An Old-Timer Talking
Hugh Marks of Kilkeel
With many thanks to the Mourne Observer for their permission
And the good work of Mary Lennon, for transcribing the book for me. http://www.lennonwylie.co.uk/
(all rights reserved)
An Old-Timer Talking - Reminiscences and Stories
Hugh Marks of Kilkeel (Co. Down)
to W. J. Fitzpatrick
Print and Copy-Write Mourne Observer
With deep regret we have to state that His Lordship the Earl of Kilmorey, whom we requested to write a short foreword to "An Old Timer Talking" and who kindly agreed to do so, passed away shortly after our interview with him in Kilkeel, and we did not receive the promised script which would have greatly enhanced this little book.
In the course of conversation Lord Kilmorey expressed his appreciation of Hugh Marks' reminiscences of olden times. He was keenly interested in matters pertaining to The Kingdom of Mourne and was intrigued at the long list of names of old Kilkeel fishing vessels supplied by his old friend Tom Donnan.
His Lordship also referred to "a local gag" song called "The Ship That Went Ashore At Atticall", suggesting that it would fit in with the other local songs and rhymes in this publication. It is included in "Verses Grave and Gay" in this publication.
EARLY DAYS AROUND KILKEEL
HUGH MARKS, of Kilkeel, is one of the most interesting personalities it has ever been my pleasure to interview.
To start with I would like to say something of the impressions which I formed of this grand old man during the varied discussions I had with him. I formed the opinion, and strongly, that his is a singularly unselfish character. It would seem to me that during the ups and downs of his long, busy and crowded life he never seemed to think of himself or of his own comforts, or his own convenience when there was a question of serving others, I feel that he never looked for praise, never bothered about thanks for what he did in the interests of his employers, or for what he did in helping lame dogs over stiles. I would say of Hugh Marks that his word was always his bond. I may, however be giving readers the impression that Hugh, possessing the virtues I have enumerated is rather a formidable character of the old school of thought, severe and straight-laced. Well, let me assure you that he is nothing of the kind.
He is a chatty little man, effervescent with sparkling wit and humour, with a ruddy complexion as fresh as a ploughboy of 21, with scarcely a wrinkle in his face; and he has two of the brightest, merriest, dark twinkling eyes I ever saw. They are certainly not the eyes of an old man and Hugh does not talk or act much like an old man either. His out-look on life is bright and fresh and his keen sense of humour helps to lighten and brighten the autumn of his years. I met Hugh in Kilkeel on his 81st birthday, He says, "I am 81 the day". "Well," I replied, "that calls for a celebration". So we both went round to "The Bridge Bar" and in the bar parlour of that celebrated hostelry I drank the bould Hugh's health and wished him many happy returns and so did the genial and obliging manager of the licensed premises, Mr. Jim Cunningham, an old and valued friend of mine. Jim doesn't drink but he was so enthusiastically interested in the interview and so helpful with the vital parts of Hugh's story that he forgot about his thirsty customers in the bar down below, and I could hear loud, impatient and repeated knocking on the counter, for sea-going men have naturally a thirst, but Mr. Cunningham said, "Och, let them wait a minute, they're taking no harm", so engrossed was he in our friend's wealth of interesting facts and stories of the distant past. And it just goes to prove that there is indeed genuine kindliness in "Kindly Mourne" for when the bartender apologised for keeping the customers waiting and explained the reason, up came a series of creamy stouts for which this hostelry is noted, all for Hugh to mark the auspicious occasion and help to stimulate him in recalling his reminiscences. But wise man as he is, our friend has to refuse much of the proffered hospitality saying"Thanks boys, but no more now. A know when A've had enough." Well, to get on, here is the story as he narrated it to me:-
"A was born in the townland of Carginagh in the middle o' Mourne on the 4th May, 1879. A was wan of a family of 14, 6 girls and 8 boys. A was christened in the ould chapel at Ballymartin by the Parish Priest, Fr. James Keatings. Fr. Keatings was a native of Ferns Co. Wexford and he was Parish Priest of Lower Mourne for 40 years, from 1856 to 1896. The ould people called him Priest Katins. Me father was John Marks from the Longstone district and me mother was Catherine Reilly who hailed from the Valley Road, Moneydarraghbeg, near Ballymartin. Me father died when A was very young, A just min' him and no more. Me mother had to work hard and sore to rear such a big family, workin' out by day for long hours, 6 o'clock in the mornin' to 7 o'clock at night for 6d to 9d a day wi' the local farmers and "flowerin'" (doin' hand embroidery) on handkerchiefs be candle-light at night. Sometimes two inches of embroidery on four corners for 6d or 8d a dozen. She is about 50 years dead, Lord rest her. "What woman would ye get to do that now?"
"Oh none at all" I agreed. "No, I think not", replied Hugh. "A don't know what the world's goin' to come to at all. Look at the cut of some of them nowadays, weemin trying to look like men wi' tight trousers on them and their hair cut up this way and that way, and ivery way and some o' the men ye see nowadays are wearin' things ye wouldn't have been seen dead in in my young days." "A have a brother and a sister livin' yet. Me sister lives at Quilly Burn, near Dromore - Kate Kelly. A rode a bicycle there to see her not long ago. She is 90 years of age. Me brother, Tommy is about 86. He lives in Drumaness. He was up seein' me a while back. Our family left Carginagh when A was 7 years ould and went to live at The Millbay. A went a while to Lisnacree School. It was a mixed school for all denominations. The teacher was a Mrs. Orr. She was wan of the Fishers of Ballymartin. Oh a fine woman she was and a good teacher too, but A didn't learn much. She caught me chewin' tobacco wan day and gave me a canin' that ended me career at school for A never went back. Me education was badly neglected but they weren't so particular in them days. The Star of the Sea' School wasn't built then. Dr. Marner, the Parish Priest built it afterwards, A mind him well goin' round in his wee pony and trap an' sometimes on horseback. A min' Father Hamill who was P.P. after him and Father McAllister who came after that then Canon Laverty and Father MacGowan who died three years ago. And now we have Canon Cahill, 'who is all their daddys - a great man, God bliss him. He has done a lot of work since he come and has a lot more to do yet, but trust him, he'll do it before he finishes.
A min' a curate called Father Eardley. He was a great friend of the Kilmoreys and used to ride and hunt wi' them often. In the Lower end parish, A min' Father Murphy who came after Fr. Keatings. A heard tell of Fr. O'Loan and Fr. Smyth but they were long after my time in the parish and A don't know much about them. A hear them sayin' that the Father Murphy who is the Parish Priest in the Lower end now is a nephew of oul' Father Murphy, who built Ballymartin Chapel, Moneydarra School as' a lot of other buildin's as well. Well, judgin' by what this priest has done since he came to the Lower end, he is a chip of the oul' block. The Murphys were grand men. They come from Erinagh, near Downpatrick. "A was 9 years ould when A left school and A hired for work in McMurrays of Greencastle to herd cows and sheep. The wages were ten shillin's for the half year. A also worked in Newells of Benagh and in McElroys at Greencastle but the toughest place of the lot was me start. A was only 9 years ould, ye see, and it was in the winter time A started. A was put to herd sheep and cattle on the Islands off the Millbay from 5 o'clock in the mornin' to 9 o'clock at night wi' only a piece in me pocket. Many and many a coul' winters day A burned dry wrack and sticks to dry me feet and keep myself warm. A was on the Islands from the tide went out in the early mornin' until it came in at night wi' little in me or on me, and ye know it was very hard on a wee fella.
"Newells' was a good house to work in; there was a roughness of everything and plenty of good home-baked wheaten bread and sweet milk and good fresh butter-milk. There was no such thing as flu in them days for there was plenty of good strong rum at 4d a glass that wad kill any germs. Tobaccy was only 3d. an ounce and stout 2d a bottle, and ye got cheese and biscuits free wi' it at Tom Briens' pub in the Millbay.
THE STORY OF GREENCASTLE FAIR; AND THE CASTLE AND ITS GHOST
Mr. Marks looking out across Carlingford Lough from the banqueting hall of the old castle.
"While A was in McElroy's at Greencastle me hours were from 5 o'clock in the mornin' until 9 o'clock at night", Hugh told me. The doors were locked after supper - about half-nine and any of the workers who wasn't in by that time had to be out all night. A used to take an odd run to the town after A finished work and of course it was long after half-nine when A got back. So A used to go into the stable and lie down in the manger and pull the hay over me. That and the ould mare's breath as she ate the hay kept me warm and A was up in the mornin' at 5 o'clock fresh as a linty picker and no remarks passed. A stayed in McElroy's for 5 years and me wages were £5 a half-year. "If ye are iver out at the ould Castle, just take a look into the stables and ye might see me name on the ould manger yet - that's if they haven't made alterations since my time, for that's over 60 years ago. If ye drive up to the farmhouse and go through the gate on the right of the ould Castle the first openin' ye come to in the ould walls of the Castle was the stables. A'm sure there are not many horses there now."
Well, it will interest readers to learn that we did go out to visit the Old Castle and we took Hugh along with us. The first part of the ruins we reached were the stables and sure enough on the wooden manger of the first 'stand', almost as fresh as the day he painted it, was the name "Hu Marks". So there was no doubt it, Marks left his marks for future generations to see. And for a man who declares "A'm no scholar", the big bold block capitals he inscribed could not have been excelled by a University graduate.
With Hugh as our guide we climbed to the ramparts of the Old Castle, visited the old banqueting hall, the tower and keep, and also the dungeons underneath. An account of the history of Greencastle may be of interest.
HISTORY OF THE CASTLE
Though the only inhabitants when we visited it last Saturday were a couple of cows and some pigs, it was once upon a time one of the most important fortresses in Ireland, guarding the entrance to the Kingdom of Mourne, stand sentinel over Carlingford Lough and sharing with the corresponding fort of Carlingford, supported by the Block House in the middle of the Lough, the responsibility of keeping the so- called "wild Irish" in check, and baffling the French when they tried to force the gap of Uladh. It was built by John de Courcey about the year 1264 and was the scene of many a fierce siege between the Anglo Normans and the Irish clans, changing hands several times during those bloody conflicts. It was also besieged by Cromwell's armies and partly demolished by them, but the keep, towers and basement arches are still intact and the historic ruin like a grim sentinel still stands guard over the Kingdom of Mourne.
The late Monsignor J. O'Laverty, M.R.I.A., in his Historical Account of the Diocese of Down and Connor, treats of the history of the castle as follows : "It was erected by the early English invaders to guard an entrance to the Lough of Carlingford, and to secure a line of correspondence between the Pale and their out-lying possessions in Lecale. A sad eyesore to the native Irish that Anglo Norman fortress perched on an abrupt rock, and flaunting its red cross of St. George in their faces as they looked from their own mountains to the waters of Cuan-Snamheach, by which name they still loved to call the lough on which the Norsemen had imposed the outlandish name of Carling ford. The red cross is gone, and the rank grass waves from the ruined keep, but 700 years have not been able to remove 'the Irish enemy' whose descendants still cling to the soil . . . .This castle, with its lands, was one of the many lordships belonging to the powerful Earls of
Ulster, the De Burgos or Burkes . . . In 1495 it was considered of such importance that the crown felt it necessary to decree that none but Englishmen by birth were eligible to the office of Governor. In the reign of Edward VI. the castle and lordship of Mourne were granted to Sir Nicholas Bagnall (who was represented by Lord Kilmorey) . . . . Part of the castle, fitted up for a residence probably by some of the Bagnall family, about the latter portion of the seventeenth century, is at present the residence of Mr. McIlroy" The farm on which the Castle stands is still owned by the McIlroy family. Archaeologists excavating there a few years ago found nothing but a skull with a bullet hole through it, probably the skull of one of the Cromwellian soldiers or of some one of the defenders of the Castle during the Cromwellian siege. We cannot be certain, but if those grim old walls could only speak, what stories they could tell of doughty deeds of daring from the dim and distant past.
THE RETRIEVER AND "CONNEMARA" DISASTER
Our picture shows our esteemed guide, Hugh Marks, looking out towards the old Block House in the middle of Carlingford Lough. He also recalled the worst sea disaster ever to happen off the Northern coast. It was the collision between the S.S. "Retriever" a collier bound from Garston to Newry and the "Connemara" passenger boat bound from Greenore to Holyhead. The tragedy occurred about 9 p.m. on the wild stormy night of the 3rd November, 1916. 93 people perished. Mr. P. Boyle, Warrenpoint, still living, was the one and only survivor from the "Retriever", and there were none at all from the "Connemara". Fifteen of the unclaimed, unidentified bodies were washed up along the shore between Greencastle and Derryogue Point and were buried in the old Kilkeel Churchyard. Captain P. O'Neill, from The Ballagh, near Newcastle, his son Joseph, and his brother-in-law Joseph Donnan, who were drowned from the "Retriever", were waked in James Donnan's house in Newry Street, Kilkeel. Capt. O'Neill's wife, formerly Miss Margaret Donnan, was a cousin of Mr. Tom Donnan, Kilkeel.
THE GHOST WHO WAS BANISHED FOR 520 YEARS
Before we left the old Castle, Hugh enquired if we had ever heard the ghost story in connection with it. We admitted we had heard something of this, but didn't know the whole story. "Well," continued Hugh, "it was long before my time and A don't know it all, but as far as A heard there was a strange boat came into Greencastle pier wan time and a wee man came ashore and made his way up to the ould Castle, He didn't come out again but that night at 12 o'clock and for long after that at the same time every night the cattle kept roarin' all night and burst their tyin's to get out. They near went mad. The very pots an' pans in the house kept rattlin' and an old 8-day clock fell off the wall and never 'went' again. Well, the ructions went on every night for a long time and A heard the ould people say that there was a Council of Clargy got together to lay the ghost. They ordered him to be banished to the Red Sea for 520 years. The ghost pleaded wi' them to throw off the 500 and make it only 20 and he would call again at the end of that time, but they stuck to the 520. A suppose there's 120 years of the time up now".
"Och, Greencastle is an ancient oul' place. They used to ship cattle and horses from it to Greenore and Holyhead, but that's stopped donkey's years ago, more's the pity. An' A suppose ye heard tell o' Greencastle Fair? A never was at it but A was talkin' to them that was There was a song about it. Me mother knowed it, God rest her. "Who has had the luck to see Greencastle Fair? A Mourne man all in his glory was there". "That's all A know of it, but A think the Mourne man mentioned in the song was a man called Dancin' Tam McCartan from the Longstone. He was a champion step-dancer, none to touch him. The last fair at Greencastle was about 70 years ago. It was always held on the 12th August, and on that mornin' the roads wud be black wi' people from all airts and parts and say wud be black as well wi' all kin's o' wee boats and yawls filled wi' people from Cooley and roun' there. There wud be great fun wi' the boatmen, wan tryin' to outdo the other in sailin. "There wur no end o' tents and caravans. It was mostly in the tents that the dancin' took place and ye may be sure the music wud ha' been worth a listenin' to - pipers and fiddlers and fifers. There wur prizes for the best step-dancers and they wud ha' danced jigs and reels and hornpipes and Irish set dances. There wud ha' been all kinds o' 'kereckters' at the fair, jugglers and spey-men and spey-weemin, and men sellin' all kin's o' things lek churns and tubs and other wudden veshils that's not used nowadays, and cloggers sellin' clogs, for nearly ivery man, woman and wean in Mourne wore clogs in them days, and then there wur woollen waivers sellin' pleadin' and banyins; nearly all the men wore banyans in them days. In troth ye cud ha' bought everything from a needle to an anchor at Greencastle Fair. An' there was lashins and leavin's o' all kin's o' atin and drinkin'. Whiskey at 3d or 4d a glass and porter at 1½d or 2d a bottle. The stir lasted to the early hours o' the morning and many an ould horse or donkey made their way home themselves wi' their owners lyin' stocious' in the carts. Och, them was the days. It's mebbe just as well drink's not as chape nowadays or there'd be whole lots wud never be sober, troth naw".
THE BLIND FIDDLER
Further light was shed on the Greencastle fair by Mr. James Cunningham, manager of the Bridge Bar, Kilkeel, who remembers his grandmother telling him of the blind fiddler who came across from Cooley every year to play at the fair. This fiddler, who had been blind from birth, attended all the festivals throughout Ireland, and also taught people to play the violin. "I heard my grandmother say," recalled Mr. Cunningham, "that one year when he was fiddling for the dancing competitions he said 'If Dancing Tom McCartan's alive that's him I'm playing for now.' And so it was."
We are indebted to Mr. Arthur Doran, Glasdrumman, for a historical note that at one time fairs were held at Greencastle in 1st January and 1st August, and were changed with the new style calendar to 12th January and 12th August. With the passing of years, the January fair died out, but the August fair survived long after. Mr. Doran has an interesting collection of Mourne ballads, and the following lines are taken from one on the old Greencastle fair :- "The violin's sweet inspiring tone, Proclaimed that ancient fair, The dance with Irish brilliance shone, In style unknown elsewhere". The night before the fair lots of people would come over in their little boats to Green Island and rest there for the night, and next morning complete the journey to the fair green.
So, with our curiosity aroused, we set off again with Hugh as our guide to see the old fair green. It is about a quarter of a mile on the Cranfield side of Greencastle pier. Right on the beach at the end of the Fair Road, it is convenient to the house of a Mr. Doyle. The place which was once so lively and gay is desolate and forgotten now, and the former dwelling houses are in ruins. Then we visited the pier, and were pleased to see that improvements have been carried out recently. Above all we were delighted to see the Slieve Foy, one of the Carlingford Lough Co.'s boats, tied up in port. But otherwise the place seemed dead, and Hugh could not help giving a sigh "for the quare times there used to be roun' here". Whereas Massforth Church is seven miles from Greencastle, St. James's Church in Greenore is only 2½ of 3 miles distant across the lough, and prior to the erection of Grange Church in 1926 it was quite common for the local parishioners to go across by boat for prayers in St. James's.
HIRIN' OUT WI' THE FARMERS
Mr. Marks mounted on Mr. Archie Gordon's horse.
