Sour Note: old butter-making skills and memories get churned up in Clare

The Irish Times, Monday, November 19, 2007

by Gordon Deegan

Elderly residents of a Co Clare day-care centre have churned back the years to demonstrate to local schoolchildren the craft of butter-making.

Using an authentic churn the residents of Kilmaley Day Care Centre relived an age-old practice before an audience of children from Kilmaley National School.

Organised by Clare Museum as part of its outreach work in communities across the county, museum curator John Rattigan said yesterday: “I brought a handling collection from the museum to the daycare centre and tried to encourage people to bring in artefacts from their own homes.

“Over the next couple of weeks we found that we had amassed most of the equipment needed to make homemade butter in the traditional way, and we decided to give it a go.

“Most of the material is probably less than 50 years old, and I was told that the glass churn represented the height of fashion in 1950s Ireland.

“Somebody else brought in the butter pats for shaping the butter and, more importantly, all brought in the knowledge of how to make butter.

Commenting on the success of the demonstration, Mr. Rattigan explained, “The home made butter making exhibition taught those present that history is not a thing of the past. This is living history, bringing history alive. Cross generational work like this is extremely educational and rewarding for all concerned.”

Mary Ita Griffin, Manager of the day-care centre said: “None of the children present at the demonstration realised that butter was once made at home by their grandparent’s generation”.

Clare Museum’s outreach programme has been well received around the county since its conception in early 2005.

During 2005 and 2006, the clients of Ennistymon Hospital and Daycare Centre and Raheen Hospital and Daycare Centre were invited to take part in a reminiscence project called Preserving the Past for the Future. Participants were invited to bring in family heirlooms, or objects that represented the lives or achievements of either themselves or their relatives.

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