'Quick, it's raining. Get the jerseys in!'
Growing up in Cooley in the 1950s and 1960s
I always had a great feeling of belonging to the Cooley Kickhams. Maybe it was because I was born into a footballing family and Cooley Kickhams were always part of our lives.
Perhaps it was because my father (Mike) and mother (Madge) were the custodians of the Cooley jerseys during that period and for many years afterwards.
The jerseys were always there. When they were not neatly folded in a case they were either being washed or dried or sewn or just being aired. They could be out on the clothes line or on the hedge or when it was raining, hanging around the fire drying. These were no ordinary lightweight jerseys but the heavy jerseys knitted by the nuns from Omeath.
I remember one evening in 1956, the year a reformed Cooley Kickhams took part in competitions, when my father came home with a second hand (I think) suitcase for the Cooley jerseys. He also obtained a stencil set from somewhere and that very same evening set about stencilling the name COOLEY KICKHAMS on the front of the case. I seem to remember that one or two of the letters were missing and they had to be painted on as accurately as possible.
There was always panic around the house as match days approached. In those days there was only one good set of jerseys and keeping them clean was tough, especially after a wet and mucky match day and remember, they had to be handwashed! Apart from the cleaning element, there were always the inevitable rips, holes, collars hanging off etc. I seem to remember two colours of spools of wool, green and gold, for mending. I presume they also came from the nuns in Omeath.
As children growing up we were not always that fond of looking after the jerseys. To us it was an adult job but we were always willing to help out. Of course the weather played an important part in the upkeep of the jerseys. There was not a finer sight than to see a set of colourful jerseys blowing in the breeze from the clothesline, perhaps an uncommon sight these days but quite common in years gone by. Those summers were sunny and dry and rain was a rare occurence but it did rain sometimes and often in our house came the dreaded command from my mother, 'Quick, it's raining and the jerseys are out. They'll be soaked!' Everything had to be dropped and the jerseys taken in and placed on the backs of chairs and on tables and on stools and as near to the fire as possible to continue the drying process. Indeed I often remember the call coming very late at night after returning home from a night out!
On match days our house often resembled a dressing room as the jerseys were got ready. On bright dry days I remember my father getting the jerseys sorted out for matches on the front lawn. They had to be folded neatly, always in a special way, and placed in the case, starting with the number twenty at the bottom so that they would be in the correct numerical order for giving out as the team was named.
The jerseys were looked after in our house for over thirty years and were very much a family affair. My mother and father took great care that every Cooley Kickhams player wore a kit that looked and smelled as fresh as a breeze as they ran out onto the field of play.