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

5 The Visits



I remember going to Killyran for the very first time when my father took me up there on the crossbar of a cycle which he must have borrowed from someone. He did not stop there with me but left me to play with Ernest who was three years older than me. Apart from Ernest the only other person there at that time was Grandfather Gerty. He was quite old and not very tall with white hair and a white moustache and had a walking stick. The only words he ever spoke to me was "don't touch that" referring to me fiddling about with a bicycle leaning against the wall. Ernest was digging a big hole in the garden and filling it with water, he tried to get me to help him but I was far more interested in a clockwork engine that he had in the kitchen. Looking back I think now that everyone else had gone off to a 12th July parade. It was while we were playing in the garden that this great monster came along puffing smoke and steam everywhere. It was the first time that I saw a steam train and I stood there frozen to the ground. This was the very first of very many encounters that I was to have with steam trains.
My next visit and the only time that I ever went there was to see my Grandfather and Grandmother Best. I was taken by my mother to see them just for the day, they never came to see us in Bawnboy. Grannie Gerty came down from Killyran to look after the rest of the family who were left behind. A man from Bawnboy took us in his car, it was the only one in the village, his name was P. J. McGeogh. My grandparents lived on a farm in a place called Mullinefrin near the town of Belturbet.
I recall my grandfather being quite tall and my grandmother not so tall and completely dressed in black, it appeared to me that all grannies were dressed in black in those days. When it was time for dinner there was a basket of unpeeled cooked potatoes put on the table, some pepper and salt, we also had some butter and a mug of milk each. After we had that we were given a mug of tea and a slice of bread. I remember my grandmother pulled a stick of twisted candy from under her apron, like a magician, broke a piece off and gave it to me. Later that day my grandfather took me outside and showed me some of his animals around the farm. The car came back for us late in the evening and took us all the way back to the house, that was the last time I ever saw my Grandparents Best again. It was shortly after this time when I learned that Grandfather Gerty had passed away when our father came home one afternoon and our mother was asking him about the funeral, but Grannie Gerty was still around and she was my favourite.
When the weather was nice we used to sit outside in the evenings with our mother, by this time along with Vera, we also had Maisie, John and Muriel added to the family. Inside the house our porridge would be cooking on the open hearth for our supper. The only fuel we burned was wood, we had plenty of that so there would be wisps of smoke coming outside through the open door. Our last job would be to help round up the hens and chickens before we went to bed. We made sure they were all safely locked up before the fox came along later in the night.
I was August 1936 when the last of our family arrived, George, this was the only time when Grannie Gerty was not in attendance when one of us were born. Nurse Connolly was not available but Grannie did come a few days after he was born. A young nurse came whom I had not seen before. We also had a visit from our Mothers sisters Mag and Flo and Uncle Sam, Mag's husband. I recall him as being a lazy man, he used all our drinking water to have a wash and I had to go to the well across the fields to fetch another bucket full.


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