School Days, — May 2, 2009 22:19 — 0 Comments

At the Footstick

I seemed to spend a lot of time in the Reilly’s as a boy – at least once a week, walking across the footstick over the Creggan River and the fields from Drumbally.

On the way were two grand houses, Gilmores and Wrights, joined by a rocky lane that plunged steeply from one and climbed sharply to the other.  Both had substantial pear, plum and apple orchards and occasionally, when not overcome by fear of large dogs and large men, I would venture to scrump a few of the choicest fruits.


The adjoining fields were abundant sources of mushrooms in the Autumn and many a basket-full was gathered in the fresh dewy mornings. There was only three years between Joseph, Paddy, Tommy and me, and we played together for six or seven years until we grew out of playing.  I was especially keen on the Reillys as I was the only boy in my family, having five sisters.  I remember the later Reilly cousins being born and the smaller ones, Anne, Phyllis and Gerry, in the early 1950s, climbing all over me as I sat by the fire in the house in Urker.  I remember that while it was fun at first, it became irksome as they simply wore me down with their boundless energy.


Their Uncle Patrick, who had been a soldier in the British Army in WW1, stayed with them.  He was a quiet inoffensive man and all I can remember of him was his bayonet, which had been kept as a souvenir.


Aunt Alice was a card. She had a wicked sense of humour and was liable to break into fits of laughter at the simplest of cues. She tells me that sometimes she was not able to deal with callers, like Insurance Men, because something about them – the way they talked, something they said, something about what they were wearing – anything — would set her off and she would collapse into fits of laughing. She would infect others too, and there were occasions when callers were left on the doorstep while she and a neighbour, Katie Kierns, retired to the kitchen in a helpless state of hilarity.  She once abandoned a neighbour on the doorstep when he asked her for the time of day.


Uncle Joe had a taxi business that he had to give up due to ill-health. He sat by the fire, always with his cap on except when having his tea, smoking his pipe and reading the paper or listening to the radio.  I loved that radio as we did not have one in Drumbally.  It was powered by "wet" and "dry" batteries.  The "wet" battery had to be periodically charged in Crossmaglen. If I remember rightly, it was connected to a large external aerial.


… more later … 


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