Someone wrote a book one time entitled "I Couldn't Help Laughing". Well, this applied to the present writer while our shanachie was narrating the adventures and stories which are contained in this chapter. In fact my shorthand notes were so jerky due to these "kinks" of laughter that I had some difficulty in deciphering them. And I only hope our readers will get so much amusement in reading this week's narrative that they too cannot help laughing.
HUGH LEAVES MOURNE
As we left the farmyard adjoining the old Castle at Greencastle still thinking of "old forgotten far-off things and battle long ago". Hugh continued : "A got a good hard trainin' here : as the sayin' is, 'to plough and sow and reap and mow and be a farmer's boy'. And now that A had grown to be a man, A made up me min' to lave Mourne for a while and push me fortune somewhere else. So A set aff for Newry and there A met a farmer named Barry. A put in half a year wi' him but A wasn't stuck on the place an' so A didn't renew the contract when me time was up. A pushed in to Moira and A lived wi' a man called Hamill. Me wages wi' him was £11 for the half-year. A used to drive the horse and cart from Moira to Belfast market wi' vegetables. It was an early start for A had to be in the market at half past six in the mornin'', and the journey was 17 Irish miles. The boss allowed me four shillins' for me day's expenses to feed meself and the horse, and A needn't tell you a lie, it took the biggest part of my allowance to feed the poor ould horse for A wud want meself rather than see the poor baste hungry. That's wan thing about me - A never like to see man or baste hungry. There was no such thing as overcoats in them days, for the workin' class anyway. When the rain came on A just threw an oul' sack over me shoulders.
"Well, A kept moving around. A went to the hirin' fair at Ballynahinch and hired for six months wi' a farmer called John Patterson, of the Rann, near Downpatrick, and then the next six months wi' another farmer at The Rann called Tommy Orr, A while after that A went to Dromore and wrought in several places there." Here Hugh recalled the names of a number of farmers in the Dromore area where he spent hiring periods. There was Robert English's, of Ballaney - and every time Hugh re-visited the Dromore area the late Mr. Stanley English (Robert's son) had a warm welcome for him ; there were the Mercers'. of The Diamond ; John Davison's, of Bullsbrook ("a rale gentleman"), and Gribben's of The Black Bog. As a chance he engaged with James Henry Burns, the Dromore building contractor of half a century ago, and got 10/- a week for attending a mason. But working with horses was in his blood and soon he returned to the farming and went down Hillboro' way to spend a term with John Carville of Ballygowan.
The older stock around Dromore will all have vivid memories of James Ward, the fiddler and thatcher, who lived with his two sisters. Well, Hugh struck up their acquaintance and visited the house quite often while working around Dromore. One of the big days of the year in Dromore then was the Easter Monday races. "A always got half a day off to see them," said Hugh. Asked if he preferred Dromore district to Mourne for employment, Hugh replied : "Ye had to work ivery bit as hard, but there was better grub and better hours." "Many a time A be thinkin' o' the sister, poor oul' Kate, and wunnerin' how she's doin'" said Hugh. So in return for all the entertainment he gave us we felt it as little as we could do to take Hugh on a trip to Dromore to see his sister. We set out last Saturday and after a pleasant drive, Hugh recalling many familiar landmarks along the way, we arrived at Dromore. In Mr. Trench's pub off the Square Hugh met one old-timer, who although he didn't exactly remember Hugh, he had heard about him and he knew all the farmers he had worked for and we had an very enjoyable interlude and many hearty laughs talking over Hugh's reminiscences. At length we arrived at Mr. Joe Kelly's house outside Banbridge. Joe is Hugh's nephew and there at present Mrs. Kate Kelly is staying with her devoted son. Her husband, the late Mr. Tom Kelly, had a little shop in Rampart Street, Dromore, and she lived with another son at the Quilly Burn, Dromore until recently. Though she is not in the best of health at present she gave us all a great welcome and was most anxious for news of the Mourne country and some of the old-timers she knew there.
THE BAD "MATE" HOUSE
"All tell ye a good one about engagement A had at Sheeptown," said Hugh. "It was a short apprenticeship A can tell ye. Och, a pig wouldn't ate the mate that was put up in yon house. A hired wi' a man (don't mention his name for some of his family may be livin' there yet and A wudn't like to give offence to them), Well, the first mornin' in this place A was called at the 'screagh of day' and when A looked round the place A thought it was a rough lookin' joint. The oul' woman called me in for me breakfast after A had cleaned out the byers and stables. What do ye think she planted down forninst me on the table? Och, a bit of dry "quogh" and a bowl of watery tay that ye cud fish flukes in 40 fathom of. An' then she comes wi' a wee rusty herrin' on an oul' dirty plate. There was no butter or 'creesh' of any kind. Well, A took wan look at it and do ye know what A said? "No", I replied, "something droll I am sure", for by this time I knew that Hugh is a bit of a wit and very good at repartee, but I didn't imagine he aspired towards poetry and was surprised when he said : "Well, A made a poem about it - or at least a varse. A burst out wi' :- 'Poor wee fry, here ye lie, Yer eyes are open but ye cannot cry, Yer back is bare, your belly's tore, But A see no butter to mend your sore'." Well, if I felt moved to tears sometimes at the pathos in Hugh's life, I was forced to laughter now. "I hold you that shook her", I said. "Well, it did in a way", retorted Hugh. "Out she goes and in she comes wi' a junk of white scalded butter in her big dirty, bare, black fist, an' wi' that she slapped it down on the plate, on the top of the wee salt herrin'. "Maybe that'll do ye now", she retorted. "Well, sowl, it done me all right, for bad as it was before it was ten times worse now. As the oul' sayin' is a' clean fast's better than a dirty breakfast any day.' So A jumped to me feet an' reached for me cap and A cleared out lek the shot of a gun, an' A out the road as quick as me legs cud carry me. An' the oul' dame let a yell out of her after me lek a bayin' shee (banshee). Boys, she was the hardest lookin' yock A ever laid eyes on an' A've seen some hard lookin' cases in me time, A can tell ye. She was fit to scare a heckler. She was the oul' fella's mother, or hes aunt or somethin'. Och A was long enough in yon grip. It was the
coorsest iver A came across.
HUGH'S COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE
How he Popped the Question
"Well, A made me way after that to Shinn, and there A met the girl A married. She was Maggie O'Connell, of Shinn, Well, A was walkin' out wi' her for a wheen of weeks when wan even' A said : 'Maggie, how wud ye lek to be buried wi' our people'. Man, she knowed well enough what A meant. An' she says : "It wud do rightly, Hughie". So we were married in Newry, an' dear knows we hadn't much to start wi'. A mind A had only a ½-ounce of tobaccy the mornin' we were married. We lived wi' her people for a while after we were married, an' later on we got a house in Shinn. She was wan of the best craythirs iver God made an' a good manager. We had a family of two girls and one boy. She's dead 20 years now, God rest her.
"Well, A took a notion A wud head for Mourne again, an' when A came back there A went to work in Shannon's of Maghery. A had right times there an Mr. Shannon was a good boss. A got £1 a week. All the Shannon's were fine people and so is the name of them to this day. When A left there A went to work for Mr. Gordon - Mr. Alex. Gordon, J.P., of this town - an' a better employer A never had - a rale gentleman ivery inch of him, and so is his son Mr. Archie, who is livin' in the home place yit. A wrought wi' him for ten years an' a
half. A had charge of his farm, as foreman. He kept great horses, an' A'm still livin' in his house in The Hollow. Its proper names is Gordon Row. A've lived there for 40 years". Hugh was held in just as high esteem by the Gordon family, and when Mr. Archir Gordon, son of Mr. Alex. Gordon and present owner of "Beulah", heard that Hugh was being featured in these columns he invited him over to have his photo taken on his horse. So over we went to Mr. Gordon's residence where a hearty welcome awaited us. Hugh was duly mounted on Mr. Gordon's horse and had his "likeness" taken, to the delight of everyone. Then Mr. Gordon invited us in and showed us the grand array of trophies which he won years ago with his greyhounds and horses. As I admired the cups and the photographs of notable horses and dogs, Mr. Gordon and Hugh chatted animatedly, re-living the highlights of bygone days.
TEACHING THE SOUTHERNERS TO GROW FLAX
"Well then," continued Hugh, "during the 1914-19 War A was asked by Captain James McKee, of Kilkeel, to go to Dunmore wi' a Mr. Shipsey to learn them down there how to grow flax, for they knew nothin' about it, an' of course A knew all about that. They used to grow a powerfull lot of flax in Mourne, especially durin' the first War, an' there was little about the flax industry A didn't know. A soon learned them in Dunmore East all about flax, but there was wan thing A insisted on an' that was that A was to get Lady Day off - the 15th of August. A said it wasn't lucky or soncey to work on that day. Of course A was only gaggin' for 'the better the day the better the deed', but A got the day off all the time and fairly enjoyed meself too. "Och, A may tell you A niver was often idle an' was very seldom on the dole. There's nothin' to bate working' hard wi'in rayson. A wudn't see a man stuck if he wanted anythin' done that A cud do even yet."
"Were you ever across the water?" I enquired. "Och, A took a notion wan time o' goin' across to Scotland, but it was a short stay. A wrought for a while in a steel works in a place called New Stevenson, but left an' came home again. The fare to Belfast was only 4/6. A walked from Belfast to Dromore. On the road A went over into a hay field an' slept till next mornin'. When A arrived in Dromore all A had was tuppence. The only other time A was out of Ireland was when durin' the last War. A was workin' at cleanin' up on the blitz sites on Henry Ford's motor works. The nearest town was called The Nag's Head. A worked there for six months.
OLD FASHIONED FARMING METHODS IN MOURNE
Mr. Marks in the handles of the wooden plough
Reverting again to the days of his youth, Hugh told me that there was very little machinery used in farming in his early days..
The hay and oats were mown by scythe, and a good mower could mow an acre a day - that was from 7 o'clock a.m. to 6 p.m., and it took a man or woman busy to lift and tie the sheaves after a good mower. "A cud mow an acre a day when A was at meself. The corn was winnowed by letting it fall from sieves on sheets in the middle of the field to 'winny' on a windy day, an' all over the country in the Autumn ye cud hear the sounds of the battering of the flails on the threshin' boords. Nowadays a flail is a rarity. Well, ye might see wan in a museum or some place lek that. An ye wud hardly see won o' the oul' wooden ploughs ayther. Wullie McKibbin in the Longstone has wan an A wud lek to get a picthur took of it. If ye lek wi'll take a run out and A'll show ye how A used to plough". Well, we did go out to the Longstone and found Mr. Willie McKibbin in the field beside his neat pebble-dashed farmhouse busy moulding up his potatoes. His little niece Teresa Burden was there too. Hugh remarking "That's a right horse ye have, Wullie. A wish ye good luck wi' him", reached for the handles of the plough and proved to our satisfaction that he is every bit as good a ploughman as ever he was. We left the farm after duly thanking Mr. McKibbin, and Hugh continued : "In my young days the spuds were all dug be spade. Ye wud see up to eight to 10 diggers at work in a field an' nearly as many gatherers, and those wur the days worth talkin' about - 20 tons to the acre. It was 'dates' was the main crop them days. A suppose the right name was "up-to-dates", but then they done away wi' the dates and the Champions because they sed they got the black sceb (scab), but there was no spuds to bate them an' A heerd well-larned men sayin' manys the time that the Government admits that the Mourne district is clear of black sceb for over 40 years, and still it is libelled as a black sceb area - more codology if ye ask me. It's only a sartin class o' spuds ye're allowed to grow here. Ye wud nearly think they done the things a purpose to keep the poor oul' farmers down. "An if the spuds weren't a big price them days, well ye had no bother gettin' rid of them. There was no such thing then as fellas in big swanky cars runnin' roun' the country pokin' here and pokin' there, and testin' an' scrapin' an' measurin', an' the devil knows what not all - a lot o' red tape. "There was no such thing as fertilisers or hand manure then ayther, just farmyard manure an' inblown wrack or cut wrack an' A do think that the spuds grown the natural way were far more wholesome.
THE FIRST BICYCLE IN MOURNE
"There was no motor cars in my young days, an' no bicycles ayther. The first man in Mourne to ride a bike was Master Linton, father of ur Bob Linton, the Chairman of Kilkeel Urban Council - och a rale gentleman. It was wan of the oyl' penny-farthin' wans, wi' wan big wheel an' a very wee wan, an' all the people turned out to see the 'iron horse', but iverybody took care to be close into the ditch or the hedge when it was passin' for fear of gettin' run over.
THE LONG CARS
I enquired about the Long Cars which used to ply between Kilkeel and Newcastle and Newry. "Aye, A min' them well," replied Hugh "an' the short wans too. Ye heard tell of Harry Doran an' Arthur Doran. Arthur driv his car from Kilkeel to Newcastle twice a day, an' Harry did the same on the Newry run. They said that Arthur Doran, in his car travelled the equal of 14 times roun. the world. Other drivers were Johnny Davidson (not so long dead) and James McVeigh, who is still hale an' hearty an' workin' away yet. An' there was Jimmy Robinson an' Harry Sloan, who drove the car, an' later on the bus, to the Point. An' there was Ross Tomelty as' wee Frank Haughian, an' James Beck, Jimmy McKee an' Davey Teggarty. "An' ye know Jamey Anderson, who is livin' yet. He was the groom for the horses for the Norton Company. Jamey was a great horseman, wan of the best in Mourne. A min' the time of the horse racin' at the Millbay. He was the only man who cud ride James Fitzpatrick's famous horse 'Spratt', which won all before it at races all over the country with Jamey Anderson in the saddle".
"A suppose ye know what blackfuttin' manes. There's some that disn't and thinks it has somethin' to do wi' party works, but it's far from it, A can tell ye. When A was in the Dromore district A met a fella called Tam, wan night he says to me, 'Hugh,' ses he, 'what do you say about goin' to ask the woman for me. Wull ye do blackfoot for me?". 'Well, man, A wull that', says I, though that was wan jab A niver had done before". "'Very good,' says he. So we went and got two pints of special whiskey and had a few drams of the hard stuff in the pub before we set out, to put a bit of heart into us, for ye know it takes that when it comes to a jab lek that. "Well, when we landed at the house there was an ould man an' an ould woman sittin' in every corner, and there were two girls busy knittin'. The ould pair bid us sit forrit to the hate for it was a bitter coul' night. "A produced me bottle and trated the ould pair and give Tam a drop and took a jorum meself. We talked about the weather and the crops, and wan thing an' another, but there was no sign of Tam broachin' cargo. "At last A says, 'Well, A don't know whether ye know what our erran' is or not, but this man wants a woman and A have come along wi' him to ask your daughter Mary.' A cud see that the ouldest girl was blushin' all over her face the minute A spoke. "'Well,' says the ould man, 'she's ould enough now to plaze herself. What does yer friend folla'. "'Oh,' says me man, speakin' up, 'A'm the best ploughman in the country and can do all kinds of farmwork'. At the same time A knowed he was only what ye might call a 'durty middlin' ploughman, but of coorse A had to do me best for him". "Well, there was nothin' more said for a wheen o' minutes, an' then A broke the ice again. "A says, 'What d'ye say, Mary?' "But before Mary had time to say she wud or she wudn't, yer man spakes out : "'Och, A don't think A'll bother. Sure the skin of a good man's worth two weemin any day." "Well, if ye had stabbed me wi' a knife ye wudn't have got blood in me, A was that much struck. A niver was as much lit down in me life, makin' a fool of me an' the poor girl too. An' to make things worse, the big girl spakes out, 'What odds about him.' An' turnin' to me she says, 'What about yourself. Are you not lookin' for a woman?' "Well, be me sang, that shook me, for A wasn't in that way of thinkin' at the time. So all A cud do was tell the dacent girl that A hadn't a thought o' marryin' at the time, an' A was that gunked A made for the dure an' bid them 'Goodnight.' Yer man followed me, an' when A got him on the hard A drew out and whimmeled him. "'Take that,' A says, 'ye low down blackguard ye, You to call yerself a man. Ye're as low as the dirt that sticks to yer feet, Go yer own road now, for A wudn't be seen in yer company.' A niver seen him after, for A left that part o' the country soon after, and whether he iver got a woman or not A know not, and divil the hair A care ayther."
ALL ABOUT DONKEYS
And then from blackfooting Hugh went on to talk of donkeys. "Did ye iver hear that it was lucky to have a donkey among the horses and cattle?" I admitted I did hear something about that, but I wasn't sure of the reason. Hugh quickly enlightened me. "Well." he said, "a donkey is a lucky baste. Wasn't it a donkey that brought the Holy Family to Egypt to escape from King Herod?" "Well," he cont- inued, "there was a time when all McIlroy's cattle were dyin' out of the face, an' the boss was advised by some wise man who knew what he was talkin' about to get a donkey an' let it run wi' the cattle. Well, he did get a donkey an' it brought back his luck, for there niver was a baste went wrong for many a long year after that. Ye know, there's a cross on ivery donkey's back, an' the youngest wean goin' to school can tell you the rayson for it - nobody shud iver ill-treat a donkey. An' talkin' o' donkeys, ye know that they used to cure childther of the whoopin' cough by passin' the child three times under the donkey." I had to admit that I had heard of that custom and in fact saw the "cure" being tried out when I was a child.
"Ould William Goodman who lived in The Brick Row in this town went roun' the country gatherin' regs and bottles. He called himself a general dayler. Well, he had a donkey, an' a thrawin' ould rascal he was." "Do you mean the donkey or the man who owned him?" I enquired. "Och, the both o' them, when it goes to that," retorted Hugh. "Wan was as crabbit and carnapcious as the other. The mothers used to bring their childther to put them under Goodman's donkey, but it was only when they got a chance, for if ould Willyum had a seen them doin' it he wud have destroyed them. "But as A say, he went roun' the houses gatherin' anything he cud get his hands on, an some- times he tied his donkey to a gate post while he went up a lane to look for prog. The donkey wud have a feed o' straw or hay to keep him occupied while ould Goodman was away, an' that was a great chance for the weemin to get the cure for their childther. If the ould donkey hadn't been busy atin' the fother he wud have kicked their brains out for he was a thrawin' oul' baste. An' when they saw ould Willyum comin' down the lane wi' a brave bagful of stuff on hes back they made sure to clear off before he saw them.
