borderlines of Cavan and Monaghan
wasnÕt the man from Shercock Nor the man from Ballybay But
the dealing men from Crossmaglen Put the whisky in me tay.
By Brendan Murray
In the 1940s, relationships between Cavan and Monaghan
people along the south east corners of both counties were
at times ambivalent, to say the least. Great!-When it came
to trading, wheedling and dealing on fair days and market
days, and support for drama and sports days. But when it
came to football- well, that was a completely different
matter! This is the corner of the world where boundaries
of both Counties criss-cross; it encompasses the wider area
of Shercock in Co Cavan and the Corduff, Magheracloone and
Carrickmacross districts of Co Monaghan.
Just over a mile out the Carrickmacross road from Shercock
you hit County Monaghan at Shercocks old football
pitch. The pitch was a large field rented from a kindly
farmer for football matches and the odd Sports Day. It was
the home venue for the Shercock Junior team. Many a furious
friendly was played there against County Monaghans
neighbouring Corduff, a townland which lies about three
miles further on and four miles from Carrickmacross. If
you prefer a more scenic route, drive down the Cootehill
road from Shercock along by the shores of Lough Sillan and
branch off to the right for Shantonagh where two German
bombs fell on the creamery on Friday 20th December 1940;
the explosion rattled the doors and windows for miles around
in both counties. Further on, the roads branch off to Ballybay
and Castleblaney. In the old days, because of close proximity,
it was mainly on the Carrickmacross road you met the Monaghan
people going to or coming from Shercocks market or
Cavan /Monaghan are one Electorical Constituency. The counties
are also one Gárda Síochána Division
comprising thirty-one gárda stations and four sub
stations- headquartersMonaghan. In the past the Monaghan
lunatic asylum catered for the mentally ill of both counties.
The asylum was a facility not always appreciated by the
inmates, some of whom should not have been committed there
in the first instance; during the forties, an east Cavan
man escaped in the nude from it; travelling by night and
hiding by day, he succeeded in reaching home territory;
the local judicious guards, knowing his background story,
left him at large for the legal requisite nine
days to ensure his certification by a Medical doctor before
reincarceration. The local doctor found him to be of sound
mind and consequently, he never saw the inside of that institution
Another friendly factor which the counties share is that
they are two of the three Ulster counties in the twenty
six. In the old days electoral candidates, such as, Patrick
Smith TD and James Dillon TD had ardent supporters along
the border areas of both counties.
Shercock court day:
Can you describe the man asked the judge in
the court held in Jimmys Duffys hall, Shercock
during the early 1940s. I can your honour, Sir,
replied Jimmy Cupps. Describe him then-what was he
like? He was a man with a cap so Id say
he was a Monaghan man. Stand down, retorted
the judge muttering youve just described thousands
of men in the whole country.
Jimmy Cupps was a local character, a simple man, mainly
a drover by trade. He lived near Corbay Cross, not far from
the Monaghan border. Locals knew that Jimmy understood his
response made sense. By suggesting the man was a Monaghan
man he meant low sized. Jimmy was used to seeing
thin Monaghan men in hats from the Corduff area of Co. Monaghan,
leading their huge draught stallions along the Carrickmacross
road to Shercock fair or market. Of course the enormous
size of the beasts dwarfted their owners. These men
paraded their stallions and usually ran leading them up
Shercocks main street to impress discerning owners
of breeding mares. The stallions immaculately turned
out appearances were enhanced by tassels on their mains
and plaited tails. Jimmys world was a little confined
back then. He always wore a hat which made his response
to the judge a little puzzling as he could have been describing
himself. And how are you, young fellah me lad,
he said to me one day as he passed on the road. Fine
I replied. Good, be God, he replied as he walked
jauntily on staring straight ahead, shoulders relaxed and
both hands thrust deep in his shabby overcoat pockets.
Corduff had a very fine dramatic group and were well appreciated
and supported when they performed in one of the Shercock
venues in those years. I recall on one occasion they performed
a hilarious comedy entitled The Damsel from Dublin. At the
interval, one of the male performers with a fine baritone
voice sang Sleepy Hollow Dreams, a song not heard locally
before. My memory of some of the words is,--
The moon was shining bright on Sleepy Hollow
The stars seemed to shine from the sky
Again I see the trail I used to follow
And dream of the sweet bye and bye.
wonder why you ever left me
My nights are filled with dreams of you
I wonder where you are my darling
And if you still remember too
The moon is shining bright on Sleepy Hollow
And life is so empty it seems
I wonder if you know Im broken hearted
Alone on sleepy Hollow dreams
Harry McCabe from the Magheracloone area was a popular singer
at concerts held in Shercock; he had a pleasant voice and
sang unusual songs; some were his own compositions. A verse
from one entitled The Same Old Game is-
And before I became a man
Suretwas mischief I began-
Breaking doors, breaking lamps
And getting into rows with tramps.
