Sounds from My Past

We all have sounds stored in our memory banks. Sounds that can bring you right back to a particular place, or to a moment in time.

The rhythmic sound of mammy beating/creaming butter and sugar in a large delft baking bowl with a wooden spoon, it was the first stage in the making of all cakes. Remember it was before we had food processors and electric mixers.

The pressure cooker sounding like a steam train as it came up to pressure. It was used at least twice a week to boil marrow bones or chicken carcases for the making of stock for soup. Once cooked, the bones were soft; the liquid was put through a strainer and left to cool, usually overnight. The following morning the liquid had set like a jelly with a layer of solid fat on top.

Irish dancing on the radio – No not me! It was ‘Take the Floor’ on Radio Eireann, with Dingo the presenter calling out the steps like they do in square or barn dancing, while we heard the music and the sound of the dancer’s feet.

The sound of coal or logs cracking brightly in the hearth on a cold winter’s night…

And singing voices… Around the fireside in our house when visitors came, everyone had their own song:

‘An Cuileann’ (The Coulin).* sung by my maternal grandmother right up to her 80th year. An Aunt and Uncle with their rendition of the love duets from the Shows, Bitter Sweet, Bless the Bride and Rose Marie to name a few.

There was Nora from Cork who always sang ‘If I were a blackbird’ leading to songs that included many of the 32 counties on this Island of Ireland. These included Rose of Tralee, The County of Armagh, Galway Bay, Come back Paddy Reilly and The Kerry Dances, The Mountains of Mourne, Skibbereeen and Danny Boy.

I vividly remember following a wedding, one of the guests, a gentleman from Derry singing a hauntingly beautiful version of ‘She moved through the Fair’. I never met him before or since, but when I hear that song I am back there beside the fire transfixed!

My final musical memory for now takes me back to the early 70’s, when I was involved with a musical society in Dublin. We attended the annual AIMS (Association of Irish Musical Societies) Awards weekend during the month of May in Waterford. The hotel was fully booked by the members with the overflow staying at other hotels and B&B’s in the area. The atmosphere was very similar to that of the recent Irish Blog Awards, a large group of people of very different ages and from all walks of life, friendly and inclusive, with everyone sharing information and stories of shows they had performed.

The Awards were presented on the Saturday night at a dinner, and naturally with a common interest in music we sang the night away finishing every year at 6am with the members of St Agnes’ Belfast, and The Glasnevin (Dublin), the largest of the Societies leading us in six part harmony of ‘All in an April Evening’! Once again whenever I hear that sung I am back with those wonderfully talented people.

What sounds move your heart?

* I found an instrumental version of ‘An Cuileann’ by J.J. Sheridan on Soul of the Irish Piano

26 thoughts on “Sounds from My Past

  1. The squeaking of the iron gate we had up until I was about 7. My father never attempted fixing or even oiling it so “we’d know when someone was coming”.

    That and my mother’s voice shouting “come in, your dinner’s buttered”.

  2. Morning Grannymar.

    Am I allowed out of detention yet? 😀

    Two sounds from childhood immediately spring to mind.

    The first is the sound of horses hooves as the milk arrived early every morning. We lived in the ‘burbs’ not the countryside but in those days the local dairy delivered the milk by horse and cart.

    The other sound is of my father whistling away happily while he worked doing DIY jobs around the home.

    As a result, I can whistle any tune beautifully – just don’t ask me to sing 😀

  3. Mornin Steph, come in. come in!

    I remember those milkmen. Were they Premier Dairies? Then there were the Hughes Bros with the funny little motors. They used to glide along slowly. Were they electric?

    Jack was the whistler in my life. He whistled from the minute he woke until he went back to bed! I miss that sound.

  4. GM – I’m whistling for you now, can you hear me?

    My Dad had another habit which was very silly really but always made us laugh.

    Whenever we called him to find out his whereabouts in the house…
    Dad would reply in a funny voice “I’m up on the roof”

    He still does it to this day, even in the nursing home, and it still makes us smile.

    He’ll be 88 on Friday.

  5. I love the sound of a loud ticking clock in an otherwise quiet room. It’s my granny’s house when I was young. I love it – so many memories come flooding back just from hearing the ticking.

  6. Hi Darren

    My grandmother had a clock just like that. Her house was so very quiet compared to ours. We would never hear a clock ticking with all the people moving about and constant chat going on.

  7. Yes, I find ticking clocks somehow very comforting and reassuring – the regularity and the predictability. The sounds that move my heart are mainly music (any number of favourite CDs) and birdsong. From my childhood I remember loads of theme tunes from popular radio programmes of the day which always heralded great entertainment. I also remember the sound of my ill-tempered father getting in one of his rages, which used to really frighten me. But let’s not go there….