"Ould Jamey Carr of Newry Street was in the same line too, an' he an' his ass were as thrawin', if not thrawiner, than Goodman's, but many a wean was cured o' the chin cough by passin' three times under Carr's donkey too, an' he niver knew a bit about it. "Well, still talkin' about donkeys, as A sat, ould Goodman's donkey was a very spirited animal, an' the only man who cud iver ride him at the Millbay races or anywhere else was a certain man who lived in Pookey - better mention no names. There use to be great fun at the Millbay races: they lasted for two days. "A mind wan time 'Ould Royal', - that was William Annett, who owned The Royal Hotel, where Mickey Doran is now. They called him 'Ould Royal' after the hotel. Well, he took a crowd o' boys from the town to compete at the Millbay races, an' ye may say that was a day. A min' well the fun that was that day.
QUEEN VICTORIA'S DIAMOND JUBILEE
"An' a min' the day of the ould Queen's diamond jubilee in 1897. It was another big day in Kilkeel. Charlie Sloan of Greencastle won the prize for climbin' the greaser pole. His prize was a greasey pig an' a ½lb. o' tobacco. Och, there was some stur in them days. A wud nearly try the greasey pole meself even yet for the same prize. Min' ye, a pig an' a ½lb. o' tobaccy wud be some prize these days. "Och, do ye know what A'm goin' to tell ye? Times have all changed an' the people's changed too," Hugh reminicised. "There's no stur nowadays worth talkin' about. A min' wan time there was a show in the town. There was a big tent up in the Council grounds, an' there was a man took sick an' they had to get wan in his place. Well, the showman came to me an' A filled the bill. A was 'The man from Blackpool', an' A took the house be storm. There niver was such a show in the town since. "Of course ye got away wi' a lot o' things them days that the police wud lift ye for if ye did the same now. A min' there was a man called John McGrory an' he lived at Grange. He had a nice skiff well tarred and ready for the skiff fishin'. Well, for a bit of divilment, didn't A get a bucket o' whitewash an' a brush, an' didn't A give McGrory's boat a good coat o' whitewash. An' as sure as ye're there, when he came down to the beach but he didn't know he's own boat an' wud take nothin' to do wi' it. He said somebody took his boat an' left a white one in its place."
OLD SHOPS AND SHOPKEEPERS IN KILKEEL
At Walmsley's Shady Groves. Picture shows the mill ruins, and, to the right of the mill chimney
the little cottage in which Dick McKnight was reared.
Of shops and shopkeepers in Kilkeel, Hugh has seen great changes in his time....
"The present premises of J. & P. Hanna used to belong to a Mr. James Morgan of Springfield, and after that it was bought by Hugh Hanna, that is 'Yankee Hanna', as they called him, who bought 'Thornmount' and gave it to the nuns (i.e. teaching order of the St. Louis' Nuns) for a convent and school. "Thornmount" belonged to a Mr. McClimmond. A worked whiles for Mr. James Hanna of The Bridge a 'rale' gentleman and so is all his family", added Hugh. "Sure there's John, Pat, Seamus and Redmond, and ye cudn't bate them, in a day's walkin' - all gran' lads and the girls were rale ladies too. "Oh, Hanna's is a rale oul' establishment. They hiv it well done up now. A was in the other day givin' them a han' at takin' out the oul iron bars o' the windaes in the Bar an' d'ye know what A'm goin' to tell ye? The same bars and boults was over a hun'er years oul'! That's right for the year was on some o' them an' the maker's name too - John McCulla, the blacksmith. He wud be the granda o' Wullie James and Jack. Och there was a great tradesman. It runs in the family. The McCullas wur all that. "Well, as A say, it tuk good bars and boults on The Bridge in the oul' days, for A believe it used to be a gaol where they kept the prisoners a while before they tuk them away to Dundalk. "Ould John Clarke", continued Hugh, "had hes shop where Jim Morgan's is now.
He was a great man for givin' big Christmas boxes. Ivery customer got a lb. of tea, an' sugar, rice an' raisins, an' a corn loaf an'
a calendar, not to mention oranges an' apples an' lozenges for the weans. The country people come into the town in their horse an' carts an' went home loadened wi' all sorts o' ateables. A poun' went a long way in them days. Then ye got ½ pint of whiskey in ivery pub in the town ye were in the habit of callin' in for a Christmas box. Them was the days". "Mike Sullivan kept a shap where Bertie Annett lives now. A dacent man, too. Many's the good ounce o' twist tobaccy A got off him for 3d, and he didn't cut hes finger ayther. "Frank O'Hagan's is about the ouldest shap in the town. It's well over the 'hundred'. There was no civiler man than the same Frank O'Hagan. A aften heard him say that when hes mother started a shap there, Greencastle Street was in the open country. "Andy Orr's is another very oul' establishment. That's Tammy Trimble's now. It was built in 1772. Ye can see the date on a stone in the yard. Andy Orr's yard was the main place in the oul' days for stablin' the horses. A fine gentleman was Andy Orr - wan o' the rale oul' stock. Humphrey Fry was foreman in it and so was Ernie Berry. Ernie is hale and hearty yit. Man, but he stands it tarrible well. Him and me would be about an age".
Asked how many Church of Ireland and Presbyterian clergy he remembered in Kilkeel, Hugh promptly said, "A min' Rector McKnight an' A min' Canon Hayes, an' of course the Rev. Belton, he's not long retired, an' now Rev. Jameson, an' in Mr. Martin's place there is the Rev. Flavelle, and the Rev. Fullerton is now where Mr. Eadie was - both nice wee men. A knowed oul' Dr. McMordie well. He was the clargyman of the Big Meetin' House, a nice oul' gentleman wi' a white beard roun' his face, an' then there was the Rev. Eadie an' Mr. Martin, but they're not long dead - all fine men who cud bid ye the time of day when ye met them."
In the medical profession Hugh knew Dr. Evans well and Dr. Gordon of Annalong, and, of course, Dr. Floyd. He was born in Kilkeel - a great doctor and a great man in every way, still happily with us.
I felt that a man of Hugh's type might have had some acquaintance with the "wee people". He had no contact with them, however, further than the finding of wee fairy pipes, which he often ploughed up in Shannon's land at Maghery. The pipes were no bigger than tailors thimbles. There was a lot of fairy thorns and an old forth on the farm "Och, A believe there was fairies all right," added Hugh "A often heard the ould people tellin' about seein' an' hearin' them, an' they cudn't all have been dotin. A often heard me mother sayin' that she used to hear the loveliest fairy music comin' from the bushes at the back of our house in Carginagh." Of local bards, Hugh's favourite is Dick McKnight, though he doesn't remember him. Dick McKnight lived at Ballykeel and wrote different songs, including "Walmsley's Shady Groves", but the best song of the lot is "McKnight's Farewell". There's not half a dozen people in Mourne today who knows that song. "A have it," said Hugh. "An' A'll tell it to ye. Ye know, Dick McKnight lived in a wee house in Walmsley's Groves just beside the flax mill. He must have got it hard all hes life, for in hes younger days he was 'lit down' be some girl he was in great fettle wi'. She threw him over for some sailor fella an' he near broke hes heart about her. He was the biggest fool for that, for there's no woman worth it. He made a song about it called 'Walmsley's Shady Groves'. Then he was evicted from hes wee 'bought' of a house beside the Mallagh Strame. A suppose he cudn't pay the rent. It was a tarror in them days.
DICK McKNIGHT'S FAREWELL
First flower of the earth, sweet gem of the ocean,
No longer your green fields will I wander again;
By cruel oppression, by rent and taxation
I was banished afar from my own native plane.
Ye Mountains of Mourne, your cataracts so beautiful,
Your high lofty peaks, shall I ne’er see ye more?
Ye blue rippling waters that roll in succession,
Recoil round the borders of sweet Mourne Shore .
How oftimes I roamed that beautiful landscape,
Where Phoebus went down on his course to the west
O’er Carlingford Mountains that nod to the ocean,
Where the sea fowl and plover resort to their nest.
1 will never forget that sad Sunday morning,
The morn I rose from the hearth of my cot,
My children around me did carelessly prattle,
To me that’s a moment can ne’er be forgot.
Adieu, Ballykeel, where oftimes I wandered,
By Walmsley’s green groves oftimes I serenade,
Down by the bleach mill on a nice summer evening,
Where the blackbird and linnet did sing in the shade.
The hum of the bleach mill I oft heard with pleasure,
Over Mallock’s clear hills where the fountains do flow,
Where the trout and the salmon do sport there at leisure,
Where the violet and primrose spontaneously grow.
I will never forget that unhappy parting,
When I parted my friends upon Warrenpoint quay,
The barque on the water had got into motion,
The steam tug so slowly did haul us away.
if it had been decreed, I’d rather have tarried
Along with my friends to go back home again,
But sad was my fate, when on board I was hurried,
To ne’er see my friends in sweet Mourne again.
So now we’re safe landed in British North America,
To sail up her lakes was no pleasure to me;
I was houseless and homeless, surrounded by strangers,
Each one who got the chance took advantage of me;
Until that I met with a few friends from Mourne,
So kind and so free, they took me by the hand,
With their tables well spread, and their arms wide extended,
To welcome the stranger from old Ireland.
There’s plenty of work here in British North America,
The sugar they take from the tall maple tree,
But Mourne, sweet Mourne, the place I was born in,
There’s no other country has such charms for me.
MAQUILLIA'S WELL, THE GLEN, BALLYMARTIN
THE STORY OF THE MAID OF MOURNE SHORE
Mr. Marks points to Maquillia's Well
From Walmsley's shady groves, where the Mallagh stream, like Tennyson's "Brook", flows to join the brimming river, we made our way to The Glen ay Ballymartin. This is a little known beauty spot - one of the most picturesque glens in the county, or any other county for that matter. A lovely little land just opposite Ballymartin Post Office leads to the glen alongside the banks of a murmuring stream that sings its song to generation after generation, never seeming to grow weary of its soft refrain. On it flows past the neat white cottages set in sylvan beauty until it reaches the sea. We admired very much the beautiful vista of the hawthorns in their bridal array and the lofty cliffs, in the shady sides of which the sand martins in dozens were fluttering to and from their nests.
But what we particularly wanted to see was "Maquillia's Well", for we had heard Hugh speak of John Adair's public house at Bally- martin, which closed its doors almost a century ago. It was a celebrated hostelery and there was a song about it. Hugh only remembered one verse, which he quoted :
"There's wan advice A'll gie ye, John,
An' it isn't hard to tell,
It's do not visit aften that place Maquillia's Well,
But keep yer whuskey, stout, and strong,
An' lit no religion interfare,
For a shillin's good from ony man,
While in the han's o' John Adair.
According to Hugh, the rub was that Mr. Adair's whiskey wasn't just as potent as it should have been - he was making too free with the water whether it came from Maquillia's Well or not. There is certainly nothing very spectacular about the well. It is just an ordinary little spring well, but we sampled the water and found it refreshingly cold.
St. Luan's Shrine at Ballyveamore
Miss Annie Charleton, an old resident of Ballymartin, now deceased, used to say that a saint once had a shrine there - St. Maquilla - and I gathered from Miss Charleton that the saint was a “she”, but no trace of such a saint can be found in the calendar, though O’Laverty in his “History of Down and Connor” refers to another saint, Saint Luan or St. Lua (St. Luan’s Shrine at Ballyveamore). “In the townland of Ballyveaghmore”, he says, “there is a place called Killmologe; the people have lost every tradition regarding it, yet the place is considered gentle and it is therefore wonderfully well preserved. Kilmologue signifies the Church of St. Luam or St. Lua.” When Monsignor O’Laverty wrote this in 1878 the place was, no doubt, “wonderfully well preserved”, but now there is not a vestige of the shrine to be seen. It was situated on the farm of Mr. John Moore, Ballyveamore, and now in the occupation of Mr. James Annett. I heard an old man say that he remembered a time some priests came to excavate there and unearthed an ancient chalice and other sacred vessels. I visited the spot some few years ago in the company of Professor Evans and Dr. Moley, Q.U.B., but there was little to be seen. The place is locally known as John Moore’s “forth”.
The Sad Story of the Maid of Mourne Shore
“Och there was quare things happened times ago,” said Hugh after we had finished talking about John Adair’s pub and the song and the well. “Did ye iver hear the story of the Maid of Mourne Shore? There’s a song about it too but A don’t know anybody that knows it all now, but A heerd the story.
“The Maid o’ Mourne Shore was born in the ould Inns beside the Millbay shore. It was Tam Brian’s when A knowed it first and then was bought by Mr. Doyle. It was burned down about 20 years ago, but it was long years ago that this happened. It was a man the name o' John McKeown owned it in them days. He was a miller as well, and A suppose that’s what giv the name to Mill Bay. Well, he had a daughter called Mary. She was the only wean he had. Mary was a rale beauty. It appears she was born on the night afore the Greencastle fair an’ it was in January. There was an oul’ spey-man stappin’ in the Inn the night she was born. He had come to tell fortyins at the fair. When he heerd that a wee girl was born he toul’ the lan’lord he wud spay her fortyin. The lan’lord didn’t spen’ much heed to him as he was busy lookin’ after his customers - they wur’ lodgin’ there to wait on the big fair. Now the ould fortyin teller draws his coat roun’ his shoulders and went out an read the stars. When he came inside he wrote somethin’ down on a bit o’ paper and sowed it up in a satchel and giv it to the child’s father to keep to her twenty first birthday, but warned him on no account to open it until the day the girl wud be 21. Well, when the wean was about ten year oul’ the mother died. She was shockin’ purty. When she was about 19 she fell in wi’ a young fellow the name o’ Joe MacCunigen. He was a fisherman and had a boat of hes own. They wur to be married on the day afore Greencastle fair opened and that was her 21st birthday.
A couple o’ days afore that Joe went out to the fishin’ and he promised Mary faithfully to be back the day before the Fair- eve be the weather fine or foul. Well, that evenin’ a terrible storm came on and all the fishin’ boats wur ketched in it. Some got into port and some into another, but when they wur all checked up there was wan missin’. It. was Joe MacCunigen’s boat an’ soon the news got out that she was lost wi’ all han’s. “Poor Mary McKeown was disthracted. She thought of Joe’s partin’ words that he wud come home on the tide on the Fair eve be the weather fair or foul. So she went down to the shore and looked across the sands at the tide comin’ in. The waves wur rowlin’ mountains high and she seen somethin’ that drew her on. It was the drownded body of the man she was goin’ to marry the next day comin’ in on a big wave. The next mornin’ the people wur getherin’ to the Fair green when they seen the two drownded bodies lyin’ coul and stiff among the rocks. They wur brought into the Inns and when the lan’lord saw them he fell down dead on hes own flure. An’ that was three people waked there that night - the night afore the weddin’ was to come aff and on that same day somebody minded about the girl’s fortyin’ spayed 21 years afore, and they searched for the satchel it was in and got it in the bottom of an ould trunk. When they opened it this was what it said:
~ This girl will be drowned on her 21st birthday. ~
“She didn’t drownd herself purposely, ye know, but she must a’ been in such distress at findin’ the dead body of her lover that she didn’t know what she was doin’ and she was trapped be the tide comin’ in and drownded too. “Me Mother, God rest her, knowed the song. A didn’t larn it all. A know only wan verse they made about the drownin’. It goes lek this:
“Moans the Carlinn Car
As the waves on Cranfield far
Breaks wi’ sobs of wildest dread,
Mournin’ for the fisher dead,
Floatin there, ah woe is me,
Driftin’ in all silently.
He was seized in Manann’s grip
When the waves engulfed his ship.”
An’ as A toul’ ye she was the Maid o’ Mourne shore that the song was made about. She had lots o’ admirers an’ wan o’ them took it so much to heart that when she refused him he took away to Americky and made the song afore he went.
“Our good ship lies in Warren- point,
For Boston we set sail.
A wish her safely o’er the foam
Wi’ a sweet and pleasant gale.
But had A a hundred pounds in gold,
Or had A ten times more,
A’d lave it al1 for Mary bawn,
She’s the Maid o’ Mourne shore.”
The Song "Walmsley's Shady Groves" - Mr. William MacDonald's Version
A lot o’ people mix that song up wi Walmsley’s Shady Groves,” continued Hugh, “but they’re two different songs altogether. ‘The Maid o’ Mourne Shore ’ is far the ouldest. There’s wan man knows Walmsley’s Groves , Wullie MacDonald of Ballymartin, an’ A’m sure Wullie ‘ill gie it to ye if ye call”. Well, we acted on Hugh’s suggestion and paid a visit to Mr. McDonald in his tidily kept cottage at Ballymartin, and he very kindly supplied us with the words of “Walmsley’s Shady Groves,” which he affirms is the correct version,
Here is the song :-
Walmsley’s Shady Groves
Ye muses mine, with me combine Until I do relate
A remnant of my grief and woe, My sorrows they are great.
It’s caused all by a beauty bright,
That has my heart enthralled,
Her rosy cheeks have banished me
To range some foreign land.
Last night I went to see my girl To hear what she would say,
Still thinking she’d some pity take Before I went away.
She said she loved a sailor lad,
“He’s the boy that I adore,
I’ll wait on him this seven long years,
So trouble me no more.”
“If your sailor lad be drowned Or buried in the main,
The roaring tide by Mallagh side Will ne’er see him again.”
“If my jolly tar does me forsake No man I’ll e’er enjoy,
For ever since I saw his face I’ve loved my sailor boy.”
Adieu unto ye Walmsley’s Groves. Down by the bleaching mill,
Where the linen webs are daily spread
And the purling stream runs still,
Where the pinks and daisies are in bloom
And the spotted trout does play; With my bait and book delight I took
To spend my youthful days.
Our ship she lies in Warrenpoint, She is ready to set sail;
May the Lord then send her safely o’er
With a soft and pleasant gale.
If I had ten thousand pounds ,a year
Or ten times that much more
I’d spend it all with the girl I left Behind on Mourne Shore.
