I recently encountered an old newspaper advertisement for Player’s Cigarettes. It was from 1916. Long since all-but-forgotten memories of John Mulholland, of Eden, immediately flooded my thoughts. You see, the word “Player’s” to me, is synonymous with “John Mulholland“.
Player’s Cigarettes & John Mulholland
John Smyth Mulholland (born in April 1898) was an uncle of my dad – though we (i.e. cousins and most of the family) referred to him as Uncle John. John Mulholland and Player’s were joined at the hip. One rarely saw Uncle John without a cigarette in his hand. He smoked 20 of the things every day. His love of the Nottingham produced cigarette seems to have been a life-long habit. It isn’t clear where he purchased his supply – most likely from a shop in Portglenone, or in later years from the weekly bread-van that came around.
Ulster Fry, Dripping in Lard
John loved to fry his food. The pan was always on the stove, well oiled with lard. An Ulster Fry was always the order of the day. The sausages, bacon (and remember this meat came directly from the family farm) and eggs (again fresh from the farmyard hens) and fried bread, would sizzle in the fat. Not content with leaving it at that, John was also known to slurp down the melted lard from the frying pan. That’s a fair helping of grease. On the positive end of things, at least the food wasn’t laced with preservatives or additives. Small mercies.
He would have been 66 when I was born. He was a very quiet man. I don’t recall his voice – nor even having a meaningful conversation with him. John seems to have been camera-shy. The only photograph of him (the one on this page) was taken at his brother Tommy Mulholland’s wedding, on the 6th July 1927.
I don’t ever recall seeing him work on the farm, nor do I have any memories of seeing him in any of the fields. Then again, he would have been long retired by the time I was old enough to remember anything.
John’s brothers, Willie and Jim, also lived at the family farm in Eden. However Jim eventually moved over to his sister’s place near Innisrush. At Eden, Uncle John and Uncle Willie were the only two that I remember. Willie Mulholland was eight years younger than John – and would always be helping on the farm. Indeed, there are several photos of him working in the fields. I have very fond memories of Uncle Willie. A quiet, hardworking and kind soul.
John Mulholland never married. He spent his life living at his parent’s (subsequently his brother Tommy’s) farm in Eden. One cousin recalls: “He never talked much. I can still see John climbing the wee ladder that was in the kitchen, beside the range, up into the bedroom in which he slept!!” That wee ladder led into what was effectively an outhouse loft. It can’t have been too warm in the winter months up there. But John never complained.
There were very occasional hints at a couple of ailments that he had. He would occasionally “have wee turns” as one family member put it. One can only speculate what these events were, but they were sufficient to force him to lay down in bed. And an aunt once told me that John used to get injections for vitamin B12 deficiency. This was a wise precaution, given that John’s mother Charlotte died, in her mid 40s, in March 1913 of pernicious anemia – which is a disease of the auto-immune system. It is easily treatable in modern times by B12 injections or supplements. Even by 1913, it should have been straightforward to treat.
Despite his fatty food diet, and enough cigarettes across a lifetime to choke a horse, John Mulholland never put on weight. He was 75 years old when he died at the Waveney Hospital in Ballymena on the 11th September 1973. His brother Willie Mulholland had died at the same hospital four days earlier, on the 7th September 1973.
John is buried alongside his parents, and brothers Willie and Jim, in Tamlaght O’Crilly Lower churchyard. Willie and Jim, just like John, never married.