Todd Street ceilidhs

When Barty's children were 21 we had a party and when my children were 21 we had a party and just for the hell of it we had a party.

One of my friends taught Irish dancing and she had us all doing Strip the Willow. Oh, you should have seen it! The Italians were doing it like the Tarantella and the Germans were marching through it. And the Irish and most of the Scottish could do it, so we all took one of the different people and dragged them through, 'Come on, put your foot out', 'Catch her', and that sort of thing. We used to do that in the backyard because behind the garage my husband concreted a great big square and we had a little shed there that the children could play in.

My boys were electricians and they put out lights and ran out plugs, and I'd take out my electric frypan and deep fryer and we'd taken out the old stove out of the kitchen, when we renovated, so I'd cook a leg of lamb out there and we'd have chips - somebody would be cooking chips and I'd be making pancakes. And a door we took off somewhere was on a trestle, covered up with papers and that was where the pans were. I would provide a certain amount but everybody bought their own beer and their own sausage and if you were real rich you could bring your own chop.

We sat on buckets and boxes, you name it. And we had a 40 gallon drum and we had holes in that and we set fire to that. We threw all the chips and that in that and that gave us heat at night. And then when we were clearing up, we threw all the rubbish into it and burned it.

By about 9 o'clock or half past eight, the kids were nodding off, we chucked them into bed. We laid them out in rows sometimes with sleeping bags along the lounge and one of the bigger children would keep an eye on them, and that's how it went. But midnight was black-out, sort of thing. Because, first of all for the neighbours sake, and because our men all had to get up at 6 o'clock in the morning anyway, because they were all builders or carpenters or something and they had to get to work for 7 o'clock.

Well as I say, most Irish and Scottish people always sang, you knew that and everybody had a special song. Joe Stewart sang, Hallelujah, I'm a Bum , and Jimmy Miller he used to sing, something about 'I eat when I'm hungry, I drink when I'm dry, if the moonshine don't kill me, I'll live till I die'. Mary Stewart, she had a sweet little voice, she always sang I'm forever Blowing Bubbles and Jack and Alice Wardle, they sang 'sons of the sea, bobbing up and down like this' - and they went round bobbing up and down like this. And the Italians would sing Come back to Sorrento . And I would sing, If I had the Wings of a Swallow or something like that, or The Hills of Donegal or something because I was supposed to have a good voice.

It was a couple of beers and a sausage and lots of bread and salad and a bit of cake and fun and talk about what you did and how you did and what your kids did and, Oh God, you'd found them out doing something or other, you know, and just that sort of thing. And then at midnight we packed up, and the next day we hosed it all down and burned all the rubbish in the 40 gallon drum.

Bridie Battisson, Todd Street, 1953-1976 (oral history interview 1996)

 

Stories

•  Cowboys and cracker nights

•  The cross on the chimney

•  Dressing up

•  Suicide hill

•  Visiting

•  Todd Street ceilidhs

•  Square dancing

•  Dances and a keg of beer

•  Sunday at the Raccosta's

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