THE MAID OF MOURNE SHORE
(As sung by Mark McCashin, of Ballykilbeg)
The first place that I saw my love
It was in Kilkeel town,
I viewed her lovely carriage neat
As she roved up and down.
She was fairer than Diana,
And for beauty she had more,
And she far exceeds all other maids
That dwell on Mourne shore.
The second time I saw my love
It was on Mourne strand,
I boldly walked up to her
And took her by the hand.
I caught her by the middle small,
And gave her kisses three;
And says I “My handsome Mourne lass,
Will you pad the road with me ?“
“I am too young to leave my parents,
And for marriage I’ll refuse;
Besides you are a stranger,
And I hope you’ll me excuse.
But when that I do come of age,
Alas I’ll say no more!”
And we both shook hands and parted
Upon sweet Mourne shore.
The ground being soft the tide rolled on,
We could no longer stand;
She fell into my arms,
Upon sweet Mourne strand.
“Will you marry me my Lurgan boy?
As you often said before,
And my father will his lands divide
Upon sweet Mourne shore”.
OLD TIME KILKEEL FISHING BOATS
Thomas Donnan (left) and Hugh Marks crack a few jokes as they
enjoy a refreshment in the Bridge Bar.
ANYONE who wishes to contact our Shanachie Hugh Marks and I am sure there are some who would like a crack with him after
reading his reminiscences—can easily do so.... Now enjoying his well-earned leisure Hugh is to be found nearly every day sitting on the wall outside “The Bridge Bar” or resting on the little wall adjacent to his home beside J. R. M’Culla’s petrol filling station in the Lower Square of the town. Very few passing up and down Hugh doesn’t know and he has a cheery word for all and sundry: “That’s not a bad class of a day, John. - How are ye gettin’ the times?”. “Brev day Mary Ann, what way’s the oul’ man the day?” Hugh has the first of everybody and everybody thinks the world of Hugh. Kilkeel wouldn’t be the same if he wasn’t there. One day recently I was passing up the street and Hugh “helloed” me at the Bridge. In the course of conversation I happened to ask him if he ever went to sea? “Well, A took an odd spale at the skiff fishin’, but most o’ me time was spent on the Ian’, ” he replied. “I suppose you knew most of the old seamen and fishermen about Kilkeel?” I enquired. “Well, man, A did that” , answered Hugh, “and a brev lock o’ the Annalong ones as well”.
“Do you remember the names of the old fishing boats?” I asked. “Och, some of them”, he replied. “A cudn’t min’ them all; but here’s a man comin’ now an’ de’il the wan o’ them but he disn’t min’.” The newcomer was an old friend, Tom Donnan, who now lives in “The Scrogg”, one of Kilkeel Rural Council’s new housing estates. “Och morra, Tam”, greeted Hugh, as genial, smiling Tom Donnan joined us. Tom knew well what we were about for he was featured in “Meet the Old Folks” some months ago himself. “We wur joost talkin’ about the oul’ boats, Tam, and their skippers,” said Hugh. “Sure ye knowed them all. Cud ye gie us their names”? “Och, man, A cud that”, replied Tom, and he then proceeded to reel off an exhaustive list of boats of olden days, lovely, lyrical names most of them, which came so trippingly off the trumpet tongue of this grand old seaman that I felt intrigued as I listed them. I have no doubt that this list of names of the Kilkeel and Annalong craft and their skippers of a past generation will be of more than passing interest.
Here they are, with the skippers’ names in brackets:-
“The Saint Patrick” (Pat Curran),
“The Mary Joseph” (Bob Wilson),
“The Jane Gordon (W. Douglas),
“The Mermaid” (Robert McKnight),
“The Kingfisher” (George Ballance),
“The Jolly Tar” (Archie Mackintosh),
“The Minnie” (Owen McConville),
“The Arathusa” (Pat Cousins),
“The Thermople” (Pat Collins),
“The Never Can Tell” (Johnny Cousins),
“The St. Joseph”, the oldest one of the lot (Tom McGlue),
“The Express” (Willie John McKee),
“The Moss Rose” (Johnny McKee),
“The Cissie” (Willie Ballance),
“The Queen Bee” (James Donnan),
“The Emu” (J. Chambers),
“The Good Design” (J. Cousins),
“The Village Girl” (Johnny McAdam, Annalong),
“The Guiding Star” (Harry McBride),
“The Victory” (Johnny McBride),
“The Ellen Constance” (Jamey Quinn),
“The Maid of Mourne” (Patrick Curran),
“The Cypress” (Charlie Cassidy),
“The Mary Sanders” (Willie Magennis),
“The Jane Russell” (John Collins),
“The Snowdrop” (Willie McDonald),
“The Wanderer” (Hugh Green, sen.),
“The St. Mary” (Mick Green),
“The Wizard” (John Sloan),
“The Willie” (Jim Chambers),
“The Imelda Jane” (James McKnight),
“The Jennie Gardiner” (John Cunningham and Pat Collins),
“The Shane’s Castle” (Harry McBride),
“The Winifred” (Tom O’Brien, Dunavil),
“The Uncle Tom” (Archie Mackintosh),
“The Water Lily” (Willie Cousins),
“The Sarah” (Tommy Edgar),
“The Children’s Friend” (James Ferguson),
“The Frances Russell” (Bob Cousins),
“The Minnie”, name changed to “Jane Russell” (Owen McConyule and later Joe Collins),
“The Rival” (Robert Young),
“The Lady Nora” (owned and skippered by His Lordship The Earl of Kilmorey, who was the first man to put an engine in a fishing boat
“The Ida Shannon” (John Edgar),
“The Margaret Ann” (Frank McDonald),
“The Nellie Woods” (Frank McDonald),
“The Mary Joseph”, (now skippered by young Tommy Curran, Kilkeel),
“The Water Lily”, now owned by Robert Hanna (formerly skippered by Willie Cousins),
“The Mary Ann McCrum” (Johnny McCartan),
“The Manx Heather” (skipper not known),
“The Isobel” (skipper not known),
“The Mary Sanders’ (Tom McDonald),
“The Ida Shannon” (Robert McKee),
“The Annie Moore” (Andy Coffey),
“The Ida Johnston (Charlie McGinnis),
“The Soggarth Aroon” (skipper’s name not remembered),
“The Antoinette” (J. Weddock),
“The Atlantic” (skipper not remembered),
“The Flirt”—”A don’t min ‘the name of her skipper”, Tom added. “Well”, rejoined Hugh, “If the name is anything to go be, that wan was bound to have had more than wan skipper”.
It was a warm day and in return for services rendered I felt the least I could do was to stand our old friends a drink. So we repaired to “The Bridge Bar”. How restful it is in there and what a grand view there is from its big old-fashioned windows. Mr. Jim Cunningham, the bartender, welcomed us in his own genial manner. The talk was mostly about boats. “A giv ye a brave lock”, remarked Tom, “but a deem somebody standin’ at the corner’ll say ‘Sure Tam didn’t name the half o’ them. A cud give him as many more’!” “Do you know Redmond Doran’s ballad about the boats?” Jim inquired as he placed the flowing glasses before us. I had to admit that I didn’t, but before I left the premises I had another Mourne song to add to my collection. “Ye kennit bate Cunningham”, added Hugh. “Naw”, agreed Tom, if ye’re iver stuck for a bit of oul’ ancient history about Kirkeel, ye know where to come to.” So, there you are readers, there’s a tip for anyone who may be interested. (Note: the old people call it Kirkeel — Irish for narrow church). Well, Redmond Doran’s song was certainly worth getting: it is entitled “My Boyhood Days Around Kilkeel.”
“There ye are now”, said Tom, when the song was read. “Ony names I left out is in that”. “Who was this Redmond Doran?” I inquired. “Och, he was a brother of Captain Doran’s of The Milestone House at Dunavan. A min’ him well” said Tom. “The Dorans are a powerful smart family - ivery wan o’ them. The last time A seen Redmond Doran was when he brought a vessel into Liverpool - he wus the captain of her and he had been away abroad for a long time afore that. That song, I suppose, was composed the best part of sixty years ago”.
THE CRANFIELD PILOTS
One story leads on to another and one song also leads on to another. Since the publication of his reminiscences in the “Mourne Observer” different people have come to Hugh Marks to congratulate him. The subjects they discussed were so many and varied that Hugh felt in the lines of Lewis Carroll that “The time has come, the Walrus said, To talk of many things, Of ships, and shoes, and sealing wax, Of cabbages and kings”. One old-timer suggested that as other local ballads had been published, Hugh’s story would not be complete without the song of “The Cranfield Pilots”.
This is the song of the phantom ship which, according to tradition, lured the pilots of Canfield to watery graves over a hundred years ago. Here it is:
You boatmen all, on you humbly I call,
To join in my sad lamentation
About those brave hardy men
Who lately have been
Carried off by a weird visitation.
From mountain to shore
Their loss we deplore,
We cannot but weep “o’er the motion”.
In cold death they sleep
Neath the white water deep
Far down in the depths of the ocean.
On the 25th day of February,
A fine ship hove in view from the offing.
Her course she did steer on Carlingford bar,
While around here white billows were tossing.
Upon her mast high pilot colours did fly
Although on this coast she was a stranger.
She couldn’t make the bar
Nor clear up the scar
Without risking imminent danger.
Our brave pilot’s boat by her crew launched afloat,
With his own steady hand he kept steering,
With a close reefed small sail
She dashed through the gale,
Till Hellihunter buoy she was nearing.
the pilot’s command was to turn to the land,
Or this day on the wild waves we’ll perish.
They tacked their small boat,
She could scarce keep afloat,
But soon she was steering for Cranfield,
When a heavy snow shower
The land did obscure
And each hill with a white robe was mantled.
Then a wild treacherous wave,
Soon made each man’s grave,
Seven men did this gallant crew number.
Their frail craft capsized,
In the deep they submerged
Six of them soon did sink under.
The coastguards so brave
Launched their boat on the wave,
While the gale it kept fearfully blowing.
With a good willing mind
She dashed through the wind,
With their strong arms skilfully rowing.
Till they came to the spot
Where the pilot they got
In a death grip to the boatside he was clinging.
But the others are gone
Beneath the white flowing foam,
Where the storm now is echoing and singing.
Their names I will tell,
I’ll begin with John Shields,
And the next man was young Arthur Raymond.
James Coffey so true
In his jacket of blue,
For twenty long years was a seaman;
James Morgan so fair, with his thick curling hair,
Henry Chesnut, that youth tall and manly.
John Cunningham too make up the boat’s crew,
By his friends he was cherished most fondly.
What can we say about that tragic day?
The Almighty had chose to decree it,
They were to be lost, on the wild ocean tossed,
Near Hellihunter buoy they received it,
But He with his Grace
Will fill each man’s place,
And grant us that great consolation.
In his infinite love may He invite them above,
And wipe their friends’ tears of vexation.
A pilot of fame, Henry Coffey by name,
In Kilkeel Meeting House yard he’s reposing.
The tears trickled down
In grief most profound
As his grave they were gently closing.
But no sod marks the grave
‘Neath the dark ocean’s wave,
Where the other six rest from their labours.
The Phantom Ship has, according to reports, been seen around the Mourne Coast many times since the Cranfield disaster. Two old men, now both dead, assured me that they had seen it.
AND THIS IS THE LATE REDMOND DORAN'S SONG :
My Boyhood Days Around Kilkeel
Of my early life’s story I’ll tell you in rhyme,
As it flits through my memory from time unto time;
As I view it from the present it’s not with much joy
I lived round Kilkeel when I was a boy.
One day at the harbour, without cap or coat,
I shipped as a boy in an old fishing boat,
My duty it was to hold and to coil
Ropes in the pit, and the kettle to boil.
The first night at sea I remember quite well,
It was blowing and raining with a heavy ground swell.
When coiling down ropes I was sick as a dog,
And in tramping them down I bursted my clog.
But there was no sympathy for me in the least,
Those big fishermen they would yell like a beast.
“Hold on and coil” was the word of command;
Sometimes they’d jerk the ropes out of my hand.
With hands full of blisters, and I soaking wet,
I had to cook breakfast while the men worked the net
In a dirty old forecastle filled up with smoke,
I groaned and I coughed till I nearly did choke.
As I held on to the mast-case I thought I would die,
But there was no giving in as the fish I must fry.
With an old sack around me when cutting the bread
There was many a time when I longed to be dead.
With five or six herring to cook for each man,
It kept me quite busy with the old frying pan,
It was like throwing crumbs to a hungry hen,
They’d be eaten so quickly by these big fishermen.
Sweating in steam and in smoke like a cloud,
Some wanted whiting and some wanted knoud;
When breakfast was over the dishes I’d wipe,
Then I’d hear someone holler: “Here boy, fill my pipe”.
Oh yes, I was treated in a way not too kind;
Enough to drive a boy out of his mind,
And oft to this day much anger I feel
At those big farmers who fished from Kilkeel.
The names of these boats I will try to recall;
I may not be able to mention them all.
There’s Columbia and Wanderer and the Guiding Star,
Atlantic and Snowdrop and the Jolly Tar.
The Mary, the Jane, the Phantom, the Foam
Most of these boats they all belonged to home
St. Patrick and Sarah and the Jane of Peel,
Kingfisher and Florence, all hailed from Kilkeel.
Pat Collins the Mary and Joseph did own;
St. Mary was skippered by old Jimmie Sloan,
Felix Mannas would boast of his Little Prospect;
The Flirt was commanded by Mickey the Sack.
Pat Polin the Dolphin commanded with pride,
With young Jimmy Doran for his guardian and guide,
Who read him books and his letters he wrote
The only scholar on that fishing boat.
Pat often got tangled In many disputes,
On different subjects he heard read from books,
On the topics discussed old Pat would have sworn
If that is not true just ask Jimmy Doran.
Felix Mannas he often would vow by his coat,
He ‘made” all the fishermen on his wee boat,
Be ye tinker or tailor, soldier or snob,
On her you were always quite sure of a job.
A kind of training-ship we regarded her then;
To her credit she turned out some very good men.
Three of them sea captains, and one is a boss,
But he first saw the light on the boat Albatross.
Any day at the big pier as these boats they came in,
To greet their arrival you’d find old McGinn,
He predicted all weather, foretold every gale,
Advising these men when and where not to sail.
A good weather prophet he was in his way;
To Mary Manuse’s kitchen - go there any day,
He’d sit by the fire his stories to tell,
To Frank and to Dan, to Pat and the Shell.
McGinn was their idol in every detail,
As he knew all the haunts of the herring and whale,
They would sit there enraptured with pride
As McGinn told his tales by the warm fireside.
At George McKnight’s corner, between seven and eight
The fishermen often would there congregate.
To tell a strange story and crack a good joke,
While their pipes filled the place with volumes of smoke.
And just a step further beside the town pump,
Where the herrings were sold in the lot or the lump,
By old Mary Gawley and Johnny her boy,
Goodfellow, McCaver and old Peggy Roy.
The town it did boast of some ladies so sweet,
And strange it did seem, they all lived in one street.
There was sweet Caroline and the Little Miss Brown,
Kate Fegan the idol and bewail of the town.
There was Harold and Hamilton, McCavera and Carr,
It makes little difference how many there are,
All who came to that town, be they tinker or sweep,
Always got refuge in old Newry Street.
It’s now forty years since I first left the soil
To work for a living by very hard toil,
I would take more delight in a trip to Kilkeel.
But memory goes back and often I feel
THE LONG LINE FISHERMEN OF THE WRECK PORT, ANNALONG
Though Hugh didn’t follow the call of the sea, there is little about it or the men who went down to the sea in ships in his lifetime that he doesn’t know I was most impressed in hearing about the old long line fishermen of a past generation.
The serious side of the fishing industry has been exhaustively dealt with but
the present generation knows little or nothing about the long line fishermen of
olden days. They were a gallant band who faced death many a time when they left
the shore. They fished from the Wreck Port at Annalong, so called because of a
boat called the “Troubador” which was wrecked off there long ago.
Hugh talked about them and mentioned that there was one of the old hands left, Mr. Arthur Cunningham, of The Rocky Hill, near Annalong. So we went along and contacted Arthur, who is aged 77 and got a lot of information from him. The fleets consisted of about 14 small boats. The boats were twelve to sixteen feet in length and from four to six feet beam. The fishing generally started in January, so you can imagine these men pushing their wee boats down to the sea at midnight on a dark winter’s night not knowing if they ever would see their homes again. They very often had to pull their craft with the oars to the fishing ground three or four miles out. Sometimes a storm would break before they got their lines shot and they had to run before the wind to shelter, often as far as Newcastle or Killough, or the Bar of Carlingford. Nothing these hardy men dreaded as much as a snowstorm. About 100 fishermen were lost in a snowstorm off the Mourne coast about the year 1825 and 75 were lost in 1855, and there were different disasters in later years, one very bad one in the year 1904. So you see what danger these men risked for very small rewards. From half-a-crown to five shillings a man would be their average return when they got a decent catch of fish. Why did they call it long line fishing? Because they used lines baited with mussels, the lines were 400 fathoms long and there was a fathom between each hook. Every man of the crew of seven in each boat had a line and there were seven bags of sand in the weather side of every boat for ballast. There was a mussel to every hook and if the mussels were small two were used for a bait. The mussels were drawn by horses and carts from Narrow Water, Warrenpoint, and from Dundrum Strand.
Here are the names of some of the fishermen who operated from the Wreck Port: Harry Burden, Longstone, and his sons Hugh, Tom and John (all dead); Henry Young, Longstone and his sons Charlie and James and Sammy Young, a cousin (all dead); Robert Burden and his three sons and his brother Harry Burden, Ballyvea (dead); Johnnie, Pat and Willie Cunningham, Rocky Hill (dead), Arthur Cunningham, a brother (happily still alive); Eddie Harrison (Ballyvea), Pat Trimble (Rocky Hill), Joe Moore, Back Brae (dead); Johnny and Willie McCartan (Tom’s), Longstone (dead); Richard McCartan (Wee Dick), Valley Road and his sons, James, Johnny and Arthur (all dead); John Heaney and his two sons Willie and Johnny, Ballyvea (all dead); James Heaney, Annalong (dead); Willie Purdy, Annalong (dead); James Quinn, Leestone (still alive and well); Johnny McGlue, Torlis Hill (dead); Jim Rogers (Den.), Ballyvea (dead); Ned Quinn, Ballyvea (dead); James McConnell, Ballyvea (dead); Dominick McAlinden, Moneydarraghbeg (dead); Bob Cousins, do. (dead); Robert Young, Ballyvea (dead) and his sons (three sons still alive), Francis Doran, Ballyvea (dead); George Nugent and John Nugent, Ballyvea (dead); James Clugson, Wreck Port (dead).
