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

24 Changes



A few days later I was on my way to Dublin up our little narrow gauge to Dromod, then onto the wide gauge for the rest of the journey, what a difference; they had bigger engines lovely carriages with upholstered seats with nice paintings in each compartments although we were Great Southern Railways it seemed that we were the poor relation. Arriving in Westland Row I was met out­side the station by a band of very small boys some appeared to be very young, "can we carry your bag mister just for a penny" they shouted, I gave them a couple of pennies "God bless you Mister" they shouted, all at once it seemed that all pennies were equally shared, none of them wore any shoes and they looked to have come from very poor families: at the end of it all I did not have a bag for them to carry. I booked into a place for the night and went out to find this fish and chip place, they tasted wonderful and I think they cost something like six pence in old money. If I have time tomorrow I thought I will have some more of this. Next morning after a big breakfast I set off for my medical, it was rush hour and the tram was full with people standing the conductor having difficulty in walking down the tram. I knew that I was on the right tram but did not know how far it was to the medical centre so I gave the conductor a pound note and told him where I wanted to get off, at this point his face changed from white to scarlet, "a bloody pound" he said at the top of his voice "for a two penny ticket", it appeared that there were a hundred eyes glaring at me at this time, he did not wait for me to say that I've got the right money but instead said "you will have to wait" and carried on ranting and raving all the way down the back of the tram. After my medical I met up with another lad and we set off for a tour of Guinness Brewery, there were a number of people there waiting to be escorted around, we were all given a badge with a pint of the black stuff on it and when the tour was over we were taken into a very large hall. There were about twenty small barrels on the counters all the way around and behind each one a man stood ready to serve, we were given a silver cup each and told that we had just fifteen minutes to sample the various brews. All good things come to an end so it was time to get on the train and head back for Mullingar to spend the weekend with Ernest before going home.
Back at Ballyconnell at this time I had got into the swing of things and knew how to operate the various signals, couple a train, use light signals etc.. I had to do this by myself when Frank was on holiday. Two of the worst jobs were loading animal hides, especially in the Summer, and unloading barbed wire, these were in unprotected reels each weighing fifty six pounds and you had to carry one in each hand it was not so much the weight but trying to carry them in such a way as they did
not rip your legs off, sometimes we would have to unload two hundred of these. Another heavy job was unloading cement they were loaded into the wagons in block of five each weighing one hundred weight and we had to take them out the same way on a sack barrow, the trouble was that-there were battens in most wag­ons to stop animals from slipping and we had to haul our loads across these.
Bob had not been very well and was sent to Cavan hospital for a check up, he was in there about a week, and we had expected him back at any time, when our relief station-master had a call to say that he was dead, none of us wanted to go and tell his wife the sad news she was due back anytime from her teaching job. It was decided that I should go and get the local vicar to break the news to the family, I was just going out on my bike when I met Mrs Wells coming home "you’re in a hurry she said as I passed her so I went and got the vicar. A couple of hours later she came to see me and said that the family would be all going down the North until the funeral was over, she had a request, would I mind stopping in the station house until someone came home again, there was plenty of food and I could help myself. A man called John and his wife lived just across from the station and he used to come over each night for a couple of hours, it was a bit eerie sleeping there the first night but I soon got used to it.
Things began to change on the railway, we were no longer Great Southern Railway, the Government having changed the name to Coras Impair Eirainn and there was talk of cutting the services and a couple of months later we were down to just two trains per day. I knew that it would be just a matter of time before I would be made redundant and it was just after Christmas when I got the letter. I was going to miss the station but not the bike ride in the snow, ice and rain in the winter.
Back at home I signed on the dole which was just a few shillings per week and just helped with the work around the place.


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