Tuesday 26 April 2011

The Raphoe Fair Day - Harry Wallace

The fair day was an important day for the farming community as well as for the town. As Raphoe is located in a prime farming area, there would have been large numbers of animals to be bought and sold. Pigs, horses and poultry were all sold but cattle and sheep were the main items traded. At that time, taking stock to the fair would have been the preferred option for selling because if a dealer arrived in your yard and offered you a price, you would not be sure if that price reflected the market trends at the time. But on the fair day you could see and hear other deals being done around you. You could compare the size and weight of your stock to that of the other traders and from that you could work out an asking price.

Dealing was a long drawn out process with the seller asking a higher price and the dealer offering a lower price. There was a lot of haggling and hand-slapping went on. The seller would drop his asking price, and then the buyer might raise the offer. Often the dealer would make a bid and then turn and walk away hoping you would call him back and take his offer. This went on till they reached a price they could agree on.

Horses were sold at the Marathon Hall, cattle were around the town, sheep were down Sheep Lane and pigs were in front of the market house which was in the Diamond.

Stalls would have been set up selling goods such as clothes, hardware etc. The dentist was also a feature of the fair and you could get your teeth pulled.

For the business people of the town, the fair day was a huge boost, bringing in a lot of business particularly to the pubs.

People used to say that to have a reasonable crop, the corn needed to “cover a crow at the June fair of Raphoe” which was said to be held on the 21st of June. This means the corn needed to be tall enough to hide a crow if it flew down and landed amongst the growing crop.

Games and Entertainment - Joe Mc Cormick

At Prior School, which I attended for a few years we all (boys and girls) had to play hockey (whether we liked it or not). I was one of the ones who liked it. I can't say the same about cricket, I liked watching cricket but not playing the game. We went over all Northern Ireland, Donegal and Sligo playing hockey, but we never went down the country. After I left school I joined Strabane Hockey Club and spent quite a few years playing there.

I must have been about twenty years old before I started playing tennis in Urney and then in Donaghmore. About the time I started the tennis I also started playing badminton (which I enjoyed very much in Donaghmore). Donaghmore had a church hall where they held socials. The Presbyterians did not allow dancing in their halls. There was the likes of the Siege of Venice and the Waves of Tory. If a dance would happen to start up the minister of the said church had a whistle and all you heard was a few blasts of the whistle to cool things down again.

Things have come a long way since then (the sixties) but I don't know if its for the better or not.

Sports Day in Glenmornan - Annie May Harte

The annual sports was a great event for the local community in the 1950s. We had been preparing for weeks, our teacher helped us with picking our characters for the fancy dress, she often made up our costumes for us. Finely the big day came, we first attended mass in St. Joseph's Chapel, and after dinner we all met up at the old Mill House where the band stored their drums.

The Glenmornan Fife and Drum band led the parade as we made our way around the mill dam, the echo of the bands sounding through the old silent Mill House as we made our way to the Quarry Brae, and turned towards Moor Lough.

As we neared Moor Lough a large crowd had gathered at the shore nestled among the far off Sperrin mountains and the Donoboe, Ballycarry and the Craignagapple Hills.

The fancy dress girls and boys made their way toward the amusements, the bigger girls went to help at the tea stall, where they made up the sandwiches and buns and put them into plastic bags to be handed with the tea at one and six per bag. The housewives made their way to the rickety wheel where the tickets were sixpence each or three for a shilling. There was other entertainment as well; hula hoops where you threw the hoop and hoped to win a prize, straws hard luck and try again, while the men made their way to the rifle range.

As the day went on the crowd made their way to the big lorry where the stage was the trailer where music and the Irish dancers entertained everyone.

The highlight of the day was the men's seven a side tug of war where the local team met some of the neighboring teams, we cheered our local team while they heaved and pulled the anchor man laying on the end of the rope, his body nearly reaching the water edge.

Come late evening we made our way back home tired and weary of our day's excitement.

In later years Pat Gillespie and family used to come to the sports day and entertain us to water skiing across the shore.

