Br Cooper’s unique in­sights into our past

The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - COMMUNITY NEWS -

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.”

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