Br Cooper’s unique insights into our past
BR Willie Cooper of the De La Salle religious order came from a small farm in Upper Tennis in Valentia Island and was a prominent footballer with the Valentia Young Islanders and South Kerry. He also played inter-county football with Carlow and Waterford, and taught in Coláiste Iosagáin of Ballyvourney as well as secondary schools in Macroom, Dublin and Dundalk. He also spent some years in South Africa and Nigeria. The first anniversary of his death fell on Saturday, May 12. He passed away last May at the age of 86 in the Miguel House De La Salle retirement home of Castletown, Laois, and as is customary with members of his order, was laid to rest there.
The following is an extract from an article written by him in a publication entitled Valentia Review which appeared in December 1998: “As the end of this momentous century draws even closer, those of us who were born before 1940 may be forgiven if we pause for a moment to consider some of the changes we have witnessed.
“As I was about to leave the island of Valentia for the first time, my mother gave me the following bit of advice: Willie boy, never saucer your tea.’
“Rarely, if ever nowadays, does one see any man, woman or child drinking their tea from the saucer, or as more commonly expressed, ‘saucering their tea.’ It was commonly thought that it tasted better when taken in this manner, a fact confirmed by no less a man then John B Keane in one of his scripts. He added that the appropriate noises must always accompany the performance. Saucering the tea is a practice long out of vogue and for that nobody will shed a tear.
“Gone also is the half door. Perhaps I should explain to most of the present generation what a half door was. There was of course a full door in front of the house but also in separate hinges. Independent of the full door and in front of it was the half door, the front door could be wide open with the half door closed and a passing friend or neighbour could lean over it and say ‘hello’ to whoever was inside as they chatted away to their heart’s content. The great advantage of the half-door was that while it allowed fresh air to enter the kitchen it also kept the hens at bay. The origin of the half door goes back to the time of the famine. At that time the native Irish lived in mudwalled cabins. They paid a rent to their landlord and the rent was doubled if a half-chimney existed in the house of a window or anything more than a foot square. The rent was trebled if the house contained a door. As regard doors, as a way of evading the law people used the half-door during the day and a full-door after dark. During our youthful days the half 0 doors were on the way out and now they are no more. The island of Valentia is now dotted with splendid new houses each vying with each other in elegance.”