Hilary Lyons: Ballyphehane, Childhood.

Hilary Lyons.jpg


Hilary Lyons: Ballyphehane, Childhood.


Life History: Ballyphehane, Childhood, Family, Tuberculosis, Emigration.


Hillary Lyons (nee Hayes) Originally from Fr Dominic Road Ballyphahane, first discusses her maternal grandparents and how they came to live in the city from Kilfinin. Her grandmother worked in Pitman training and her grandfather was a bookkeeper.
She describes her parents and her differing relationship between her mother and father. Her mother had previously been married with two sons but her husband died of TB. Her mother then married Hilary’s father and had raised and new family. Her father worked in the railway before getting a job with Dunlop’s.
Hilary talks about how her mother was ‘Churched’ after the birth of her first child.
She then describes life on Fr Dominic Rd. How they were the only family with a car so her father was like the local ambulance. They also had a telephone which they would let their neighbours use. And had a television before most people in the area.
Hilary’s father had built a shack from a Ford car box down near Crosshaven where they would take holidays, they eventually, like many others, would claim squatters rights to the land.
She also speaks of her grandmothers involvement in Cumann na mBan.
Hilary then details and average day in her childhood, and describes her friends and neighbours on the road. She makes special mention to the spirit of the community in Ballyphehane.
Also spoken of is places where they would have spend their day’s, Like the steam across from Ceela’s pub, or the ‘Dump’ playground.
She then tell of her fear of passing the house of Joe Murphy a prominent local republican who died on hunger strike in 1920.
The interview finishes with Hilary describing her time spent in Australia as a young woman in the early 1980s.


25 August 2016




Cork; Ireland; Ballyphehane; Fr Dominic Road; Austrailia; 1940s-1980s


Cork Folklore Project Audio Archive


Cork Folklore Project










1 Hr 10 Mins 10 Sec


Ballinlough, Cork.

Original Format


Bit Rate/Frequency

24bit / 48kHz


The following is a short extract from the interview transcript, copyright of the Cork Folklore Project. If you wish to access further archival material please contact CFP, folklorearchive@gmail.com

HL: Well, you go straight down there and you have forge hill

JF: Forge Hill? Alright yeah yeah

HL: On the right, there's a little stream. Gorgeous stream with beautiful colour. I can remember there were beautiful coloured stones, with the sun in it. It was facing South so there was always healthy looking water. We used to paddle in there. Somedays you'd go in and end up with a big open bottle and rip your foot off. But more often than not you had a great time down there. You'd be firing stones in. We'd all go down there, my sister would bring us down there and we'd have a little picnic and all. A bit of grass there. Looking at it now I'd say, how did we all fit there. It looked so small but it must have been more greenland. We spent our summers down there and it was fantastic. Now I know there's a big mass rock up from there but we never ventured up there. There's lethain na mores up the other way and that's to the left of it if I'm right.

JF: You called this place Ceelas is it?

HL: We used to call it Ceelas. Now why it was called Ceelas was because of Celias, a pub there. But I can't remember ever going in there. It must have been a haunt of my mother and father, everybody knew it as Celias. Ceelas we used to call it as kids. There was always a pub wasn't there. Where was Father Matthew when poor old Father John was trying to convert all these people. So down there we used to go out on the road, we had a ring on the road, we used to have cycle races down there.

Time Summary

0.00.00 - 0.01.19

Tells the name of her road in Ballyphehane, Fr Dominic Road and what it is called this.

0.01.20 - 0.06.57

Family background: Grandparents maternal grandmother from Kilfinin, farmers, horses, trace this side back further to a hedge-school master. Ended up in Horgan’s buildings near UCC. After death of great-grandmother, great-grandfather moved in with Hilary’s grandmother’s family the McNamara’s. Six children the parent’s and the grandfather all under the one roof. Grandmother educated worked for Pitman shorthand and typing. Grandfather bookkeeper for the meat company on Little Hanover street. Lost all his retirement/pension money in taxi on his way home, never recovered from this, so grandmother had to return to work in her 50s. Uncle with multiple of medical conditions - his sisters used to make his everyday play ie. Washing. The grandfather suffered from nerves, came from well off background, his father bookkeeper of spike island. Grandmother was the rock of the family.

