I had to earn my 9d a week rent, as well as a living for myself so I started working for any one who’d have me. I was working about McComb’s, and Tom Loughlin’s and Eddie Magill’s.
There were three wee houses in Chapel Street that belonged to Mrs Loughlin, Jim’s grandmother. So I milked her goat for her and did all the wee chores she asked me to. I was the ‘boy’ while Hughie Downey was the ploughman.
Mrs Loughlin used to boil us eggs. She put the eggs in the kettle and while the water was boiling, the eggs were boiling too. The water was for the tea. That was just the way she boiled the eggs. But she always picked the smallest eggs she could get. The bigger ones were for sale.
Anyway one of her houses became vacant. I had come up in the world. I was about fourteen when I moved into Mrs Loughlin’s house in Chapel Street. Later John Trainor bought the house and later still, in old age, long after I had gone, he moved into it. When I left that house in 1947 I owed John a year’s rent. I moved to England, and from there I sent him the money I owed.
There were a lot of great nights in that house. Terry Murray, Jim McComb, Seamus Magill and Dan Magill – all the boys – were there every night. Some nights I would come home and the house would be full, though I lived alone.
There was no furniture: no pots, no pans. I made the odd drop of tea some nights. It was rough: it wasn’t easy. But I can laugh at it now. Many a night I went to bed and I thought myself the most fortunate kid in Ireland. I lived alone. I could come in and go out when I liked. I could do as I liked.
But then when the boys would say, ‘It’s time to go home to get the porridge’, or ‘to get a drop of tea’, well, I had nothing ‘to get’, only what I stole, and I was good at stealing!
When they went home I thought myself the most unfortunate boy in Ireland.
I had nobody.
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