Smiths & Wheelwrights
In the last Journal, Tommy Moloney the Ardmore Farrier promised to satisfy our curiosity with more musings: now he frees his promise.
My first experience of welding was in the making of "boolies" for the children. These were small hoops of 3/8 in. iron rod which I bent like a wheel band and fire welded: they sold at three pence each. They were very popular for a long time, with races around by Monea. Rims of bicycle wheels later took over from the forged hoops. At other seasons there was a craze for tops. Jack Burke the wheelwright, who lived at Chapel Row, turned both peg tops and whipping tops, and I made the spears to be driven into them, which had to be just right.
In my young days seaweed was gathered as soon as it came in on the tide, the cart being backed into the water and the seaweed raked into it, making for a very heavy load. Jack Burke and his son John being skilled carpenters made a special seaweed rake to handle the wet weed. It weighed about half a stone and consisted of an oak beam with a handle mortised into it and having pitch pine teeth tilled backwards. Jack also specialised in hafting tilly spades, as the step spades were called in these parts. The handle and tilly were made of oak or ash and had to be very well fitted so that they would never come loose. We made the iron part in the forge; the blade being twelve inches or more in length: they had to be carefully made and folded at the back. Complete spades would be sold outside the chapel gate, where you could see prospective customers testing them for spring and stiffness. Of course they had to be very robust to stand up to the continuous digging.
Some spademen would contract to dig a field of pototoes or to dig a field instead of ploughing it; while others would be minding a cow and digging a field at the same time.
I used to make nice fire shovels out of worn tilly spades, rolling the blade into a handle and adding a nut as a knob. Jack Burke's skill also showed in the subtle tilt required in the hafting of a turning hammer. His son John worked for a time with a team of carpenters making ammunition boxes at Ballykinlar, during World War I. Here he quickly devised a work method (allowing a one-eighth inch tolerance) which avoided rule measurement (by using a perfect model), an excellent tenon saw and only two blows for each nail. Although paid on piece work, the speed and perfection he achieved so irked his companions that he decided, in the interests of peace, to rest awhile after finishing each box.
John Burke had a brother, Patsy, who was a successful woodwork instructor at Dundalk Technical School. He was really a cabinet maker and brought home some very perfect pieces which he had made in his spare time. He used to say that he had a number of women in his classes from time to time and that some of them were among his best pupils in relation to both design and execution.
The Dungarvan Sheep Fair
The old sheep fair in Dungarvan was a great event. The Comeragh sheepmen were there in strength; all of them wearing beards, for they never shaved. They made a lot of money that day but drank the most of it before they went home, because they believed that it was the only way to ensure prosperity in the coming year.
At the end of the day there was a big dance, which was a wild affair for no one seemed to be sober. Tickets were sold for a raffle at a couple of pence each, so you would buy them by the book. I remeber one night when there was a big, well bred ram to be raffled. He was penned in a corner of the hall, complete with rope; and it was one of the conditions of the draw that whoever won him was to lead him out of the hall by the rope.
It so happened that night that a girl had the winning ticket. At first she was reluctant to go through with the act. Having been handed the rope, she was foolish enough to wind it around her wrist, and as soon the the pen was opened the ram started to buck as the girl tried to control him. This caused great hilarity and to add to the commotion the band struck up. The poor girl was thrown this way and that while the ram was terrified by the music and the general uproar; and in the end the girl's arm was broken. It was of course a disgraceful episode but drink had so dulled the minds of the participants that they were lost to all sense of danger. Thereafter it was always call the "ram dance".
Characters & Craftsmen
Tom "Thug" (Foley) lived in a house which stood where the Main Street now runs by Strand Cottage. Everyone in Ardmore knew that he had a liking for drink; so if you met him he would surely be trying to make up the two pence cover charge to enter a public house. It was also the price of a pint, but to be inside meant some one would stand to him.
Whenever there was a crowd in the village people would put their horses in our yard and Thug would offer to mind six or seven of them, at six pence each, while the owners went about their business. The way into the forge was a bit awkward, if one were not used to it, by reason of the cobbled channel surrounding the banding stone. It happened one day while crossing this channel that a farmer with a couple of cases of porter in his dray, came to grief; the bottles were broken and the liquor flowed into the channel. Willing hands, led by Tom Thug, were soon bailing the precious liquid into a bucket, and after careful straining it was voted by all to be a potion fit for the gods. Tom was of low stature being no more than five feet two inches tall.
