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
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
EARLY DAYS AROUND KILKEEL
Mr. Marks with his granddaughter, Kathleen
HUGH MARKS, of Kilkeel, is one of the most interesting personalities it has
ever been my pleasure to interview.
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."
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
"All tell ye a good one about engagement A had at
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.
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.
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.
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'
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.
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'
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'
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
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 :
wan advice A'll gie ye, John,
isn't hard to tell,
not visit aften that place Maquillia's Well,
keep yer whuskey, stout, and strong,
no religion interfare,
shillin's good from ony man,
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.
Luan's Shrine at Ballyveamore
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
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
Sad Story of the Maid of Mourne Shore
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’
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
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’
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.
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
They wur to be married on the day afore Greencastle fair opened and that was
her 21st birthday.
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:
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:
As the waves
on Cranfield far
sobs of wildest dread,
for the fisher dead,
there, ah woe is me,
He was seized
in Manann’s grip
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.
ship lies in
For Boston we
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
A’d lave it
al1 for Mary bawn,
Maid o’ Mourne shore.”
Song "Walmsley's Shady Groves" - Mr. William MacDonald's Version
lot o’ people mix that song up wi Walmsley’s Shady Groves,”
continued Hugh, “but they’re two different songs altogether. ‘The Maid o’
’ is far the ouldest. There’s wan man knows Walmsley’s
, 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 :-
muses mine, with me combine Until I do relate
A remnant of my grief and woe, My sorrows they
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
Still thinking she’d some pity take Before I
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
roaring tide by Mallagh side Will ne’er see him again.”
“If my jolly tar does me forsake No man I’ll
For ever since I saw his face I’ve loved my
Adieu unto ye Walmsley’s Groves. Down by the
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
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
MAID OF MOURNE SHORE
sung by Mark McCashin, of Ballykilbeg)
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 ?“
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
Thomas Donnan (left) and Hugh Marks crack a few jokes
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.
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,
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
they are, with the skippers’ names in brackets:-
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
“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
“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
“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
“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 —
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
- 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
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
Henry Chesnut, that youth tall and manly.
John Cunningham too make up the boat’s crew,
By his friends he was cherished most fondly.
can we say about that tragic day?
The Almighty had chose to decree it,
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.
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.
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.
THIS IS THE LATE REDMOND DORAN'S SONG :
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
As I view it from the present it’s not with
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Who read him books and his letters he wrote
The only scholar on that fishing boat.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
They would sit there enraptured with pride
As McGinn told his tales by the warm fireside.
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
just a step further beside the town pump,
Where the herrings were sold in the lot or the
By old Mary Gawley and Johnny her boy,
Goodfellow, McCaver and old Peggy Roy.
town it did boast of some ladies so sweet,
And strange it did seem, they all lived in one
There was sweet Caroline and the Little Miss
Kate Fegan the idol and bewail of the town.
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
Always got refuge in old Newry Street.
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
that's the first half of the book,
there are 63 pages and that's the first 31 of them
now to the next and final 32 pages