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Jem Murphy

Reproduced, with the Society's permission, from the 1990 Journal of The Creggan Local History Society

Jem MurphyIt was a wet, misty, miserable evening in August, 1930, when I first heard of the Lappin brothers, the Carrive blacksmiths of 1798. It was also the first and only time I saw a Lappin bayonet. The story unfolded by chance in the course of the evening's work, as most stories in Carnally then did. It was in no way planned, it just happened and, although it is now 60 years ago, I remember that particular day and the evening before it as well as I remember yesterday.

It was harvest-time and my father, Jemmy Donnelly and Tommy McCoy ("Craig") had joined for the cutting of the corn crop. Sometimes the reaper was used, sometimes the scythe - whichever suited the field and crop.

The previous evening, we had come to the cutting of the last of Tommy McCoy's harvest, a field of about an Irish Acre in an area, known as the "stripe". It was late teatime when we got to it and it was surely going to be a race against the clock to have it in the stook before the heavy dew of the August evening came down. Father and "Craig" were the two mowers, "Craig's" sister, Maggie, and myself were the two lifters, Jemmy and Jack Donnelly the two tiers and a man locally named Bill Sloan from Co. Tyrone shaped up to do the stooking. Bill's correct name was Bill Gorman. He got the local name Sloan from the fact that he stayed for long periods with a man of the name of Sloan who lived on Ballsmill Commons some years previously. He was now a man in his 60's. He was intelligent and knew all of Co's. Armagh and Louth but spoke very little of his native Tyrone. By this time, he went no further north than Armagh City and no further south than Monasterboice. Donegan's there was a resting-place of his, as was McCann's, the corner-house in Dunleer village, but then the McCanns came from the townland of Ummericam in the Silverbridge area.

The two Donnellys were even more intelligent than Bill. Both were well-read. Jemmy knew a lot of Byron and Burns by heart and Jack was a local poet. Both men in their younger years worked in the Bloc-Eiren steel-works in Glasgow and lodged in McRorys', parents of Jimmy of Glasgow Celtic fame.

Father, although he had read a lot too, would prefer the simple Irish poets - Kickham, Ethna Carberry, "Leo" Casey - and the one he never tired of, Fanny Parnell. I can see and hear him yet recite her "Harvest Field" when everything was going well and him swinging his scythe in great semi-circles.

"Craig", although he didn't read very much, was nevertheless very witty and quick with his answers. Among them, they made the harvest of 1930 stand out in my memory.

After getting a mug of tae(1), we set to work in the "stripe".The crack was good for a while but, after an hour or so, the tiers and stooker got behind and out of ear's reach of the mowers and nothing could be heard now but the swish of the two scythes.

It was lea corn that had grown a bit fine and close, with no grass in the sole, and carried a lot of "coinlin"(2). It had bent from the west in a previous storm but hadn't lodged, which left the mowing and lifting easy. It didn't matter much if a bit of "sifin"(3) was left. It went into the next ledge without hindrance to the mower. Every four pulls of the scythe was a sheaf.

Into the late evening, the tiers got further behind and Paddy McCoy, a neighbour, coming in from his own fields, came across the march-ditch and joined in on a ledge with the tiers.

As the sun sank behind the hills of Cavan and the moon rose over Carrickasticken, the crack among them re-started and Bill's clipped Northern voice could be heard as he answered questions from the new-comer, as the last ledge fell.

"Craig" hung his scythe in the thorn hedge at the gap leading from the field into the haggard and joined in with the tiers.

Father sharpened his scythe before hanging it up. I had never seen him leave a scythe out of his hands without first sharpening it. When he had sharpened it, he walked up to where I was taking out the last sheaf and, taking about ten straws from it, he bent them over the cranked handle of the "crannan" (4) before hanging his scythe up. He then joined the tiers.

I went to Bill at the stooking and Maggie went into the house to help her mother with the tae. In a short time, we were finished but it was now after night-fall. When we were leaving the "stripe", father took down his scythe and took it along to the McCoy home and, before we entered, he stood it in the corner of the door-porch, taking the few straws from the handle as he entered the house.

"Ally Fardy", the woman of the house, and her daughter, Maggie, were busy laying the table for the tae. Father handed her the straws he was carrying, saying, "There's your `cailleach', Ally. I hadn't time to plat it". Thanking him, she took it and placed it on top of the dresser.

"Ally", the daughter of Fergus McAllister, but known locally as "Ally Fardy", married to Tom McCoy, now dead, had a family of ten, of whom by now six were in the U.S.A. and four in Ireland. Three of the girls were married locally. Only one of the boys was now in Ireland - "Craig" - our mower of the evening. She was a jolly woman who never let hard times bother her and at all gatherings, even the "American Wake", her loud laugh could be heard above all the din.

