When Kay Johnson won Housewife of the Year, 1967

Michael Keyes shares his memories of when local woman Kay Johnson won the Housewife of the Year competition in 1967:

“It is funny how one reacts when something pops up in your Twitter feed that actually resonates and connects with you. Someone trying to trace the winner of the 1967 Housewife of the Year competition. Wow! I remember that.

The winner was Kay Johnson.

She was a friend of my mother and she lived just across the square from us. The fact that I remember her winning gives some idea of how big a deal it was because I was only seven at the time.

But then in West-Limerick in the 1960s it took very little to create a stir. A win for the local hurling team would be cause for loud celebration. If Limerick beat Cork a cavalcade of flag waving, beeping cars went forth into the enemy held territory of Milford, a mile inside the Cork border. Television was only just penetrating our lives — we got ours in 1967 — but with television we felt we had a dog in other fights. Watching Eurovision became a matter of national pride and it made celebrities of showband singers such as Butch Moore and Sean Dunphy.

My mother drew her attention

The idea that anyone local would appear on television let alone as winner of a national competition was too much to hope for, but then Kay Johnson did it.

It was my mother who drew her attention to the Housewife of the Year competition. She took the view that Kay was an exemplary housewife (in the 1960s sense). She was attractive, she was married to a professional man, she had seven children who were a credit to her, and she was a marvellous cook and an entertaining hostess.

It was if we had won the All-Ireland

When she won, Dromcollogher was en-fete. Kay appeared on The Late Late Show and I remember being allowed stay up late to watch. It was like watching a neighbour win an Oscar. When she returned home from Dublin there was a gala night of celebration in the Green Bar on the square. Normal licencing laws were ignored and the party went on into the early hours; it was as if we had won the All-Ireland.

Those were very different times when the idea of perfect womanhood involved raising children, keeping house and supporting a husband in his profession. Kay certainly seemed to manage all that and much more besides. She played badminton, she organised Tupperware parties and she put our town on the TV. The tragedy was that cancer cut her life short in the 1970s before she could enjoy all that it promised”.

Contributed by Michael Keyes.

Have a memory of the 1960s that you’d like to share? Found out more here.