Dora Benson (b. 1917) and Joss Barkman (b. 1921)
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Dora Benson (b. 1917) and Joss Barkman (b. 1921)


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The family background to the Clarke family is explored and discussed. The Clarke sisters explain that their father, James Clarke, decided to send his two daughters and his son to be reared by their uncle, Charles Mills, on his farm at Kilgobbin in Adare in 1928. Subsequently, the childrens’ father would call to see them once a month on his way to Rathkeale Fair. The sisters have fond memories of Miss Portman whom they describe as a great teacher in the Church of Ireland School in Adare, which was attached to the Augustinian Abbey. They have less than ford memories however of the cold winters in the classroom, to which they would bring fuel from their homes for the open fire. In the late 1920s, 44 pupils attended the school. Christmas parties at Adare Manor, to which the pupils of the Church of Ireland School were invited by Windham Henry Wyndham-Quin, the 5th Earl and his wife Lady Eva, are described in detail. The wonderful singing of the Church of Ireland choir in earlier days, of which they were part, is also recalled. Harry Stuart would travel from Limerick to teach and conduct the choir which always sang carols at the Manor at Christmastime for the family and their guests. Rev. Canon Orpen ministered at the Church of Ireland in Adare, and the sisters describe the cubicle reserved for the Dunravens in the church, and the separate entrance at the rear of the church which was retained for their use. The dances organised by the Church of Ireland, where both sisters were to meet their future husbands, are discussed. Dora Clarke married Howard Benson and her sister Joss married Stanley Barkman. Dora explains that her late husband’s business, Benson’s Box Factory in Killaloe, had been in his family for many generations. Joss had attended school with her future husband who lived at Rieenroe, Adare, close to Kilgobbin, which was once part of the Dunraven Estate. It was rented to Palatine families, one of which were ancestors of Stanley Barkman. Earlier days in Adare, with no access to electricity or running water, no radio and very few cars on the roads, are clearly remembered. Travelling was undertaken by pony and trap, light was provided by gas or by candle and the absence of radio meant that the only public entertainment available was through the variety shows which were produced at the Town Hall in the village. The family lived beside Fort Union Stud, and the sisters can remember many of the grooms who worked there and some of the great horses reared at the stud. Also mentioned is Lantern Lodge at the back entrance to Adare Manor which was occupied by Miss Dineen. The only cars in use locally were owned by the Earl of Dunraven and the Land Agent, Mr Fitzgerald. The Limerick Show was invariably one of the highlights of the year for the sisters. The Show in the 1930s is recalled in great detail, with details such as the tent for the use of the local gentry. The Flower Show was instigated by Lady Nancy, wife of Richard Wyndham-Quin, 6th Earl of Dunraven. The shops in the village at that time are recalled, and these included the hardware store run by Jack Smith, the grocery shop run by Harry Vokes, and the butcher David Hogan. Also recalled in detail are farm practices and the jobs to which the sisters were assigned, the killing of the pig and the Fair Days. Joss discusses her experience on the farm at one time when she had to deal with ‘pisogues’ or superstitions relating to a neighbouring farmer. The sisters now live contentedly together in a house beside the River Shannon outside Killaloe, and it was here that Dora concludes the recording by describing the boat trip she enjoyed with her late husband on the inland waterways north as far as Enniskillen in Co. Fermanagh in earlier days.

Additional information



Audio series:

The Adare Manor and Village Oral History Collection


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

60.4 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



Adare in earlier decades

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore