Madeline Woods Hayes Chicago and Ind.USA.
Sunday tea in the Ghan House in the 1950s and 60s had a ritual and rhythm.
The feast appeared on the table as if by magic every Sunday evening but there was no magic about it. Mammy had baked and prepared all day Saturday and Daddy had bought the roast chicken in Kiernan’s earlier in the day . I usually washed the lettuce in the scullery. I helped Mammy set each plate with sliced chicken or sometimes roast beef left over from the dinner (now lunch), hard boiled eggs and tomatoes.
Two of the many tables were placed length ways and set with a white tablecloth. As a girl and the eldest of six siblings it was my job to set the table.
The “spread” appeared – light as a feather sponges dissected with fresh cream and raspberry jam and sometimes meringues, cup cakes, or scones.-but a feast it was !
Daddy sat at the head of the table and Mammy with her back to Aga cooker.
I remember laughter and good conversation, sports ,politics and the days current topics all were covered with much ribbing.
The meal over it was all hands on deck –even Daddy-for the clean up.
The dishes were washed in the scullery sink (no dish-washer yet) someone washed another dried and another put away.
The big old red tiled floor was swept- Paul or Kevin used the brush as a microphone to sing the latest aria from Radio Luxemburg and more often than not Mammy danced with one of us around the kitchen table. It was our first introduction to ballroom dancing.
Then it was hurry up for rosary and benediction at 7pm.--The ritual of Hymns and incense-Aunt Lily Woods singing at the top of her voice, lungs bursting and soaring above the rest of us. The warmth of community whose every face was familiar Mrs Marron and Jimmy, Agnes Boylan, Mary Larkin, Ducks Brannigan, Jinny Connolly, Mary Ann McCourt, Gerry Harpur Danny Mc Kevitt, Sis Flynn and Paddy Finegan and of course Auntie (who lived with us in the Ghan) Oh and so many more ! The men sat on one side and women on the other, children to the front.
It was magic! So special in a way we really didn’t appreciate.
But it did shape us and give us memories that still bring a sweet tear -- and laughter.