The crack at the tae was jolly and good. Our new-comer, Paddy McCoy, was a Bobby Burns fan. He had great belief in the "sugan" (5) chair for comfort. He even called his dog "Sugan". When he got his boots off and his stocking soles to the turf fire and seated on the "sugan" chair, he could recite Bobby Burns for hours, and other poems he said were Bobby's, but I doubt if they were. I know I've never seen them in print but, as they said in Carnally: "He was good value".

When the tae was over and we sat for some time gossiping, father said he was going to see Peter Fearon, a local blacksmith, who was ill, and "Craig", the son of the house, said he would go with him. Jemmy Donnelly said; "Take your time for a minute and I'll be across the fields with yous - when I put a `lasog' (6) to the pipe".

I had known Peter Fearon, the blacksmith, for many years before. I would be sent to the forge with a "soc" of the oul swing plough, or maybe a "couther", or a "singletree" to get "brogues" tightened, or a horse to get shoes on.

I remembered then the first time I went. It was with a new "soc". It only wanted dressing. I wasn't able to carry it on my own, so father wedged a piece of wood in the "eye" and my younger brother, Pat, took the side with the wood, I took the point and, between us, we managed it. I don't think either of us were started school at the time. The instructions I got leaving home were to tell Peter to put "land" and "hoult" on it. When we arrived at the forge, Peter was shoeing a horse. When he saw us at the door, he came to us and inquired who we were, took the "soc" and knocked the piece of wood from the "eye". It was then I delivered my message and told him he was to put "land" and "hoult" on it. He replied: "And have yous the land with yous?". I hesitated for a while and then said: "No". "Well", he replied, with a very serious face, "I can put `hoult' on it but I can't put `land' on it unless I get the land". Neither of us spoke and, after a few seconds, he said: "No matter"; took one of us in each arm and left us sitting on the hearth where we'd be nice and warm. That day, now over 65 years ago, I got my first whiff of the smell of a burning horse's hoof. There was an Irish word for it but 1 can't remember it now. When he was dressing the "soc", I watched to see him put the "land" on it but didn't see him do it. I was puzzled. That night, I inquired from my father as to when the blacksmith puts "land" on a "soc" and he replied: "Before he puts it in the fire". "Well, I didn't see him do it", I said. "Oh well, he did it unnoticed to you. Peter's hand is brave and quick".

It wasn't long after until I found out that "land" meant the point of the "soc" to point towards the land and away from the furrow and that "hoult" meant the "soc" running in a downward direction, giving more depth to the sod.

When Jemmy had the pipe filled and lit, we all came out into the McCoy street, Paddy McCoy going to his home, which was next door. The two Donnellys, Bill, father, myself and "Craig" made our way eastwards across the fields in the direction of the Carnally road, father carrying the scythe, I carrying the sand-stone and "strickle" (7). A straight line took us through Jack Donnelly's street and when Jack was leaving us he said: "I don't think there will be much harvesting tomorrow. I don't like that moon". He bade us goodnight, as he opened the half-door of his home. The big door, as it was called, was never closed then until winter-time and the light from the kitchen shone out across the half-door as well as from the window. It was very cheery to the traveller.

On through the fields we went until we came to John Coinne's (8) loanin', continuing on the loanin' until we came to the Carnally road. Father and "Craig" would be leaving us now. They would be going on in an eastward direction across the "crocken" (9) and over the "clochans" (10) by the scutch-mill and out on to the DundalkArmagh road, at Cortresla Cross. They would now be beside Fearon's forge. They would have to climb the hill to the house, not so big a task now, as the top was taken off and the hollow running out to the main road filled up three years before. It wasn't now the steep hill that William Stewart Trench described in his book, "Realities of Irish Life", when he made his first journey by stage-coach from Dublin to school in Armagh one hundred or so years before.

Father was giving me the scythe to take home but Jemmy Donnelly took it, saying that it wasn't a very safe instrument for a "gason" to carry. He, Bill and myself headed north on the road, while father and "Craig" headed out the "crockan".

When we came to Jemmy's house, he said he would leave me as far as Brannigans. I had no objection, as I thought I would then get the scythe to carry, as I had done so many times before. Bill also came with us on by Brannigan's and up the hill to where our "loanin" (11) joined the county-road. Jemmy took the scythe from his shoulder, walked a few paces into the "loanin" and hung it in an ash tree, saying to Bill: "That will be got there in the morning". Saying to me: "And now like a good "gason", you run home". I was disappointed. I paused when half-way up the hill in the "loanin" and Jemmy spoke from the road: "On home now". lie had read my thoughts. Bill laughed.

