a variety of hats when we were young. This was because women had to have their heads covered in the church. And men had to have their heads uncovered.

In the interest of research on your behalf, dear readers, I sought to know why this was the case. There are numerous sites, online, trying to explain it. Having read some of them, I think it’s because of a letter St Paul sent to the Corinthians, on the matter. (I wonder did they ever get any answers to all those letters they wrote.)

This is a quote from one letter of St Paul’s, ‘I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman. For a man should not have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man.’ I gather it was a sign that women were submissive. From the 1970s on we stopped covering our heads (and stopped being so submissive!)

As little girls we all wore berets to Mass. Then, around 1960, mantillas came into fashion. I thought they were gorgeous and posh! We see very few headscarves anymore. Every woman had a few of these, in the past. They were worn to Mass as head coverings, as well as fancy hats.

Modern children wouldn’t know what the term ‘Sunday Best’ means. Remember how we all wore our cleanest newest clothes going to Mass. If my grandchildren come here on a Sunday they are always wearing the latest Kellogg's GAA Cúl Camps tracksuits. This is because they have been playing hurling or football that morning.

Only those of us of a certain age know what a ‘Gabardine’ coat is. We wore these in boarding school, many moons ago. We also wore navy knickers as big as parachutes!

As teenage girls, we were reminded constantly, by the nuns, that our bodies were temples of the Holy Ghost. For this reason we were never to wear immodest clothes or dress in indecent fashion.

Another thing that has changed is the wearing of black for a long time after a death in the family. And, do you remember that some people wore a small back diamond on the sleeve of their coats, too?

One enormous change is how different maternity clothes are now. I remember my mother, and all the expectant mothers on our street, wearing smocks when they were ‘expecting, not that it was ever discussed with us children! These very loose long-sleeved smocks were worn over skirts. When I was pregnant I, too, wore loose dresses, which covered my ‘bump’ very well. (I can’t think of a better word than bump!)

Have you seen how this has changed? Now, pregnant women wear clothes that emphasis their ‘bump.’ Their dresses are tight fitting and one can almost see the unborn baby moving around inside them!

At our wedding, in 1975, a guest was eight months pregnant. She wore a lovely long loose navy dress. She was in great form and was waltzing with her husband. I clearly remember an old woman saying loudly, and most assertively, “Wouldn’t you think that one would sit down and not be making a show of herself!” Other older women nodded their heads in agreement. Was she supposed to hide in a corner? Was her obvious ‘bump’ a reminder to everyone that she had had sex? Was this the cause of embarrassment?

And they might have muttered, “The Lord save us! What’s the world coming to at all, at all. Ah sure, look it! Stop the lights!”