by Ian Sherry of Rostrevor, N. Ireland
photos by Stasia Sherry
Loughin More: I’ve always had sheep on Loughin More. And in summer a pony. Always been on the mountain and never ever passed any remarks on ‘The Bauch.’ It’s a word I’ve said all my life; a word from the north of Scotland (I’m told) to describe a circular wall of stones. I don’t know what The Bauch is but I think I know what it’s not. It’s not a Cashel – a stone built Rath where people lived; not an archaeological feature as such. Perhaps an eighteenth century sheep fold. Although we never gathered sheep to it. Always much easier to bring our twenty or so Mourne ewes down to the corner at the mountain gate. There to dip or clip or separate out. My grandparents just accepted The Bauch; as I did myself – until now! I never heard anything anecdotal about it. This substantial stone built feature up on the mountain a couple of contours above our house. Could it have been built as a relief scheme; a place to gather and hold all the stock on the 880 acres of Loughin More? Perhaps to pay headage? I simply don’t know. Standing in it I recalled how we came here to light a little fire and boil eggs on Easter Sunday. We plucked whin blossom and put it in the water to colour them. And rolled and cracked their golden shells on cropping rock – and ate them hard boiled. In autumn I’d come to gather mushrooms. The common mushroom sporadically found in the fields. Here in The Bauch they arrive with great certainty; I suppose centuries of animals sheltering within its walls made conditions perfect for their growth.
A delightful show of snowdrops drew our attention to neighbouring Sliver Roe and I wondered ‘was the Scotch cart still in the cart-house?’ And it was – preserved through neglect. Before the arrival of the first Ferguson TE20 tractor, ‘The Wee Grey’ (in 1958), every farm in our country had a Scotch cart and with it a carthouse. And that always makes me think of W.F. Marshall’s poem ‘Me and Me Da’:
I’m livin’ in Drumlister, An’ I’m gettin’ very oul’,
I have to wear an Indian bag, to save me from the coul’.
There’s not a man in this townland cleaner reared than me;
But I’m livin’ in Drumlister In clabber to the knee.
That’s because I know what an Indian bag is. It’s the hessian bag that ‘Indian Meal’ or ‘Yella Meal’ came in. Milled corn imported from America right up into the 1950s. Initially ‘Famine Relief’ (and here I must mention that while Ireland received famine relief from all over the world in ‘The Great Hunger’ of the late 1840s, a special gratitude is felt for the Native American Choctaw Nation who donated $170), by my time ‘Yella Meal’ was animal feed that we occasionally used to supplement oaten meal in porridge and flour in griddle bread. It came in a heavy duty big hessian bag that when empty we draped over our shoulders; shawl like, on a wet day.
Wet days (with a bag over their shoulders) saw neighbours collogue in the cart-house. Dwellings mostly consisted of a room and a kitchen extending to perhaps a further room. This was the woman’s domain. The man’s place was outside. I knew men with big housefuls of children that more or less lived in the cart-house. Every bite they ate was carried out to them. Breakfast, dinner and evening meal. And further nourishment in between. Mugs of tea with just baked griddle bread and butter freshly churned. Our cart-house was a lean-to against a Mourne stone wall in front of the house. A refuge roofed with corrugated tin. As well as the cart it sheltered all the hardware of the farm. Some odd little accoutrements. A trawhook – a device for making straw rope, a strickel for sharpening a scythe and clats. The two central prongs of an old grape; bent round, then given a short handle and used at harvesting to loosen the sides of an opened (with the plough) drill of spuds.
Over indulgence in tobacco was accepted to an extent beyond comprehension today. Neighbours wearing their ‘regalia’ smoked cigarettes and pipes and more alarmingly cut clips off ‘warhorse plug’ tobacco and wedged it in the back corner of their mouth. Spitting tobacco juice accurately; a manly form of game. While music and song and dance was for the kitchen in late evening, a few lines of sardonic verse was encouraged to break the tedium of a wet day. Here’s my Uncle John’s bit of ‘Mourne haiku’:
Arthur Quinn is tall and thin:
His face is like a harrow pin:
He’s like someone I know:
And that is our Pat Joe.