Down there close to Helen’s Terrace and near the bridge facing McClelland’s enclosure we each in turn pressed down with one hand on the strand of barbed wire atop the low stone wall that separated us from Corr’s Field and threw a leg over to the other side.
We tried not to catch our new ‘long trousers’ in a barb, for there would be hell to pay if our mothers were forced to start patching them.
Noel’s dilemma – dressed as he was in his Confirmation Suit – was altogether worse.
Still we all quickly and successfully negotiated the obstacle. The rest of us raced joyfully through the buttercup-filled field, turning the bottom half of our trousers yellow from pollen as we did so. In his new patent-leather shiny black shoes, Noel patiently and gently trod the safer path along the river bank. He explored the river side as we explored the ‘Rat Jungle’ on the upper field where the steep bank edging the Camlough Road formed a woody triangle with its apex at The Wheel.
Here we harvested our catapults – and our bows and arrows – when these were in season and flinched the odd bird’s egg in the nesting season. There close to the river we occasionally spotted rats too but hardly so many as to justify the name we gave to this wilderness. Still the name cautioned respect for this mysterious place.
After a while we returned to the task in hand, the construction of a dam to form a ‘swimming hole’ in the upper river.
Only the largest boulders we had gathered the day before were heavy enough to resist the drag of the fast-flowing stream as we rolled them from the banks into the water.
Some one would have to stand in the water and complete the blockage in the middle. Lucky enough one of us owned a pair of Wellingtons and naturally he was chosen.
As small stones, sods and rocks were added, the expanding pool behind continued to grow in size until ‘sluice gates’ had to be permitted, one on each side.
Meanwhile part of our group still exploring up in the Rat Jungle had made a discovery. We were always in search of the unusual and one of us had made a ‘find’.
‘What’s this?’ he asked.
There was always one lad who could identify such mysterious objects. It was half of an old 20 gallon oil drum, cut along its horizontal plane and fixed with makeshift legs of corrugated iron. It was very old and brown with rust.
‘It’s a water trough for the cattle in the field’, offered Kevin.
‘No it’s not!’ insisted Austin. ‘It’s a boat! Our very own boat!’
…….. more later ……….