of Mullagh, Co. Cavan
Clarke recalls a number of his boyhood heroes.
and its landscape of hill, glen, bog and lake has been good
to us. It is our home, where we were reared, schooled, where
we live and work, where our folk are buried and where our
many migrants and emigrants return willingly and with a
smile on their face.
Once a Mullagh man and dare I be asked about the situation
by any of my female friends quoting sexism, once a Mullagh
lady, then always a Mullagh lady.
Our community spirit is beyond question, we live in a modern
world and yet we have never departed from our ancient ways
and habits. We like our Irishness around Mullagh and yet
have time to offer a welcoming hand to all creeds and nations
who settle in our locality.
Of course we have our football club and not long ago Messrs
Farrelly, Carolan and Cahill brought home Ulster medals
as a reminder of our prowess in this field. Manys
the famous head that came out of Mullagh.
But what is the word famous? What does it really mean? Maybe
if you went to Dublin or London and got your name in some
paper or other or if you happened to appear as a spectator
at some event on Sky television you might be called famous.
However, there are various kinds of famous, and around Mullagh
we value our local characters. To me they are the famous
ones, in a different type of way but they are the people
who count. They are our real famous. Sure the
place at present is full of local characters but I want
to go back a few years to my childhood and put on paper
some of my characters and their deeds, to record
these before they disappear into the mists of time. Men
like Paddy Watt.
Now like most of us Paddy was fond of the odd jar or two
and had a habit of really celebrating on Fair Days in the
town. Anyway, this particular Fair Day, Paddy as was his
custom spent the day celebrating. He had an
awful habit of falling asleep when he over indulged and
true to form slept on a grassy ditch while trying to map
out a way home.
Unknown to him these two bright sparks (we cannot name them)
were returning in a cart from the fair. Mad for a bit of
craic themselves they stumbled upon the unfortunate Paddy.
Now Paddy had another problem. When he fell asleep by
Janey he was impossible to wake. So Paddy was lifted
up into the cart and our bould boys headed in the direction
of the graveyard. Their luck was in, there was a funeral
the next day and an open grave was ready at their disposal.
And yes, our friends gently lifted Mr Watts into the waiting
grave before slipping off quietly into the night.
Paddy slept away and must have woke the next morning. Anyway
there was no sign of him when that days funeral took place.
Days later he was telling all and sundry about his experience
in Paddy McCormacks pub and this was his version.
Some so and sos (I wont use the real words)
put me in this grave. Anyway when I woke up the next morning
I had this one hell of a sore head. I managed to stand up
and my eyes only came to the top of the grave. I looked
around and saw all these headstones and by god lads yeah
know I was sure and certain that it was the last day and
I was the first one up.
Another grand old fellow was Tommy Hynes and people said
he suffered from shell shock he got during the war. There
was not a bother wrong with Tommy except for the fact that
he had a racing mind and tended to walk in his sleep. When
I talk about walking I dont mean around his kitchen
or into another bedroom. Tommy was known to walk up and
down the street outside and it was once claimed he was seen
near Kells and not talking to man or beast but dressed only
in his night attire.
Anyway, Tee Smith was having a bit of a ceile
in his brothers house in Mullagh one winters night. At this
time there was no ESB in Mullagh and if a fella went out
at night he could see all kinds of strange things or even
bump into a lump of a bullock roaming outside. Tee had to
walk right through the town to get home and out the Moynalty
road which had big trees on both sides.
A little noise like a branch breaking off a tree or a calf
galloping in a field nearby would have the bravest of us
on our guard. Tee was to come across more than a suck calf.
His encounter was from the other world or so he thought.
He was later to describe it as a huge white thing.
It flew past as Tee jumped into the ditch and prayed it
would not come back. Saying three Hail Marys he was
left in a bit of a fix. If he went back to his brothers
house or into Fitzsimons they would say he had flipped
the lid completely.
Tee had to be up early to get his brothers breakfast so
this swung things as he pulled himself together and continued
on his journey. He got as far as the hall where it was more
open country and brighter. And lo and behold the white
thing was heading back. Tee again jumped for the ditch
and blessed himself three times. However, this time the
apparation was much lower and had reduced its speed.
Tee had another decision to make. Dare he open his eyes
and see a vision from the other world or keep them closed
and hope the white thing would go away. Bravely
he had a wee peep but it was enough for him to identify
the culprit. Wasnt it Hynes out walking with his ould
bike and he only wearing a white shirt. The bould Tommy
did not need any lamp as he flew in the direction of Moynalty
and must surely have been Irelands first bike walker.
I am also glad to report that Tee Smith lived to walk through
Mullagh for many a long day.
Janey, if you ever wanted to invent a character Tommy Hynes
had it all. He was always fortunate or unfortunate to be
in the wrong (right) place at the right (wrong) time. He
owned a house in Mullagh and rented out the front of it
to Andy and Jimmy Brady who ran a shoe repair business.
Andy was disabled but it would be a lesson for us young
fellas to go in and see him at work.
Andy was a very holy man and if ever there was a wrong move
made at mass or if somebody was late you would hear about
it from Andy. Father McCauley was the priest in Mullagh
around this time and the instructions went round that every
house had to say the rosary. And if you were alone you would
have to join up with another friend so as to do the job
right. Andy and Tommy decided to get hitched and things
were going great for a spell.
Remember before when we said that Tommy Hynes had a racing
mind. He was a great man to talk but if he had something
in his head and worrying him he was very likely to ramble
on in an outburst about what was annoying him in the middle
of what seemed a sane conversation.
On this particular day Tommy had wheeled out turf for Willie
Dalton to bring home in the horse and cart that evening.
It was a grand dry day but didnt it start spilling
around tea time. Whether Willie wouldnt go out in
the rain or not he did not turn up and Hynes was furious.
Of course, Dalton was at fault. Anyway they were doing the
rosary and it was Tommys turn to say the Our Father.
He goes along like this with a statement that was to shock
poor old Andy, Our Father who are in Heaven, f***
(we will say darn to be polite) Willie Dalton and the turf.
Andy being the holy man he was pulled himself up on his
two sticks and out the door he went quicker than ever before
and not even giving a backward glance to Hynes who was still
praying away. I suppose poor old Tommy never knew why he
left and there was no more rosary partnerships between this
duo. Andy explained later the terrible thing that Tommy
had said and I think Tommy criticised him for not having
the patience to continue saying the rosary. God be good
to them, they were great harmless craic and manys the time
we spent in Hynes showmakers playing cards and draughts,
on cold dark winter nights. Of course, Cavan football was
the main topic of conversation.
There were hundreds of stories centered around Tommy Hynes.
Like the day he was in a fierce hurry on that famous bicycle
of his. He was peddling away like the hammers of hell
but for some strange reason he felt he was not going quick
enough. What did he do but get down off the bike and started
to run with it. Another evening Tommy was washing up dishes
and went outside, cigarette and all in his mouth to throw
out the dirty water, he left the basin down on the ground,
threw out the cigarette and came back in with the water.
Those of us who knew him well would hear him say glazes
when something like this went wrong.
I could as the fella said go on all day about
the characters that Mullagh bred in my boyhood days but
I am sure the editor has already ran out of space with my
story. Hopefully we can come up with part two in next years
edition. Finally, I am not ridiculing the people mentioned,
good men who have gone to their rest. I am just recording
some of their yarns. I know Tommy Hynes, Paddy Watts, Andy
Brady and friends would love to have their acts recorded
and especially long after their deaths. Wouldnt we
all. They were my heroes.