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My mother went home to her parent's house to give birth to me. A few days after I was born, I was taken to the Catholic Church in Newton Butler to be christened. I was christened by Father Maguire, the rebel priest of Newton Butler. I was ...
My mother went home to her parent's house to give birth to me. A few days after I was born, I was taken to the Catholic Church in Newton Butler to be christened. I was christened by Father Maguire, the rebel priest of Newton Butler. I was named Patrick, after my grandfather. Father Maguire was an unrepentant Republican; that is to say he wanted the British out of Northern Ireland. He ran rallies and made fiery speeches against the British occupation. When he made a speech the Pro-British press would write about it and they might use a headline such as "Another Salvo from the Cannon." Father Maguire was parish priest of Newton Butler and he was also known as Cannon Maguire. Newton Butler is overshadowed by Carn Rock, the highest peak in the Mountains of Sleive Bay.
My mother went home to her parent's house to give birth to me. A few days, after I was born, I was taken to the Catholic Church in Newton Butler to be, christened. I was christened by Father Maguire. The rebel priest of Newton Butler. I was named Patrick, after my grandfather. Father Maguire was an unrepentant Republican; that is to say he wanted the British out of Northern Ireland. He ran rallies and made fiery speeches against the British occupation. When he made a speech the Pro-British press would write about it and they might use a headline such as "Another Salvo from the Cannon." Father Maguire was parish priest of Newton Butler and he was also known as Cannon Maguire. Newtonbuttler is overshadowed by Carn Rock. The highest peak in the Mountains of Sleive Bay.
My mother and I returned to the farm that my father worked with two brothers and a sister. My father's name was Lawrence McMahon. His brothers were called Hugh and Peter. His sister was called Maggie. The men would be out working in the fields, or away at the cattle fair, leaving my mother and me in the house. There was a lot of quite hard work to do in the farmyard and Maggie saw that my mother did most of it; ordering her and bossing her about.
My mother was made to do all the milking, feed pigs, hens, ducks, geese, calve's and turkeys as well as carry pails of water from the spring well which was quite a distance away. She also had to fodder cattle, and the horse. She had to muck out the cow byre, the stable, the pig pen's ect. Before, and after the milking to go out to the fields, and round up the cows, and drive them in to the cow byre, and drive them back out to the pasture, after they were milked. She was made to do this when she was pregnant with me and later when she was nursing me. Mother never complained but I often heard her talk about it in later life.
The farm belonged to Uncle Peter who had inherited it, in his father's will. My father owned another farm but chose not to live on it. But he put cattle on it. When my father left school, at age thirteen, he went to work on this farm which was owned by his Uncle James. James McMahon was an unusual man for that area. In that; he rode a blood horse, and hunted the mountain with dog, and gun. Very few of his neighbours had a horse of any kind, let alone a blood horse. Most of the work was done with donkey's. It was a poor part of the country. Most people were trying to scratch out a living on the not too fertile slopes of Carn Rock.
When my father was twenty-four James McMahon died and left the farm to my father in his will. When my father thought all the bills were paid, he discovered that there was still an old bank loan outstanding. He sold off all the paid there was still debt against the He sold off all the live stock, and went to Scotland where he got a job in a coal mine. After four years he returned to Ireland and paid off the debt. And what he had left went into the cattle dealing business, but he lived on the 'home place, Not on the farm that he had inherited.
Shortly after coming back from Scotland he met my mother, at a dance in Newtonbuttler, and they started dating. About a year later they were married. I came along about a year after that.
We lived on the 'home place' at Knocknagross. In fact, the McMahons had lived there for centuries.
It was out of that very same home that Bernard McMahon was taken by the British and hanged for being a United Irishman. The United Irishmen, were a revolutionary movement, and they tried to drive the British out of Ireland in seventeen ninety eight. In seventeen ninety six they were gathering arms, and making pikes for the upcoming battle. Bernard McMahon, and a man called Smith, and an other called Connolly, were caught with some weapons, and it cost them their lives.
There is a marble monument to him and the two other men who were hanged with him in Roslea Churchyard. They were hanged outside Enniskillen Courthouse and men from the Roslea area came during the night and cut the bodies down which were hanging on a gibet; and carried them the twenty three miles to Roslea, where they were burried secretly under cover of darkness. I was present for the 200 year commemoration in 2006. Three coffins were carried all the way from Enniskillen to Roslea, which is a distance of twenty three miles. About 1000 people walked all the way behind the coffins.
