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Conways Farmhouse
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Ardmore Memory and Story - Life and Work

3. Conways Farmhouse
One day when I was about 12 or 13 years old, I was in Ballinamertina, a place generally outside the compass of our ramblings. I looked across the valley to the north, less than a mile away and saw this fairy-tale like thatched house with farm buildings around. It stood at the entrance to a glen with the hills opening out behind. I looked and looked for quite a few minutes and wondered who were the owners of this seemingly magical place. And then I realised, it was Conways (now Flavins) Clerkstown, a house with which I was familiar since early childhood. My father had spent some years there with his aunt as a child, and we were closely associated with it and with our cousins there, all through the years. Alas, a modern two-storey house has now replaced it and the farm buildings are the modern conventional ones.

I have vivid memories of the big kitchen with an enormous fireplace and fire machine. Huge pots of feeding for animals were boiled here, being slung on a crane, swinging in and out over the fire. Baking was done in an oven in the wall at the side and of course, bastable bread was baked in a covered pot with live coals or pieces of turf on top. People still smack their lips at the memory of the wonderful bread which emerged from these pots. Over the fireplace, the black puddings were smoked. My brother James as a toddler, first seeing these, asked, "What were all those small tyres doing?"

The long table by the window looked out on the yard. A door below it gave access to a large porch off the yard and in this was a variety of buckets and pots and strictly utilitarian articles. That was the entrance we children always used.

Two dressers with big willow pattern dishes occupied another wall. At the bottom of one, was a chicken coop, on the fourth side was the settle bed and the staircase.

It was an L shaped house and at the right hand side of the fireplace, were shallow steps leading to the dining room. Up above the porch framed by the steps, was an attic bedroom. The dining room was strictly utilitarian. I remember a large table and sideboard and gramophone with horn, and it was here, the maiden aunt, Mary Anne (my Godmother) presided and gave us our tea. We never penetrated the room above that.

At the opposite side of the kitchen, was a door giving access to a small hall and the front door. There were deer's antlers for hanging coats and there was also a small bedroom with very special furniture, which I'm afraid I can't describe. A door led into the parlour, a very formal room with a grand piano and formal furniture. The only other place we saw a similar piano was in Kinsale Museum.

From this hall way, the front door opened on to a formal shrubbery with sun-dial and there were steps leading down to a garden with blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes.

The large porch on the other side of the kitchen (previously referred to) led on to the farmyards, which sloped down to the river. The haggard was on a higher level than the farmyard and two long flights of steps led from one of the barns down to the yard below. As far as we were concerned, the haggard was the fun place. Climbing to the top of the hay in the big shed and playing various other games. At haymaking time, we trudged cheerfully up to the high fields, in order to get a spin down the hill on one of the hay floats.

We paddled up along the river too. I seem to remember very faintly, some talk of a family death being preceded by the voices in the river coming down from Cor Uisce Finn. All the other voices are stilled now too, as we face the stern, utilitarian 21st century.

Author: Siobhan Lincoln

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