The Limerick Milk Market
I remember the size of his enormous hands as he snapped the neck of the Turkey. ‘God you drive a hard bargain missus’ he said, as my mother looked on with satisfaction.
She later recounted her story to anyone who cared to listen. She boasted about ‘getting the best Bird in the Market for half nothing’ and ‘He even killed and plucked it as part of the deal’ she said with pride.
I remember the weight of that Turkey as I struggled to carry it home for my mam. It was as big as myself. My arms ached as I did everything in my power to lift it high enough, trying to ensure that its head didn’t bounce along the ground. It seemed to have doubled in weight, as I got closer to home. I remember a man on a bike shouting ‘what did that poor Turkey ever do to you Son’ as I struggled in vain to keep my mothers prize from falling into the muddy puddles that formed after a recent shower. My father greeted me with laughter when he saw the state of the ‘best bird in the market’. ‘That Turkey looks as if it’s gone fifteen rounds with Cassius Clay’ he joked, as he went on to reassure me that he would have it sorted before my mother got home.
This was my first memory of the Limerick Milk Market.
The noise of Turkeys, feathers flying, as they met their end at the hands of their executioners. The Carol singing, the bargain hunters, the laughter, the buzz of Christmas as my mother reminded me that it was “ only two more sleeps before Santa came”. The Market was a magic place to be at festive time. As a seven year old, I could not imagine a more exciting place in the world then Limerick’s Milk Market. I was hooked!
From boy to man, the annual excursion to that special place became a feature of all my Christmases. Years later I set out to capture the ‘magic’ of the Market with my Camera. I quickly realised that it was the people who made it unique and I learned a lot from studying them. My father called it the ‘University of Life’. The owned very little but money couldn’t buy what they possessed in abundance. They were people with character and principles. Honesty and integrity and a profound decency were common features in those days. They were eager and willing to share what little they had with those less fortunate then themselves. These were the Grandchildren of people born during the Famine and they knew what real hardship was.
Now, as I look at those images from the 70s, the memories come flooding back. I can close my eyes and hear the sounds of Christmas and I remember the Magic of the Limerick Milk Market and the special people that I was privileged to meet there.
It’s all changed now. A canvas canopy protects the traders and shoppers from Limericks notorious rain. The scene is one of affluence and worlds apart from the Market of my youth. The buzz is there, the laughter the same, but the sounds are punctuated by people speaking languages and selling products that were unimaginable in the 70s.
And I can’t help thinking – What would Old Moll make of all this?