The above pictures are with thanks to Brian Redmond
INTERVIEW WITH JOSIE DELANEY AGED 92 April 2015 by Joe Coughlan
Josie Delaney nee Welsh were born in Roscrea in 1923 and at the age of 1 year the family moved up to Legion Villas. There were fourteen new houses built by the British Legion for the men who had fought in the Great War. Her father Ned Walsh had been a member of the Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers and had fought and was injured in the war and so they received one of the houses. A girl used to come up from Birr on the train to collect the rent which was five shillings per week eventually the houses were handed over to them by the Irish Government. The houses had a big garden at the rear and they grew all their own vegetables and potatoes so they were fairly self sufficient. They also kept pigs at the rear and when the pigs were sold to the bacon factory this would provide the extra money for shoes and boots and any clothes that were needed. Josie remembers running the pigs down the road to the factory and the pigs would go in every direction except the right one.
Josie’s father Ned who was born in Kilavilla joined the British army in 1912. Ned’s sister decided to emigrate to America and when she did she left her bicycle to him. He decided to sell the bike and with the thirty shillings he got for it decided to join the army. At the time there was a recruiting office at the army camp at Lady Cardin’s bridge which is the railway bridge just past the golf club. This was where many Roscrea men went to join up and Ned went on to join the Royal Irish Fusiliers. After joining he spent some time in India and came back to fight in the Great War. He wrote a letter to his mother telling her that he was being shipped out to India and not to write back to him as he probably wouldn’t get it.
Her father saw plenty of action in both the Somme and Ypres where he was shot in both legs. After he was shot he lay in the trench for three days without food or water, he was so thirsty that he drank the muddy water in the trenches. He was brought back to Dublin castle where his injuries were looked after. Ned spent two years in Dublin Castle with his leg hanging out of the ceiling and when he came out one leg was longer than the other. For the rest of his life he had to have his boots specially made and was issued with a new pair of boots every six months. He also had to wear callipers on his legs and walked with two sticks which were replaced every five years. He talked a lot about his time in the war and Dr Carey used to come up and spend hours listening to the stories about his exploits. It must have been a great comfort to all these men who lived together in Legion Villas who would have went through the same thing and could support one another. Ned was a quiet man and didn’t socialise much. He went to the cinema once to watch a film about the war but came home disappointed. “It was a washout; it wasn’t like that at all it was pure hardship.” Ned came to town in his ass and cart every week to dray his pension and he had a German cap and the bullet that shot him in the house until he died in1968
At that time there was very little to keep the young men at home and when Josie’s brother Tucker was old enough he emigrated to England. The family loaned him the fare to go where he got a job as a barman. As soon as he had paid back the loan he joined the army. He had stopped all contact with home and no one knew where he was but eventually he sent a letter to say that he had joined up. When Doctor Murray who was a frequent caller to the house spoke to Ned about it he said “I would sooner see him go out of the house in a box than see and go through the things I saw “. Tucker tried first to join the Irish army but was turned down due to poor eyesight. He then tried the British army and was accepted by the Royal Irish Fusiliers, the same regiment as his father had been in.
When her father came home from the war he was awarded a pension of two pounds and ten shillings per week to rear his family. When their mother died in 1926 at the age of 33 and her father was left to rear a young family the British government decided to reduce his pension by ten shillings, When Josie’s brother Tucker came to sixteen the pension was again reduced by eight shillings leaving Ned with just thirty two shillings to clothe and feed his family. One of Josie’s sisters died of Whooping cough and a brother died of Peritonitis
At about this time members of Roscrea Board of Guardians and members of the British Legion arrived at the house and suggested that her father would not be able to rear the children on his own and insisted that they should be put in to the workhouse. Her father fought to keep his children and refused to let them be taken. One of Ned’s sisters moved in for a while and helped to rear the children. Eventually there was a match made for Ned and he married again. Danny O Meara was a postman at the time and every morning before going out on his rounds he would have a glass of whiskey in “Halfpenny Nell’s “which was where Phelans pub is now. There was a barmaid working there from Templemore and Danny helped make the match between herself and Ned.
Josie’s memories of school were not happy ones. She remembers a very strict regime and they were regularly “slaughtered” by the nuns. On her first day at school she remembers being thrown down the stairs by a nun after she tried to go up to see her sister. She left school at 13 and went to work in the Meat Factory. She worked for eleven years in the canning room and enjoyed every minute of it and the people that she worked with. When the summer season came at that time the factory closed down for four months. Most of the men went over to England and spent the summer working on building sites. Josie and some of the other women were kept on sewing sacks which were used to wrap the meat.
Josie met her husband Billie in the factory and after going out together for eight years they were married she was twenty five at the time. Her father didn’t approve of Billy in the beginning as he thought there was no one good enough for his youngest daughter. When she was getting married everything was rationed and she had to use her ration card to buy stockings for her wedding in Traynors shop. Times were tough after they married as all you could get on ration cards was a half ounce of tea and a couple of ounces of butter and black bread which Josie says tasted terrible. When the white bread came out there was always a rush for it and it was hard to get. They moved in to the house on Limerick road soon after they married. Politics was never discussed at home in Legion Villas but on the limerick road things were very different. Billy father had been a member of the old IRA and his mother in Cumman Na Mban so politics played a big part in their lives. Along with rearing her own family Josie helped out in rearing some of her nieces and nephews which was common then as the parents might both be working.
Today at 91 Josie is very jolly woman who loves talking to neighbours and friends and who still attends Mass each morning.
I’ve known Josie since I was young and she has always been a very welcoming. Hospitable and caring woman and May she continues to do so for many years to come.