Drawing of the book cover Water Under the Railway Bridge by Bill Gerty

12 The Church



The church played a large part in our lives as it did with most Irish people, our church was called Templeport which stood by the side of Templeport lake. There was an island in the middle of the lake and on the other side of the lake was the rectory the residence of our Rector Samuel Armstrong. I believe him to be one of six brothers and I think that it was one of his brothers that married our parents. The service was held every Sunday at 11.30 and Sunday school was held at 10.30. There was an old harmonium reed organ pedal operated which was usually played by my first teacher Mrs Coffey or one of her daughters. Mr Coffey always arrived in a bowler hat and sang alongside the organ, his voice could be heard the other side of the lake. The collection was taken on wooden plates and we were always given one old penny to give to the collection. Uncle John was a church warden and he cycled there every Sunday, the rest of us walked the three miles and over a little river, which was just two rails with sort pieces of wood placed in between them to act as a bridge, there were no handrails on either side so one little slip and you were in the river. Those people who were well off came to church in a pony and rubber tyred trap or jaunting car, there were stables at the church so the pony would be unharnessed and put in the stable until the service was over. The only cars that I remember seeing were Mr Coffey's and the Rector's. Each year in June or July an Orange Parade was held, the congregation would sit on one side of the church and when they were all seated the Orange Men would come in in pairs, usually to the resounding sound of Onward Christian Soldiers.
We had to learn various parts of the scripture for a religious examination which was held every June in the church, this included learning one book of the Old Testament and one of the New on which you could be asked any question on either one, also you had to learn one hymn off by heart and various sections of the prayer book As far as I was concerned it was imperative that I passed, the prize was a new bible, hymnbook and prayer book combined or a gilted edged hymnbook, you had the choice, but the greatest prize as far as I was concerned was to be allowed to go fishing if you passed. Failure did not enter my head. I'm glad to say that I netted prizes for six years and had six glorious afternoons fishing. We always had new clothes for these exams plus a new pair of sandals, needless to say that as soon as we arrived home off they all came and on went the duds. During the exam Auntie Louie sat in the pew behind I could feel her breathing down my neck and she was always very proud when we passed.
The Catholic church was at Kilnavart where they rang the bell every day at twelve noon and six in the evening, every Catholic no matter what he was doing stopped work took off his cap and prayed as soon as the bell rang. One of the priests there
was a Father Small who used to visit the parish on horseback, he was a happy little man who had a kind word for everyone. All Catholics passing the Catholic church would cross themselves and say a prayer. Everyone listened for the ringing of the bell at twelve. Those working out in the fields knew that it was time to go home to the farm for dinner and when it rang at six in the evening it was music to everyone's ears for it meant it was time to pack up and go home for the day. No person of any religion worked on a Sunday unless it was very urgent. All the bars were closed but there was always a way in via the back door. It was not unusual to see a number of men disappearing through the back door as the Garda went in the front, a lookout was always on hand to take care of that little problem.


Our Donkey


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