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

18 Autumn

CHAPTER 18

AUTUMN

Autumn of course is the season of gathering in the crops, the first job was to bring in the hay and build a big haystack. this would involve some of our friends coming to help us on that day. All the hay would be gathered into an area near the cowshed and would take all day to complete this work, sometimes working late into the evening as some of our hay had to be collected when the last train went past at seven in the evening. This was done using the railway bogie a two axle unit with a platform on top, poles were used to lift the cocks of hay onto the bogie and this was then pushed along to the station platform where it was lifted off. All us young ones enjoyed this work especially sitting on the bogie as it raced down the inclines, the only means of stopping this was to stick a pole in one of the wheels. One day however things went very wrong, we lifted George on top of the hay for a ride back while we were all pushing at the rear but the bogie with its load of hay tipped over at a level crossing leaving George under the load. There was no sound coming from him as I scrambled under the hay, it seemed ages before I got to him and pulled him out, he was okay and seemed more frightened than hurt. The day after the stack was built it was all raked down nicely and thatched just like a house to protect it over the winter.
The corn harvesting was done by either a reaping hook, scythe or by a horse using a standard mowing machine with an outrigger seat over the blade where a man sat and by using a stirrup, attached by means of his foot to a collecting table, he was able to collect a sheaf of corn using a special rake and release it from the table. All around the field men stood ready to collect the sheaves and tie them with a strand of straw. I used to go to Pappy McKiernan after school to drive his horses it was quite easy as the horses knew where to walk. Late in the evening all the sheaves were gathered and put in stooks, this was done by standing eight sheaves on their ends with two more sheaves with their ends skywards were tied together on top to give some protection from the weather. These stooks had to be in a nice straight line and far enough apart to allow a horse and cart to drive down the middle when it was time to bring the corn in to the farmyard. Farmers took a pride in their work and all fields had nice straight rows of stooks. When the corn was later brought home it was put in round stacks and thatched just like the hay.
When the hay and corn was all brought in fresh grass grew known as after grass, the animals were put on these fields to graze and by the way they ran around you could see that they really enjoyed it. The turf had to be brought home also and put in the turf shed, we used donkeys with creels on their backs and it took several weeks. It was on one of these trips to the bog that Ernest and me learned that war had begun, we had two big hats and snake belts around our waist in which
was stuck two toy guns as we were always playing cowboys, when Davy Gibson just said the words "they are at it".
The last thing to be harvested were the potatoes and these were looked upon as the most important of all, they were all dug with spades and put in clamps in the fields where they were covered with a layer of dry rushes and the earth put on top in the shape of a pyramid. When all the young ones came home from school they started to gather up the crop as everyone got involved in the work. Around the first week in October we put our shoes on again, Auntie Louie bought them for the younger ones, while Uncle Eddie usually bought a pair of hobnail boots for Ernest and me and these had to last us all winter. By now our animals have to be brought in at night, milked, fed and put out again in the morning, as uncle Eddie is still working away sometimes we have to do all the work at home. Everyone goes to the harvest festival in Templeport Church, it was always beautifully decorated with the window ledges lined with moss and all sorts of apples, pears and plums placed on them. On the end of each pew there would be a very small sheaf of corn while all around there were masses of lovely flowers.
Halloween was a time for a party when everyone had a great time. I recall walking miles to get apples at six­pence a bucket for that evening when everyone had a go at apple bobbing. We used to place two oat seeds on an old tin lid on top of the fire we then gave them the names of two people we knew who were going out together, as the seeds got very hot they either flew apart or roasted together, in this way people said one could tell if they got married or not. Another thing we used to do was to get some lead and melt it in an old pan over the fire we then got a big old mortise lock key and poured the molten lead through the locking part of the key into a bucket of cold water. When the lead was taken out it had formed into all sorts of shapes, from these shapes people used to say they could tell what job you would be doing in later years.
During Summer and Autumn we had a plentiful supply of currants, gooseberries, beans, peas, cabbage, lettuce, and of course potatoes. We also knew where all the wild cherries and damsons were for miles around not to mention other peoples orchards. Three of my best pals at school were Vincent Gott, Harold Crawford and George Johnston, we used to put our apples in a haystack to get them nice and ripe only to find that sometimes we could not remember where we hid them. Many of my fishing trips were spent with these lads. At school we sometimes got the cane for mucking about in class. George Johnson once brought a frog to school in his pocket and let it loose where it went hopping up to where the teacher was, who nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw it, of course no one knew where it came from. When we went back to school in the Autumn every family had to bring a cart load of turf or logs for the school fire, there was no such thing as central heating in those days, the young ones sat in the desks near the fire but the older ones were right back at the back of the school where it was freezing cold.
Late Autumn was the time the threshing machine came around this was pulled at first by horses and later on by a tractor. The first man in the area to have a tractor
around nineteen forty two was Willie Graham and he did all the threshing work in and around Killyran, all the farmers followed the machine from farm to farm until the work was completed.
We then had to take our oats to Wesley Taggart's water mill to have it ground into oaten meal from which we made porridge and also fed our animals. I remember John and me having to take a load there, first it had to be spread out on a drying floor to get all the moisture out. We then had to go back the following day to see it being ground where the sacks were hauled up to the top of the mill and the grain put in the hopper and three floors down the end product arrived. Wesley was a very good friend of our family and as a result we got to know all about the working of the mill. A sack of oaten meal always stood in the room beside the kitchen and we had porridge every night for supper with an ample supply of salt added to it. Before the war started we made our porridge with Indian corn better known in those days as Indian meal but it was not obtainable when the war started. Our white loaf of bread we bought from the shop has now become dark brown and when we purchase a bag of flour (one cwt) it is also brown. The only way to get white bread was to go down to the six counties border by an unapproved route where some friends lived across the river, whistle to them where they would come across in a boat with the white bread in return for cigarettes which it was difficult for them to get there. I made this trip often on a Sunday afternoon as Grannie used to say she could not eat the brown bread, if I was unlucky to be caught by customs they would take everything off you.

