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

25 Joining Up



We have a new people in Killyran, Bertie White and his wife, she is to be the new teacher in the school, they have bought R. Fee's farm and as Bertie knows very little about farming I'm sure we will still be able to rent much of the land for crops and grazing. Eddie and me spend a lot of time showing him around the place. Before I left the railway P. Dologhan, Katie Smith's husband, who is a shoemaker started to make me a pair of hob nailed boots and he has asked me to go over and try them on. They are a perfect fit and I'm glad of them now that it is February and the first snow of the winter has just started to fall just a little at first but later on we will be in for a shock.
Ernest has been transferred back to Mohill and there is one of the biggest cattle fairs in Ireland held there each February, Bertie White who has got a car is going to take Eddie, A. Crawford, Harold and me to the fair. When we get there there are cattle as far as you can see, and the noise, dealers waving sticks at each other and slapping each others hands as the deals take place. The biggest arguments take place not as you might think about the sale but about the Luck Penny, this is a small sum of money given back to the buyer after the sale, for good luck usually no more than five shillings, all this after you may have sold twenty head of cattle. On such days the pubs do a great trade and have to employ extra staff. Many of the dealers come from England and they employ local men for that day as drovers to drive the herds to the nearest railway station. It had been snowing quite heavy on that day and as we left in the afternoon it really came down which resulted in us almost pushing the car all the way home. The next morning when we got up the snow was several feet deep with drifts up to eight feet, the first priority was to feed and water the animals they would not be going outside today. By midday Victor, George, Arthur, and Willie Taylor had dug their way down as far as the station and then we joined them to dig our way out to the main road about two miles away, it took us all of that day and part of the next to dig a pass just two feet wide and it seemed ages for it to go away, but eventually March came and there were signs of Spring at last.
I started to work for Arthur Graham, Doris had been born a few years earlier and loved to get out in the fields with us if we were working near home where she used to get filthy and always wanted a ride on the horse. When we went home to dinner so I used to sling her up and she would hold on to the harness, the only word she could say at that time was "old shoe." I really enjoyed working there ploughing, harrowing and carting for which he paid me very well. I knew they could not afford to keep me full time so I decided to write and see if I could join the RAF and a couple of weeks later the forms arrived, the only problem was that I would have to be eighteen and to confirm this a member
of the police or a rector and Eddie would have to sign the papers. I took the form to Rector Armstrong who was more interested in what I might do in the force than reading the paper so he just signed it. The next problem was Eddie who might think that I was too young to join but I got over-that hurdle by getting Maisie to sign Eddies name on the paper and sent them off. Sometime later I had a letter saying that I had been accepted along with a train ticket to take me to the border where I would be met by an NCO who would take me to Belfast.
I knew that I would be leaving all my mates behind and by now some of you will be saying, and your girlfriends, not so, when we went to a dance there were girls that we danced and joked with but that was it, none of my mates had steady girl­friends in those days, most men did not have girlfriends until they were in their twenties and some only thought about it when their mother was getting old and she needed help around the farm, when they said to themselves "I will be after getting meself an auld biddy to help the Mammy out ".


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