I turned and headed for the house, still carrying the sand-stone and "strickle". The moon was now high and somewhat dull. It wasn't the fine moonlight, sylvan night so often then seen in harvest time. A white night such a night used to be called by the old people then, but this was by no means a white night.

The next morning at breakfast, father said: "It won't be much of a day for harvest, until dinner at any rate, so I think we'll to to Tullyvallen for a load of rushes for thatch. You go up the rocks and catch the Biddy mare and I'll grease the cart and see about getting a pair of tethers rigged up". With a few "goupins" (12) of oats in a bucket and a pair of "winkers", I headed up the rocks. The morning was very still, with a whitish glare from the sun. A ship was slowly making its way into port in Dundalk Bay. The sea was high and white. It looked like a large mirror, threatening as if it would spill out on the surrounding land at any time. Up in the direction of the Wood, a dog was barking, easy at first but getting more vicious with every bark. Then the voice of command: "Chew, chew, c-h-e-w". Silence from the dog. "Bad luck to you, if you were wanted you wouldn't be so damn quick". The words came loud and clear over the morning air and there was no mistaking that it was the voice of Tom the "Mútar" - Tom Callaghan.

Some time previously, I inquired from my father as to why Tom was always called the "Mutar" and he informed me that "mutar" was an Irish word for a portion of meal given out by the mill-owner to the miller and the kiln-man as part payment of their employment. I forget the number of pounds given weekly but there was a difference of two pounds, the larger portion going to the miller. Old Jem Callaghan, Tom's father, was a kiln-man in the mill in Ballsmill and when the mill would close down for the week-end at 2 o'clock on Saturday, Tom, then a "gason", would be there to carry the father's portion home, so he became known as Tom the "Mútar".

I was by now on the rock over the house, my bare feet bathed by the dew as I went, They were sore after wearing boots at the corn lifting the previous days. It was great to get rid of them. I wasn't used to boots then and moved much better without them.

I looked up to the top-most point and saw the two mares grazing up at Jemmy "'Dhu's" (13) ditch. On I went by the Mass-rock, zig-zagging through the "boltans" (14), on up through the "raithneagh" (15), on the north side of "Creighnafanigan". Having caught the mare, I looked around. A horse and cart was slowly making its way up Pat "Dallie's" (16) brea on the Lurgan road, someone going to Dundalk for a load of slack or coal when they couldn't work at the harvest.

Thomas Short was coming down his own "loanin", smothered in cans and buckets. He was coming over to Campbells'-town to do the morning milking - a strong man and, like most strong men, a very kindly person. He was a great favourite with us youngsters. He was the owner of most of the small farms in Camp bells'-town now. Of' the five Campbell homes, smoke only circled from one chimney now and the head of that same house, Arthur Donnelly, was in far-off New Zealand. Arthur inherited the small farm his mother was born on. She was a Campbell and he bought the adjoining one. Thomas Short bought the other three but Hughie "Bug" (17) reserved the right to reside in the house on his holding as long as he lived. He seldom came near it now. When he came home from work in England for a holiday, he mostly stayed with friends.

This is the Barony of the Upper Fews, the word Fews taken from the Irish word "fiadha", pronounced "feeoh", meaning a wood or wilderness, and whoever named it must have stood here in this part of the townland of Carnally and looked around. It was here in this wilderness, like my brothers and previous generations of us, I first learned how to lift corn and was cautioned not to leave a "sifin", and it was here, like the rest of them, I first put on a "praiscin" (18) and dropped seed "praties" (19). In this part of Carnally, you could break your neck any morning before you'd break your fast, the saying went.

The train on the Irish North Line in the Barony of Farney roared through Blackstaff Halt. The smoke from its funnel came back to settle on the earth, the atmosphere being heavy. Hearing the Cullaville train was a sure sign of rain coming, the old people said.

Away to the left over the rich Baronies of Ardee and Slane, with their grain crops harvested and gathered into haggards and their root crops as green as emerald, Collon Grove rose high against the morning sky. I had often seen it look much nicer. When I was much younger, I used to think it was a giant turf-stack. In a direct line, but much nearer, Glasdrumman new Church rose over the scrub, its granite walls lifting through a forest of scaffolding.

A little to the left, "Creignacaslean" (20) rose over Glasdrumman Lake. On it once stood the castle-home of the O'Neills, lords of the Barony of Upper Fews. Their most famous action would have been the part they played in the rescue of Red Hugh O'Donnell, when he escaped from Dublin Castle in the early 1590's. The "Eagle of the North" who later swooped on Clifford in the Gap of the Curlews may have trod this same rough country on his way to Dungannon. '

A little south of "Cregnacaslean", the grim walls of the usurping Norman castle of Roche stood in silent stillness. Cromwell finished the business of both.