Mrs.Taylor

Mrs Taylor

Autumn melted into winter very quickly, the first snows appearing on the mountain tops sometimes as early as late October. People visited each others houses on winter evenings usually with a bundle of records where singing and dancing was enjoyed by all. Ernest and me spent a lot of time up at Mrs Taylor's where we played with Willie and Ivy usually running mad around the farm. Mrs Taylor was a wonderful person I used to call her my second Mother. There was no one else in Killyran quite like her I never heard her say a bad word against anyone. When we finished playing there would be cakes and apple pies on the table for everyone. Mr Taylor departed this life while Willie and Ivy were in their teens but Mrs Taylor carried on running the farm with their help and made a very good job of doing so. Ivy working alongside Willie could turn her hand to ploughing and harrowing with horses as good as the next person. There are not many people in this world who command the love and respect of that shown by so many people to Mrs Taylor indeed they are very few.
There was a little family hall in Killyran just above the Taylor's. Uncle John was in charge of the dancing there and it was licensed to hold twelve dances per year, six nights from eight until twelve and six nights from eight until two in the morning. During the long night dances, tea and cakes would be served at midnight. When I was fourteen Uncle John asked me if I would carry the water from our well up to the hall for the tea making and for this job I could get in free of charge. I agreed for I wanted to see the band if you could call it that, one accordion and a fiddle supplied by Freddie and John Brown, with someone volunteering to have a go on the drums, nevertheless a good time was had by all.
Ernest and me decided that we could make a fiddle, we had no idea how to go about this task so we got some plywood, then we hollowed out the shape of the front and back of the fiddle on a old railway sleeper. We shaped the plywood to suit and laid them on the sleeper with weights on top for several weeks to obtain the shape, we did the sides in a similar manner, the neck we carved out of an old crab apple tree. After several months of hard work the instrument was ready to try out and much to our amazement it did not sound too bad at all. We got Arthur Graham who could play to try it out and so began our first lesson.

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