The Parish of Urney - Malcolm Kidd

The Parish of Urney dates back many years. the parish lies in co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland between the River Finn and Mourne. William MacAthmayl was the rector of the parish in 1400, although there must have been others before him. In 1958 the Minister of Sion Mills and Urney was the Rev Edwin Davey. After him was the reverend Gerald Carson. Next there was the Rev Raymond Thompson, Rev Raymond Scuse and then the Rev Raymond Mc Knight. The service starts in Sion Mills at a half past ten after a ringing of a bell at 12 o' clock during which the bell rings for five minutes.

Urney Fort

The fort is just off Bellspark Road on the Fort Road at Urney. It is between Major Perry and Mc Crossans land. A round circle covered in trees, it has a long walk up to it. It also has a tunnel that is overgrown, it used to run under the CDR railway lines and the River Finn. The tunnels were used for smuggling and no one knows how long it has been there, but whether it is myth or truth Red Hugh O'Donnell and Hugh O'Neill may have used the fort during the Nine Years War.

Christchurch, Urney

The Church of Ireland, Christchurch, Urney is situated on the Urney road. The church was consecrated in 1866 replacing the earlier church a short distance away. The church is part of the Derry and Raphoe Diocese belonging to the Urney and Sion Mills Grouping. John Hayes was a curate for 50 years and lived in the white house across the road from the church. Ann Spears and Alfie Forbes played the organ and nowadays the Rev R.D. Mc Knight is the main man out there.

Strabane Workhouse - John Molloy

The Strabane Poor Law Union was set up in the month of April 1838 and the erection of the workhouse began soon after, much to the dismay of the rich land owners who offered paying taxes to alleviate the suffering of the poor and starving. The building was finished in 1841. A board of guardians were formed to administer the running of the workhouse. In 1845 the great famine began and hundreds went to the workhouse to receive aid. The workhouse was run in a very disciplined way and there were penalties for not following the rules. The estimated numbers of the destitute in 1846-47 from the Strabane and District parishes were as follows: Camus - 2047, Urney - 1533, Leckpatrick - 1134 and Donagheady - 2025. The town was slow to recover from the famine and the workhouse played a big part in times of desperation. The building can now be viewed as the new Strabane District Council Offices at 41 Derry Road, Strabane.

The Battle of Knockavoe - Annie May Harte

Manus O' Donnell, son of the chieftain of Tyrconnail, summoned the help of the minor Donegal clans of O'Boyle, Mac Sweeney and O' Gallagher, and the combined O' Donnell forces, having marched from Donegal town through Barnesmore Gap. They pitched their camp at Drumleen, where they were joined by a contingent of the finest of the O'Doherty warriors from Inishowen.

The O'Neill clan were encamped at Knockavoe, overlooking the river valley, awaiting some of their allies from Connaught and Leinster.

In the early hours of 15th June 1522 the O'Donnells made a surprise two pronged attack across the Foyle on the O'Neill camp with complete success. Following a savage encounter which lasted throughout the long summer day ranging from the Greenbraes of the Foyle to Lough Moneen (the old name for Murlog), the outcome according to the annals, was that the O'Neills were defeated with the loss of nine hundred men and many of their best leaders and great quantities of armour, provisions and strong liqueurs were seized by the victors.

Many of those who perished in the battle were buried with christian rites in mass graves on the hillside (now church street) below the friary. Early in the twentieth century, long buried remains were unearthed during pipe laying operations in the Church Street/Patrick Street area.

In 1523 the O'Donnells again invaded Tyrone and burned many buildings including the friary in Strabane. The settlement was confiscated by the crown in 1609 and the lands were granted to Robert Leicester.

In 1524 and 1525 strife continued between the local clans and in consequence Manus O'Donnell, now the O'Donnell chieftain, erected a castle in Lifford (near the courthouse) which brought calm in the area for the next thirty years.

In 1532 Manus, now residing at the castle embarked on a project completely different. He compiled all existing documents and poems, in Latin and in Irish relating to Colmcille. The work, bound in a large cellum folder is preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.

Note: This text has been sourced from The Fair River Valley: Strabane though the Ages by Jim Bradley.

