John McCullagh December 16, 2003
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Those of us less skilled on the playing field got more than our fair share of time to practice such extra-curricular activities, the most enjoyable of which (apart from ‘coourting’ for the teenagers) centred on the nearby river. I remember in later adult life being ‘introduced’ to the sport of ‘bouldering’. To the uninitiated, this involves pursuing a river towards its source, both along its banks and, more often, using stepping stones or ‘boulders’ to advance one’s progress. In the modern adult version, one is practically obliged to frequently fall in and get soaked.

We, of course, invented this game in the Derrybeg River in the fifties, though that was not our name for this pursuit. Falling in was out of the question, as we would have to account for ruined clothes. Indeed we rarely wore footwear that didn’t leak, so it was most uncomfortable as one’s socks were permanently wet. Unavoidable, I suppose, when the inevitable hole in the sole was stopped with a piece of cardboard!

What made our game more exciting was following the stream through narrow, low-roofed culverts beneath the Meadow Road, the Camlough Road and up beyond the Carnaget Road. The journey would take hours of intensely concentrated time, but we had nothing but time. On the way we would catch spricks, and very occasionally, trout. The river was totally unpolluted. We freely and frequently drank the water to quench our thirst. On a recent trip down memory lane along its banks I was dismayed with the poor water quality and general litter.

I remember the Resi filled to overflowing on only one or two occasions. As a child I was overawed by the sheer volume of water, knowing well the capacity of that great lake, and torn between excitement at the sudden appearance of a custom-made swimming pool at our doorstep, and the fear that the overflow would swamp our homes that were many feet below its level. When it did overflow, the water swept onto Clanrye Avenue and down the hill past Donaghy’s house and the public phone box. Luckily it escaped into the storm drains and from there back into the Carnaget River and so on to the tide.

The Resi was equipped with sluice gates at the Killeavey Road end of the embankment opposite the homes of our mates, Eddie Grey, Arthur Bradley and Noel and Kevin Boyle. It was intended that these would be officially opened in emergencies such as this, or when precipitation levels had eased enough to relieve the water pressure. I recall many of us, including those just mentioned, attempting this task unofficially. We were always unable to loosen the heavy levers, chains and wheels that controlled the operation.

Yet all this area was a wonderful adventure playground, a secluded place where adults seldom ventured. High granite walls enclosed the sluice gates and a deep-water area. When the marshy land inside was especially wet, crossing here was the only route from the field to the north embankment and the Sprickley Beds beyond.

The crossing required a dangerous and delicate ‘tightrope’ walk along a fifteen feet length of three feet diameter pipe, some twenty feet above the deep water below. That our footwear was almost always soaking wet added to the danger of slipping. I only once remember one companion falling and he was soon rescued wet and frightened but otherwise unhurt. This was our chosen route to The Line.

The area beyond, and that muddy sheugh along The Line was also the rich source of frogspawn at the right ‘season’. Tiny frogs – the summer soccer season coincided with frogs’ mating season – made terrific living weapons with which to torment the young girls we relentlessly pursued! Later too this area was a quiet area away from adults where we practiced our first romantic trysts with the same unfortunate young girls.

 

 … Meadow 8? …

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