Here are the names of some of the old long line boats and their skippers:-
“The Star of The Sea” (Johnny McCartan) (Dick),
“The Bonny Jane” (Jamey Heaney),
“The Molly” (Johnny Gibson and Jamey Heaney),
“The St. Bridget” (Pat Trimble),
“The Dingy” (Hugh McStay and his brother Barney),
“The Mary Alice (Johnny Cunningham— Tommy’s),
“The Star of Bethlehem” (Johnny Carr and W. Heaney, Ballymartin),
“The Morning Star” (Pat Trimble),
“The Lizzie J. Bell” (J Boyd),
“The Eliza Jane” (Richard McCartan),
“The Ellen Jane” (George Nugent),
“The Annie Annett” (James McCartan and Johnny McCormick, Ballymartin),
“The Valley Boat” (Johnny O’Reilly and Ned Rodgers),
“The Jane Moore” (Joe Moore),
“The Mary Ellen” (James McCartan) (Dick).
Below we reproduce some verses about The Wreck Port fishermen, composed by the late Mr. Henry Purdy, N.T., Newcastle,
about 30 years ago. Mr. Purdy was a native of Annalong.
“The Bengullion” foundered about 40 years ago coming from Birkenhead to Annalong with a cargo of coal for Mr. Bob Cousins,
Annalong. The crew of three were lost, viz., skipper James Campbell and his son James, and a man from Skerries named Hughes.
ANNALONG SCHOONERS AND THEIR CAPTAINS
Annalong may well feel proud of the great tradition of its sailors and its gallant fleet. The Annalong schooners of a bygone age and their captains were familiar in almost every seaport in the four Kingdoms and indeed in many Continental ports as well. What memories their names arouse. Who has not heard of :-
“The Nellie Bywater” and her master Captain William McKibben,
“The Volant” and her master Captain W. Purdy;
“The Howard” and her master Captain J. McKibben;
“The Mabel” under the guidance of patriarchial Captain M. Caren;
“The Harmony” and Captain S. Chambers;
“C. S. Parnell” and her master Captain J. McConnell;
“The Lough Ranza Castle” and her master, Captain James McKibben;
“The Maid of Irvine”, captained by Wm. McCullough;
“The Pious” and her captain James Campbell;
“The Edith” and Captain Wm. Doran;
“The Excel” (skipper in 1901 Robert Gordon).
“The Excel” was dismasted off Wicklow Head about 1900 and the crew of three were drowned: Jack Gordon, Annalong and his son, and Sam McKibben, Annalong, also a young man from Connemara.
“The Lily” (Jack Orr),
“The Phyllis” (Robert McCartan, Annalong, aged 86, still alive and well).
Robert was cook on “The Phyllis” when he was 12 years old and later became he skipper. He also skippered the “Mary Ann Jane” for years. He was also skipper of “The Four Brothers” for a considerable time.
“The Mary Grace” (J. McKibben),
“The Goldseeker” (James Caren),
“The Princess Louise” (Charlie McBurney),
“The Progress” (Hugh Chambers),
“The Flora” (Harry McCullough),
“The Orion” and “The Arrabella”, (skipper Billy McCormick),
“The Busy Bee” (John Gordon),
“The Young Hudson” (Harry Caren),
“The Waft” (Charley McBurney),
“The Plus IX” (Sam Skillen and Johnny Kearney),
“The Ethel May” (Johnny Kearney),
“The Busy Bee” (W. McClelland),
“The Hunter” (W. McKibben),
“The Christina Shearer” (T. Chambers),
“The Useful” (Joe McKibben)
There were others as well which used to call at Annalong, whose skippers were not from the village, such as
“The Yacht” (Capt. J. Kerr);
“The Perseverance” (Capt. J. Rooney);
“The Richard Cobden” (Capt. T. Lowe).
These schooners were based on Annalong and Kilkeel and up to about thirty years ago they plied a regular trade between all the main ports of England and Ireland. Their principal cargoes were potatoes, coal and granite. They gave the local granite and potato exporters a much better service than they are getting now when the products have to be hauled by road in the U.T.A. freight lorries to the docks in Belfast and exported from there.
What a lovely sight it was to see that brave little fleet when they “hauled down their riggins and reefed their top-sails”, or put out to sea like stately swans moving serenely over a placid lake. Now, alas, their day is done. The day of sail and square rigged ships has passed. They served their day and generation well and those old schooners’ crews were no gingerbread sailormen, but hard-headed horny-handed sons of the sea who learned their trade the hard way the type of men who formed the nucleus of the crews of merchant and battle fleets in peace and war.
Here is the song of The Wreck Port Long-Line Men by the late Mr. Henry Purdy, Newcastle.
WRECK PORT LONG-LINE MEN
The long-line men of Wreck Port fame,
Are past and gone, except the name.
That their prowess be known in years to come,
I’ll recount some names on “finger and thumb”.
There was Billy Heaney and old William Sloane,
Transmigrated as cormonants for ever to roam;
Joe Moore—”Now-ow” with Back Brae slang,
Had sheetsman bold in “Gomity Dang”.
Jack’s Alex, John-the-Phyllis and William, “Be-Gad”,
Talked of sailing their freighters when the weather was bad.
This John and Wee Alex and one or two more
Fished mackerel, for pleasure, close in to the shore.
The Dingy Cutter fished down in the “Bay”,
With gallant helmsman in Barney McStay.
The “Crank” in the bow taft, who made the other,
Perhaps it was Bernard—the well-known ‘Stunner’.
Will Purdy, “The Frenchman—I’ll do the best I can”,
With Tullyusker as his right hand man,
Wee Dick and his sons had many a rally
With Jamey Heaney in the clipper Mally.
Longstone Big Harry, with sonorous voice,
Had Irish Harry as his captain choice,
If the morning looked bad and some thought long,
Hilarity reigned with Clugson’s song.
The boats pulled up—that’s another story,
The fish were bought by Willie McGrory;
For the very last penny each skipper strove,
And “divided it fair” at the foot of the Groove.
Near to the watch-house, as sure as you’re born,
On wooden leg stood Tammy Corn.
Other names are forgotten, so now bye-bye,
Perhaps you can get them from Johnnie McQuiy.
OTHER VERSES BY Mr. PURDY WERE:— THE SHIP’S CARPENTER
When repairs were essential with oakum and with pitch,
“Scowl” John pulled his beard and came without a hitch.
Connor’s down in the dock, you can hear the mallet thud,
As he works at the bilges up to knees in the mud.
Sailors knew from experience John was honest as proved steel,
For he tested every seam from covering plank to keel.
With deep tackle for carp on well-known Brown Hill,
This fishing, so exciting, yet brimful of fun,
Had an expert exponent in Master McCrum.
Landmarks were necessary to indicate the best fishing grounds and from time immemorial these hills or hillocks were noted:—
Sailing due east, or rowing begum,
You come to the whiting ground on the Long Hill of Dundrum.
If this “spot” is abortive, go out further still,
Till the south mark is the church and the north the Blue Hill.
Dogfish are plentiful, and nowds of a sort,
When southward you go to the “Two Hills” off the port.
If your boat is truthworthy, then risk out afar,
Till out comes Tullybrannigan and the Big Lump of the Bar
THE OLD FREIGHTERS
The Monaster and Orion - with Captain “Ah! Ah!” Tammy,
Sailed deep granite loaded with the Ellen Mavanney.
There was also the Venture and the Cambrian Packet,
With bluff rounded bows that made a big racket.
The Christiana, the sloop, low waist and round stern,
With rudder protruding like an overgrown fern.
“Best-of-My-Eyes” is Catherina in all kinds of weather,
Had a rival in the Pius with the “King”— “Altogether”.
The Busy Bee, sold by Gordon, later came to grief on rocks,
And another little schooner— Skillen’s leaky Ann Knox.
Other names may come to memory ere Christmas comes again,
So I’ll wind up this list with the Mary Ann Jane.
THINKIN' OVER OUL' TIMES
"A was joost afther lightin' the oul' pipe at the *greesha the other night to take a pull afore A went to bed,
when A began thinkin' over oul' times. * Dying embers of the fire.
Mr. Marks with Mr. and Mrs. Fegan
“A suppose ye think A toul’ ye a brev bit already but, man dear, sure A cud niver tell ye the half of the pieces A min’ in me time.
An, min’ ye, there’s nobody can say that anything A tell ye’s a lie or a kerried story. Soul naw, there's some o’ them’ll say 'Dang all ye’re doin’ only pullin’ the “Mourne Observer” man's leg. Sure ye niver wint through the half of what ye spun them’.
“Well man, that fairly gets me goat and onybody that says the lek o’ that to me A up and says, ‘Well ken you prove that onything A sed’s a lie. If ye ken well there’s £5 in Hanna’s bar for the first man that ken prove that onything A sed is false’. A houl' ye that put the wun’ up them. The lek o’ that wud sicken ye. An' then some o’ them’ll say A don’ know how it comes they’re givin’ ye so long in the paper be onybody else that wuz in it’. ‘Well,’ A says. ‘maybe A hiv more to tell than the most o’ them’. No harm to ony o’ them but it’s only an odd wan went through the same drill as me. ‘Ach ye only think that’, wan fella says. ‘Well,’ says I, ‘ me brave buck, when ye harrow what A ploughed ye’ll hiv room to talk and yer harness’ll be showin’ signs o’ the wear too’!
“But they’re not all lek that, far from it. Man alive, there’s people A didn’t know from Adam stapped me in the street an’ had a great ‘shankie’ for me over me story in the paper.
WEDDIN'S TIMES AGO
“Well, as A was sayin’, A wuz thinkin’ about oul’ times, o’ weddin’s an’ funerals times ago. Many’s the weddin’ an’ funeral wint over that bridge. (Kilkeel bridge). Weddin’s them times wur not lek what they’re now. The weddin’ers walked in pairs an’ it was a purty sight after getin’ the knot tied in the Church or the Chapel when they all made their way to some houl’in’ groun’ for refreshments. Hanna’s on the Bridge was a great rendezvous. There was a big parlour off the bar an’ the longer they stayed in the parlour the more sociable they got. A was at many’s a weddin’ in me time and many a weddin’ party A min’, but A think Hugh Fegan’s weddin’ was the best A was iver at.
HUGH FEGAN'S WEDDING AND THE DAY OF THE APPEARANCE
“A always thought a lot o’ the same Hugh Fagan. He’s wan o’ the finest, big heartedest men A iver met an’ a fine lookin’ man too. He has it ivery way. Well, A min’ the time Hugh was married: it was on the 9th June, 1917, and as A wuz sayin’ there wuz great stur at weddin’s in the oul’ days. Most o’ the weddin’ parties from Mourne went away for the day to the ‘Point and put up at Biddy Cunningham’s in Church Street. That wuz because Biddy wuz a Mourne woman herself: she come from Brackney. Biddy Haughian wuz her maiden name. She was a sister o’ Daniel Haughian’s that lived beside Moneydarragh School. A fine, dacent oul’ woman she was and she wud ha’ done anything for anywan that hailed from Mourne. If ye wor a Mourne man ye wur sure o’ a great welcome in Biddy’s o’ the ‘Point. People in them days wudn’t a thought they were right married at all unless they went to the ‘Point and put up for the day at ‘Biddy’s’. She kept a public house and an ain’ house as well and there wud a been all kin’s o’ stir - singin’ and dancin’. The weddin'ers them days travelled on a wagonette and if it wasn’t a wagonette it wud ha’ been a couple o’ coaches an’ the horses in them wud be shinin’ and dancin’ mad for the road. Och, them wuz the times! But A’m goin’ in front o’ me story. A wuz talkin’ about Hugh Fagan’s weddin’. It was, of course, at a later time o’ day, and they didn’t go to the ‘Point, but went to Newcastle instead. “They wor married in Atticall Chapel. Hugh’s wife wuz Rose Hughes, a daughter of Larry Hughes o’ Ballinran - as nice a girl as iver went into Atticall Chapel. The mornin’ she was married, she had her four cows milked afore she made ready to get married, and man she was as purty a bride as iver walked up the aisle. Who o’ them wud ye get now to milk an cow on their weddin’ mornin’, niver min’ four. They’d be thinkin’ more about how their hair wuz set - how many waves wuz in it. In dangbut some o’ them has that many waves on them now that if they had wan more they’re lek a boat in a heavy say - they’d capsize.
“Well, the day o’ the appearance A wuz drivin’ the car. It was James O’Hare’s car and there wuz a bottle o’ whuskey hid in the well o’ the car for drinkin’ on the road. “Well, didn’t some o’ the boys get to know about the bottle o’ whuskey an’ drunk it while the weddiners were in the Chapel and when the ‘groom went to broach the cargo on the road there was nothin’ but an empty five-naggin bottle. What a laugh the boys had: Ned Quinn, Danny Trainor and Barney Sloan, an’ the joke was that the cork came out o’ the bottle. ‘Well’, Hugh sed, ‘there’s plenty more where it come from’, an’ we called in ‘Wee Roney’s’ at the Royal and got another bottle. Ye had no bother gettin’ a drink on a Sunday them days!
HUGH FEGAN'S SKILL
“A worked a while for Hugh. He was the water caretaker for the Rural Council and then for the Urban Council, and there wasn’t a hydrant he didn’t know and un’erstand far better than ony o’ the engineers, an’ a fine man to work for. A suppose he’ll kill me for sayin’ this, but he deserves it an’ a bit of a lift disn’t do onybody a bit o’ harm when it’s the truth ye’re tellin’. “A always say: if ye kennit say a good word about a body don’t say a bad wan,” continued Hugh, “an if ye kennit do a good turn never do a bad ‘un to onybody. Ye’re supposed to love yer neighbour as yerself, mankin’ o’ ‘every description wi’out ony exception o’ persons. That’s what the Good Book says and that’s what the clargy preaches, and if ye go be that ye’ll not be far out. No later than Sunday last it was preached up above.
“Well, we landed at The Donard in Newcastle and Mr. Brady was the manager there then. He bought the Royal in this town after that. A min’ well he said that Hugh Fagan was about the finest specimen o' a man iver entered his hotel, and that they wur the best-lookin’ bride and ‘groom he had iver set eyes on. That wuz a lift for ye, and he put up the drink for all haun’s. Well, right enough it was the truth: the Fegans wur all a flne-lookin’ family and very smart. The father was John Fagan, who lived beside Lisnahilty Forth on the Carginagh Road, and his wife Sally was called up to be wan o’ the best- lookin weemin in Mourne.
AT THE BEACH
“Well, as A was sayin’, It’s wun’erful the way things comes hack to yer min’. A’m no saint, A know A’ve me faults and failin's lek most people, but, thank God, A don’t think A iver done much harm to onybody. Av coorse A always liked a bit o’ fun an’ wud a played a joke as well as the next. “A was only wanst at the Bench in me life and that was for bein’ drunk wan Hallowe’en-tide fair night. A fell in wi’ a few ould friends and A had wan or two too many. It was a policeman called World that got me and the Sergeant’s name was Duffy that summoned me. A min’ the day well. The R.M. was an oul’ Army man, a Major Bull, an’ he roared like a bull too. He wore a long white beard and a castor hat:
[‘That man that sits upon the Bench,
His face is round and fat;
His name is Major Bull
And he wears a castor hat’].
“Mr. Alex. Gordon and Mr. John Orr wur the local magistrates and of coorse they knew me well, and put in a good word for me. A got away wi’ a caution and only had to pay a shillln’ for the summons.
AN ATTICALL WOMAN AT COURT
“There wuz some quare pieces at the Bench in the old’ days. There was an oul’ body livin’ up at the tap o’ Atticall an’ wan time she was brought to Coort over a right-of-way or somethin’. It was Mr. Boyd that brought her to Newry. The oul’ wan had niver been no farther than this town in her life and o’ coorse she was all put about when she seen the inside of the Coort. The Judge was a very oul’ man - an’ not a very good lookin’ wan ayther! When the oul’ dame from Atticall seen him wi the long white wig on his head she took him for an oul’ woman an’ she whispers to Mr. Boyd: ‘Mr. Boyd, dear isn’t that an ugly oul’ targe o’ a woman? She’s the tightest-lookin’ case A iver seen in me life’.
‘Ye don’t know what ye’re talkin’ about, Mary’, says Mr. Boyd. ‘That’s the Judge that’s goin’ to try yer case, an ye must be respectful to him’. “An what dis me boul Mary say? ‘Och, Mr. Boyd, dear,’ says she, ‘Sure A didn’t know. She’s a purty craythur
entirely: she hes a face on her lek an angel’. “Mary still thought the Judge was a woman!”
HUGH MARKS TELLS ABOUT JOURNEYMEN "TAILYURS", AND THE
STORY OF "THREE GEESE A-GRAZIN'"
By way of a change, Hugh narrated a very amusing story. “It’s wan”, he said, “A heerd a very oul’ man tellin’ nearly seventy years ago when A wuz a caddie. “It’s about a tailyur the name o’ Danny Dornan, that lived in the ‘back side’ roun’ be Castlewellan. Danny was a journeyman tailyur. In them days, journeymen tailyurs went roun’ the counthry doin’ jobs here an’ there for different people. A min’ wan meself, John the Tailyur. He hailed from aroun’ Mullartown, a big long rake o’ a man foriver smokin’ a long clay pipe. John waz all right if ye had the way o’ him but as thrawn as a bag o’ weasles if ye crossed him. He got hes pick o mate in the hours he worked in, an’ he was desperate hard to plaze in the line o’ “kitchin”. If the woman o’ the house had a nice bit o’ bacon an’ kebbege for his dinner he’d say:-- “That’s wan plesther A niver cud relish; joost roast me a wing o’ fish on the coals”. That waz the sort o’ John an’ ye had to humour him or he’d pack up 'hes alls’ an’ clear.