Churchtown Graveyard (Ballylast) - Joe Mc Cormick

Where do I begin? Let's go back to the 1940s when the graveyard was reopened for the internment of one named Gertrude Canning. Gertrude was born in the village of Ballindrait. After working in a hotel in Scotland for a while, she joined the WRENS, and while on her way to post a letter home to Ballindrait, she was brutally murdered, they say, by a member of the armed forces for whom she worked. Four bullets were pumped into her body and the forensic evidence proved that the bullets were fired from a gun owned by the army. Her killer was never caught.

The remains were brought home for burial. The funeral mass was held in Murlough and from hence to Churchtown for burial. The date on the tombstone states internment took place in 1942.

The graveyard itself shows signs of going back some time, probably to the 1700s. Some of the old headstones are just upright stones with a simple cross engraved into them, no writing whatsoever. The actual graveyard is in a very bad state with briars and nettles everywhere. The graveyard belonged to a church which was adjacent to it. And there was a monastery on the other side of the river in the parish of Urney, (the word Urney means place of prayer) both were connected by stepping stones in the river. People say monks traveling from Lough Derg to Ards Monastery stopped overnight at Churchtown. The area the graveyard is situated in Ballylast, is a translation of Baile Lóiste, which means 'place of the landing'.

The area also contained a school and, as far as I know, it existed until the beginning of the last century. It is a pity so much information about the past has been lost. I have inquired from quite a few people, but have not yet found out the name of the church.

N.B. A report from the Irish Excavations states that an Archbishop Cotton visited the area in 1397. It is reported that two men from the local village of Clady were chased out of the graveyard when they started to clean it up, by the Donegal County Council. The church can be found on the map here.

Saint Lugadius Church - Joe Mc Cormick

The first mention of a church in the Clonleigh area was one built by Saint Columba about one mile north of Lifford on a hill called Cluicin-leagh from whence Clonleigh derives its name. Columba placed it under one of his missionaries by the name of Saint Lugadius. He was one of the twelve who accompanied Columba to the Isle of Iona. The church of learning was dissolved in the mid 1500's during the reign of the young Edward VI.

Lifford was without a church for the best part of 100 years until Sir Richard Hansard left instructions in his will for the provisions of a church and school. The church and school were duly built and the church was named Saint Lugadius. It was of the reformed faith, and was completed in 1621 with a thatched roof. Some time later a tower was added to it.

In 1863 the church was closed for repairs and enlargement to accommodate the Donegal Militia who were stationed in Lifford. During it's time of closure subscriptions were started to provide some improvements. During the enlargement damage caused to the memorial of Sir Richard Hansard and his wife in 1989 was made good by a Mr Kell and a Mr Shannon, both from Lifford. The said memorial is one of Sir Richard and his wife kneeling pray-fully facing each other. The church was reopened in 1864 for divine by the Bishop of Derry and has continued ever since.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

My First Job in a Hardware Store - Liam Mc Laughlin

My first job was working in a hardware shop in Letterkenny during the early 1970s. I was sixteen years old. This was a large shop with several different departments. In the front of the shop was the Toys and Ornaments, Paint and Wallpaper etc and next the Hardware department. We started work at 9am to 6pm Tuesday - Friday. On Saturday we worked from 9am until 9pm. Monday was our day off.

The boss showed me around and introduced me to the rest of the staff. He said 'we have no central heating yet so your first job in the morning is to light and maintain the Paraffin Heaters.' The old Valour and Aladdin Heaters were very temperamental. They had to sit dead level on the floor and the wicks had to be cleaned daily for best results and to achieve the safe blue flame. A yellow flame meant it was too high and was considered dangerous, so you had to keep adjusting the wick to get the perfect safe blue flame. After lighting the heaters I had to brush the shop from top to bottom and then tidy up all the shelves and so on.

The boss told me to read the labels on the products and learn about them, then you'll know what the customer wants. This was the early 70's and a lot of rural places in the surrounding area still had no electricity, so they relied on paraffin lamps and heaters, especially the Tilley Lamp, The Aladdin Lamp and the older Bi-Aladdin lamp and of course the Tilley Pressure Iron.