Jim Tierney, the plasterer who lived in Ardmore village, had a tidy wheelbarrow which everyone seemed to want a loan of, till he had to replace two bottoms. Being tired of repairing it for his neighbours he decided to replace the ribs so that it was too wide to pass through their doorways and that solved his problem.
Being a very particular man he was for ever making wonderful inventions using pieces of iron, which he'd then bring to me for checking. I'd take the brass rule and pretend to take a careful measurement. When I'd say "its nearly right" he'd jump and say "show it to me on the rule for I want to be right to the 1/1000 in."; but it was all in good fun. He was forever impressing on the farmers that they should paint and oil things as it would save them hundreds of pounds; but he was only wasting his breath.
Tierney was very good at cornices, and after running them he would often work some trailing leaves for the sake of variety. The lime he used came from Dromana and was very good. His Jennet, like himself, stopped at every public house where it was given a loaf of bread and a bottle of stout.
One day while working on the ceiling of Grange church he felt the urgent need to take some refreshment. At the same time he was anticipating a visit from the parish priest; he therefore instructed his helper on the scaffold to keep hammering away at anything should the priest arrive; and not to pretend to hear him. The priest came and shouted up to Jim, as he thought, but receiving no reply only a shower of dust, left again, rather vexed. Later, meeting him on the road the parish priest said, "Why didn't you answer me the other day?" Jim was quick to reply "Didn't you know, Father, I could't be doing my work and listening for you!"
A story which Tierney told me more than once concerned the rebuilding of the top of the round tower in 1875 and the fitting of a lightning conductor. It was during the week-long thunderstorm of '75 that lighting struck the tower and demolished the cap. Ladders were then run up inside the tower and larch spars from Ballintaylor wood were used to encase the outside in scaffolding (1). Working from the top stage the masons gradually reset the damaged stonework. When it came to dealing with the topmost section and the replacement of the crossed cross finial, which was nearly weathered away, six men volunteered to form a "human scaffold". Standing on one another's shoulders they passed up the marked stones and mortar which you may see in place to-day.
David Hurley, who married Maggie Keogh of the tea rooms, on the Main Street, was another good plasterer. He was very careful about mixing the mortar and often haired it. Fresh lime could be dangerous in the cart; if a heavy shower came down they would sometimes heel the load, in case it would burn the cart.
Whenever we had a small job in the building line coming up requiring lime or just for whitewashing, we'd put a tidy lump of limestone in the fire. Gradually the stone would take up the heat and hold it: Later it would begin to crack and in a few days turn into lime.
There was a man from the mountain who used to visit the forge from time to time: he lived away beyond Keily's Cross, twelve miles from Ardmore. This day he had a little bag in the cart, and I saw him taking it up the garden at the back. "What's that?" I said. "It's a blackguard of a cat," he replied "it has us tormented, stealing milk out of the dairy." "Will you release him in the morning" I agreed, and indeed the cat was very cross when I opened the bag. He disappeared and we thought no more about him till a couple of weeks later when the man from the mountain called in: the cat had found its way back in two days!
The best sledger around was Jimmy Keevers; he was as good as a smith in making the steel coulter for a plough out of 2-inch by half-inch stuff, with a 9 lb. sledge. Welding steel requires much more skill than welding iron, and he could strike "square on" with maximum effect and without damage to the sledge. He was also very knowledgeable about horses and when asked for advice could point out the shortcomings as well as the good points which another might overlook.
Horses, Ponies, Jennets, Mules & Jarveys
They say a horse doesn't talk but his shoes do. It is most important to keep a horse's hooves cool, that is why rubber was never a good material for shoes and when some one bought a horse at Dungarvan fair they would stand it in the river for a while before driving home. Sometimes you could use leather on the shoes if the hooves very very sore. Where the heels have to be raised to ease pressure a simple "cock" maybe dangerous, when folding over to form a caulkin or making a wedge-shaped "glilder" would make a great difference. Where a special shoe is required remember that you can shorten a shoe but not lengthen it: half an inch more iron for the outside heel, one end upset and widened could make all the difference. When we had two Clydesdales around here it was wonderful to see how the feathers kept their hooves dry.
Jack Quinn of Villiarstown had a famous pony named "Patrick's Day"; she stood at 13.2 hands, which meant she was really a dwarf horse and was able comfortably to run several races in one day. She performed at home and across the water. In England she went under different names in two classes, but eventually became too well known and herself and her jockey, Paddy Power of Cappoquin had to flee the country.
