Mrs. Pauline Brown
Mrs Pauline Brown from Newtownbutler, Co. Fermanagh participated on the shared reminiscence project, sharing her story of her experiences over the last 100 years.
Mrs. Pauline Brown (nee Lannen), turned 100 on 27 September 2021, when she was interviewed by BBC Newsline Mark Simpson at the Colorado Private Residential Nursing Home.
Pauline lived all her life in Newtownbutler, initially in the town as the daughter of a custom’s man. Her earliest memories are those of primary school where she wrote on a slate with chalk; and now embracing technology with an Alexa in her room and using a tablet to talk to her nephew Paul.
Whilst Pauline loved school, she remembers being punished unjustly by a teacher for running around the classroom. Fortunately, when the teacher realised her error, she visited Pauline at her home to apologise and brought her a box of chocolates. Pauline’s mischievous sense of humour is evident as she responded to the teacher: “I’ll do the run the next day for another box of chocolates.
After primary school in Pauline attended Mount Lourdes school in Enniskillen, taking the train from Newtownbutler to Enniskillen. Pauline loved to go to the shops in Enniskillen with friends when she could and reminisces about shopping twice a year for a spring coat and a winter coat or gabardine. Whilst many of school friends considered the calling to be a nun, she felt it was not for her.
Pauline also talks about how the waiting room at the train station had a general waiting room and a ladies waiting room. Once, after school, Pauline and some friends went into the general waiting room to talk to some boys from ‘The Brothers’ school. Next day they were brought into school and told off for leaving the ladies waiting room.
Pauline also remembers going by train on a Sunday to Bundoran to walk Rougey and to go to the amusements.
Cycling to carnivals in Belturbet and Redhills when she was young and also to Cavan and Enniskillen to go to the ‘pictures’ –Pauline thought nothing of cycling a 20-mile round journey along with her friends.
Pauline’s father died suddenly when she was just 15 years old and her mother became very ill, suffering a breakdown and then MS. Pauline describes her mum as “just completely giving up,”with her mum visiting her father’s grave four to five times a day. Her mum saw this as her duty. Pauline’s brother was at boarding school outside the county and Pauline left school to look after her mother and her younger sister.
Pauline says had she remained at school she had been advised by her teachers that her career path would have been through the civil service. She worked part time in a local shop for eleven years until she married. The shop was just across the road from her house and she was able to balance working in the shop with caring for her mother. This was a difficult time due to rationing.
Pauline’s father, originally from Wexford, was in the RIC.He moved to customs rather than the RUC, the year Pauline was born, partly out of fear due to escalating violence at the time. She remembers he was the first custom’s man in Newtownbutler.
The first custom’s office was an old railway wagon. An office was then built beside the railway line, with the railway line later blown up by the IRA.
As the daughter of a custom’s man, Pauline has many stories about smuggling goods across the border. Pauline recalls a story her father told her, about a man who cycled to Clones every day. The custom’s officials wondered why he cycled every day and searched him each time as they suspected he was smuggling. After one of the custom’s officers retired, he met the man in the pub and asked him what he was smuggling – saddlebags was the answer! Butter was also a favourite for smuggling.
Pauline also remembers the story of a couple returning from a weekend in Dublin by train. When asked by the customs office the husband honestly declared that he had bought boots for his wife. The boots were confiscated, with the gentleman’s wife having to return to Cookstown in her sock soles.
Pauline married Phil Brown at age 30, which was considered late in life. She started courting at 22 and had considered ending the relationship to continue to care for her Mother. After marriage her mum with her mother moved to the country to live with Pauline and her husband after their marriage. Pauline was married for 63 years. She had a small wedding in the Chapel of Immaculate Conception in Newtownbutler, with 30 people with the wedding breakfast reception in the Hibernian Hotel in Clones.
After her wedding, Pauline moved out to the country near Galloon beside Lough Erne,having had electricity in the town she reverted to using a Tilly lamp before getting gas and then electricity.
Pauline recalls that her Aunt Sally Shields was a nurse in the Great War and how she describes the scenes she saw as “hell stirred with a wooden spoon.”
Continuing to live independently at Galloon, Pauline recently moved to Colorado Private Residential Nursing home where she is very happy and is described as the Queen of the Colorado! They celebrated (adhering to restrictions) her 100th birthday with a series of small afternoon tea parties.
Pauline regularly tells her nephew Paul that she is continuing her long and happy life as they: “forgot to send the bus for her and when they do it will be a single ticket.”