In the "lickus"(21) field in Campbells'-town, "Johnny of the Bog" stood still, his long neck stretching up through the "giolc"(22) He was looking for an eel for his breakfast, another sign of rain.

I made my way down by the "alt"(23) on the south side of "Creignafanigan"(24). Directly in front of me, as I looked east, a little smoke rose from Cortresla millchimney. John Campbell was getting things in order for the winter flax-scutching. He always had the boiler, the engine, the handles and the rollers in perfect working order long before they were wanted. John, the grandfather of all the present-day musical families of Campbells and Murphys, was one of the Campbells of Campbells'-town. His father, Peter, was born and brought up there.

Behind the mill, in the townland of Tullydonnell, a white calf moved slowly down Michael "Ribon's"(25) rocks towards the Carnally stream and further away to the right, on the peak of Slieve Brack, a small wisp-like cloud travelled slowly northwards.

I made my way slowly down to the street, the other mare coming close behind the one I was leading. When I arrived at the cart where the harness was already waiting, father gave the other mare a few "goupins" of oats and chased her back out the field.

When we were ready to move off, he said to me: "Where's the scythe?". "It's at the road", I replied, telling him about the night before and how Jemmy Donnelly hung it on the ash tree and said it would be got there in the morning. He smiled to himself but said nothing. The "strickle", the sand-stone and my bits of boots were already in the cart.

We lifted the scythe at the end of the "loanin", turned left and headed north for Tullyvallen past a house on our right, once the home of John Donnelly, father of the afore-mentioned Arthur. John Donnelly was the only man of thirteen men charged in the "Crossmaglen Conspiracy" case to be acquitted and Arthur was born when he was in jail awaiting trial. Past the next house, also on our right-hand side as we climbed the hill, the home of the late Pat Harry - also Donnelly - and also an historic house, as Pat's son, Mick was the only person from the Parish of Creggan to take his stand in O'Connell Street on that famous Easter Monday in 1916.

On to the top of the hill to where "Toin Cam's" "loanin" joined the road- "Toin's" correct name was Thomas Hart. I never knew him, as he was dead before my time. He was named "Toin Cam", some of the neighbours said, because he walked with a twist but some more of them put it in much plainer language and said it simply meant "crooked arse".

On we went, "Cregganhoward"(26) on our left; down "Creggandill"(27) hill, reaching the "New Line" at Raverty's corner; turning left on by Forde's Cross to Drumill Bridge; on to the Tullynavall road by Cullyhanna Chapel; turning right at Toner's Bridge; up the Slate Quarry brae; finally arriving at our destination, Tullyvallen.

In about an hour, the cart load of rushes was cut and tied, ready to be loaded on to the cart but, before we'd loaded it, father said we'd take a look at the turf in the "Red Bog". A small amount of turf along the "rocken"(28) face were still in "grugdns"(29), as they weren't fit for clamping with the rest. These we put in three small clamps.

When we were doing so, a man named locally as "Terry Garrothy" came to us on his "kaley". He always came to us when he saw us in the bog, as he said himself, for the crack. His correct name was Terry Garvey. He got the nick-name "Garrothy" when a young man, from a character in a story, a serial in the "Weekly Freeman". He was a cousin of mother's and used to walk along with Terry Toner of Cullyhanna to dances in Glasdrumman Hall. He knew everyone in Carnally and Glasdrumman and inquired after them all.

When he left us, we headed back to the cart by the ruins of the one-time home of John Murphy, my great-great-grandfather. John the "thresher", his wife, Mary Jennings and their son, "Hughie Mor" bought our present holding and, after a hundred years in Tullyvallen, the Murphys moved back to Carnally. Take a Ballsmill Murphy where you will, but he'll still look towards the "Wood"(30), the saying went.

The "ceann ban"(31) that grew on the spent bog lay motionless, not a breeze to disturb it, the morning dew glistening on its white head. Not a sound from a lark - this place was famous for the singing of its larks but today they were silent.

Ahead of us, the striking of a cart broke the stillness - one of Willie George Heron's carts drawing milk to Fane Valley Creamery, father said. "That's the Scotch country", he added.