My little black Welsh pony was actually a half-bred, one of the sort which were sold in Dungarvan fair for seven or eight pounds. I named him "Ardmore Bay" when I rode him in the strand races; one of the peculiarities of the breed wa a liking for the salt water, and they would swim after a board. My pony was in a field near Curragh when he got out and the next we saw of him was swimming out to sea. In the event we had to launch a boat to rescue him. The mares had another strange habit, that of swimming on their side.
Connemara pony foals were brought to Dungarvan to sell. At a particular time there were only one or two very scraggy looking animals left unsold and so I bought them very cheaply. It was then the dealer said to me "There's more money in rags than in gold" by which he meant that the initial outlay was small. The hooves of Conneamara ponies are the hardest of any, because they are allowed to run unshod over the stony ground while their hooves are still developing. Some people upset nature by putting small shoes on a foal before the hoof has fully developed.
The tinkers were wise in driving their ponies in a bunch ahead of them. It meant that individual animals could travel on the margin and if they happned to have a tender leg they could place it down ever so gently, a thing which would not be possible travelling in any kind of harness.
Shetland ponies were very quiet and then they crossed them and made them as cross as mules. Major Maxwell's wife had a Shetland pony. One day she told me she was very worried because she saw it "gobbling up" seaweed: so I assured here there was no need to worry as they ate it normally in their native place. The islanders also chew the bladder-wrack which they claim contains an intoxicant.
Walking down one of the side streets of Dungarvan one day, I came face to face with the Shetland Pony's legendary strength. There he was with collar and hames and a tail trailing the ground just being yoked to a nice-sized lorry. In no time he towed and started it!
When Lenihan's Circus came to the village they were billing "The Smallest Pony in Ireland". He was jet black, with a lovely mane and tail: he was just two-and-a-half hands (or ten inches) high. When he came to the forge to be shod we got him up on the hob and the shoes were no bigger than tips on a man's boot. He'd leave you the leg like your hand and was delighted to get the new shoes because he was doing action in the ring. Though he had a box for travelling they led him to Youghal for the sake of exercise.
One of the ploys used in the early training of a pony was to put on his back a bag full of tin cans - light but noisy. At a later stage one could let it pull a "furrow stone" to get it used to draught, which could be caried by standing on or off of it.
My own method of training a pony for drivng was first to have it well mouthed. Then some Sunday I'd harness hm and put him under the trap, out there, with a long reins. Traffic on the Youghal road was almost nil in those times and I would stay behind the trap driving up the street, holding him with the reins. After a quarter of a mile on the road I would stand on the step. Then I would sit in the trap but wouldn't think of closing the door" and he would be going and going. Once we got to the hills near Clashmore I'd give a tip of the whip and say "Go now as fast as you like". We would be going like that till we reached my first cousins, the Halleys of Aglish, some sixteen miles. The sweat used to be on them and the hair curled, for they were young ponies, the first day under the trap and that alone would make them sweat. There were a couple of girls there and they'd come out and say I was the cruelist man they ever knew; but I'm telling you, you had them well trained for ever after that, when you'd command them.
I sold a nice red pony to Tom Troy of Villierstown: in no time she determined to find her way back, jumping fences to follow the exact route she had come three months earlier. Unfortunately she was killed while crossing the main road.
Harris of the Hotel had the first pony trap in Ardmore; it was a back-to-back. They had also a waggonette drawn by a single horse which was hard going. It brought students from the Ferry to the old College: the horse were stabled across the street from the hotel. That reminds me of a pony they had in Ring College that had got all his commands in Irish from the time he was a yearling and it was wonderful to see his total disregard for anything said to him in English.
There were several jarveys around here, such as Mick Power and Pats McCarthy, the well known wit. Dick Forde had two or three vehicles, including a covered side car and he would always have fresh horses. He knew the hooves of his horses so well that he would regularly go through the heap of old horseshoes at the forge and pick out a set of good slippers to get a cheap refit. Tom Quinn had a nice mare of 15 hands, and used plush cushions. He was a great character who used to sing jarvey songs to his passengers, such as "The Road to Castlebar". Then there was Mickey Grady, a brother of John who lived in Upper Curragh; and Jerry Lehane. Foxy Tom Foley, a brother of Mrs. Monsell, moved to Sleepy Lane where he joined his widowed sister. When he first returned from America he worked as a jarvey; later he had the Ardo sedan car for hire and died in the 1950's.
