Whether and weather in the 1960s

By Rory Stewart

Somehow, these were years in which varied cultures and serious change were enough to concern town and countryside alike. Last overhangs of the 1950s were to be held by the throat in the borderland between Co. Monaghan and Northern Ireland, seeking for relief on either side in periods of occasional clouds pausing and passing.

For instance, the decade of the 1960s were on a see-saw, not alone on weather conditions, but were topics for ceile visitors of the period. In spite of the land mass there was a sense of dispersal among the younger people of the times. Relevant bye byes were a strong signal to the farming community in the graduating release of ‘the hired boy’ and or, the female equivalent! Within assorted communities there was an undercurrent in which the youth of the period had already learned about better working conditions elsewhere. Great Britain was top of the mast for those anxious to emigrate.

In my own young manhood I was conscious in having a position of temporary postman, in being accepted in three postal areas, all generous in my years of service.Times then were to cultivate a sense of growing silence in which a generation were leaving voids at home, and in deciding who was next to be on the bus to Dublin, in time for the first boat heading towards England. In the lilt of rural morning mists young brothers and sisters were sadly filling vacant seats, many never to return again.
Saturday Sixteenth September 1961, there came a day in an unexpected break in the weather. It was then a Saturday in the postal service. I for one was to witness the country becoming transformed into a gale of ever increasing storm conditions. However, I became obliged to walk with my bicycle through hills and hollows. In general, trees were at the mercy of the wind storm in centuries old estates in the county. In looking back into those years, old people of the present will remember the general nudity of trees which were erased to keep the rural fire sides alive in the aftermath of war and other rationing.

Coming back to the storm, along came up rooted ancient lone trees, loose slates of homes, but worst were the galvanised iron sheets floating at random across the land. Aloneside one sturdy roof I was forced to race from that house, just in time for the galvanised roof sliding across the front and porch of the dwelling. This being the home of an aged resident, I was obliged to alert neighbours to come to the mercy of the lady. Latter by dusk, I too became a victim when my field of oaten stooks were scattered against ditches and hedge rows. The rest of the weekend was passed helping neighbours saving the remnants of each others harvests. Within the following week I was asked to assist a rural friend to cut and gather barley straw in which every ounce of seed had been threshed by the wind to be left for the wild birds in the months there after. Three fields of barley grain were to be paid for as having been expensive rural conacre.

In the circulation of the storm on the day I was told by a friend that some members of one wooded estate were travelling across the midlands in the hope to get home safely. One instance was their hearing of a falling tree, killing a lady on her donkey and cart. Back at the estate trees were not the only problem. There was severe damage to valuable cereal harvests in fields and haggards. In one instance amidst trees an aged female neighbour was gathering fallen branches for her fireside, unaware that trees were tumbling around her, but an estate member came to her mercy. Roads in and around were blocked by some of the finest trees of great age. With neighbours and workers it took many days to cut up trees to clear the surrounding roads. This of course was by man power with hand made cross cutting saws in those times. Altogether, the storm was short in the anger of both rich and poor alike.

Wind seems to be conscious amidst the drumlins. Nowadays in heritage tours through Co. Monaghan by bus service there is obvious silence and sadness as we climb ever upwards through the trail. Whereby for miles there may not be a person on the routes.

From our bus window it is annoying to witness derelict homes and farms long vacant. In fact, I well remember one or more ruins exposing remnants of once proud family homes. While still enroute, the towns become exposed, Clones, Mon-aghan, Ballybay, Castleblayney, etc, etc, all now gradually upgrad-ed in challenging the fragments of a forgotten past.

Today, all such towns can produce their variety of goods, Just so are the many business and other premises. The weather as always remains unpredictable.

Taken from Monaghan's Match
December 2003