“Well, to go ahead wi’ me story, wan evenin’ this oul’ tailvur Danny Dornan was sittin’ in hes own wee thatched cabin away up in the mountains, busy stitchin’ away wi’ hes legs crossed. Isn’t it funny the way a tailyur cud manage to keep hes legs that way so long. Ye’d wun’er he wudn’t take cramps in hes legs. “Well, the first thing Danny heerd wuz hes wife Betty lettin’ a screech out of her that wud ha’ wakened the dead. “‘Ah, ye good-for-nothin’ oul scarcrow ye, there ye’re sittin at yer aise, an’ a hun’er geese tramplin’ down the wee lock o’ corn. Get up ye lazy gammeril ye an’ drive them away’. “‘My patience’, says Danny, ‘ye’re more at leisure yerself; but rether than have a scoldin’ match, here we go’. “So he got up an’ went out, an’ when he looked into the field - 'Woman dear’, says he ‘what’s on your eyes at all? A see only two geese.’ “‘Two geese, is it”, sez Betty, “there’s no less than fifty there, onyway’. “‘Fifty! A wish A was as sure o’ fifty guineas as that there’s only two in it’. “‘Ah, goodness help poor craythurs o’ weemin wi’ their keldres’ o’ men,’ says Betty. ‘A tell ye up to yer teeth, there’s forty geese there destroyin’ the lock o’ corn, as sure as there’s wan’.
“‘Well well, two or forty, or a hun’er, A’d better drive them aff”, sez Danny. And so he did. When dinner time came she put out
the spuds and laid a drap o’ milk an’ a bit o’ butter out for him; but went and sat in the corner herself, an’ threw her apron over her head, and began to cry 1ek a bayin’ shee. “‘Betty dear,’ says Danny, What’s this for? Come over and take yer dinner lek a good woman, and let us be thankful, instead of flyin’ in God’s face.’ ‘Now indeed, I w-w-w-wull’ not’, sez Betty. ‘To say such a thing as that there wuz only two ge-ge-geese ther when A seen a whole score’. “‘Oh, t’ hell wi’ the geese; let them go and be shot, woman, and sit for’id to the table’, siz Danny. “Indeed and A’ll not till you own to the truth’, sez Betty. “Well not a bit did she ate, and next mornin’ she didn’t rise at all, but when Danny spoke kin’ly, and brought a bit o’ breakfast to her bedside, she asked him to go for her mother and relations till she’d take lave o’ them afore she’d die, as there wuz no use livin’ ony more, when all the love was gone out o’ him. “‘But Betty dear, why do you go on this way? What have A done’? sez Danny. ‘Don’t you say there wuz only two geese there, and at the very lowest there cudn’t be less than a dozen. Cen’t ye admit the truth, ye conthrery Christin’ an’ let us hiv peace’.
“Instead of makin’ her answer, Danny walked over to her mother’s house, an’ brought the oul’ woman, who was about ninety, over, wi’ two or three of her family; and they laid siege to Betty, but they might as well be preachin’ to a stone wall, an’ she nearly made them believe that Danny was to blame. “‘Now call him’, says she, ‘an’ A’ll let ye see who’s wrong. Danny, If ye don’t intend to send me to me grave, spake the truth like a Christin, an’ don’t be heapin’ sins on yer miserable head. All lave ye no back dure, for A’ll only insist there was three geese, but A’m sure there was six at the very laste. Wasn’t there three geese in the field when A called ye out?’ “‘Och’, Betty dear, ‘niver min’; let there be three-an’- thirty if ye like, but don’t let us be idlin’ and tormentin’ our people here. Get up in the name o’ Goodness, an’ ate a bit’, sez Danny. “‘But wasn’t there three geese there, A say, Danny?’ sez Betty. “‘Ah, deng the wan but two if ye go to that’, sez Danny.
‘Ochanee! Isn’t this a purty story’, sez Betty. ‘Go home, go home all of yez, and get me coffin out o’ the town and bring it over about dayli’ goin’, an’ joost gi’ me wan night’s dacent wakin’; A won’t ax the two, for A don’t want to gi’ much trouble to the neighbours, an’ indeed A think A culdn’t stan’ the ungratitude and conthrariness o’ them that ought to know better, an’ feel for a body. Efther all that A done an’ slaved for him, an’ give up Neddy Murphy for him, that was six inches bigger an’ a carpenter besides’. “Well, thinkin’ it might gi’ her a scar’, they went an’ brought a coffin from Castlewellan that was ready made at the time, wi’ some fresh shavin’s in the bottom; an’ the weemin’ that gethered as soon as the coffin arrived ordered out the men till they’d wash the corpse. “She said nothin’ till the men wuz outside; but then she gi’ a yell out o’ her an’ asked how dar they think that she wanted washin’. It might do well enough for a rale dead body, but she was thankful it hadn’t come to that wi’ her yit, an’ if she seen fit to die it was no concern o’ theirs; and if anywan tried to lay a drap o’ water on her hide she’d lay the marks of her ten nails on their face!
Well, she was got some way into the coffin, an’ a clean cap and frill put roun’ her face; an’ as she wasn’t pale enough, a wee hussy shaked a lock o’ flour roun’ her face. But afore the men an’ boys wur lit in she asked for a lookin’-gless, an’ when she seen what a sight she looked wi’ the flour on her visage she got a towel and rubbed ivery bit of it aff again. “She bid Danny be called in, an’ put her sister an’ her mother in charge, in his hearin’, to be kin’ and look efther poor Danny efther she wuz gone; Until such times as he’d get another to take her place, which she supposed wudn’t be very long. For although he was hard and conthrary to put up wi, thank goodness she knowed her duty, and she supposed he cudn’t help his nature, and it wuz better as it wuz afore they’d grow too ould and she might get peevish and loss her temper, and they might become a botheration to the neighbours be fightin’ an’ scouldin’ day in and day out. ‘A’ll bet ye now efther all’s said an’ done, he won’t give in to the three geese’.
“Well, the minit the geese wuz mentioned, Danny put on hes hat wi’out a word, and walked out. “So night come on an’ the kennils wuz lit, an’ the tobaccy an’ pipes wuz laid out, an’ the poor dead woman had to listen to a good dale o’ discourse not at all to her lekin’, an’ the talk went on this way: “‘My-a-my, disn’t the corp look mighty well? When did she die, poor woman? What ailed her, did ye hear?’ ‘Indeed A believe it wuz gusopathy the schoolmasther called it joost now, somethin’ wi’ goose’ in it onyway: ye know the way the skin goes all of a sudden coul’ wi wee white risin’s on it—they call it a goose’s skin. Mabbe she had it bad, an’ Danny cudn’t bear it, an’ so she died wi’ grief’. “‘Poor man, hel’ll feel her loss for a week or two: she wuz a savin’ woman’. ‘Ah, but hadn’t she a bad, bitter tongue in her head till herself maybe toul’.
“‘Deed, A think Danny will bear her loss wi’ Christin’ patience. He’s a young man for hes years: he disn’t look fifty— he’ll be gettin’ hes pick o’ weemin. A think poor Betty was very savin’ an’ laid by a lock o’ poun’s. Won’t the new woman feel comfortable, and maybe put win’ un’er the money. A narrow getherin’ always takes a wide scetterin’. “‘It’s my notion Betty was in too big a hurry to die’, sez another oul’ huzzy. ‘From her looks there, she might bury two tailyurs yit, an’ maybe get a big lump of a farmer for her third husband. Well, it kennit be helped, but A wudn’t lek to be warmin’ a bed for the best woman in the townland if A was Betty. She’s at peace at last, the craythur; an’ mighty hard she foun’ it to keep the pace wi’ her neighbours whun she wuz alive. Who’s that ye sed used to be goin’ wi Danny on odd Sunday evenin’s afore he got married to Betty? If ghosts are allowed back on Sunday evenin’s, poor oul’ Betty’s wull ha’ somethin’ to fret her in a short time, A wud say.’
“Well, all this time the poor dead woman’s blood was rushin’ lek mad through her; an’ somethin’ was swellin’ in her throat the same as if she was goin’ to be choked, but still she niver opened her eyes or her mouth. Poor Danny come up efther a time, an’ leanin’ over her face he whispered, ‘Betty, isn’t it time to be done wi’ all this foolery? Say but wan rasonable word, an’ A’ll sen’ all these people about their business’. “‘Ah, ye wee good-for-nothin’ crather, ye haven’t the spirit of a man’, sez Betty, ‘or ye wud niver bear all they’ve been sayin’ about yer poor neglected wife these last hours. Wuz the three gees there? A’m askin’ ye’. “‘Not a goose but two if ye were to be waked for a twelvemonth’, sez Danny. An’ aff he went, an’ sut in the corner till daylight. He tried her again the next mornin’, joost as the lid was goin’ down on the coffin, an’ the men were goin’ to hoist it on their showlders, but not a fut wud she move unless he’d give in to the three geese.
So they come to the graveyard, an’ the coffin was lowered down into the grave, and joost as they were preparin’ to fill It up, poor Danny went down, an’ stoopin’ to where he had left some air holes in the lid, he begged Betty even efther the holy show she made o’ the pair o’ them to give up her thickness and come home lek a sinsible woman. “‘Is the three geese there?’ wuz all he cud get out of her. An’ be this time hes patience got so thin an’ he was so bothered for the want o’ sleep, and torment o’ mind, that he lost hes head, an’ jumped up, an’ began to shovel the clay lek mad down on the coffin. “The first rattle it made scared the wits out o’ the buried woman, and she shouted out: ‘Och let me up! Sure A’m not dead at all; let there be only two geese, Danny darlin’ if ye like’. “‘Oh be this and be that’, sez Danny. ‘Ye spoke too late. People have come from far and near to the funeral, and we kennit lit them loss their day for nothin’; so for the good name o’ the family don’t stir’. An’ down went the clay in shovelfulls, for the tailyur had lost hes senses.
“Of coorse, the people who wur there wuldn’t lit the poor woman be buried against her wull, so they reached for Danny an’ hes shovel, an’ he fell in a lump on the sod. “When poor Betty was brought back to life, the first sight she seen was her man Danny lyin’ wi’out a kick in him, and wan o’ the neighbours sez to her to let Danny be put down in her place, an’ not give so many people a disappointment after comin’ so far. An’ wi’ that Betty giv the man a slap across the face, and not mindin’ the figure she cut in her grave clothes, reached for poor Danny and roared and bawled for him to come to life, an’ she’d never say a conthrary word to him again as long as she lived. So some way or another they brought the tailyur roun’; but how her and him cud bear the sight o’ others afther that is more than A know Howanever they soon got into their ould ways o’ goin’ again, an’ whenever Betty foun’ a tart answer comin’ to her tongue, she thought o’ the rattlin’ o’ the clay on the coffin, and the three geese that wuz only two efther all; an’ if they didn’t live happy . . . That’s the tail end the oul’ people used to put to their fairy stories, but as the oul’ man said this wan was true, it ken afford to do wi’out a tail!”
OUL' SONGS AND OUL' YARNS
"A wuz joost listenin' the wireless the other night an' man there wus a gran' programme
of oul' songs on that 'id lift the cockles o' yer heart!
When a party of Belfast ladies touring the Mournes called at Kilkeel two of their number made enquiries about Hugh Marks,whose reminiscences they had been reading in the “Mourne Observer”. On finding Hugh they congratulated him on his stories,and here they are happily posing with him for a photograph. They are Mrs. Doherty, Erskine Street (left), and Mrs. M. Howard, Gawn Street.
“It’s hard to bate the oul’ ballads an’ the oul’ yarns. A heerd wan wan time: A’m sure it’s over a hun’er years oul’. It’s all about
County Down - some man that knowed County Down well put it together an’ d’ye know what A’m goin’ to tell ye, it puts me in min’ o’
what A done meself times ago. Wud ye lek to put it in?” Well, when I heard the Words of “My Own County Down”, I felt it was indeed well worth putting in. ‘Different wans wus at me to put in some more o’ Harry Purdy’s pomes about Annalong”, continued Hugh, “but sure A don’t know no more”. Well, in view of the interest aroused by the publication of Mr. Purdy’s rhymes in the “Mourne Observer” we were able to secure some further Verses from the same pen, which we print below with a few explanatory notes.
“Oh, ye want another story or two?” Continued Hugh. “Well, A heerd
tell of an oul’ woman wan time. She wuz a tarrible hard
lookin’ case, but her looks didn't put her a bit about and divil the hair she cared what onybody thought about her. She always claimed that she wuz the ugliest woman in the County Down, and wudn’t a bin a bit plazed if onybody conthradicted her about that! An English gintleman that wuz visitin’ in the town called to see her wan day. Indeed, she had lots of callers, for she wuz good crack and cud ha’ toul’ yer fortyin in the cards. Well, durin’ the coorse o’ crack it come roun’ about funerals, and d’ye know what she toul’ yer man? ‘Whin A die’, says she, ‘Ad lek somebody to put me lekness up on the back o’ the hearse and when the people sees it divil the man, woman or wane’ll walk behin’ it, and damn the wan A want ayther! Be good to me whin A'm livin’,’ sez she. ‘an’ don’t be botherin’ about me whin A'm dead’. “An’ then she sez to yer man, Wud you say now, sir, that A wuz the ugliest lookin’ woman in the whole County, sir?’
‘In the whole wurl’, mem,’ sez he, ‘in the whole wurl . . . An’, man dear, that plazed her all to pieces, So it disn’t take much to plaze some people. Wan word makes the difference wan way or the other, but it’s not iverybody that that wan wurd’d suit. Many’s the body got a slap in the mouth for sayin’ far less than that wurd! “Well, this same oul’ body hud a sister called Fan Jin, and she was a wee knowin’ saft. Well, wan Sunday Fan Jin walked into the Church in the middle o’ the sarvice cerryin’ two buckets o’ wather on a wudden hoop. “She niver drew bow till she wint up to the front o’ the pulpit where the clargy was prachin’. An whun she did she left down her two buckets and puts her two han’s on her hinches, an’ afther weighin’ up the clargyman for as good as five minutes, she yells at the tap of her voice: Well, the Lord direct our pasthurs, but ye’re about the ugliest-lookin’ man A iver laid me two eyes on’. An’ wi’ that she reached for her hoop and her two buckets and walked out o’ the Church! “Och, there wuz some dhroll kerakters times ago. There wuz an oul’ fella up in Attyecall an’ he wuz always late for Mass.
“Wan Sunday mornin’ he wuz slitherin’ along whun a naybour man shouted at
him: ‘Put an inch to yer step, Mick, ye’ll be late’. ‘Och, they’re far
behind that kennit folly,’ sez Mick, ‘Sure A know the first of it onyway!’
“An’ then there wuz another oul’ fella wan time, an’ he wuz workin’ at a big
farmer’s place ‘down the counthry’, puffin’ flax. Well, this wuz Saturday and
the boss wanted change to pay the workers, so he sint a wee fella away to get
the change of a poun. A poun’ wint a long way them days. The lad come back and
said nobody wud give him change. ‘Houl on,’ sez Pat, ‘All get it for ye,
boss’. ‘Don’t forget to come back’ sez the boss, reachin’ yer man the poun’.
So aff Pat wint an’ right enough he come back an’ handed the boss the change.
But whun it wuz counted it only come to nineteen and sixpence. ‘There’s a
sixpence short,’ sez the boss, ‘where did ye get the change?’ ‘Och,’ sez
Pat, ‘A called in at Pat Smith’s pub and ordered a half-un’ o’ whuskey, an’
whun A drunk it A handed Pat the poun’ note. A knowed well enough he wudn’t
change it unless A wuz buyin’ somethin’. He wuz boun’ to change the poun’ or gi’
me trust, and ye know well enough, boss, Pat’s not a man that wud do that’.
“Well, there wuz wan time Pat had a brev drap o’ drink on him an’ wuz lyin’ as full as the Baltic in Pat Smith’s yard. Well, there wuz a funeral on that day, and the hearse stapped at Pat’s dure comin’ back and the driver wint into the bar for a drink. Now, some a’ the boys thought they’d play a joke on the hearse man an’ what d’ye think they done but reach for Pat and put him into the hearse and close the dure on him. A while afther the hearse man come out an’ got up on the hearse and headed for home. Well, wi’ the joultin’ o’ the hearse along the roads, for there wus no tar Mick Adams them days, didn’t me boul’ Pat come to himself and started meel a murdther inside. Well, the life and sowl wuz scared out o’ the driver, but he whipped up hes horses an’ they wunt gallipin’ mad, but the hardther they went the hardther the yellin’ and shoutin’ wuz comin' from the inside o’ the hearse. Iverybody thought the hearse man wuz away in the head an’ whun he got to the town a crowd gethered an’ he kept shoutin ‘The Divil’s in the hearse! The Divil’s in the hearse!’ “Well, the unmarciful yells that wuz comin’ out o’ the hearse wud ha’ wakened the dead, an’ the divil the man wud go next or near it to open the dure. At the last o’ it somebody wint for the clargy to get the Divil out o’ the hearse, for there’s no two ways about it, iverybody thought it wuz the Oul’ Boy hiself that ‘wuz in it. Well, along comes the clargy, a brave age o’ a man, wi' his Book in un’er hes oxther, an’ he started to read Scripthure, iverybody wuz stan’in’ speechless, an’ whun the clargy had done readin’ he goes up and pulls the dure open an’ out draps Pat! “Well, from that day till the day he died all Pat got wuz ‘The Divil’ or ‘The Divil in The Hearse’, but ye dar’int ha’ lit him hear ye sayin’ it or he wud ha kerried the head o’ ye”.
