Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Memories of Bardons

Swift and often amazing technological changes in our lives are things we've got used to, but we can forget the more simple things.

I'm writing this in Bardons pub, the winter-comforting fire behind me recalling a lot of the childhood that I spent here when it was both the livelihood and a home to the family that was probably the closest friends to us Byrnes.

Where the fireplace itself is was at that time the focal point in the sitting room, and long before the advent of central heating the sanctuary against winter.

I remember it as also a place of some small penance, because as Byrne kids coming down to play with the Bardon kids after tea it was also the room where we had to take part in the family rosary that was a nightly feature there.

It was a funny kind of thing, because we'd all kneel down against chairs and couches, mostly facing the walls and away from each other, reciting or answering the relevant decades of the prayer.

It seemed to us such a long affair, against the play stuff that we'd come down to do. A rosary prayer is not many minutes, but minutes not playing are endless ones to children.

Other things about Bardons are key in my childhood memories. From where I'm sitting as I write I can look across to an area originally beside a bottle store where we used to make pocket money helping to put the labels on the Bardons Guinness bottles.

Every pub used to bottle its own porter in those days, using a siphon arrangement which could fill six bottles at a time in rotation. They were corked using a small simple machine too. And the St James's Gate brewer provided printed labels to each pub with its own name as the bottler.

Putting the labels on in most pubs, including Bardons, was a very primitive operation. There was a plywood board on which we'd smear a slow setting glue. Then the labels, which came in bundles tied with string, were individually folded in the middle with the edges folded out so that they could be placed in lines across the sticky board.

When we had a board full, we'd sit down beside the wooden cases which held the newly-bottled beer, already corked. We perfected an eficient technique of picking up a bottle, lifting a sticky label, and pushing it around the curve of the bottle with forefinger and thumb. The final move was a slap-smoothing of the result with the palm of the hand.

We could earn that pocket money in Bardons, but not at home because our dad had a more industrial setup with a labelling machine that simply had to be loaded with the stack of labels and the pulling of a lever with the bottle inserted in a particular place would do the glue and placing bit.

Dad was what would be called today an 'early adopter' of useful technology and the hand-corking of the bottles in an earlier operation, which was the thing in most pubs, had also been upgraded in our own family's pub by a 'crown cap' machine very similar in operation to the labelling one.

So the Bardons pocket money opportunity, where we were paid by every dozen bottles labelled, was an important economic lifeline to us small Byrnes.

This kind of thing is not available to today's generations of small Kilcullenites. Maybe they're missing out. Or maybe the Celtic Tiger has made such innocent junior earnings no longer important.

All I know is that it allowed us to earn the wherewithal to buy a few more sweets, and TK lemonades, than we could otherwise have managed.

Writing this piece has raised many other memories of Bardons and its place in my childhood.

But when I used to teach journalism, I always told my students that if there were two stories in a batch of information, then write two stories. Otherwise the reader would get confused.

So I'll take my own teaching advice, and save the others for their own time and space.

Meantime, look at the label on that bottle of Guinness, and think of another time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I just came across your blog and i am so glad that i have, it was a really interesting read. I actually had some beer labels printed for some traditional ale i had been brewing myself, they look great on the bottles.