0.06.58 - 0.11.43

Family Background: Parents. Hilary’s mother not as affectionate as grandmother. Mother married man (Hilary’s father) who had previously been married and had two boys from that marriage, wife had died at 28 of TB, who was a widow herself. Hilary’s father and sister would later contract TB, spent time in Sarsfield court in the late 70s early 80s to recuperate. Father blamed himself. Parent’s non-participation in church stemmed from the fact of him being married previously.

Father worked for Dunlop.

Mother was churched after first child - bishop thought it too early. Their lack of spirituality was not handed down to Hilary or her sisters, they are not ‘holy joes’ but good spiritual people.

Hilary has one brother and three sisters. Cousins in America have same spatiality, which she says comes from grandmother’s faith in our lady.

Mother did not ‘Click’ with grandmother, but Hilary did ‘click’ with her grandmother, but not so much her own mother. Underlying conflict stemming from marriage to man they did not approve of.

The 2 boys from first marriage were pushed to the side, and father’s family only recently accepted by Hilary’s family. Father was youngest boy in his family, his parents followed his siblings to England.

A lot of unnecessary negativity. Hence the tense relationships.

Grandmother put them all through school, made them do commercial courses. The mother was trying to keep her own relationship going, which was volatile - instigated by mother.

0.11.44 - 0.12.47

Fr. Dominic Road. Our own little community, not part of the bigger community. We’d fallen out with our grandmother who had moved to Connolly road close by (Hilary now owns this house).

0.12.48 - 0.16.00

Grandmothers Family and republican activity. Great-grandmother was in the lough cumman of Cumann na mBan. Great-great-grandfather George Ellard. She had three brothers one sister. One brother died in jail, was in the central mental hospital diagnosed with what we would now call schizophrenia, he had been tortured during War Of Independence. Post-traumatic stress. His father signed him in. the father was a street lighter. Hillary’s grandmother loved her father dearly. His house was a safe house during W o I. Grandmother 12 years of age during Easter rising, carried bullets in her tunic, both her brothers were tailors. Carried bullets across lines (she may be getting mixed up with W o I). She received two medals and a pension from de Valera. A 1917 medal and a 1921 medal. This is why Hilary got involved with the commemoration committee. She wanted to get her out there. She doesn’t figure in the ‘important women of the rising’ but she should.

0.16.04 - 0.23.27

Immediate Family Continued: Father worked in railway. Seen as very well off. We had a radio, record player, a television early on. Sobbing watching little house on the prairie. Top of the pops too. Fantastic radio with the lovely mesh, always worked, focal point in the main room, no sitting room just the main room and the pantry and the kitchen. Eight in the house. Still has a love for the radio, very attentive for radio but not others. Big black telephone, neighbourhood came to use it. We would use the telephone box to ring friends in Dublin because father would have went mad if used home phone, he had a box with the money. We had a car. All in the 1960s. Father loved German cars, but had Morris Minor. We used to go to Inchigeelagh, west cork, great time, rented mobile in Owenahinch, great holidays.

Father used money for the future, he had a Honda scooter before the car, built a shack in Crosshaven, but sold it off for nothing. Had few holidays there. Squatters right over the land. Lot of people from Ballyphehane had places down there. Father had a lot of get up and go. Mother would encourage but fizzle out.

My father’s two sons, her half-brothers, in great contact with one man, he’s lovely, not saying the other man isn’t she just doesn’t know him as much. Both had problems with alcohol, they only lived with us for a short while in Ballypehane, but they didn’t go to school, one was 5 when mother died, she went to hospital for 3-4 months and never came home, he was the apple of her eye, the younger guy didn’t even remember her, they didn’t go to her funeral, didn’t know where she was buried.

Found out when doing her genealogy that there mother was buried in with Hilary’s father’s mother and father. She was the first in there along with a little baby, blank tombstone. Step brother was delighted when found out. father always wanted to go to that grave but had to bury him somewhere else, mother not so approving of it, ‘always something between them’. Volatility of parent’s relation probably came from this baggage.

0.23.29 - 0. 26.50

Father: Worked in Dunlop’s, he called himself, a metal fabricator, engineer, he changed with every form. Good hands great brain, but couldn’t express it.