As we neared Roslea darkness came down and we were all given candles which were then lighted. It was a very calm October night; lovely weather. A lone piper met the procession on the hill overlooking the town, and piped us to the graveyard. We marched into Roslea behind the piper and the coffins. As well as the lighted candles there was a line of car lights which stretched out the country road for miles. They were following the procession. And there was a speech made by a Sinn Fein Councler. My brother laid a wreath on behalf of the McMahon family. It was a very moving experience, and I was glad that I had went home to witness it.
The cattle-dealing was going well. There was also big money to be made smuggling cattle across the border from the Irish Republic and selling them in Northern Ireland, but this was very dangerous. If you were caught you would get a heavy fine or maybe, be sent to prison or if you were a repeat offender the 'cat'. I knew a man who got the 'cat'; His name was Peter. I would see Peter when I went to visit my grandparents. He would be sitting at his front gate in a wheelchair. The Royal Ulster Constabulary had crippled him when they caught him smuggling horses. He would always ask about my father. Who he remembered from his dealing days.
The McMahon's were thriving. Then their cattle started to die. The vet was called to try and determine the cause of death but he found nothing. Anyway he wasn't a real vet; just a local quack who took on to know all about the illnesses of animals. He had done pig gelding and the castrating of young bull calves. The only university that he saw was in Belfast when he passed it on the bus.
Uncle Peter could sell cattle but he wasn't much of a judge at buying them. He paid too much and then they were hard to sell. They would have to be brought home and put on the grass for awhile and then taken to another cattle fair
My father and Uncle Hugh tried to talk Uncle Peter out of buying cattle and just concentrate on selling them and they would do the buying. It was said that Larry McMahon and Hugh McMahon could judge the value of the last hair in a cow's tail.
Peter would keep at the selling for awhile and then go back to buying again and with the same result. He paid too much all the time and they would have to sell at a loss, or take them home, and i9fputthem on the grass for a while, and fatten them up a bit.
There would be arguments at night about this. My mother found this very disturbing.
Aunt Maggie finally got married. She married Bernard Moore, a former IRA man and former Quartermaster during the Tan War. The Black and Tans were a British Mercenary Army, which were sent to Ireland; with orders to make Ireland Hell for Rebels to live in. They murdered, burned, and Raped. They made Ireland Hell for everybody to live in.
The Black and Tans had Benny Moore on his knees, in his farmyard, with a rifle to the back of his head while others searched for arms. If they found one round of ammunition he was a dead man. However they never found anything and Benny had lots of stuff including Lewis machine Guns.
He once told me when I was about fourteen, that he would warm the ammunition on the frying pan before the boys went on a raid or ambush. He did this to dry the powder in the shells as they were damp from being buried underground. He told me that one night while he was doing this a round exploded.
Aunt Maggie's wedding party was held in the farmhouse. I remember it. Uncle Hughie was out in the yard doing something and he came in. There was a man playing the fiddle and people were dancing and others were drinking. Uncle Hughie was looking for a glass or a mug or cup to get himself a drink. All were in use. So he just took a bucket and went to the Guinness barrel and filled himself a drink. When he put the bucket to his lips a great cheer went up.
Maggie moved out and went to live on her husband's farm in County Monaghan, which was in the Irish Republic. He had a small farm. Only about twenty acres, but he had a great orchard. Most of his income came from the sale of apples. He grew apples, plums, etc. Many a bag of fruit Benny gave me. He was a good man, and he loved Ireland When he died I was one of the people who put Benny in his coffin, the other person was a woman, who was the undertaker. The wake was held in Bennys house, and some rotten bastard stole bennys IRA medal. Benny is buried in the McMahon plot at Adrumsee.
My mother hadn't been home to visit her parents for a long time. For over a year she had been asking my father to take her but he was always too busy. Finally he told her to take the horse and cart and go, by her self
Big Brown Bob, our horse, was harnessed and hitched to the cart. I was put in a basket and we headed off for Newton Butler. It was a distance of about ten miles. She took the back road because she thought that the horse might be frightened by heavier traffic the, on the new road. My grandparent's made a great fuss of me. Grandfather had made me a rocking cradle, and he had bought me a gramophone I had it for years.
(Finally we left). They wanted us to spend the night but my mother said that she promised that she would be home. She had stayed too long and soon darkness fell. It was a very dark night and my mother had no light on the cart but the big horse just kept plodding on.
It was very dark. We came to a part in the road called the Boyne. Not the River Boyne, that is in county Louth, but a swampy area that when it rains it floods the road. When we were half way across this swampy area, we met a tractor coming in the opposite direction. The tractor had no lights and it was of the old Fortson type with the exhaust pipe sticking up from its engine hood. This had no muffler and the noise was terrible. There was a flame coming out of the pipe about a foot and a half long.