We were now at the top of the cart-track leading down to the cut rushes. I hurried on in front to loose the mare, which was tied to the cart wheel. Half-way down the track, I collided with a man coming up. He was carrying a hand-saw and other small tools. He fumbled awkwardly and seemed to be very embarassed. Father realised his predicament and spoke quickly: "Good man, Johnny. How are you doing?". He answered just as quickly: "Aw, Jemmy Hughie Mor! How are they all up your country?". I was more embarrased than the man I collided with and, without saying a word, I moved down quickly to the cart, while the two men talked for a few moments. "That's Johnny `Crot'"(32), father said when he joined me. "Is he blind?", I asked. "No, but he's very near-sighted. But when he gets anything close to him, his vision is perfect. He is a master tool-sharpener", he said, which explained the carrying of the saw and the other small tools.

We got the rushes loaded and were making for home but, when we got as far as Mrs. Donnelly's gate, Mary was waiting there with two mugs of tae and slices of home-made bread. She was a widow for two years now. "Black Pat", her husband, died in 1928- a great "seanachee" - surely in his day the best story-teller in South Armagh. The Donnellys and Murphy were always very close.

When we had finished the tae and bade farewell to Mary, we continued homeward. When we got to the foot of the Slate Quarry brae, we climbed up on to the load and, travelling towards Cullyhanna village, a small squat men was walking slowly ahead of us. He was as wide as he was high. He had a spade on his left shoulder and in his right hand he appeared to be carrying a small loaded bucket.

When we got as far as the bridge, where we would be turning left up past the Chapel, he was resting against the parapet wall. A bucket-full of very large Kerr's-pinks "praties" was placed at his right hand, on top of the moss-covered coping-stone. He had the cross-head of a spade tucked in his left oxter, with his left arm stretched down the shaft. He was smiling and looked the picture of happiness. His name was Terry Toner, a character well-known in most of South Armagh then. He was a stone-mason, good crack, and few people passed his home - known locally as "Wee Terry's at the Bridge" - without calling in. The priests who lived next door also called. When we drew level with him, father ordered the mare to "Whoa" and the conversation commenced right away. "God, Terry, you have them good this year", father said. He was referring to the "praties" in the bucket that were set up nicely to draw attention. "Aw, they are brave chats see", was Terry's reply. "And I am sure they are bigger down in the bucket", said father. "No", was Terry's reply. "They're all about the same size". "How is Eddie?", father inquired. "Aw, he' doing rightly", replied Terry. "Not touching the drink at all?", inquired father. "No", said Terry. "He's been off it almost two years now", said father. "Aw, but", said Terry, "the longer the calm, the bigger the storm".

Eddie was a nephew who lived with Terry and who would sometimes go on a "bend" for a week or more, during which time he completely stopped work and was a nuisance to everyone around the village. When he dried up, he wouldn't look at a drink until some morning, out of the blue, he was off again. Terry used to caution him and threaten him with the "egits' ward" in Castleblayney Workhouse. With all Eddie's faults, Terry had no time for any other of his relations and surely, when sober, Eddie Carty was nice company and a splendid singer of an old Irish song.

"How are they up there in Carnally?", inquired Terry. "Aw, they're all doing well, or most of them at any rate", said father. "Do you remember the night you and `Garrothy' were at the dance in Taffee's and oul Anne Taffee put yous out for misbehaving yourselves, and when walking home you got stuck to the tarred stile?". "I do well", said Terry, "and we weren't the cause of the trouble at all. It was a playboy of the name of McCann from Cargan who gave challenge for a fight. I took him on and 'Garrothy' went in to separate us". "So Ann put the wrong man out?", said father. "Aw, she did. She was a course `rapog'(33). Is she still alive?", inquired Terry, "That's a brave while ago now. I was only a 'gason' then". "She died last winter", father informed him. "Aw, God be good to her. She must have been near one hundred". "You were in bad luck that night-put out of the dance, got stuck to the tarred stile. That wasn't meant for you at all", said father. "I heard it was meant for a few swanky ladies that thought they were above everyone else, but with us being put out, we happened to be the first that was using the stile and `Garrothy' was a wee bit behind me, so I payed the piper. I was like a bird caught in bird lime. Got a good suit destroyed. But sure that's life", said Terry, laughing heartily.

"We must move on", father said. "Arrah, what's your hurry?", said Terry. "Well, it will be time for a few spuds by the time we land home, and there will be something to do. They say that there 's no rest for the wicked", said father. "I suppose that's right", replied Terry. "There was an oul man lived over in Co. Monaghan - I used to mason with him - and he blamed the women for that. He used to say God made the world and rested. Then he made man and rested. Then he made woman and the world never rested since". "Aye, you're right there", said father, stretching the mare with the end of the reins. "Go on, Biddy". Terry laughed heartily, as he uttered, "Och, Lord I, to be sure" - a saying of his.