MY OWN COUNTY DOWN
With thy back against the ancient land, thy bosom to the tide,
Like a gallant ship at anchor triumphant thou dost ride;
From Warrenpoint to Holywood each hill and valley smiles;
Lough Strangford bathes the margins of three hundred fairy isles;
Dear to my heart thou still shalt be, let fortune smile or frown,
Home of my joyous infancy, my own County Down.
Beside thy ancient castles I have sought the earliest flowers,
Along the lovely bleaching-greens I’ve whiled the summer hours;
I’ve launched me for Ram’s Island shore adown the River Bann,
And in an Ardglass fishing smack have reached the Isle of Man;
From Newry to Belfast I’ve strayed by farm and market town,
Through the highways and the byways of my own County Down.
I’ve scaled the lofty Donard’s side, to meet the rising sun,
I’ve cleft the wave of Lagan when my schoolboy task was done;
With blood as pure as mountain breeze I’ve snuffed thy mountain air,
And proved in boyhood’s golden years what boyish hearts will dare,
And now a vigorous heart and limb such youthful pastimes crown.
Thy sons shall be a wall of fire, my own County Down.
From many a graceful hillock’s top the gladdened eye surveys-
In Ards, Lecale, or Dufferin, Kilwarlin, or the Maze-
The snug and sheltered cottage, the hill of waving grain,
The marks of peace and industry throughout the fruitful plain;
The ivy on the village church that wraps its turrets brown:
‘Tis a county well worth fighting for, my own County Down.
“The Volant”, a well-known Annalong schooner of reputed speed was driven by the fury of a winter storm into the strand at
Newcastle. Gallant efforts were made by the local life-boat to salvage the ship and rescue the crew, but despite the herculean efforts
of the life-boat men the crew remained in imminent danger until the ebb tide left the ship on terra firma.
Mr. Purdy described the event in these rhymes-
THE VOLANT MISHAP
The year ‘31, before Christmas Day,
The ship with spent mainsail refused helm to stay;
The crew, badly battered, could now do no more,
And the ship struck the sand at Newcastle shore.
While running due north the top-sail went flop,
And the stem of the ship struck a devilish old rock;
The starboard streak being made of unseasoned teak,
The bow part was splintered and the ship sprang a leak.
Captain Will on the scene, as of yore in a fuss,
Kept babbling in French and made Harry cuss;
The ship was not covered by Prudential or Marine,
And part of the cargo was dumped close to Golf Green.
“Kilbroney” was notified and did not long linger,
But with foot to the throttle came down on the Singer;
The ‘phone and the post and also the tele.,
Were brought into use to warn Brown, Greene and Kelly.
Little man of Kilhorne—a shipowner of note,
Was there giving orders till he agitated his throat;
Now what of the crew, who were badly put out,
With no one to offer either brandy or stout.
THE VOYAGE TO TROON
A short time ago, before winter and snow
Had cut away summer’s bloom,
This noted sloop, with sails to suit,
Set sail for far distant Troon.
Long weeks went by, with hue and cry,
And no tale of the ship’s long tack;
And everyone asked with bated breath,
“Oh where is our brave Captain Mack?”
Now few are aware of the Captain’s care
Of chills that bring a bad cough,
So he sailed her far beyond Strangford bar,
And anchored in Belfast Lough.
A VOLANT PASSENGER’S
Sailor Joe of Kilbroney had some Curly hair,
But now the old scalp is freckled and bare;
He is fond of a sea-trip, as you may suppose,
And in the Volant, in summer, he goes.
Once rounding the headland called Mull-of-Kintyre,
The captain shouts out—”Is the motor on fire?”
A storm was then blowing like thundering guns,
And for Campbelltown bay the Volant then runs.
Down the ladder Joe runs with characteristic pluck,
To find out the cause of the trouble—bad luck;
For twisting with spanner, as motor Work goes,
He received a hard knock on the side of his nose.
Two summers ago he went down to Kilkeel,
And sailed in that ship to Isle of Man—Peel;
He ate mackerel and herrings that came from afar,
Cooked by Chambers, “the boy” all mucky with tar.
To Ayr the ship sailed with a favouring breeze,
Where a post-bag awaited, w’d make anyone sneeze,
There were old papers and postcards and an umbrella, too,
And to add to his luck—an old woman’s shoe.
A WELL-KNOWN DEEP-SEA CRAFT
It was the dandy little Jem that sailed the Irish Sea,
And the captain brought his brother to bear him company.
Daring and bold was Captain Mack as ever held a helm,
He passed no bays or harbours safe when the clock struck ten or eleven.
One wild June day, off Derry Bay,
The wind back round north-east,
Mack steered her out on the Atlantic deeps,
While the billows frothed like yeast.
As the ship bowled north on the mountainous waves,
And the wind increased to a gale,
A terrific squall, like a lightning ball,
Split open the stout main sail.
‘Pull down that sail”, Captain Mack then shouts,
As the ship lay down on her side;
“I’ll mend that rent with needle and hemp,
While we sail on the Atlantic wide”.
When the sail was down, with the brother’s frown,
But Mack was not in a flurry,
He stitched away on the wide broad sea,
And sang sweet Annie Laurie.
“You’ll drown us all”, the brother did bawl,
“You crooked Mourne goubeen;”
“Very well,” said Mack, and he changed her tack,
“I’ll drown you where the water is clean”.
ANNALONG BILLIARD ROOM
Billiards used to be a very popular game in Annalong, and many amusing incidents frequently occurred. Keen but friendly rivalry existed between exponents of the cue, who were locally known as— “Peep Oh”, “Navy Man”, “Kilbroney”, “Wishey, Wishey, Wishey”, and occasionally a visitor called “Harry”. A game between the latter and “Kilbroney” was thus described—
In reply to a sonnet quite recently sent,
Describing a game called “Harry’s Lament”,
His opponent was Joey—no other big crony,
Who comes on his car from far-famed Kilbroney.
All round the green table sat watchers galore,
While Joe kicked up heels after his 31 score.
J. Pierce among these with red face and grey hair,
Shouted “Peep Oh”, “Bold Joe, you are every bit there”.
Big Tom in the corner with head bended low,
With deep-chested voice keep saying, “Good Joe”.
Then Harry in a rage, although but a guest,
Tossed over the red, the cut and the rest.
Navy Bob, “The Silent” always little to say,
Sat quietly gazing while chewing away;
But chatter-box Ernie of miniature frame,
Would frequently say, “Yes, Joe, that’s the game”.
Ex-Captain the Frenchman, with Cambridge accent,
Sits muttering in Gaelic, with head and back bent.
He says: “Harry, be quiet, and play like a man,
Try your best to beat Joey—that’s just if you can”.
Now Harry will go up for Saturday’s fun,
And challenge again at two bob to one;
And he’ll sure beat wee Joey at every try,
Winding up billiard season, and then say “Bye-bye”.
THE RESTING SHIP
She lies snugly in winter, like a par of old shoes,
With no expenses to meet except Jones’ light dues.
MORE JOKES AND YARNS
I have never met a man who can hold his own where repartee is concerned like Hugh Marks. His vocabulary is racy, of the soil; his “Irishisms” come tripping off his tongue, and the twist that he gives them makes what he says all the clearer, stronger and funnier.
‘A min’ wan time”, he recalled, “A wuz at an oul’ show that wuz on in the town, och it’s a good lock o’ years ago. It wuz a holy show of a show. Iverybody wuz fed up 1ookin’ at it, for there wuz nothin’ at all in it. Then the oul’ fella that was runnin’ it got up an’ started singin’:
‘When the oul’ hen crows
Sure iverybody knows
There’ll be an egg for yer breakfast in the mornin’.
“Well, A cud stan’ it no longer, and A ris up in me sate and shouts, ‘Heth, me brev oul’ buck, you ken well afford to hiv two eggs to yer breakfast when ye see all the fools that come in here and paid their bobs to listen to yerself and yer eggs’!”
Here are some further examples of our shanachie’s wit and humour.
“A wus goin’ up the Mountain Road wan day when an oul’ toff stuck hes head out iv a motor. A knowed be the way he spoke that he was an Englishman.
‘Where does that road lead to, Paddy’? sez he.
‘Who toul’ ye me name wuz Paddy?’ sez I.
‘Oh, I just guessed it’, sez he.
‘Well, whun ye’re so good at the guessin’ ye ken joost guess where the road leads to’! A made answer.
“A wuz in an atin’ house in the ‘Point wan day when two fellas came in an’ orathered their dinners. They wur a bit gammish lookin’ Well, before the mate was put on the table wan o’ them stuck hes spoon into the mustard pot thinkin’ it wuz somethin’ for atin’ before males and put a good dolloper o’ the stuff into hes mouth. Well, hes eyes filled up wi’ water and the tears wuz runnin’ down hes cheeks in strames. “‘What ails ye?’ sez the other fella. ‘A wuz joost thinkin’, sez yer man, ‘o’ me poor father, the day him and me got wir dinners here last. A min’ him suppin’ a spoon o’ that stuff the same as A done now. It wuz about a year afore he died’. “Well, wi’ that the other lad puts a big spoonful in hes mouth too and he to the coughin’ and splootherin’. ‘What’s wrong wi’ ye, Jammy?’ sez the first fella. ‘Och, de’il the much wrong’, sez Jamey, only A’m joost thinkin’ its a hell o’ a pity ye didn’t die afore yer father!
TAKING THE WEE LAD
TO THE DOCTOR
“A heerd a good un’ wan time about a Tullyframe woman. She brought her wee fella to the town to see the docthor. It wuz oul’ Dr. Evans that time. ‘What’s wrong wi’ the boy?’ sez he. ‘Och, docthor dear,’ sez she, ‘he’s poorly, poorly’. ‘How long has he been poorly?’ sez the docthor. ‘Och, a long time, docthor,’ sez she. ‘To tell ye the truth he niver wus what ye wud call crool stout’. ‘What did he begin wi’?’ sez the docthor. ‘Wakeness, docthor, fair down wakeness’. ‘Where wuz the wakeness?’ sez the docthor. ‘All over him, docthor. Johnny, show the docthor yer tongue’. An’ wi’ that she pulls Johnny over neardher to the docthor, but Johnny didn’t want to go any neardher and give hes ma a dunt that nearly knocked her aff her pins. There wuz no signs o’ wakeness about him. “Well, onyway the docthor looked him over and sez: ‘A’ll gie ‘him a tonic’. ‘A what, docthor?’ sez she. ‘A tonic’, sez the docthor. ‘An’ what sort o’ a thing’s that, docthor?’ ‘Oh, somethin’ to build him up and make him ate’, sez the docthor. ‘For the lan’s sake, docthor dear, don’t gie him nothin’ to make him ate more than he dis. Dear knows but it’s little enough that we hiv, and as it is he ates more than hes da and me put together. Indeed A’m thinkin’ it’s that that makes him so wakely. As the sayin’ is A wish him hes health but nothin’ more iv an appetite. In troth, docthor, if he starts atin’ more than he did afore it’s to the Workhouse A'll be bringin’ him, and me an' hes da an’ the rest o’ the family along wi’ him. ‘Give him this medicine then, accordin’ to the directions on the bottle’, set the docthor. ‘Thank ye, docthor, but A want a note for the school as well, docthor’. ‘I can’t give ye a note’, sez the docthor.
‘An’ what am A goin’ to do? The wee craythur’s not fit to go to school: he’s that wake, an’ if A don’t get a note the Intendance man’ll summons me’. ‘This boy is quite fit to go to school,’ sez the docthor, gettin' cross. ‘Naw indeed he’s not, docthor’, sez she. ‘Ivery time A make him ridy for it A hiven’t the heart to let him go and if ye wud gi’ me a line the Intendance man wud take the word of a dacent gintleman lek yerself that’s the best docthor in Irelan’.’ “Well, be this time the doctor wuz fed up and he shoved her away and called for the nixt Patient. Well, wi’ that she started and gie the docthor all sorts o’ abuse. He threatened to send for the police, and the nixt Coort day she wuz up at the Bench and fined for not sendin’ Johnny to school. There wusn’t a heet wrong wi’ him at all, ye know, all she wanted was a certificate and that way she cud get keepin' him at home to gether spuds’. “Och, boys aye”, went on Hugh, “the oul’ people wer tarrible droll times ago and there wuz no harm wi’ them ayther. It’s a different worl’ we’re livin’ in now entirely. The people’s not the same no way: no fun or frien’ship in the generation that’s goin’ now.
“A min’ wan Fifteenth of August A wus in Rostrevor—och, it’s well above fifty years ago A’m sure—the time o’ the oul’ waggonettes: ye’d hardly be oul’ enough to min’ them. Well, there wur two drivers from Kilkeel an’ Annalong watherin’ their horses in the Square, an’ wan o’ them shouted hard at t’other—A think the other must’a been a wee knowin’ deef. ‘Johnny’, yells the first wan, ‘A’ve come away wi’out me steps. Ye might len’ m the loan o’ yours, for min’ what A’m goin’ to tell ye, it’s a load of gey weighty weemin A’m drivin’ the day’. An’ he give a nod at hes passengers as he spoke. There wuz six o’ them. An’ heth A’m tellin’ ye it wuz the truth he wuz sayin, for there wusn’t wan o’ them in un’er fifteen stone weight if they wur a poun’. “An’ wi that the other driver spakes up and nodded at hes load, all brev hefty wans too, an’ all weemin’. ‘What the hell d’ye think’, he says, ‘is it that A’m drivin’ a load of buttherfiies or what?’ “If ye had seen the looks on the oul’ girls’ faces—ivery look they gie yer men wud ha’ spayned a foal!
THE LONGEST WAKE IN MOURNE
“Well, there wuz an oul’ pair livin’ up the road a lock o’ miles out o’ the town wan time. It’s not that long ago an’ A daren’t mintion their names. Well, the oul’ man took a donce—he niver wuz crool stout at the best, an’ wan mornin’ the oul’ woman got him dead in he chair. That wuz on a Wednesday an’ she wuz in more bother about drawin’ hes oul’ age pension on Friday than she wuz about the loss o’ him. So she made up her min’ that she’d keep him to Saturday afore she’d lit on to the naybours that he wuz dead. So, when onybody wud come to the half dure and ask what way wuz the oul’ man the day, she’d say, ‘Brevely, thank God, he had a fair good night last night’. An’ onybody she’d see passin’ that wusn’t goin’ to inquire, she’d lit on she wuz talkin’ to the oul’ man: Sit up and take a bit to ate, Mick’ or ‘Wait till A prop this boulster behin’ yer back, it’ll make ye rest aisier’. “What d’ye think o’ that now, and him goin’ on for three or four days dead?
Well, she worked that way wi’ him till Friday wuz past and she knowed she wuz safe enough for the pinsion. An’ the first man she seen goin’ down the road on Saturday mornin’ she out on him yellin’ lek a bayin’ shee. ‘Och, John, the poor oul’ man’s gone at the last o’it. Ochanee he looked rightly afore A wint out to strib the cow an’ when A come in wi’ the drap o’ milk he wuz lyin’ back in hes chair joost as ye see him, John, an’ A cudn’t get a mute out o’ him. John dear, what A’m A goin’ to do at all wi’out him? We pulled a right stroke together for over fifty years. It’s me that’ll miss him for he wuz a good man to me. John, wud ye get wan o’ the boys to run down to the town and ordher the funeral things’.
‘Well, she drew the pinsion for the both o’ them that day an’ she waked him joost that wan night and buried him on Tuesday. Now wusn’t she an able wan! An’ min’ ye, that’s not a lie or a kerried story—ony o’ the oul’ timers in the town cud tell ye about it. It wuz the longest wake iver held in Mourne. “It wuz this same oul’ man that wuz in the Kilkeel fair wan time. Whatever sort of a dale he made in the fair he wusn’t too well sitisfied an’ as he wuz goin’ home in the cart wi’ a naybur man he made a wee pome:
‘The bargain’s bad in ivery way,
The wife’s the worst part,
Drive on the cart’.
“An’ then there wuz wan about the flowerers (hand embroiderers):
‘Och it’s aisy knowin’ the flowerers whun they go into town,
Wi’ their long masled shins an’ wi’ their perricoats hangin’ down,
Wi’ their boots half laced an’ their *piercers be ther side;
An’ sez oul’ Mr. Crutchley, ‘Ye’ve made yer holes too wide’.
[* Piercers were sharp instruments for making small holes in the handkerchiefs, around which fine stitching was done].
“Ye see, that song wuz made be some naybur weemin that had somethin’ agin’ the flowerers. The flowerers wur ivery bit as good as them an mebbe betther, an’ ivery bit as well put on too, but somebody wanted to try to make little o’ them over jealousy about boys or somethin’.
“There wuz another oul’ song too. A hiv only the wan verse o’ it:
“Have A a wife? Bedamn A have,
But we wur badly mated.
A hit her a powerful clout wan day,
An’ now we’re separated.
Some days goin’ to me work
A meet her on the quay:
‘Good mornin to ye, me’em,’ A say,
‘Och to hell wi’ you’, sez she.” “An then—
“There’s plinty o’ raysons for drinkin’,
There’s wan that comes into me head:
If a man disn’t drink when he’s livin’
A’m dang sure he’ll not drink when he’s dead”.
“An’ there’s a whole lot in that. If ye asked me how to live to be a long age, A’d say: No worry, a little bit o’ jollification now and then, for ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’, an odd drink, a good smoke, a bit o’ good crack, and a good song. It’s hard to bate that”. I agreed that it was.
When I inquired if ever he had been ill, -Hugh replied, “Well, A carried a stick for 3 years wi’ pains. A was takin’ pills and medicine an’ the docthor toul’ me to take things aisy, but A got tired lyin’ around and A tould him if A follied hes advice much longer A wud soon not be here at all. So A become me own docthor: A threw the ould pills and bottles away an’ the stick along wi’ them, and barrin’ for an odd wee stoon of rheumaticks there’s nothin’ else wrong wi’ me, thank God. A walk two miles to the Massforth Chapel and back and it disn’t take a flinch out o’ me. Thank God A’m happy and contented; only the worst of it is ye don’t have much to spare out of the oul’ pension when ye keep iverything goin’. But it’s a good job to get it and maybe we’ll soon get another rise”.
