On 5th April, 1940, as dusk began to fall, a little village
in Co. Mayo began to buzz with the sound of voices. Boleybreen
is tucked away in the shadows of Croagh Patrick. For years
life has gone on as usual.
All six families working together and helping one another
in all situations. Some, through the years, had emigrated
to America, some worked in nearby Wesport and some remained
on the land. But there was about to be a change which would
affect all six families who lived there and the little village
would never be the same.
The night of the 5th of April was cold and clear as the
people from the surrounding villages made their way to Boleybreen.
It would have made no difference if there had been howling
gales, as they would have been determined to brave the elements,
for this wasnt just another gathering for a dance.
This was something entirely different. The conversation
was the same between all of those travelling - the leaving
of the villagers. Those lucky enough to have bicycles were
accompanied by friends on foot. The nearest arriving from
such places as Owenwee, Skelp, Pull and Bracklowen, to name
but a few. Those furthest away walking across the mountains
from Loughta outside Loughta outside Louisburgh. This indeed
would have taken a great effort. They were all going for
the same reason; to say farewell to the four families due
to leave the next day for their journey and a new life in
Co. Meath. They had been allocated farms from the Land Commission.
The music from the accordions could be heard for miles around
and the dancing continued all night. The main meeting point
had been OMalleys, but the party had spilled out into
all other neighbouring houses also. Music sessions were
certainly not unusual for they were a common occurrence.
Some years earlier the villagers would walk the few miles
to nearby Midgefield where Sarah OMalley had originally
come from and where her father had built a dance hall.
Dawn was approaching and with it the realisation that soon
most of the people from the village would be leaving for
good. Those who had come to dance had stayed to help pack
and help in any way they could. All the livestock were loaded
and brought by lorry to Westport Railway Station. They were
loaded on to the train and would be unloaded later in Kilcock,
Co. Kildare, where they could be walked the remainder of
the journey to the Mullagh.
All the dogs in the village had done their jobs in rounding
up the animals but just in case the whole occasion went
too smoothly they began to fight. Several times buckets
of water had to be thrown on them to stop the fighting.
The biggest offender was the dog belonging to the OMalleys.
Because of this he had to travel in the bus with the people
and away from the other dogs.
All being packed, it only remained for the families to say
their farewells and take one last look around. Richard McGreal
and his family and John OMalley and his family were
to settle in the Mullagh. The McManus family and the Duffy
family were to settle in Skryne. Austin McGreal who was
Annie Duffys brother decided to give up his farm and
go along with the Duffys where he stayed for the remainder
of his life.
For the families leaving, the emotions were mixed. Huge
sadness at leaving, but great expectations of what was to
come in the future. For the two families left behind it
was pure devastation.
The change for them was surely drastic. The ODonnell
family was that of three brothers. The Walsh family were
elderly with two sons. So Annie Walsh was the only female
left in the village and was then into old age.
It was with heavy hearts they said goodbye to their friends
They never did get the chance to go and visit in Co. Meath.
To them it may as well have been America. Although they
were not forgotten by their friends who over the years often
returned to visit, it was many a year before there was a
new house built in the village and young children filled
the air with their laughter.
The thoughts of those travelling to Meath on the bus must
have been mixed, for most of the 35 or 50 people had not
seen where they were moving to. Two weeks earlier each head
of family had travelled to inspect the farms the Land Commission
had offered. If they accepted the new farms then their farms
in Co. Mayo would be divided between those left behind.
Although five landholders had travelled to see the farms,
one declined and decided to stay in Mayo.
So to a chorus of God Speed ye the long journey
began. As Croagh Patrick and the rocks disappeared, eventually
the flat lands came into view. The first sight of the new
houses were that of such spacious dwellings, it was a dream
come true. They were so much bigger than the stone houses
with their three rooms which they had left behind. Richard
McGreal and his family were to live just a stones
throw from one another at the Mullagh. The other two families
were bound for Skryne some distance away. As the OMalleys
and the Duffys were related, it was only a bicycle
John OMalley, Snr., his brother Michael, son John
(John Jr. wife Sarah would follow some months later as their
first born Patrick Joseph was just a few weeks old at the
time of moving) and his daughters Annie and Margaret settled
in well. His eldest daughter Marie had emigrated to America
the previous year. They were indeed made very welcome by
the people in the area and they were to find true friendship
that lasted through the years.
Next door to the OMalleys were a family called
Murphy from Co. Kerry. Dan, Biddy and their sons Dan Jnr.,
Tadhg and Seán had arrived just days earlier. The
two dwelling were so close together that a plank of wood
was put in place that straddled the boundary fence between
them. This fence was crossed by both sides to visit each
other. It was crossed also by OMalleys dog on
occasion when he saw his chance. The move had not broken
his spirit at all. He wasnt content at protecting
his own territory, so he would go looking for a fight. Once
again the buckets of water had to come out.
A family called OConnor, were the Murphys neighbours
and they had just arrived from Kerry, but Mrs. OConnor
was already showing serious signs of homesickness. Next
to this family were the ODonoghues, also from Kerry.
Tom and Mary, their sons Jim, Paddy, Mick and their daughter
Maura. Another son Tim had already gone to England.
And so the families settled in the Mullagh. As all the households
drew water from one pump, it quickly became a meeting place,
especially for the men. No matter how busy, there was always
time for a chat. Discussions on all subjects, and many a
time arrangements for get-togethers were made at the pump.
As the OMalleys were getting to know their neighbours,
so too was Richard McGreal and his family, his sons Austin
and Micky, daughters, Tess, Mary, Kathleen, Rose, Delia
and Sally, some had already gone to England.