When we got the load of rushes stooked in the garden in one long wind-row and our dinner taken, we went over to Jemmy Donnelly's in the hope of getting a field of his opened round for the reaper. Maybe tomorrow would be a better day.

Jemmy was cleaning and tidying round the haggard when we arrived. The field to be opened was a field of about three statute acres - lea corn, very strong-stalked. It still felt damp but Jemmy said; "Go ahead, Murphy. I'll tie it slack. It will save time in the morning having it ready for the Number-Eight".

After a short time, father complained of the right or cranked handle being loose. It was moving on the "crannan" when the weight came on. It was cutting the heavy rushes that morning that caused the trouble, he said. It slowed his mowing, as he had to carry with the left hand. I was lifting and Jemmy tying and, with the slowing-up of the mowing, we had time to stook as we went along.

The sky in the south became black as ink and the odd brattle of thunder could be heard in the distance. "We'll have it", said Jemmy. "There was a cap on Borea this morning". "There was", said father, "and it was travelling north-a sure sign". It was then I thought of seeing the cloud on the top of Slieve Brack, as I came down the "alt" with the mare. Slieve Brack must have been in the townland of Borea then. As we came round towards the haggard gate, the thunder was getting nearer. "We'll make it", said Jemmy. "We might", said father. "Only for this oul handle we'd have made it by now". "No Matter", said Jemmy. "We'll still make it". We were just at the haggard gate, with the field opened round, when the rain came pouring down, big drops at first. "Make for the boiling-house, `gason' ", said Jemmy. We were in the boiling-house about ten minutes when Mrs. Donnelly called us for tae.

Bill was sitting on the sofa close to the fire. He had just returned. It was his first leisure morning since he had come and he took advantage of the time by going round the neighbours. He had stayed at all their homes at some time or other. Another Tyrone man used to come just as Bill did - Robert Nugent. He'd come, stay a while with neighbours and, after a while, he'd go off again, stay maybe a few months, maybe a year. Life held no print or plan for either of them or nobody bade them come or go.

Robert, it was said, was about to be ordained for the Church of Ireland ministry, when he took to the road. He was surely well educated, much more so than Bill. I just remember him. He was a kindly soul and you'd never hear a bad word from him. Neither would you from Bill. Both men were the soul of honour. Robert hadn't shown up in Carnally now for five or six years and was presumed dead.

Bill was in the Castlebellingham district of Co. Louth during that summer of 1930 and, after the tae, father was inquiring from him about people he harvested with. Father was a "speilpin"(34) in Co. Louth in his young days. Bill knew them all and could tell him all about them. One family I remember them talking about was Creighton. Another was Matthews and McDowells of Woodtown.

About 7 o'clock, the rain eased off. It had rained heavily for three hours and was now misty, damp and miserable. We came out to go home, when Jemmy said; "I might get some wedge or other that would tighten that scythe-handle for you, Murphy". The scythe was taken down from the haggard hedge where father had hung it in a hurry when the rain came on. It was taken to the boiler-house, where Jemmy kept on anvil. The two men examined it. "A small triangular taper-piece, if one could light on it, would be the boy", said Jemmy. "Anything at all. I can leave it in water overnight", said the other.

Lappin Bayonet (Drawn by Brian Murphy)

Jemmy left us and returned in about five minutes' time. He carried what appeared to be a triangular piece of iron, about two feet six inches long, coming to a sharp point at one end. At the other end was a ninety degree bend, extending out about three inches, to which was attached an eye, about one and a half inches in diameter and two and a half inches in length. Father looked at the piece of iron in his hand and said: "Do you know what that is?". "No, I don't", replied Jemmy. "It looks like an over-sized bayonet. I think it came from the thatch of the oul house there above". "Well, that's just what it is", said father. "It's a Lappin bayonet. I saw one with Francis the'Tailor' in Fearon's forge over thirty years ago. It was him who told me what it was". "We'll not use it then", said Jemmy. "No, we'll not", said the other.

Jemmy rested it on the top of the anvil and looked at it hard and long, shaking his head slowly. "Well, it's kicking about here for a long while and I never knew what it was, nor did anyone tell me until now. How well the oul 'tailleog'(35) knew". "Catch him, he'd know. He said it was Mickey's grandfather made them for the Ninety-eight men", father said. Jemmy still looked at it and exaimined the eye in particular, saying: "The length in the eye would be for a tight fit in the shafting. With that length of eye, it could be wedged tight with a hard-wood wedge in the centre. The shaft would likely be ash", he said. "Ash, probably", said father.

" 'Next day the ashen handle he took down from where it hung;
The toothed rake full scornfully into the fire he flung;
And in its stead a shining blade is gleaming once again'.

