The McGraths of the Clockgate

 

 

Agnes McGrath was married to Christy McGrath and Christy was employed as the Clock Caretaker. His job was to maintain and wind the clock of Youghal Clock Gate Tower twice a week and of course to ring the bell in the event of an emergency. Accommodation came with this job and Christy & Agnes, together with their 4 children all lived in the Tower. Living conditions in the tower were poor and very basic. In fact the prison bars from the 1770s were still on the windows, however a very capable Agnes saw to it that the family were well cared for, happy, content, warm and well fed.

As well as being clock caretaker, Christy was also a fisherman. He often took his son, John, on fishing expeditions. Agnes loved to see them return with a fine catch and they invariably obliged. Agnes was a marvellous cook and the family always looked forward to her fish stew. This stew was made on her home-made, unique and inventive slow-cooker. This was a sawdust cooker – yes, that's correct a saw-dust cooker - a simple but very effective method of slow cooking. It was made up of a large square biscuit tin, filled with saw-dust and a cut-down broom handle (used to agitate the sawdust). This apparatus was placed on 2 solid bricks. Underneath the tin between the bricks, Agnes placed a shoe-polish tin filled with paraffin and a wick. The wick was lighted and this heated the sawdust. Agnes placed whatever meat, fish, or vegetables were on the menu on top of the biscuit tine and it cooked, nice and slowly. I am reliably informed by John McGrath that Agnes's fish stew was absolutely delicious.

Christy kept pigeons on the 4th floor of Youghal Clock Gate Tower and believe it or not it was on the 4th floor that Agnes dried her washing. No tumble driers or electricity required here. Agnes just opened the widows at each side of the

tower and let nature's strong cross breeze do its duty.

When John's friends used to call on a visit he would take them up to the 4th floor, on the pretext of looking at the pigeons, when in fact John and his pals would venture out onto the roof of the Tower and walk around the parapet......so dangerous....You can imagine what could have happened to any one of those boys if they feel onto the street below from the tallest building in town. Agnes had her work cut out for her keeping an eye on John and his young buddies.

Under the able stewardship of Agnes and Christy the McGraths lived very happily in Youghal Clock Gate Tower. In 1959 the family moved to a much more modern house in town – a house with far better facilities, proper heating and plumbing and the bedrooms did not have prison bars. While Agnes loved her new house she still missed life at Youghal Clock Gate Tower. It always held a very special place in her heart.