  8. Grannymar,

    One of my favorite memories that is brought back by sound is
    J E L L O being sung on the radio when I was about 10. That jingle signaled the start of the Jack Benny Radio Show.

    There were many funny shows but Jack Benny was the one who could capture the attention of the entire family. My Dad and Mother and my brothers and sister and myself would all gather round our little radio on Sunday night at Seven P.M. and listen to Jack and his friends . They never let us down. They were consistently funny and the whole family was in a good mood by the time it was over.

    Jack was on for Jello from 1932 to 1948 and for Lucky Strike cigarettes from 1949 to 1955. I am often reminded of those happy family times when I hear someone mention J E L L O…..

  9. Nick ~ You had the ticking so long as you remembered to wind the clocks!

    Nancy ~ I thought you meant the sound of a spoon breaking into a bowl of set Jello/Jelly.

    I remember seeing Jack Benny & Rochester on Television long before we had colour sets.

  10. Actually Grannymar our living room clock when I was a kid was mains-powered – must have been quite unusual. Our current living room clock ticks happily off a battery. I don’t remember ever winding any clocks. I had plenty of wind-up toys though.

  11. The song of a wren! That little fellow certainly has a loud voice and it takes me back to a country road when I was about 7 or 8.

    Sibelius 2nd symphony take me back to my grandmother’s kitchen when I first heard it and stood with tears streaming down my face and goosepimples up and down my back…..can still happen if I’m not prepared.

    A full blown storm. I’m with Joan Baez “God playing o his organ in heaven.” …in spite of my doubts.

    Tha many sounds of the sea….the rsuh of the backwash as a wave recedes over the pebbles.

    Got me going again GM.

  12. Nick ~ Our mains-powered clock had no tick. Granny’s clock was a big wind-up with the whole operation having a sound of its own.

    Magpie ~ you sure get excited! Slow down.
    I like the sound of the waves lapping on a shore.

  13. How about the scraping sound of a needle at the end of a 78 rpm record played on an old wind up gramophone/

    It’s just that my brain gets going with thoughts and ideas.

    This “toy boy” business is stimulating 😉

  14. Magpie thankfully we didn’t have a gramaphone! I think the scraping sound of the needle would have to go in the same class as the chalk scraping on the old blackboards!

  15. Lovely story GrannyMar, I remember my grandma using one of those huge china bowls with a beige glaze. My mother was a fan of the pressure cooker too but it scared the bejeezus out of me I was always afraid the lid would blow. I’m more a ‘smell’ person (not smelly) but morning birdsong here is loud enough to be an alarm. I love the sound of the see at night when everything else is quiet, summer storms and warm rain but these days, it’s the sound of my children arriving safely home, noisily kicking off their shoes and not so quietly giggling and going to the fridge for a late night snack. I know then I can settle for the night knowing they’re safe and sound.

  16. Lorks, you never had a gramophone? You mean you missed those essential formative experiences of the needle getting stuck and having to wipe off the bits of fluff? Not to mention one of those precious 78s snapping in half and severe parental displeasure….

  17. Baino ~ my youngest brother covered his ears and ran up stairs when the ‘train came into the station’, thats how we described the pressure cooker!

    Nick ~ I think we were deprived! No gramophone and no TV until 1964! We were far to busy singing. 😀

  18. The sounds of my grandmother singing “I come to the garden alone…” while she cooked. The sound of coal popping in my great-grandparent’s fireplaces. The sound of anyone playing the piano. We had a pressure cooker too, and I well remember the sound of it. The sound of Farfel (I think) singing the jingle for chocolate drink…..”N-E-S-T-L-E-S…..Nestle’s make the very best – choc…….lat!

  19. The sound of Micháel Muruthurthaigh’s voice always makes me think of the kitchen radio on a Sunday as a child, as my parents made the dinner and kept tabs on the matches up and town the country

  20. Judy ~ singing is a wonderful talent, no weight to carry and it gives such pleasure and memories to those all around.

    Paddy ~ OK, you are allowed out to play today! 😀

    Fergal ~ Welcome to the club! There was a fellow on a Sunday night who always started his sports report with “My game today was at Dalymount Park where I saw…..”! Who was he?

  21. Talking of G.A.A. …. the one and only voice has to be Michál O’Hehir!

    He brought radio to life. The ‘Voice of Gaeldom’ – he died at the age of 76 in 1996. R.I.P.

Comments are closed.