Kickham's 'Rory of the Hills' ", he said.

He could polish it off.

"Aw, it flows like buttermilk from a jug", said Jemmy. "You spoke there of Fearon's forge. How is Peter Fearon? Did you and 'Craig' see him last night'?'.'. "We did. It's only a matter of time", said father, shaking his head. "I'm sorry to hear that. Peter was a genius. He wasn't hard to pay either, and half of them never paid him", said Jemmy. "As well as being a good tradesman and a decent man, he was also a staunch Land Leaguer", said father. "He wouldn't shoe the grabbers horse". "No", said Jemmy, "and he wouldn't shoe the landlord's horse either. It's a wonder oul Bond didn't evict him". "Bond's day was over then", said father. "Ten or twelve years before, it would have been a different story". "It would", said Jemmy. "God be with Parnell and Davitt".

Jemmy got another piece of iron and cut it short with a cold-chisel. Father put the heel of the scythe in his right oxter, stretched his arm along the "crannan" and moved the cranked handle to where his finger-tips reached. Jemmy half-tightened the wedge. Father took the scythe again, stood behind the half-tightened handle, stretched his leg until the toe of his boot touched the point of the blade and pulled the handle slightly back towards himself a little. Then, letting the blade to the floor, he tipped the handle back a little more. He then lifted the scythe again and swung it easy, as if he were mowing, and nodded to Jemmy who took it and tightened the wedge. Father took it back, rested his right elbow against the set cranked handle, stretching his fore-arm along the upper part of the "crannan". The points of his fingers came exactly to the centre of the straight, or left handle. "That one is right. It doesn't need to be moved", he said.

The story of blacksmith Lappin and seeing the bayonet fascinated me. Around the late `20's and early'30's, there would be little pieces in the "Irish Weekly" about the Presbyterian United Irishmen - wee items about Henry Joy McCracken, Harry Monroe, William Orr, the Rev. Steele Dixon, the Rev. Warwick, Jimmy Nelson and the most lovable of all the Ninety-eight rebels, Betsy Gray. I felt proud that my own area of South Armagh produced United Irishmen and forged pikes and bayonets.

In 1936, along with others, I went to work on a road-widening job in the townland of Shean, the next townland south of Carrive. Francis McConville - the oul "tailleog", as Jemmy Donnelly called him - lived nearby. He was over 90 years of age then and he used to "kaley" with us daily, and from him I learned of the Lappins, Tommy and Mickey.

The Lappin home and forge was on the Carrive road, just south of where the road known as the Tullydonnel road intersects it. Tommy was the first to make the pikes and bayonets in a forge up on the mountain-side, in the townland of Quilly. After his death, his brother, Mickey, took over and continued making the weapons in case they would be needed - but not in the same forge. The weapons were never used. Traitors were busy, but the traitor from Tullydonnell who set-up Tommy Lappin was found burned to death in his own home.

Grant from Tullynavall, the organiser of the United Irishmen in the Carrive-Quilly district, got clear on the night Tommy Lappin was caught. The Grant family are buried in Creggan Churchyard. The Lappins are buried in Urney Churchyard. I think there are descendants of the Lappin family living today around Armagh. They had branched from Carrive in the years between. Mickey Lappin survived the '98 period and got married. The last Carrive Lappin, also Mickey, a blacksmith, and grandson of the '98 man, died in 1914, a very old man.

The meetings of the United Irishmen were mostly held at a large boulder-stone in the townland of Quilly - very ably described by Kevin Murphy in the 1989 issue of "Creggan".

It was also on the Shean lane that I heard of the three beautiful local poems which dealt with the events of that troubled period. They are: "The Carrive Blacksmith", "The Market Stone" and "The Forge". "The Carrive Blacksmith" I got from Francis McConvill of Carrive, formerly of Tullydonnell; "The Market Stone" from Mary Hollywood of Carrive; and "The Forge" I heard some of but never got it complete. The composers are unknown.