The horse started to take fright. My mother pulled the horse over to the side of the road and tried to hold him there by holding on tightly to the reins while the tractor passed, but as the tractor passed the horse reared up on his hind legs and jumped through the small hedge into the swamp taking the cart and my mother with him. The cart overturned throwing my mother and me into the swamp. The tractor didn't stop but drove on.
The horse went to his belly in the mud and the more he struggled the deeper he went. My mother search frantically for me but she couldn't find me. She called and called my name but I never made a sound and it was so dark she couldn't see. The tractor had turned off the road and seemed to go up a lane some distance off. She didn't know what to do.
She didn't want to leave and try and get help because her child was somewhere in the swamp and could drown and maybe he had already drowned. Then she saw a light coming along the road. She struggled out of the swamp and stopped a man who was coming along on a bicycle. He was dressed in the uniform of the 'B-Special', an all Protestant police unit, who were all Orangemen and hated Catholics.
The Ulster Special Constabulary (USC) (commonly called the "B-Specials" or "B Men") was a reserve police force in Northern Ireland viewed with great mistrust by nationalists who claimed, with some proven justification, that the force was anti-Catholic. It was welcomed by the Protestant Loyalist's who saw the B Specials was the defenders of Northern Ireland from the IRA] they were an all Protestant force.
He had a rifle slung over his back. She told him what happened and that her child, was somewhere in the swamp.
He took the lamp from his bicycle and found me lying in a clump of reeds. He took me out and gave me to my mother. I was unhurt. Then he gave the lamp to my mother and went to get help. He came back soon after with two men and a horse and some rope. They manhandled the cart out of the swamp and onto the road then they attached the rope to the horse and with the aid of the three men and the other horse they pulled our horse out of the swamp. He was calmer now and the men tackled him to the cart. I was put back into the cart and my mother climbed in beside me. The 'B' man put his bicycle into the cart and climbed in himself, and took the reins He came all the way with us and saw that we got home safely.
I will always be thankful to him for that. His name was Bob, and he wasn't a bad fellow, as those fellows go. He often stopped me on the road years later because the 'B' men had police powers and were always out patrolling. They were of course armed and if you didn't stop they could shoot you.
Uncle Hugh got caught smuggling cattle and got sent to Derry Jail for six months. When he came home he continued cattle dealing. They were doing well in spite of losing the odd beast to something mysterious. The cause of the death of the cattle was not yet discovered.
Uncle Peter started talking about having some building done on the farm. He wanted barns for the cows; a barn to store hay, oats etc, and houses for pigs; fowl etc. but he wanted it all under one roof and build with stone.
It was pointed out to him, that stone would be expensive. He was told that if there was a wooden frame erected and clad with corrugated tin, it would do just as well. After all it was only barns they wanted built and not a dwelling. Some of the barns in the area were clad in corrugated tin.
Peter however, wanted to have the building done in stone and wouldn't budge. The building was started; the stone masons were hired and my father, Uncle Hugh and Uncle Peter scowered the countryside for stone. Any old ruin around the area they would by the stone. This was getting very expensive.
Sometimes they would buy uncut stone and then that had to be cut and dressed; shaped to fit wherever way the masons wanted to lay it. This too was very expensive because it took time and the masons were paid by the hour.
The building went on and the cattle dealing went on. My father and Uncle Hugh still went to the cattle fairs. They of course, worked the farm as well. Uncle Peter on the other hand, stayed home to help and supervise the building of his 'castle' as my father used to say.
When the building started the cattle deaths seemed to increase. When the building was up to joist level on the second story, for it was a two story building, my mother came out of the house one day, and called the men for their lunch.
I was two years old at the time. I was playing in the yard watching the men at work and building my own little house. The men went into the house to have their lunch and I spotted the ladder leaning against the wall. The men had not taken it down. I went over to the ladder and climbed all the way up to the top and then I got off the ladder, an was walking along the wall towards the gable, where one of the men had been working; when someone happened to come out of the door and see me. They managed to get me down without injury. From then on I was kept inside during lunchtime. There was a lot of talk of how I had done it as I was only two years old, at the time.
When the building was complete all their money was spent and the rows were terrible. They would argue at night about spending all the working capital on this stupid building. My father would tell Uncle Peter that we didn't need it. That they could have managed very well without it. One night my Uncle Peter ordered my father; mother and me out of the house; to leave that very night He could do this, because the farm was in his name.
My father harnessed the horse and put him in the cart and loaded a few odds and ends and we left and went to Ervy.
The house had not been lived in for several years and it was cold and damp; but somehow we managed.
Excerpted from OUT OF THE MISTS OF IRELAND by Patrick McMahon Copyright © 2010 by Patrick McMahon. Excerpted by permission.
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