When I was about five years old in the late 1940’s I first stepped into the field, over the broken wall at the yard at our house in Maginness Street with the help of a ladder my father had bought from a man at his work.
I didn’t tell anyone where I was going but I stepped into a magic new world all for myself to explore.
Paddy McGurgan owned two large plots of ground, one called the yard and the other was higher up on the hill which I got to by climbing a steep walk way. When I reached the top of the field I could see a lovely view all over Newry.
Through the years Paddy kept about twelve horses. Most of them died of old age but in their life time they were used for many things, like delivering coke and coal around the town to peoples homes or helping people move to new houses. He would put all their possessions in the wagon and take them to their new address.
If any of his horses were sick Paddy would sleep in the stables to be near them and he would stay with them long after the vet had left. After a hard day’s work he would lead the horses up into the high field to graze and relax.
I spent many a long summer evening wandering through his old yard while he was away working, looking through old junk that Paddy had collected through his work. I would find old tin cans and pretend to be making tea or dinner.
Paddy was a very kind man and he had great patience with children. When I brought a friend or when I let my sisters know about the field he would answer all our questions about the horses and stables and he would sometimes let us feed the horses.
Some times during the summer travelling people would come and he would let them stay on his land. They had gaily painted caravans, old fashioned ones, not like the caravans of today. They would come up to the broken wall and call down to us asking for some bread and tea. My mother would share some of her home-made bread with them and hand them up some loose tea in a box. Although we hadn’t much in those days I still remember how kind both my parents were to share their food with them.
At the bottom patch of ground called ‘the yard’ was a small piece of ground where there was a lovely big tree. My father got a rope for us one day and made a swing on the tree. It was just heaven to be able to swing into the air and back again. I can remember my mother calling me for my tea but I didn’t want to go as I knew that one or other of my two sisters would finish their tea early and be up the first, over the wall and claim the swing for themselves.
Through time my father rented a piece of ground on the higher hill and I spent many an evening helping him to knock wooden fencing into the ground and helping him with the wire to fence it off. We then kept chickens and many a lovely fresh egg we would have for our tea.
Although it is a long time ago and my mother and father and Paddy have gone to their eternal rest and I have moved away, when I come home I sometimes stand at the bottom of Maginness Street and maybe I think I can see a little five year old child having the time of her life swinging on that rope and maybe sometimes I think I can hear her laughter.