Site of Lappin's House and Forge, Carrive
"Crag-Dhu" Site of Micky Lappin'd Forge, Quilly
Memorial to Tommy Lappin, Urney Graveyard
Grant Memorial, Creggan Graveyard

1. Tea
2. Dead straws; thin black straws; a sign the seed wanted renewing.
3. Loose straws left behind by the lifter.
4. The scythe handle; sometimes called the sued.
5. A chair whose seat was made from twisted straw rope
6. A small flame
7. Name given to a piece of wood covered with a composition of sand and tar; taken from the Irish word strioc meaning to scratch; it was used for finishing the edge on the scythe blade.
8. Pronounced Toin in Carnally; Irish for Quinn
9. Name on a small round hill, usually surrounded by a swamp; Donnelly's crocken
10. A row of stones in wet ground, used mostly by the scutchers going to work in the mill; stepping-stones.
11. Name given to a lane to a house
12. A small amount; a few handfuls; a few mouthfuls
13. Black Jemmy Lavelle
14. Ragworth
15. Pronounced rinnagh; bracken
16. Pat McShane; called Dallie, as he had very bad sight.
17. Wee Hughie Campbell
18. A working apron; a bag apron.
19. Potatoes.
20. Castle rock.
21. Heron
22. Pronounced gilk - g hard; a reed.
23. Cattle path between two hills sloping steeply.
24. The rock of the blaeberries. It was a favourite place for blaeberries. The root word here would likely be "fraughan" - blaeberries.
25. A wisp of anything; Michael Cambell got the name "Ribon" from the fact that a curl of hair fell down over his forehead.
26. The rock of the view.
27. The blind rock.
28. Turf-bank.
29. Two turf standing leaning against each other, with one across the top.
30. Dunreavy Wood.
31. White head; bog cotton.
32. Johnny of the hill; he was named Murphy.
33. A turbulent person.
34. Name given to a harvester from South Armagh who worked at harvest-time in Co. Louth; the word comes from "speal", a scythe, and "peen", a penny; it must go back to the early 18th.century; the penny mower.
35. Pronounced talyar in Carnally; a tailor.


There is grief throughout our country,
From Glassdrummond to Lislea,
Since the Yeos have murdered Lappin,
Who is lying in the clay.
Young Lappin was a blacksmith
From the Carrive mountain side,
And as Curly Maol Hamish
He was known far and wide.

When the fun was at its highest
At the Pattern, dance or fair,
The gayest soul amongst them,
You'd find the blacksmith there.
From Keady to Killeavy,
And from Cross' to Newry town,
As a wielder of the caman
His equal ne'er was found.

And when Grant from Cullyhanna
Came to organise the men,
The first to join the company
Was Maol Hamish then.
When the order was for pike-heads,
He worked both night and day
To fashion out the weapons
That were needed for the fray.

But a traitor watched his actions,
And for cursed English gold
To notorious Captain Farnan
He his information sold.
Then the Scottish Horse at Belmont
Raced from Shanroe down the glen,
Where they followed Grant and Lappin
And the brave United Men.

Maol Hamish he was taken,
Though the others all got clear;
But he suffered torture sooner
Than betray his comrades dear.
After nights and days of suffering,
They lashed him to a cart
And flogged him with their scourges
For to break his manly heart.

And Armagh, true he proved to you,
How dear he loved his land;
Now his murder calls for vengeance
On Captain Farnon's band.
There his body lies in Urney,
In that consecrated ground,
Where we laid him in the night-time,
Us few comrades gathered round.

And o'er his grave we bowed our heads,
Then asked the Lord on high
To deal lightly with our Maol
Who in freedom's cause did die;
Then raised our hands and promised
To be faithful as was he,
And use his pikes to strike a blow
To set the old land free.

So there's grief throughout our country
For that noble soul that's gone;
There's a colleen's lost her buachaill,
There's a widow lost her son
And Ireland lost a soldier
From the Carrive hills away.
God rest you Maol Hamish
In your grave of Urney clay.


I stood beside the Market Stone,
That year of ninety-eight,
To meet a man from Sheelagh
Whose word would carry weight.

For we got news from Saintfield
That the time was drawing near,
When the bright pike would glisten
For the cause we held so dear.

We had caves up in Slieve Gullion;
We had hide-outs in Slieve Mor,
Slieve Brack and Carricknagavna,
As in forty-one before.

Though the Scotch Horse were in at Belmont,
And Roden's Riders too,
We forged good steel in Quilly
Beside the oul Crag-Dhu.

While over in Carna-Gishen,
All in the year before
The ashen shaft we fashioned
Till a finished look it bore.

But no man came from Sheelagh,
Though we got news from Down,
Brought by a linen-weaver
From Carrickfergus town.

And the word he brought,
I'll tell you,
It left us very low,
For traitors they were busy,
As in the long-ago.

That Ballynahinch saw bleeding bones,
Downpatrick Jail was full,
Carrickfergus had a gibbet
Underneath a gaping skull.

So we lost good years in waiting,
For that order never came,
But I heard in long months after
A Duffy was to blame.

So still at Carna-Gishen
The ashen handles lie,
And from the forge in Quilly
No more bright sparks will fly.

McSherry's Glen no more will hear
The tramp of marching men,
We might have done a little
Had we got the message then.