I haven’t been around much of late. It’s nice to get back online and have a chance to post some new material.
By the way, I note there appears to have been an issue, during the past month, for those wanting to subscribe to the website. After testing, the issue was linked to a problem with the CAPTCHA. All appears to be working now. So if you tried to sign up in recent weeks, please go ahead and resubmit your email address.
An Armagh friend alerted me this week to the very sad news of the death of Willie Loughrey, better known as Rock Stewart. The legendary singer from County Tyrone was such a major part of the local dancehall scene, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. I saw him several times. The first time was at the Freshers Ball in October 1986, at the University of Ulster in Jordanstown. It was a stunning performance (with an unforgettable opening). I also vividly recall seeing him at Traks nightclub in Portrush (on the North Antrim coast) in the early 90s. He was carried onto the stage, in an old style dark wooden Spanish coffin, by pallbearers (his band) dressed as monks. He was one of those that you could not take your eyes off. A true performer with a magnetic stage persona, and a terrific voice.
Ok, back to the article. Here’s an award-winning poem, that appeared in the Londonderry Sentinel in February 1956, by James Stevenson, D.L., of Knockan, Feeny, about cutting turf. It was awarded first prize in the Original Verse Competition at the 1956’s Londonderry Feis.
Although Eden moss was nearby (and there were lots of locals who cut there), I don’t ever recall the Mulhollands cutting turf. In my time, we would buy bags of turf locally each winter. If my memory serves me correctly, we bought several times from Colm Lynn, near the Waterwall (not far from Clady). One of our farm outhouses was full of wooden logs and turf. My chainsaw rarely cooled during the 1980s.
It’s a mad world. Stay safe amigos. All my very best.
Below is an old enhanced photo of a group of folk cutting turf in County Louth, around 1940.
O it’s high here in the heather
In this brave an’ mild May weather
We are busy cuttin’ turf.
An’ us boys an’ girls thegether
Workin’ hard an’ wonderin’ whether
We can get our fire well won.
For then we’ll fear not frost or snow,
Sure, never out our fire will glow,
An’ round our hearth we’ll sit content.
After meat we sit by smokin’
An’ from down the glen slow floatin’—
Now we see the reek o’ peat.
An’ see the rushes by the river
How the wind there makes them quiver
As it wanders down the glen.
The river with many a twist an’ turn
Feth rightly called the “Crooked Burn”
Goes weavin’ down Glenedra’s Glen
To Lisna Paestie home of the snake
Whom St. O’Heney at last did take
An’ tied forever in the Hole of the Beast.
From our bank where lyin’ lazy,
We can see where faint an’ hazy
Rise the hills o’ Donegal.
An’ beneath these hills, a linin’
Like a streak o’ silver shinin’,
‘Tis the waters o’ Lough Foyle.
Then the turf from where they’re lyin’
Lift an’ spread them all for dryin’
On our bank here all in rows.
When the evenin’ shadows fallin’
An the grouse to other callin’
Tell us it is time to quet.
Homewards then, the light fast fadin’
An’ the moon through clouds is wadin .
Risin’ o’er dark Mullaghmore.
There we see the homelight steady,
Shinin’ on the burn’s deep eddy
An’ the steppin’ stones so white,
While within, the oul’ ones waitin’
For our step, the supper makin’
For the winners o’ the turf.