Worked for Irish Railways, Metal Products a lot of start-up companies, then Dunlop’s, laid off at 59, then did as her mother’s father did and declined into a chair, and started rolling his own cigarettes and making his own beer. Died at 79 of diabetes, had lost leg. Smoked from the age of 11. Simulated smoking in his hospital bed.

Grandfather’s wooden, cigarette vending machine by his bed. The little pleasures/comforts.

0.26.52 - 0.31.20


Lady of leisure. Friday haircuts.

Prepared our meals, father was the bread winner he got the firsts serving.

When told of Hilary’s inter cert results and the teacher’s desire for her to stay on, the mother replied ‘get us a cup of tea’.

Hypochondriac, anxiety.

Father on the other hand very social, wanted to be an actor, they called him the ‘Abbey Actor’, he used to emcee at events.

Funny story about him ‘ getting raw eggs for frying when on the night shift, mouse print of the frying pan, the co-workers would boil eggs and he’d blame mother’

Mother disliked the work nurse, jealous.

No counselling back then.

We were very independent people, help the mother with the washing, ringing out the washing. She had all mod cons, but very disorganised.

0.31.21 - 0.36.59

Average Day as a Child:

Get up late, before mother, father would be working 7 days.

Mother would go to Lawton’s shop, a brother and sister run business, and they were from ‘sunny’ Garryvoe. They lived over the shop on Pearse square, it’s probably a house now. All the fare used to be on the counter, a little flap where all the kiddies’ sweets were. You would be stand there waiting for the sweets.

Walsh or Welsh was their name, they used to keep a credit book, father would give mother money to pay and the children would go down to pay the debt. You would get fresh cake on a Saturday, buy a couple, and half them. Russian log and the pastry with the cream, the chocolate slice with the pink icing, the cheese cake like a queen cake, were made by Thompsons. ‘Tasted so beautiful then’

Bakers had huge union, very powerful, like a mafia in cork long ago, them and the butchers too.

You’d get four cakes and half them, make tea and give the mother a slice of each one.

‘Our older sister was like our mother’ she would line the younger children up at night, to check if cleaned. Mother and father would probably be out at ‘some do’ or up the Touchdown pub, up where Hanley garden centre is now on the Kinsale road. They would sing up there, all the rat pack songs.

Mother’s three sisters emigrated to America. Mother should have gone, but the second eldest aunt Helen went instead, still keep in contact, group email between us. To do with grandmothers correspondence in getting her medals and pension.

It was all girls till the brother came along, them it was spoiling him, dinging him to sleep with Eurovision songs. Butch Moore. Had to keep George happy, he was named after the great-grandfather George Ellard.

0.37.00 - 0.45.25

Friends & Neighbours: Helena next door, an Yvonne up the road. Very friendly with the group that was there.

The O’Gormans across the road, whose mother had an Australian passport, so they got citizenship on the back of that. The Colemans, were an elderly couple with older kids, brother and sister a still living together. There was a house where the tenants never live there very long, even now, one family the Caseys who were a ‘scream’ ‘wild’ they moved to Gillabbey Street.

The house next door was a couple who died, the wife died in her late 30s, leaving eight children. The husband died soon after, both due to addiction.

‘you could write a book on this road’

The house beside them, a girl 3 or 4 year older, died of breast cancer at 45, she had hard life, the dad, who was seen as a fantastic person, his wife was Hillarys godmother, the daughter used to be dressed up in bobby socks after school and sent into town to a pub where prostitution took place, this child and her sibling were exposed to a lot of this. (Hillary stresses that this information is from a 3rd party) The father had a disease and that’s why he died so young.

The next doo was a small little lady, she used to say different words if she couldn’t pronounce it. Talking in code. ‘we used to be skitting’. She had 3 boys, 1 in a home for children who needed support, the other was in prison for robberies, one boy ran the football team not casement but another one. The older brother married well and left the house. The one that was in prison is out and rehabilitated.

The next house above was all boys, one of the grandsons is best friends with my eldest son. The father liked a drink, he used to say ‘pack me bags’ when he had enough, chasing the family around the garden.

The next one up was a country couple, with twin girls and another girl and a brother, ‘beautiful Norwegian looking’, the son was so troubled and troublesome, he died young, tragedy.