Well, that concludes my talks with Hugh Marks. I must say I enjoyed them very much, and I hope our readers enjoyed them also. Before parting, Hugh quoted me a wee poem. He wouldn’t admit he composed it himself-—he is a modest wee man Hugh, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he had. It is called “An Old Man’s Rambles”, and is printed below.
AN OLD MAN’S RAMBLES
When A was a wee lad A had a wee moiley cow,
A wee yella dog, an’ a wee banty hen;
Indeed in a way A have little more now,
But A thought A was the quare fella then.
The wee moiley cow had no horns on her head
But she gave lashin’s of milk ivery day,
An’ the wee banty hen, it’s a pity she’s dead
For ye should ha’ seen the eggs she cud lay.
But the wee yella dog was the best of them all
For wherever A went he was there:
If a river was between us he wud come to me call,
An’ whatever I had he got share.
Up among the heather and down along the glen,
Or rollin’ in the meadow in the hay;
Boys, right enough, but we’d the great times then,
Him and me together all the day.
The years go by and me step’s gettin’ slow,
An’ me eyes are growin’ dim;
The wee dog’s dead, aye long, long ago,
An’ A’ve niver had another dog lek him.
When the last Call comes and A step into the Dark
To wherever an oul’ man goes,
A kind of way think there’ll be a friendly bark
And a welcome from a cool wet nose.
Hugh mentioned before we parted that he had been asked to “put in” an old song—”wan wi’ a thread o’ green in it.”
“A niver was much o’ a man for ‘party’ work”, he added, “but A don’t think it’ll be taken ill be onybody.
Sure it’s only an oul ‘Come-all-ye’.”
THE MOURNE MEN IN GREEN
From Mr. Arthur Doran’s Collection
(Air: The Rising of the Moon)
God bless the men of Mourne and their glorious banner too,
Which still waves above them proudly, as it did in ‘82;
When the drums beat up the marching, 5,000 men were seen
And 10,000 hands were ready to uplift the flag of green.
When grey Mourne saw the sunburst, he raised high his cap of snow,
And saluted Erin’s banner with his features all aglow;
And his children they booked up to him, a kind father he had been,
For they loved him next to Erin, and their own immortal green.
When they raised the flag of Emmet, all was silent as the grave,
Gazing on their martyred hero, who had died their land to save,
And the eyes that flashed like sapphires told what Erin might have been,
Had the pikes one day been carried by the Mourne men in green.
From beneath those grand old mountains came the sound of drum and fife,
All the sleeping echoes wakened and proclaimed a newborn life,
Forth from every hill and valley, rushing like an Alpine stream
Came the true Sons of St. Patrick in their manhood and their green.
O God bless you, kindly Mourne, you’re still foremost in the van,
Like the brave who rushed to battle in defence of God and man,
May your hills be rich in verdure of the brightest emerald sheen.
And peace be on your dwellings, boys that day who wore the green.
O God bless you, kindly Mourne, you’re still fit to be seen,
O God bless you, kindly Mourne, and your MOURNE MEN IN GREEN.
(Said to relate to an assembly which took place in Lower Mourne about 100 years ago, and composed by a Mr. Maguire).
VERSES GRAVE AND GAY
From a Mourne Man’s Scrap Book
(COMPOSED IN 1923)
REGATTA DAY AT ANNALONG
In days gone by the big event of the year was the Annalong Regatta. A group of country girls walking down the road
to the Regatta at Annalong inspired the following lines:
We see the sun a-slanting through the hedges in the lane,
We hear the laughing breezes and the thrushes’ song,
And we’re headin’ for the harbour, and hope it will not rain,
As this is Regatta day at Annalong.
The oul’ taypot on the shelf held a tidy bit o’ money,
For we have skimped and saved to put a bit away,
Of savin’s from the flowerin’ an’ a bob or two we got of sonny,
To have a bit o’ sport in Annalong the day,
We’ll call in wi’ Mrs. Linton an’ then xvi’ Mrs. Bill,
An’ take all the nice boys along,
The mist is curlin’ up and spreadin’ o’er the mountains,
An’ we’re goin’ to have some stir in Annalong.
THE OLD SCHOOL
These verses were written following a talk the writer once had with an old man who used to attend the old school in Moneydarragh,
which, for upwards of 200 years, stood convenient to “The Big Stone” beside Hauchian’s River, where the present school is situated.
This poem tells of this one-time scholar’s last visit to his old school and of the memories it brought back to him.
I stood to-day in a school-house old,
Where my young steps were light and free,
Through summer’s heat and winter’s cold,
And all my life was yet to be.
There were bashful girls and beardless youth,
And dog-eared books all scattered about,
And the master’s likeness drawn with truth
On a slate with corners broken out.
I stood, and all those careless days
O’er my worn heart came drifting back;
The songful ease, the lightsome ways,
Which in all after years we lack,
Oh, the early loves, and the laughing girls,
The innocent idyls without alloy!
Oh, the angel in pantolets and curls,
Beloved by me—and that other boy!
Ah, the way she balanced between us twain
Comes back with harrowing force to me!
For the true proportions of bliss, ‘tis plain,
Are never wrought out by “the rule o’ three.”
Weal, we know of nuts by the empty shell,
And never the bed of a brook so dry,
But the smoothness of its stones will tell
Of a stream that used to go rushing by.
I take my place among those that were,
Content to feel that I have had my hour,
The bud is rosy and sweet and fair,
But the fruit comes only after the flower,
Romance and history aye repeat,
And love and youth sustain no loss,
For another girl sits in that angel’s place,
And two other boys throw billets across.
SUNSET ACROSS LOUGH ISLAND REAVEY, NEAR KILCOO
The clouds so soft and fleecy white
That chase each other through the day,
Now, at the eve of the coming night,
Are changed to sombre grey.
And as the sun sinks lower still
Into the crimson-tinted west,
It seems to shed o’er yonder hill
A halo formed at Heaven’s behest.
The rays of the fast-setting sun
Here in the lake a reflex find,
Like unto one whose course well run,
Departing, leaves to those behind.
Our heritage of faith and love,
Of battles nobly fought and won,
Memories that point to realms above,
Revive again at set of sun.
Though bright it shines throughout the day,
O’er mount and vale, o’er hill and stream,
More glorious its departing ray
Than brilliance of the moon-tide gleam.
But now the crimson-tinted sky
Is clouded o’er: no more I see
The tinted stream, its ruddy dye
Has changed, and what appears to be.
A cloud of deep and sombre hue
Hangs low’ring all nature’s plan.
Dim night has come, and now unto
The God of nature and of man.
We render gratitude and praise
That He who made the sunset’s glow
Ne’er stints it wond’rous glowing rays
From us weak mortals here below.
Note.—The shades of evening were gathering when the writer visited Lough Island
Reaveythat beautiful lake near Kilcoo, Co. Down. All was quiet around save for
the rippling of the waters and the cries of the gulls and other wild birds as
they went winging o’er the lake. As I looked around at the hills with the
farmhouses nestling on the slopes, I reflected that here must have come in the
Penal Days a crow of devout worshippers to assist at the Mass offered up on the
hillside. Not a sound, not a murmur broke the stillness that seemed almost
awesome, and it appeared to me that here by those lone banks in this almost
perfect solitude, may be found the greatest rapture end delight. In making this
faint tribute to a beautiful spot, the writer’s foremost thought has been that
some far-away reader who once dwelt there may find the little scene depicted
more clearly in his memory and that he may be filled anew with deeper affection
for his native place, linked to home and kin by the chain of remembrance that
binds one to one’s country.
AN OLD MAN’S MEMORIES
Four score of years I’ve borne my cross,
In sunshine and in storm;
I’ve had my gain and felt my loss,
Known grief and pleasure warm.
I’ve sailed my barque o’er life’s fierce sea,
When calm and tempest-tossed;
And joy and peace have come to me,
By pain and trouble crossed.
I’ve seen my loved ones droop and die
‘Neath winter’s chill and gloom;
And watched the years go swiftly by,
With light and joy and bloom;
I’ve clasped the hand in friendship here,
So warm, and tried, and true,
And sought to check the falling tear
When parting came to view.
The flowers are just as fair to me
As when in youth’s brief hours,
Their fragrant beauty I could see
In Nature’s charming bowers;
Their precious sweetness lingers yet,
To cheer my lonely way,
And teach my heart to ne’er forget
The bloom of childhood’s day.
I see the rainbow in the sky,
In all its colours bright,
The same fair sentinel on high,
To thrill the gloom with light;
As when I had no grief and care,
And tears were all unknown,
With those I loved beyond compare,
The friends at home, mine own.
The years have come and gone, and I
Still share the cares of life
With friends who have not gone on high,
From this lone vale of strife;
Four score of years in storm and calm,
I’ve done my best on earth
To prove I’m worthy of the balm,
Life’s glorious new birth.
The writer feels certain that a man who has attained the age of eighty years must occasionally be given to retrospection on the years
which he has spent and in which, undoubtedly, there would be many ‘lights and shadows.” A boy in his ‘teens very often recalls to mind his childhood days - the days he spent with his playmates, some of whom even inside that short space of time have become estranged from him. He ponders over those happy days which, alas! have passed all too quickly. It is truly said that childhood’s days are the best and happiest days in a lifetime. A man in the evening of his years must have experienced many joy and sorrows. In the foregoing verses, the writer has endeavoured to give some of what he thinks a veteran’s reminiscences would be.
THE SHIPWRECK AT ATTICALL
On the 18th of October the day that we set sail,
From Newcastle with our cargo of yellow meal,
Our course being through by Hilltown,
And our Captain’s name McFall,
We were bound for foreign countries,
By the head of Atticall.
We had not long been started
When it blew a dreadful gale,
Our captain gave the order,
For the crew to shorten sail,
The sea being rolling mountains high
And the night being very dark,
We thought that we would get advice
At the head of Mourne Park.
For hours we were tossed about,
And then a dreadful thump,
She struck a stone on Aughrim Hill,
And we all took to the pump,
We pumped away for hours,
We were nearly dead with cold,
The water gained upon us
Being inches in the hold.
When we could pump no longer,
We gave up in despair,
And soon our signal of distress
Was flying through the air.
Our Captain pulled his trumpet out
And loudly he did bawl,
And down she went stern foremost,
At the head of Atticall.
The water it was very deep,
It took us to the skin,
We had a poor chance of our lives,
As none of us could swim,
We thought of our wives and sweethearts,
That we might see no more,
When Tug Wilson threw his muffler,
And pulled us all ashore.
He brought us down to Kilkeel barracks,
And got us all a bed,
There was not a man among us,
But had staggers in his head,
So now my song is ended,
It’s enough to please you all,
By telling you our shipwreck,
At the head of Atticall.
This song was supplied by Mr. Artie Cunningham, of Corcreaghan, Kilkeel. It is a “gag” song and His Lordship the late Earl of Kilmorey was very fond of hearing it. Shortly before his lamented death he suggested to our representative that we should publish it. It was written more than 50 years ago and we were unable to discover the name of the composer.
THE NEWCASTLE FISHERMEN
(Taken down from John Collins, Maghereagh)
The sky was dark, the wind was high, and bitter looked that day,
When ten stout boats with gallant crews set sail from Dundrum bay,
A fisher’s dangerous life they lead and now they’ve left their home,
Upon a wild and deep blue sea a winter’s night to roam.
And as they parted from the shore and those they loved so dear,
man stood up and waved his hat and gave a lofty cheer,
That cheer was answered from the shore and many a wife and child,
With upraised hands prayed God to save them from the waters wild.
Among that crowd a young girl stood, her name was Fanny Bell,
She climbed the rocks to bid adieu to those she loved so well.
Young Fanny Bell was true and good and of a temper mild,
By all who knew her she was called the widow’s handsome child.
To young MacGuinness she was pledged, a heart so true and fond,
United they were soon to be in wedlock’s holy bond.
She ran to her mother’s humble home, the tears stood in her eye,
"Oh mother dear, ‘tis much I fear, there’s danger in the sky.”
She scarcely had those few words spoke when the sea gave a mighty roar,
She hastened from her mother’s side and ran back to the shore.
Along that shore with many more, she wandered six long hours,
She never felt the bitter cold of stormy sleet or showers.
Many a look those fishers took to see if help was nigh,
They were too far off, the storm increased, all human help went by,
Boat after boat has sunk and swamped beneath the big green waves,
And seventy-two fine fishermen they all met watery graves.
Newcastle town is one long street entirely stripped of men,
And near to it a village small has lost no less than ten,
In Annalong a Widow woman three sons from her were torn,
So widows, orphans and sweethearts may now weep in deep mourn.
And all you now that sing this song give a pity and a sigh,
And think of those poor fishermen who were doomed that night to die.
Another version taken down from John Cunningham, Maghereagh.
It was a misfortune that happened of late,
The year eighteen hundred and forty-three was the date,
On the thirteenth of January that fatal day
Those boats were well manned from Newcastle Bay.
Great praises are due to old William McVeigh,
That morning going out to the men he did say:
“This morning reminds me so much of fourteen,” **
Says he: “My brave boys in the bay don’t be seen.”
They said to each other they could not be beat,
“There’s no waves in the ocean can make us retreat,
Our lines they are strong and our boats they are stout,
For that very reason we will venture out.”
Four miles they rowed Sou’-east from West Annalong,
To a landmark called ‘The Bleachyards” where the waves they run strong,
And for to fish haddock they joined in a fleet,
And happy and merry together did meet.
The storm increased about twelve o’clock,
When the ocean did foam and the billows did rock,
They hauled in their anchors to race for the land,
Each man standing ready with an oar in his hand.
Great praises are due to Captain Chesney’s son.
In the midst of all dangers from the quay he had sprung.
He swam o’er the billows like Lysander of old,
And of young William Purdy he quickly took hold.
He saved him from drowning when death it was near,
And with a true valour made death disappear.
He dragged him along with the help of an oar
And only for that he’d ne’er have seen Mourne shore.
There are some of them buried in the churchyard of Kilkeel,
And some of them buried in the Meeting-house field,
And some of them buried in Massforth as of yore,
Or lie quiet contiguous around Mourne shore.
Thanks be to God who ruleth the sea,
And comforts the comfortless by night and day,
May he look after the orphans who often sigh sore
For the loss of their parents around Mourne shore.
Another disaster, in 1814.
The following ballads, which were supplied by Mrs. James Quinn, Ballinran, were written over 50 years ago by the late Dan Haughian, Glenloughan, Kilkeel, a well-known poet, who in his day could well have been termed “The Bard of Mourne”.
Mr. Haughian died in U.S.A.
Sad is the heart that now beats in my breast,
Since to me has been wafted from the land of the west,
The news that my comrade, the youthful and brave,
The dear Thomas Colgan is laid in the grave.
When the letter I opened and in it I read,
That my loved companion in Montana was dead,
It filled me with anguish, I pondered and wept,
For the loss of that true friend who in Bute City slept.
Oh! Thomas, dear Thomas, my trustworthy friend,
When in your last moments I know you did send
A wish and a blessing away o’er the foam,
To the green hills of Erin and the fond ones at home.
Oh! Thomas, dear Thomas, ‘twas little I thought,
When last that we parted at the door of thy cot,
That the parting was final and we’d never meet more,
Or have a ramble round our sweet Mourne shore.
But such has it been, every age, every clime,
And so shall it be to the end of all time,
For when friends are united, prove faithful of heart,
Fate will o’ertake them, and tear them apart.
THE WEE HOUSE ON THE BRAE
If I had to live again,
The years that I have past,
I know where I would love to start,
And where to breathe my last.
It would not be a foreign home,
Nor on a gilded clay,
But gladly would it be within,
The wee house on the brae.
The grey old loanin’ passing by,
The mosses right below,
And o’er the ditch beyond the hedge,
The whin and heather grow.
A fairy thorn is at the door,
A lot of turf and hay,
And big green trees bend down to kiss
The wee house on the brae.
When o’er Mourne the rising sun
Appears and looks across,
It sends a greeting up the road,
And brightens up the moss.
And when it’s sinking in the west,
It seems to smile and say,
Farewell until to-morrow,
To the wee house on the brae.
When I was working in the fields,
Oh! I remember well,
How eagerly I longed to hear,
The chapel’s evening bell,
And then I’d gather up my things,
And hurry on my way,
Across the rough old moss fornenst
The wee house on the brae.
Upon the step, my mother,
She’d be knitting at the door,
And with the ball the kitten
Would be playing on the floor;
The big turf fire’d be blazing
‘Neath the kettle for the tay,
Awaiting our returning,
To the wee house on the brae.
It’s good to sit and picture,
The times that one has had,
But though we love to think those thoughts,
They make a body sad.
I’m far from home but praying,
When I come to pass away,
It’ll be with the friends around me
In the wee house on the brae.
MY OWN, MY FOND, ROSTREVOR
Village fair, oh! village sweet,
Round which hills are closing,
With fervour many a time I greet
Thy name before reposing;
Thy scenes I cherish and revere
Though oceans us now sever,
I love thee more each passing year,
My own, my fond Rostrevor.
Nothing that could please the eye,
Is round thee, village, wanting,
With fields of green and clear blue sky,
And hills and vales enchanting,
And to harmonise with Nature’s charms,
The honest swain with true endeavour
Keeps hedgerows neat and tidy farms,
Around my own, my fond Rostrevor.
A thousand beauties deck thy plains,
High o’er the road the trees are meeting,
The hawthorn decks, the winding lanes
And the daisies are the sunshine’s greeting.
The cuckoo loud his name is calling,
The lark is singing, soaring higher,
And sweetly on the breezes swelling
The music from thy lofty spire.
To green Kilbroney churchyard old,
‘Ere close of day I oft repair,
To read the names inscribed in gold,
Upon the tombstones there.
A prayer I breathe for those who sleep,
Beneath the soil they often trod,
And bid farewell and leave them keep
Their peaceful slumbers with their God.
Village fair, oh! village sweet,
Thy scenes are dear to me,
Though other climes my eyes may meet
I’ll still remember thee.
Joy, peace and sunshine long be thine,
May thy sons in faith ne’er waver,
And virtue guard each humble cot,
Around my own my fond, Rostrevor.