We stocked all the parts for these lamps and heaters; parts like pumps, plungers, washers and vaporisers...all neatly stacked on shelves so if someone asked for a part, it was easy to get, simple...not really. People had their own names for things and that's where the craic started.

One day a man came in and asked for a globe for a Bi-Aladdin Tilley Lamp, and a lady asked for a Tilley Bar. After quizzing the man I found out it was an Aladdin Lamp, and the Tilley Bar was a vaporiser.

One day at the Paint and Wallpaper Department a lady came in and asked for some wallpaper pattern books as she was doing up her living room. After about an hour she finally agreed on one and asked for three dozen rolls. 'Three dozen rolls?' I thought to myself, 'It must be a castle she lives in'. All the wallpaper was stored upstairs so I went up and counted out three dozen rolls trying to balance them on my arms as I came down the stairs, nearly tripping in the process. 'Where are you going with all those?' she asked. 'I only want three dozen'. The boss overheard and called me aside and explained that one roll of wallpaper is equal to twelve yards so when someone asks for one dozen its one roll they want.

Another time a man asked for a 2lb tin of blue paint and a 4lb tin of white paint. 'How complicated can things get?' I thought, as paint was sold in pints and quarts etc. Then the boss explained that paint used to come in powder form and you mixed it with linseed oil! It was sold by the lb hence the 'lb tin' and so on.

One day this tall farmer came into the shop. He must have been over 6ft tall and hands like shovels. He banged his walking stick on the counter 'give me a snaffle' he grunted. 'A what?!' I said, 'are you sure you're in the right shop?' 'Give me a snaffle right now!' he said, 'I have a thran* bull in the byre and I can't get him out!' Then I knew what he was looking for; a bull leader, a device that attaches to the bulls nose with a handle so you can lead the bull anywhere safely!

We also sold rabbit snares, rabbit traps, traps for badgers and foxes, mouse and rat traps...in fact any vermin with four legs and a face we had a trap for it. All illegal now of course. The rat cage was another type of trap. What happened was you placed some food in the cage, the rat would enter the cage and eat the food but couldn't get out again. Then another rat would come along, go into the cage and realise there is no way out. So it was survival of the fittest then, sometimes you could catch three or four rats or more. An old man told me one time that he had a rat cage. He caught two rats one night, he checked the cage again in the morning and there was nothing in the cage only two tails! Then one day this lady came rushing into the shop, 'Hurry' she said, I need a mouse trap I want to catch a bus!

Last but not least I remember this old lady standing at the bottom of the shop. She had an alarm clock with her and she asked where could she get it fixed. I wasn't familiar with any watchmakers in Letterkenny, so I called up to the boss who was in the office 'where can this clock be fixed?' I shouted. 'Balls!' he shouted back. 'Where?!' I called back. 'Balls, Balls!; he roared. The girl in the office gave him a dig in the ribs and then he shouted back 'Balls Jewellers!'**

*thran = stubborn
** C.T. Balls Jewellers, Main Street, Letterkenny

Ray School - Ena Mc Clean

Ray School was built in the year 1740 in the district known as Labadish about one and a half miles from the village of Manorcunningham. This was a charter school, the only charter school in Donegal - the inscription over the door reads 'For the increase of true religion and of industry.' This school was built by the Society for promoting English Protestant Schools. Ray was a boarding school for boys and girls until 1895.

The boys had many chores to do from working in the bog, gathering potatoes, working at flax for spinning, knitting socks, fetching turf and water and herding cattle. The girls did all the spinning (this was done in the cellar) along with many other household chores.

A Mr. Finucane was Master of the Free School - a name it became after it became a day school. All other schools were fee paying in the the parish. Mr Finucane continued as Master until his death on August 1970 aged 81 years. He is laid to rest in the graveyard of Raymochy Parish Church.

Errity School in Manorcunnigham Village was amalgamated with Ray in 1914 with 66 pupils on roll in ray and 16 pupils transferred from Errity.

In 1895 Ray school applied to become a part of the National School system and has so remained to this day. Although a new Ray School was built adjacent in 2000. Ray school celebrated its 250th anniversary while still in use in 1990.