The Murphy’s, Mrs Murphy was Judge Judy’s double, great friends with Hillary’s mother, would place a bet on the grand national for her mother every year, and always win. ‘a peach of a woman’. She had to put up with a man with anger issues.

Illiteracy and addiction, misdemeanours on the one road, but you also had a lot of happiness.

0.45.25 - 0.46.10

False perception of father: Remembers getting a backer on a bike and leg getting caught in the spoke, father called out of work because he the only one with a car, good that way, but brought up to think he was a very bad man. Really he had an awful lot of

0.46.10 - 049.50

Community: It was safe because they didn’t stray too far from their road. The neighbours looked out for each other. If anything happened the dad would be called. Regret of not belong more involved with the wider community physically. Maybe ‘we’ were easily put off by the church, ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ ‘if very body in your family did something bad, does that make you bad?’

Tried to get involved with Ballinlough community centre later in life, but there was such an established group their Hillary was looked at with air of suspicion. All she wanted to do was write an essay on the practicality of child protection for college, as a result of this experience did not go back. Guilty of doing the same thing she criticised parents for doing. ‘The other’ as the outsider, they had that fear instilled. There was a lady that suffered with dementia from the area that was murdered, still unsolved, the body found in Ballincollig or somewhere. The son of that woman helped the boy with the soccer. At the time it was a cause for anxiety.

0.49.50 - 0.52.25

Adjoining suburbs: Turner cross so near town it was almost town, could have went to school there but didn’t. Parents not as involved with education.

Togher a very new, young area, like Mahon was 20 years back. Togher not a place we would have known of.

Botanic road first Ballyphehane built street.

0.52.25 - 0.57.05

Amenities of the area: Tory top park, the schools, the convent. The graveyard there since 1830s, father Mathew’s grave, Ronnie Herliehy tours of the graveyard. Famous people buried there. Nano Nagles influence. The red abbey owning the lands ballyphehane. Baille Féiten town of the drains.

0.57.05 - 1.00.05

Ceelas: The fields on Tramore road, straight across from donsworth office equipment. Near grandmothers house. Down the pouladuff road to Forge hill, there was a stream with beautiful stones. Great time down there, sometimes though you could get cut on a broken bottle. Skimming stones. Looks so small, ‘how did we fit there?’ spent summer down there. There is a big mass rock up from there, never ventured up there.

Called it Ceelas because of pub nearby called Celia’s. Can’t remember going in there, must have been a ‘haunt’ of the parents. ‘There was always a pub wasn’t there’

Cycle race down there too.

1.00.06 - 1.00.58

The ‘dump’ playground’: Space two doors down from them was called ‘the dump’ because everybody dumped their rubbish there. Any piece of Greenland people would dump furniture. Maybe for Bonfire night. Fell on that, marks to prove it. Getting disinfected after. Father called out again. That was the playground.

1.00.58 - 1.03.26

Joe Murphy’s house: [Joseph Murphy was a member of the Irish Republican Army who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol in 1920 during the Irish War of Independence.] He was cousin to the Edwards, his sister lived at the end of Fr Dominic Road. Going to have a commemoration for him. There was a big plaque on the house. Grandmother used make them bless themselves passing his house, but it gave them a sense of fear as kids. Older sister used to run them passed the house and tell them not to look back. We thought it was bad luck.

1.03.27 - 1.05.14

Ballyphehane in a couple of word:

Hometown, despite the negative assertions that people had of it she turned out ok. ‘How dare they’. ‘Well done Ballyphehane for turning out such wonderful people. Totally underrated.

1.05.14 - 1.10.10

Emigration to Australia:

1983 for six months working visa. Has another fairly over there called the Mackenzie’s who she lived with. Visited again in 2007. Brilliant people, real pioneer of Australia. Huge extended family. Staunch Scottish people, but received many nationalities into their family.

Then I Lodged with the Cork crowd ‘Den of iniquity’. Work on Computers. Work in a university library. In a market stall in Victoria buildings in Sydney. ‘You’re here illegally.’ Begrudgery where ever you go.


Interview Format



Cork Folklore Project, “Hilary Lyons: Ballyphehane, Childhood.,” accessed November 29, 2022, https://corkfolklore.org/archivecatalolgue/document/72.