Crossroads Dances

Petie had no memory of Road Bowls or ‘Bullets’ from the Thirties though County Armagh has a strong tradition in this field of sport.

We played Skittles.  The large, wooden home-made skittles would be placed in a circle on the road.  They were numbered from Twenty on the inside, to Five on the outside.  The object was to knock them over by throwing a heavy stick ‘as thick as yer arm’ and about two and a half feet long, at them.  Some were of two lengths, linked with a length of bicycle chain and this made it possible to ‘clear’ the whole circle at one throw.  You threw from the ‘Back Butt’ and there was a wooden obstacle between you and the circle, necessitating a spiral throw around it.  A ‘no strike’ lost you your turn.  The first player to 100 won.  Small sums – 1d or 2d would be wagered.  It was mainly a man’s game, though girls would occasionally play.  You could play partners.

There would occasionally be dances at the cross-roads.  You’d have to find a good box-player who was willing, or some other musician.  They were usually available.  We’d dance on a wooden platform that might be used for keeping hay off the barn floor and dry.  It was rough and ready.  The good thing was there was no admission price.  It was in the open-air!

Ours was a ceili house.  My mother had a gramophone when none had them.  You’ll remember from the pictures, the HMV sign where the dog is barking into the trumpet speaker.  It was like that.  They were ’78s.  We only had a few records but we had some and we all liked them.  The Carraghers from up the road were the most regular visitors.  Father Tom (Cardinal Tomas O’Fiaich) called in often too.

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