How a dream adventure changed into a nightmare on the high seas

Country Living with Francis Farragher

I’m not sure how many younger people read newspapers, books or magazines in their printed format but I was a little surprised a couple of months back when a young acquaintance of mine posed a question over a pint about a column I had written a month or so previously.

Nothing particularly earth shattering about that you might say but his query was based on a watery commitment I had given to compare a normal rural childhood of the 1960s to a far more spectacular upbringing of a little girl from England, who at the age of seven, was told that her family – mum, dad and younger brother – were to embark on a three-year-long sailing voyage around the world.

It should have been that magical adventure of a lifetime, sailing the high seas, seeing the world, and not having to endure the daily grind of school, homework and helping out with household duties. All those mundane, but yet important little things that we take for granted in our so-called normal lives.

For most of us in Galway a rural childhood in the 1960s was certainly spartan enough. There generally was access to a battered old bicycle for the daily trips to national school; there were long summer evenings when football matches could go on for hours; there were (very occasional) trips to Galway city for a look at the shops as Woolworths in the Square (now Supermacs); but pocket money was an alien concept, restricted to the occasional half a crown from one of the more generous aunties and uncles.

One of the huge ‘technology breaks’ in the 1960s was the introduction of television to Ireland which opened up a huge screen of wonder for young eyes, but here again the ‘we were poor but happy line’ clicks in. Up until the late 1960s, very few houses out the country had televisions with the TV rental service eventually ‘breaking the duck’ in our house when a Bush ‘black and white’ (no colour in those days) was rented from the RTV Rentals Office in Tuam. Their advertising jingle still sticks in my memory bank: “RTV have the sets and the service, so rent from RTV.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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