Aggie Qualter in her home in Abbey Row

Aggie Qualter in her home in Abbey Row

Athenry’s Aggie Qualter is a sprightly octogenarian; her agility and mental alertness belie the fact that she has spent the past 82 years living, loving and laterally writing about her native place. She has recently published her second book titled “Athenry – History from 1780 Folklore Recollections”, and it’s an entertaining little volume that is in no way banal or patronising to her parish.

Happenings of the ‘good old days’

Surrounded by faded portraits from yesteryear in her neat little home in Abbey Row, Aggie Qualter said: “It’s all local history. And after spending six weeks cycling around the parish collecting material for my project the thing was cancelled.” Aggie decided that since she had managed to amass so much local history she would release it in book form and 1,000 copies of a photocopied edition of her Athenry history were sold at the time. But feeling that a more comprehensive book was needed to chronicle the happenings of the “good old days”, Aggie went to work once more and in recent months a professionally printed edition of her Athenry reminiscences has hit the book shops selling at £2.

Six and a half acres

“I hope the book might in some way inculcate in the minds of the present generation, and the middle-aged parents, the dignity of hard work. It was our generation that built the nation and we got nothing from anyone” said Aggie.

And hard work could be said to be an indigenous part of Aggie Qualter’s lifestyle over the years. “I ran a little dairy farm at Ladyswell, it was no more than six and half acres, but three of us had to live off the fruits of that farm yet we never wanted for anything or owed anyone a penny” she said.

Her book is far removed from the usual parish histories that seem to adorn the shop shelves in other areas; it is well written but not longwinded. It is a publication that does not smack of introvert parochialism and will be enjoyed both by natives as well as “aliens” in far flung places away from the famous fields of Athenry.

Unionist from Athenry

How many of our readers know that the founding father of Unionism, Edward Carson, was born to Elizabeth Lambert of Castle Ellen in Athenry in 1854? According to Aggie the word Athenry had a golden ring for Carson and many a time he “swung” a hurley with the local lads. She documents his rise to fame. “This half-Athenry man left us a legacy of partition, hatred and bigotry – the people of this parish can never boast of their claim to Carson, nor his kith or kin” said Aggie.

A book full of humour

Aggie Qualter’s book is full of humour too. According to her the table d’hote in any hotel in Athenry during the 1870’s was stuffed rabbits laced with bacon, “ and no hotel today could turn out a meal as good as that” she claims. Her book is made even more readable because many important items stand out as they are written in a short snappy fashion, and many of them are underlined.

Did you know that 100 years ago the status of a family was determined by (a) having a priest in the family, (b) a pump in the yard and (c) a bull in the paddock?

According to Aggie times have changed and the humour in her writing comes through here again when she states “Sure every farmer has a bull running with his cows now, and to crown it all the motor car bull is also on call to bestow a special breed on the calf”.

Prize Winner

Aggie Qualter’s book on Athenry could refer to any town or village in the Ireland of yesteryear. “My writings started almost by accident after I won £4 in prizes on the John O’Donovan radio programme, Dear Sir or Madam, in 1982” concluded this affable Athenry lady.  

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