The borderlines of Cavan and Monaghan

It 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 1940’s, 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 Shercock’s 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 Monaghan’s 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 Shercock’s market or fair.

Counties Cavan /Monaghan are one Electorical Constituency. The counties are also one Gárda Síochána Division comprising thirty-one gárda stations and four sub stations- headquarters—Monaghan. 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 again.
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 Jimmy’s Duffy’s hall, Shercock during the early 1940’s. “I can your honour, Sir,” replied Jimmy Cupps. “Describe him then-what was he like?” “He was a man with a cap so I’d say he was a Monaghan man.” Stand down,” retorted the judge muttering “you’ve 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 Shercock’s 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. Jimmy’s 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.


Dramatics and Variety
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.

I 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 I’m broken hearted
Alone on sleepy Hollow dreams

Two Performers:
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
Sure‘twas 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?)
Harry’s brother Owney worked in Francie McEntee’s 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.

Sports Day:
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 day’s 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 men’s 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.

Traders and employees:

The McNallys’
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 “Duffy’s 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.
Ladies hair–do’s
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.

Shop- 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 McEntee’s shop in Shercock. All these lads knew every branch and briar, gripe and pot hole along their way.

County Teams:
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 Cavan’s Gunner Brady and Monaghan’s Duffy were eagerly awaited and discussed. A young brother of Monaghan’s midfielder worked in Jim Burn’s 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 Burn’s mill in Shercock. Pete Burns’s 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?”