S: The Song of the Bread Bin
BC: March 31, 2014
FC: The Song of the Bread Bin | Written by Billy Prout
1: January 1, 2014 Dear Uncle Billy, Thank you for your beautiful Christmas card and the best Christmas gift you could have given me. Your "Song of the Bread Bin" has been on my mind for days. Having the "Bread Bin" in my kitchen was treasure enough, but after reading and rereading your poem I am rich indeed. I have included a picture below of the bread bin where it sits today. It has been eighty three years since it was placed on Grandma's work table in 1931, and now it graces my work counter with all it's history and memories. Oh, if it could only speak! Thank you for making the past come to life and for sharing your poetic words that will be treasured by future generations. I hope you don't mind that I put your words to pictures as a keepsake for us all to cherish. Love, your Cherry Blossom, Evelyn
2: FOOD FOR THOUGHT The white enamel bread bin sat on the near corner of the work table in our kitchen. It housed three brown cakes of soda bread. Each day these were kneaded by the industrious and resourceful fingers of our mother. They were each cooled at the front window where the red geraniums prayed outwards towards the Hill o' the Lane and the postman Dan Meara's whistle bringing perhaps one of many clothes parcels from Aunt Ann in America.
4: When he blew his referee's whistle we children all answered running together to Willie's Gate or even as far as Paul's Lane, downing tools, full bent on winning our particular cross country race, like local heroes such as Mick Slevin, Mick the Runner Donoghue or the Red Fellow, as they called him. The Willie was Willie Hogan we all knew but the Paul in Paul's Lane went farther back and nobody knew who he was.
6: Of a Saturday, there were four, maybe five, brown cakes from our mother's hands. On the Lord's Day the baker rested. Her monthly contribution, slightly less than one hundred cakes. That meant twelve hundred cakes a year.
7: When there were nine of us, graziers, that is young rabbits, from the sandpit field, made good soup. Slightly less cakes sufficed when we were only six or seven. All those circular cakes of quartered soda bread passed through that white enamel bread bin since 1931. Then a cake a day was enough for half a dozen years or so. Twenty-five years hard baking ensued until a cake a day was enough again for Elizabeth herself and Stephen; and the youngest but one and then the youngest of all.
8: When the third boy became a builder he installed divined running water in a new bathroom and added a porch under the front kitchen window and built a wall around it with a little gate.
9: As I passed the humming refrigerator in that porch, took the single step, turning leftwards into the kitchen, the cylindrical white bread bin never raised its voice at all. It was at a later date that I knew I had always heard it. And this is what it said:
10: Song of the Bread Bin Written by Billy Prout
11: Song of the Bread Bin I am the bread bin of this establishment I keep fresh bread for this numerous family I hold few crumbs for the young of this house are never hungry
12: When Stephen comes from Darcy's Mill he brings wholemeal by the hundredweight in exchange for a hundredweight of wheat grown in the long field by the lane or in the sandpit field half-acre reaped by Paddy Hogan (Elsie's brother) and Tommy Dwyer and threshed by John Ryan or Slattery
13: God rest them, all who have eaten from my open-handed plenty Come gently past my rounded presence On this same corner of the work table
14: I have kept my cool I have guarded my memories I have stood the test of hungry children Twelve hundred a year Twenty-four thousand in twenty years
15: I show my years, my ears of plenty, years when golden butter didn't reach the crust. I kept the heel which Lil drew on for herself when all her chicks had fed from her generous hand
16: I know the smell of buttermilk and the warmth of doughy fingers The fire burns brightly from the stumps of hazel, blackthorn or ash and the coals are blazing red below the hob The baker stands in the glowing cinders, its lid loaded with embers as I await replenishment each day.
17: Her fingers are holy Her heart overflows Happiness is forever keeping want and weariness at arm's length, forever fingering the possibilities of sweet apple-tart, three-apple apple-cake or rhubarb pie I was not needed for:
18: I am the heart of Elizabeth, As you pass me on your entry to the fire of the warm kitchen do not forget those fingers that have blessed and say a little white cylindrical prayer that there will be no neglect of the more than twenty thousand prayers I've been cathedral of,
19: Sitting here, heart-drop by heart-drop of all that's sacred and enshrined in each one's travels, to America or Ireland's Eye and in between:
20: I have fed the Kilbarron traveller, the one coming by in search of charity I have fed crusts to animals in milk, and played the music of many a county final in Stephen's company
21: Remember my great heart, bread's soul Elizabeth! I am the bread bin of this establishment!