Beyond the answers preserved above, our original conversation with Leo back on November 13th, 2014 were lost to the wind when, hey, the internet decided to swallow up eight months of the Guide.
Actually the work of a young tech wizard, of course, as the site was moved from one server to another, we’ve slowly been trying to piece back together those posts. Including this one.
Rather than put our tiny brains through such torture though, we’ve decided to reproduce below a booklet given to Leo back in 2014 by a Karl Murray, who interviewed Leo in his shop in March of that same year.
Suffice to say, we’re big fans of Leo Ireton. As we write, the man has just closed the family shop on Killincarrig Road – a shop that has been in Greystones since 1904. Glad to say, Leo was in fine spirits, and in rude health, even if he had just come out of hospital after a nine-day stay for prostate trouble.
You can see that interview right about here. Below, we’ve edited together highlights from Karl’s conversation with Leo on March 7th, 2014…
When I was young, we lived at Rathdrum and we had a farm at a place called Ballinderry, which was about a mile and a half from the town, and I used to have a little bicycle that I went to school on, down to the boys’ school at Fair Green. We had the most lovely views out across Clara Vale, and right up as far as Trooperstown, and Laragh, on the north side. On the south side, you could see right down to Ballinacor, and up to Glenmalure and Lugnaquilla in the distance.
It was a lovely place to live, especially in the summer time.
The best part was, when I would get home from school, my dog, Shep, would be waiting for me, and I would hardly be home when I was out the door again, running around. I was very happy, as myself and the dog would be off, running everywhere. We had 16 fields, 70 acres, to play in…
We kept cows, and we had pigs, and my mother kept poultry, and would churn butter. We did the haymaking in the summer time, and we had 3 horses for that kind of work – this was before the tractor had arrived. When threshing day came around, Mr Condell used to come around with his threshing machine, and we’d have 15 or 16 men helping on the day too, with my mother busily preparing dinner for everyone. There would be lunch too – potatoes, cabbages, bacon and all the tea they could drink – and all these people would be neighbours. Everybody worked together in the community like that.
Once a year, we’d have a fair down at Fair Green, and buyers would come from all parts to do business in the town. It meant a day off school for me, as I’d have to help bring the cattle down to be sold.
One of the strongest memories from then was the big freeze of 1947, where the country was covered in snow for eight weeks – right up until April of that year. It was remarkable. Snowdrifts, everywhere was white, and you’d have snow eight-foot deep in places. We managed, of course, my dad building a sleigh to bring the turnips down from the field, and for us to get into town.
Another highlight were the concerts in the cinema on the green, organised by Father Doyle to raise money for work on the church. He’d have us all singing A Nation Once Again and The Rising Of The Moon – all the Irish songs he could muster up – and we’d have to sing them well. I loved that…
When it wasn’t snowing, we’d put the sleigh away and use our trap. We had a grey mare, and we had our bicycles – that was it, as far as transport was concerned. So, you lived at a different pace then. And living on a farm, you were very aware of the seasons. In a town, the weather doesn’t make too much difference to your day, but on a farm, everything depended on the seasons.
And our school was very strict – they used the stick constantly – which meant that there wasn’t any vandalism, there really wasn’t any bad behaviour, in school or out of it. The two masters there had perfect control.
Not that we didn’t have fun growing up. There were the concerts, the Féis – kids coming from Wicklow and Arklow and beyond to compete in Irish music and Irish dancing – and the Ballyknockan Races. Ballyknockan wasn’t far from Ballinaclash, and you’d have Point To Point races, over the Clarkes’ and Lynch’s land, and there’d be card tricks, people selling chocolate, and minerals, and oranges and apples, and all sorts of things.
And there was a cinema of sorts in Rathdrum, where it was only trupence or fourpence for the kids to get in, and I always got a tremendous kick out of it. It’s a kick I kept all the way through my life. And then there was McDonald’s Amusements, which used to arrive in the town every year, and we’d be down there every night for the week or so that they were there. We realy loved that.
So, I had a wonderful childhood. Great neighbours – there were about ten other farms around us – and everyone helped everyone else. Oh, and we had an orchard too, with lovely Beauty Of Bath apples, and gooseberries, and redcurrants, and blackcurrants. And I was never short of a few bob, as my dad set snares for rabbits, and I’d bring them down to Morgan Mackey’s or Wadicks where I would sell them.
The one downside for my father was that there was no steady income, and so we moved, landing in Kilcoole in 1951, where we opened up a grocery store. We were there for about eight years, and that was a very different life. Suddenly, you had a bus stopping outside your shop that brought people to and from Dublin, and it just meant we were very busy.
It was here too that the film Broth Of A Boy was shot, and that was very exciting. I loved film, and the idea that our shop was being used for a movie was just so thrilling. And it was a good film too, which made the whole experience even better. A lot of locals got involved, and it’s a film I’d love to see again…
Still, after eight years in Kilcoole, my father got itchy feet again, and so, when a shop became vacant down in Greystones, my dad headed down and managed to secure it. That was 1959, and, happily, I’m still in that same building on Killincarrig Road ever since.
As Ireton’s closed its doors for the last time in November 2016, we sat down with Leo to talk about those early years, his time in Greystones, and his feelings about shutting up shop. You can catch that interview here. You can also take a look at Leo playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the piano – an instrument he has played since the age of 7 – right here, witness the fun of having House Of Flowers move into the shop in March, 2015, and the joy on Leo’s face as yet another film crew arrive at Ireton’s, back in April, 2016.
Oh, and let’s not forget the historic day in September, 2015, when Ireton’s shop celebrated its 100th customer!