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

15 Spring



This was a very exciting time of the year when I was young, the noise of spring was all around, teams of horses carting farm manure to the fields the clip clop of horses all day long. There would be men ploughing in one field and in another one man sowing seed by taking a handful from the bag that was strapped on the front of him and scattering the seed in front just as it was done for centuries before, while another man would be harrowing the seed into the soil. Not a sound of a tractor anywhere, they were to come later. The best sound of all was the birds; we had hundreds of songbirds in those days, robins, finches, thrushes, wrens, black­birds and many more which were always around all the farms. I could find a dozen or more nests around the station in the spring. Down below Fees farm we had Glebe lake and a favourite pastime of mine was to go all around it and see how many water birds nests I could find, there were always two swans on the lake who had a nest there every year, it was very dangerous to go anywhere near the nest if the swans were around.
Liza Fee had two geese and they used to make a nest in one of the outhouses, the old gander would stand guard outside for three weeks while the eggs were being hatched and you took your life in your hands if you went anywhere near there during this time, they usually had around ten young goslings. When these were a few days old the parents would take their young brood away down the fields in the morning and return in the evening. We always shut them in at night only to find that some of the young ones were missing so I used to walk down the fields and find them in a deep cart track where it was impossible to get out of, but as they got older this problem was overcome.
Easter meant two weeks holiday from school and a time for helping to plant all the crops and if you had any spare time you were in demand from other farmers to do a spot of goggering, I will try and explain - potatoes were planted in ridges in those times where the manure was spread on the field in a row about one foot wide and three foot apart, a single plough then turned the soil over the manure down one side and back up the other, this left a gap in the centre of the ridge. there was now a furrow between the ridges which was grubbed and the soil used to fill the gap in the ridge. The seed potatoes were cut into small pieces with just one bud in each, this was usually done by the older people in the family who were too old to work on the land anymore. The cuts as they were called were then taken to the fields, a man then stood on the ridge with a pointed wooden tool which had a footrest on one side this allowed the user to make a hole in the ridge where one seed cut would be placed. A young boy then stood in the furrow with a bucket full of cuts and as each hole was made he dropped a seed into it. At the end of the day
a few thorny bushes would be cut from the hedge, tied together with a weight on top, a pony or a donkey would be harnessed to it and as the animal walked the furrow this contraption would be pulled over the ridge closing all the holes, so this is what goggering is all about. I have done this job for many people in the area getting there at nine in the morning and working until six in the evening. If you worked all day you got one shilling and if you went there after school you got six­pence, this meant some new fishing line, flies or hooks. Two of my favourite places were Joe Tierney and George Gott of Drumreilly which was a couple of miles away, the reason was they both had horses which I could ride out to where we were working and back again, and the food was always good.
At Easter all our cousins came down from Drumshambo, that's Uncle Frank and Lily Grahams family but at this time Uncle Frank had passed on. There was Louis, Bella, Pearl, Greta and Lily Frances, they were all around the same age as our family. They stopped up at Mrs Graham in Killyran but spent a lot of time down in our place. On Easter Sunday a great big pot of hen and duck eggs would be cooked and everyone would try and eat as many eggs as possible, this was the custom, and after breakfast all the eggshells would be strung on a string and put out­side on display.
Spring was a time of new birth, around the Station we had baby chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, usually one calf and a young pig. If a cow was having a calf the usual thing was to stay awake all night until it was born, this calf was generally sold at the local fair for a few shillings as the milk was needed for the family. I remember coming home from school one day to be greeted by Auntie Louie saying one of the goats is giving birth can you see to her it, appeared that she was too frightened to see to the animal, so that was my first experience as a midwife. Early March was also a time to go fishing for pike, this made a good meal in the winter months and we usually caught a pike at least once a week in Glebe lake, this was done by leaving a set line in the lake and looking at it every morning and every night. I used to run across Taylor's fields before going to school to see if I had any luck. Mick Campbell also fished in the same lake so we usually had a chat across the lake. He lived in a little house with his wife Kate nearby and they were quite poor. He had one cow, a donkey, a few chickens and a couple of fields from which he scraped a living, I helped him in the Spring to plant his potatoes usually during the Easter break if I was not needed at home.
Pappy McKeirnan was also one of my favourite places to go after school to help in the Spring and the Autumn. I went there one Saturday morning and two little baby goats were born the day before. Most people just sold the kids to a man called Magee who came around collecting eggs usually for sixpence each. As the man did not come in the road to Pappy's house, which was beside the river, he asked me if I would take the two kids out to the end of the road which was about a mile away and wait for the egg man as he was known to come along and collect them and I could have the one shilling that I got for them. He got a sack cut two holes in it and put the two kids inside and popped a little head out of each hole. I
lifted the sack on my back and set off to meet the lorry at the end of the road. When I got there I took the two little ones out of the sack and played with them for about an hour but no sign of the egg man. A long time later a man came along on a bike and asked what I was doing and I told him that I was waiting for this man to come along and collect the kids, he said "I suppose you know what he does to them when you are gone away" so I said "no", "well" he said "he just breaks their necks and throws them in a box" and with that off he went. I stood and looked at these two playful little kids and thought its not going to happen to either of you two. I put them back in the bag and started back, on the way I thought its no good taking them back to Pappy's as he will not want them. I had an idea, there was a very small garden up by Lisa Fees, she will not tell anyone that I have them there, as I milked our two goats morning and night it will be easy to feed them, so that's what I did and no one ever knew until they were grown up.


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