A visit to Richard was a matter of walking two fields from
OMalleys and here too a gap led into Richards
garden. It was a path that was used very frequently. For
each of the OMalley children, visits to Richard were
often, and always much enjoyed. This man with gentle features
always gave his time willingly.
His story-telling abilities were fascinating and filled
many a long winters evening. Some months after the
OMalleys arrived, Sarah OMalley, John
Jnrs wife, travelled from Mayo with their son and
were accompanied by her mother Sarah Walsh. Sarah Walsh
stayed a few months before returning to Mayo. Over the years
she visited frequently until she finally came to live with
the family. Seeing the house for the first time Sarahs
description was of a mansion!
In 1941, having tried for a year, in vain, to settle in,
the OConnors decided to return to Kerry. Their
house and farm was offered to another family in Kerry. While
working on their farm in Kerry one day John Hanifin and
his son Paddy saw a man approach them. He was from the Land
Commission. He had come to offer them a transfer to Co.
Meath. They had already been offered a farm and had declined.
This time, however, they decided to give it a go. This was
a big decision for John and his wife, Elizabeth, as their
three daughters were already married and settled in Kerry.
The Hanifins journey to the Mullagh was similar to those
who had travelled before them. Their animals also came by
train to Hazelhatch, Lucan, and were walked to the Mullagh,
a walk of 20 miles for man and beast. While walking past
the Robinsons, at Pheopotstown, Paddy asked his companion
how much further?
The reply was look to your right on the hill, thats
the chimney of your new house. Some days after arriving,
Hanifins family dog went missing. One week later the dog
returned The family later learned the dog had gone to Hazelhatch
in an attempt to make his way back to Kerry!
Paddy recalls a time he walked one of the cows out to Kilcloon
to a farm where there was a bull. Paddy got the impression
that the bull wasnt too welcoming. As the bulls
step quickened Paddy had to jump the hedge while the bull
stamped his feet on the other side. Paddy was glad to be
able to walk home that day.
Across the road from Hanifins lived a man called Kit Flynn.
Kits cottage doubled as the dotors dispensary
on two days a week. Some said Kit was as good a doctor as
himself. He certainly had the cure for a burn. Many a child
was brought to Kit for the cure by prayer and moistening
the burned area. On the days the doctor was to visit, Kits
kitchen became the waiting room. He was often heard to wonder
aloud if some of the patients were sick at all or just out
for the day. Sometimes while they were waiting or
maybe on the way home some would visit the OMalleys
house in the Mullagh.
As the pump was still the meeting place for the men, the
women would often visit each other at night, sometimes perhaps
to knit together. Mary and Bridie Hanifin, Mary Murphy,
Teresa ODonoghue and Sarah OMalley valued one
anothers friendship hugely. As they helped each other,
sharing was taken for granted, but never forgotten. For
years later their kindness to others was often mentioned.
Paddy ODonoghue was often seen obliging people with
a lift on his horse and trap. Sometimes taking new born
babies to be christened. As time went on the neighbours
continued to work together saving the hay and travelling
to the bog in Timahoe, some 20 miles away, on bicycles together
in groups to foot the turf.
Sean Murphy wasnt just a helpful neighbour but also
a great source of amusement. His healthy interest in those
around him and his frankness in description was much enjoyed
by those who knew him. He had a great ability to call a
spade a spade and often made use of it. He could be seen
in later years on his motor bike. This machine,
as he called it, took a bit of getting used to for the clutch
had a mind of its own. If pressed the slightest big too
much it would take off and Sean, on more than one occasion
during the learning period, was seen sitting on the road
and the new motor bike in the ditch.
As the years rolled on they brought with them the compulsory
tillage and the ration books. Each farmer had to grow a
certain amount of wheat. There were large penalties for
non-compliance of this order. The war was making life difficult.
In1946 the weather was so bad that college students had
been asked to help the farmers with the harvest. These volunteers
would arrive by van in the morning and work wand eat with
the family. They are remembered with great jollity, as some
of them had never done anything like this before.
1953 saw the arrival of three more families to the area,
Patrick Coyne, Tom Coyne and his wife Marie, their sons
Patrick, Michael, Thomas and daughter Mary. Rory was born
in the Mullagh in 1954. Also Pat and Julia Duffy, Pats
brother Martin and their daughters Julia and Mary. Next
door to them were Tom and Annie Duffy, daughters Delia and
Philomena and son Tommy. They were part of a convoy from
Cornamona in Co. Galway. Their friends Pat Fitzhenry and
his family settled just a mile away in Mulhussey. The arrival
of these families was cause for great celebration and they
were all welcomed in turn. Jenkinstown Bridge was to become
a well known site for many a dance during the summer months.
During the winter, dances were held in different houses,
and when in Hanifins, Paddy, sitting on the stairs
playing his accordion, was a familiar sight.
Different times of the year saw different travellers and
as the doors were always open these people were always welcome.Some
would stay only for a drop of tea and a slice of homemade
bread and to rest for a while.
Some would stay overnight and camp in the corner of a garden
or take shelter in an empty shed. As the families grew so
too did the need for fresh bread sometimes with caraway
seed was enough to entice any passer by.
A huge cause for excitement was visitors in the form of
relatives returning home, or holiday makers as they were
affectionately called. Preparing for these relatives caused
a great stir not just to the family being visited but also
to those around. It was wonderful for people to return from
England. But the greatest excitement of all was preparing
for a visit from someone in America. This left memories
never to be forgotten.
Courtesy of the Mayo News