Jennets are wonderful animals; after a hard day's work you need only unharness them and allow them to have a good roll and they are ready and fresh again.
There was an annual gathering on the Green at Villierstown with jennet races at the upper end and drays and stalls at the lower end. Jim Keevers had a great jennet but it wasn't trained at all. His uncle, John Ryan drove up with him to Villierstown and Jimmy went riding in the race. In no time the jennet left the marked out course, for he couldn't turn it; and charged down towards the drays, completely out of control. He overturned the stalls and put everything flying. There was complete uproar and it was a miracle that he escaped out of the village without being killed.
Mules can be very dangerous as they kick with both hind legs at once, like a bullet, if a stick touches them. A vodka cocktail is sometimes called a "white mule" because of its double kick. In contrast a jennet gives a kind of hiese.
Goats & The Ardmore Pound
All the people living near Whiting Bay kept goats. They depended a lot of them, and had some grand goat's milk. They used to have two goats with months between them having kids; they'd have a goat kidding late so that they'd have milk in the winter. They'd rear the odd calf as well, with a mixture of waste bread and small potoatoes. The old people were great providers: they'd look after the goats everyday to see that they wouldn't be shocked or anything. John Smith would work for Michael Begley who'd then give him three or four long drills of turnips to feed his goats; that was one of the ways they worked things. Keevers, over there, kept a puck as well as Hennebry.
When the goats were dry they were put out on Goat Island, that's how it got its name. It was fenced around with old fishing nets and light braches and divided into pens. There were often sixty goats there, because the cottiers might be short of housing at home. From time to time the goats would break out of Goat Island and graze up along the cliffs towards Dysert, even though they were coupled in pairs, a cross and a quiet goat, by a pair of bucket handles joined by a piece of chain and a swivel. They were also fettered with a soft bag rope.
There was a lot of grazing along the cliffs. Harris of the hotel had land up there and said he didn't mind in the least and that he loved to see the goats up near Fr. O'Donnell's Well. But Johnny McGrath got after them, for he had set turnips, and he got the Civic Guards to round them up. There were twenty-four of them there. He went around to the house first because they could be in his land today and mine tomorrow and they'd go back according to the weather.
It was an awful joke that the guards couldn't arrest them. There were four guards here at the time and people thought they could never catch them; goats being a bit like deer in the way the'd be gone. The guards used their batons on the goats because they'd eat the turnips. Some of the goat owners were watching and they thought the new guards wouldn't be able for them.
The pound was opposite the civic guard station, between the two roads, closed with an iron gate (Fig. 1) [link]. They had to be collected within an hour; they were going to charge them with trespass, but they couldn't. If they had them over a day in the pound they'd have to release them or feed them. There was terrible excitement.
The Capture of the Goats
The news it spread through Waterford
And it springs from shore to shore
of such a mighty capture
That was taken in Ardmore
Upon the lovely Ardmore hills where
All the goats are Winter fed
Twenty-four of them were captured
At a place they called Ram Head.
Four guards and the landowner
Did quickly them surround
And with their batons drawn
They conveyed them down to the local pound.
You're guilty now of trespass
The local Sergeant said
(When he had them locked in)
And within forty-eight more hours
If the owners don't claim ye
Ye surely will be dead.
Paddy Hennebry's goat made a snarl
And she vowed to have the head off
of Carroll . . .
McGrath was determined to shoot the goats, if any one did not claim them, rather than leave them off again; he was really determined to get rid of them the second day. He had the gun and he was determined; like, if I went for my goat, he'd say "Tell so-and-so if he isn't coming now his goat will be dead". He accepted a genuine reason if some one could not come; but they were all claimed.
Among the goat owners Jack Hurley, who composed the song, had two goats; Paddy Hennebry's flock was there; my brother's goats were among them, though they usen't ever come in, but the company lured them; though there was no puck among them. Hennebry was very annoyed and when he got back his goats he vowed he'd "have" Carroll, a local guard who was very active in regard to both lights and after hours drinking. As the excitement of the last "round up" ebbed away so did the memory of annual gathering on Goat Island pass into history.
Text: Michael Mulcahy
Scanned By: Joanne Connors Parandjuk
Author: Siobhán Lincoln