By Eva Kelly (Nee Dougan)
In 1960 my father Paddy Dougan, an army officer, was transferred from Cork to Limerick. Being an avid fly fisherman he chose to bring his family to live in Castleconnell. We lived in a lovely old house next to the Shannon Bar and the great Mick Hickey. I went to the old school at the river where I was taught by the gentle Mrs. Houlihan. I adored my school days in Castleconnell as each day was a new adventure. I experienced freedom there never surpassed. Most days coming home from school the group from the village would either go down the river or climb the old castle ruins (which was banned). I remember one day Mr. and Mrs. Houlihan arriving along in their little grey car and stopping underneath the castle and ordering us all out of hiding immediately or they would call our parents. We all crawled home mortified. Another favourite was going to wakes where you had to touch the corpse or you would dream of him or her forever. The relatives usually thought we were such holy children they fed us lemonade and cakes. I loved the village shops especially Richardson’s when sent to buy loose biscuits. I watched sheep being slaughtered in Delaney’s yard and bought sweets in Miss Ryan’s shop. Sometimes shows came to the new hall and more importantly a chip van, which parked outside our house. Summertime in Castleconnell was magic – your own swimming pool and diving board at Worrall’s End and of course picnics to Doonass Falls with my mother, sister Aisling, Anne Doyle and Marshie Delaney. We were invariably chased by a bull (which in hindsight was surely a bullock). I think the bull was more afraid of us screaming than we were of him. It gets us to the falls quicker anyway.
In sixth class the school moved to the new school and I remember going on a bus to O’Brien’s Bridge to do my Primary Cert. School tours were also memorable – the best being a trip to Shannon Airport. We also went on a bus to Nenagh to sing in a festival in the Cathedral. I can still sing all the Latin hymns that Mrs. Houlihan taught us. In 1963, year of the big freeze the Shannon froze over at Worrall’s End and we all went skating on the ice. It was a most amazing sight; simple times, simple pleasures. In 1964 my father was transferred to the Curragh and I was broken hearted to leave Castleconnell. In a twist of fate my twin sons ended up being taught in the Curragh by Mrs. Houlihan’s daughter Berna 26 years later.