Multyfarnham summers

Multyfarnham   1921-‘27    An extract from  Memoir of Labhrás Ó Nualláin

Multyfarnham countryside

Multyfarnham countryside

  A few years later, I was joined on the Irish journey to Westmeath by my brother Jack and sister Marcella. It was our school holidays at Multyfarnham each month of July over a period of five or six years that were the highlights of our school-days.
Here we moved into another world, from one of red-brick houses with their blue-grey slated roof tops, and the rattle and clang of the tramcars, as they trundled along the nearby main Manchester-Stockport Road.  We moved into an expanse of  roomy green acres, bounded by hedgerows of white hawthorn, red-green Fuschia bushes, chestnut trees and crab-apple trees, which made up the townland of Ballinacloon, all under the soft blue sky speckled with foam-like puffs of white clouds sailing overhead. At the foot of the sloping grazing fields stood the Nolan’s house;  a hundred yards from what we called “The Forest”, which lay between the house and Lough Derrevaragh.
Childhood  sounds
         Over the years as I have moved through the Irish countryside, whether it be on foot or cycling, certain sounds to be heard in that countryside have evoked memories of my early childhood days in Ballinacloon, that have remained with me even to the present day.
Every summer, almost as a ritual, when we arrived at the Nolan family home, we first visited the two cows in one of the outhouses, soon to be ready for milking by Aunt Molly. Out then to the back of the house where we inspected the hens, their chickens and a couple of cocks which strutted around. That was followed by our inspection of the pigs and the litter of bonhavs, until we were called into a tea of freshly baked soda bread, both white and brown, home-churned salted golden butter, strong tea, a boiled egg apiece and homemade raspberry or gooseberry jam.  Later on, after a short gallop around the fields, we took our supper, a bowl of stirabout and buttermilk. Then came the decades of the rosary, which was said by all, grandparents, grandchildren, Aunt Molly, our father, Uncle Larry and, when home from London, aunt Delia and uncle Pat.  At bedtime, Marcella went upstairs to Aunt Molly’s room, while Jack and I were, to our amusement and surprise, tucked into a pull-out settee bed. We had the feeling that we were sleeping in a cupboard which was closed up during the daytime hours.
In addition to a few books in “the Room” at Ballinacloon Farm , there was an old-time gramaphone, one of ‘His Master’s Voice’, complete with large trumpet and some records.  Uncle Larry operated it for us and we were all allowed into the “Room” to hear a number of records, brought, I feel sure, by Uncle Pat or Aunt Delia, from London.  So my early education was extended by songs from Count John McCormack, such as, ‘The Last Rose of Summer’, ‘The Old Bog Road’, ‘Phil the Fluters Ball’, ‘The Mountains of Mourne’, ‘Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff’; songs I was to learn later at St. Gregory’s School in Manchesterl.  Other songs, not by John McCormack, that we listened to on that old gramaphone included ‘The Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo’ and ‘Burlington Bertie from Bow’.  He played some of Percy French’s songs on the small concertina, which my father referred to as ‘The musicbox’. He also showed us how to play that strange metal instrument called ‘The Jew’s Harp’. Why it was so named I never knew, at the time nor ever since.        ©  L.O’Nuallain

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