All me damage and me rob
Only cost me fifteen bob.
Still I carried on the same old game.
(Maybe there was a moral in there somewhere?)
Harrys brother Owney worked in Francie McEntees
shop situated on the Cootehill road in Shercock and no doubt
he prevailed on Harry to perform at local concerts. Another
man from the Magheracloone area who performed at concerts
was Butt Burns. Butt was a very fast step dancer; throughout
his performances audiences showed encouragement and appreciation
by boisterous cheering and whistling.
A sports day was organised each year, usually by the Boy
Scouts; the venue was the football grounds. Proceedings
commenced by the Corduff Pipers Band playing rousing music
as they marched into the field before taking up a prominent
position and continuing selections. One of the days
sporting highlights was the Married Mens Race. All
local married men were middle aged or old so willing participants
were few and far between; the few participants had to be
coaxed which turned matters into a novelty event. On one
occasion, the event announcer on requesting competitors
for the married mens race blared over the microphone,
any eligible idiot may participate. Men considering
participating did not find this remark very encouraging.
A major problem of those years was that few, if any, young
men could afford marriage; and also, due to emigration young
married men were scarce on home ground.
The McNallys of Carricmacross were dealing men; two brothers-
one thin and tall and the other slightly smaller. They lived
in a bungalow on the Dundalk road and supplied milk to adjacent
residents. They visited adjacent east County Cavan towns
to purchase simply everything and anything, from goats to
rabbits; if a family cat was missing young lads would say
it was stole for sale to the McNallys. Presumably,
they had a flourishing export business.
Mr. Jimmy Duffy.
Jimmy Duffy had a thriving business in Shercock; he sold
large quantities of grain and meal to farmers as well as
general groceries. He also hired out his premises, known
as Duffys Hall for court sessions and
concerts. He was also the owner of the Farney Hotel in Carrickmacross,
so he had a leg in both counties and two Roman Catholic
dioceses, Kilmore and Clogher-- which might have given him
some advantage regarding variances in church diocesan rules,
particularly, during the season of lent.
During 1942/43 the Permanent Wave became all the rage for
the ladies of the day.
Those from the Shercock district had to hike it, bike or
bus it to salons in Carrickmacross to undergo the necessary
beauty torture by sitting for hours under hot
driers to have the latest fashionable Hair-Do. They emerged
from under the hot driers with their permanent waves and
temporary red faces. Later, to the joy of local ladies,
Miss. Josie Cassidy opened a hair salon on the Kingcourt
road in Shercock.
boys, Trade apprentices, Secondary school pupils
Shop boys and young lads serving their time
to a trade as well as secondary school students, crossed
County boundaries daily bicycling to and from work and school.
Owney Mc Cabe, a grey haired shop boy from the Magheracloone
district bicycled daily to and from his job in Francis McEntees
shop in Shercock. All these lads knew every branch and briar,
gripe and pot hole along their way.
There was great rivalry between the senior teams of both
counties. Cavan were supreme in those days, but more often
than not, got their toughest game in the championship from
Monaghan, just scraping through at times. There was no back
door system then! The centre field clashes between
Cavans Gunner Brady and Monaghans Duffy were
eagerly awaited and discussed. A young brother of Monaghans
midfielder worked in Jim Burns establishment in Shercock
and was the recipient of much good natured banter prior
to these encounters.
Local friendly clashes:
Shercock often played Friendly games against
Corduff and Maheracloone. The description friendly
was really a misnomer as there was nothing friendly about
those encounters; they were more like games between prison
warders and inmates. The Magheracloone team were more than
a little competitive, more aggressive, some considered ferocious
and a bit on the wild side.
Farmers in that corner of the world were very industrious;
not an inch of ground went to waste or was left idle; it
was said they ploughed the sides of the ditches to avoid
wasting land. They grew and saved flax for sale to Pete
Burns mill in Shercock. Pete Burnss enterprises
also bought their potatoes for the local and Dublin markets
and also their hayseed and seed potatoes.
Those farmers of the forties and fifties understood the
weather and the understood the land; they had to! They were
serious but witty, their minds constantly focused on the
land, even when you visited their homes.
Hi! Garsun, would ya shut the gate (door) for the
love of-; were you born in a field or what?