Stories / Poems

'Ballynahaye' By Michael McCusker

This wonderful poem evokes in me memories of a childhood of special Sundays spent in the author’s home. The McCusker household of the early to mid-1960’s was a hive of social activity, presided over by Paddy and Mary Ellen. I will always remember it as a special place for children where they were warmly appreciated for their innocence and play. It was a place for a fertile mind to wander, encouraged by Mickey, Packie, Hughie, Kate and Rosie. Very special people indeed who, with the exceptions of Kate and Rosie, have all departed this world.

The work of the poet is to paint images in our minds with words. Mickey has succeeded beyond expectation with this work as it brings to life my fifty year old memories on the canvas of my imagination.

You don’t have to be born in any of the townlands of Killeeshil and Clonaneese to appreciate this work although it does help if you are over 60 years old! This work is a perfect example of the fertile imagination of an intelligent observer of the world that surrounded him that, sadly for the most part, has almost disappeared. Well, Mickey has preserved that way of life and recorded the values and customs of his townland in a way that will never be lost.

We in the Killeeshil Clonaneese Historical Society are indebted to Breige Rafferty of Altaglushan for bringing this work to our attention and what better window on our recent past than’ Balnahaye’.

 

Brendan Holland

July 2012.

 

**********************************************************

 

Ballynahaye

 

The scrubby hills, the hazel glens

The tumbling brooks, the luscious ferns.

The sandy braes where the rabbits play

Are features of sweet Ballynahaye.

 

Its heather heights and boggy wastes

Are the places for quiet tastes

And tycoons with o’er burdened brain

Can find a peace along its plain.

 

It’s rich in gravel, whins and broom

It yields potential for the boom

In housing and the building trade

And items which are precast made.

 

The stream divides the glen in two,

All the hills command a lovely view..

The pointed peaks of Akkyvore

Salutes the hills of Enenfore.

 

The burrow with its rocky top

And Duggan’s Hill of further up.

Are lofty in their stature too

Enchanting in their evening view. 

 

The sun kissed mass of Lockhart’s Hill

With brownish glow, the strangers thrill.

Whilst Dobbin’s Braes come steeply down

With awesome pitch they do astound.

 

Kelly’s Point, no less renowned

A wealth of scenic joys are found.

The tranquil show of bog and crop

Lies spread out to the Sperrin top

 

Lough Neagh in the misty haze

On silent water the eye may gaze.

And proudly peering from afar

The towering spires of Armagh.

 

No traffic lights are here to mind

No phone connections here you’ll find

No trace of a peace disturbed

From Newell’s shop to Murray’s Bog.

 

No electric power from out the main

Doth light the dark of this terrain.

No factory horn doth rent the air

Save curlew to its nightly lair. 

 

The smallish glens of bush and thorn

With wild profusion do adorn.

And hunting men if they are wise

Will find the place a paradise.

 

There’s hares and rabbits, deers and dogs

Foxes, badgers, rats and frogs,

Various species of wild fowl

Crows, pigeons, eels and owls.

 

Brownish squirrels that chew on nuts

Mocking birds that taunt the lot.

Weirdly sounds of squeak and croak

And leprechauns with reddish cloak.

 

Confronted with such ghastly fare,

The timid hand may tend to scare

If luck would hold he may there find

A bottle to allay the mind.

 

A hurried swig of mountain dew

His sagging courage will renew.

He’ll then pursue his manly pace

The eerie angles of this place. 

 

This land indeed with springs abound

No better source can there be found.

Than Garrick with its endless store

Of cooling waters from out the core.

 

The lonely bush doth grace the fields

A fairy power “Tis said it wields!”.

And legend says it’s wrong to cut

A twig from off the top or butt.

 

And ghosts parade the road “In troth”

From Cairns’s Bridge to Esky Cross.

And omens too of good or ill

Are respected by the people still.

 

The sheltered slopes of the western hill

Sweep down to meet the brook so still

That lies astride sweet Legaroe

And meets the main way down below.

 

This fair faced land is hard to beat

Of equal strength for spuds or wheat.

The folks up here have cause to glean

For pioneering many a scheme. 

 

The tricky turns of road and lane

Ascending steeply from the plain

May test the skill of novice hand

In charge of motor car or van.

 

But mindful of the Highway Code

T’is safer plan to half the load.

Observation of this rule should pay

From Mallowee to Rosie’s Brae.

 

And units of the tractor class

Doth crawl along the risky path.

A safer place t’would be to plough

In rabbitt’s snare or Bannyers Flough.

 

The moor folk on the bogs do dry

Their turf banks with their fuel supply.

The native hearths with heat aglow

A welcome treat in winter snow.

 

The people in this dear townland

Are kind and neighbourly to a man.

Have hearts of gold sincere and true

Undaunted if an ill wind blew. 

 

There’s Willy Best from Upper Town

The Lockhart folk from all around.

Andy Kerr of quarry fame

Gilmores of a proudly name.

 

John Hagan from the back of the hill

Cairns who runs the threshing mill.

All famous folk of word and song

And that wild man called Andy Young.

 

Paddy Owens, an able smith

McFarlands with a gifted mirth.

O’Neills and Kelly’s to a man

Mc Geoghan’s and McCusker clan.

 

Donaghys at the Burrow bridge

Tom Mulgrew upon the ridge

Newell, Gillespie and McCann

And farming expert Thomas John.

 

Mulgrew and Irwin complete the lot

Of family names the districts got

But also in the group we hail

A cavalier called Frank O’Neill. 

 

Though not enriched by choicest soil

All managed through by earnest toil

And favoured folk of fairy land

Must think they wield the fairy wand .

 

Their nights are spent in simple chat

Of trojan men like Hughie’s Pat

Cecil Cairns and the Lews two

A merry band, a comic crew.

 

And cards come next in pride of place

No surer wizard turns an ace.

Tho’ bingo tends to lure away

The kitchen friends of yesterday.

 

And music has a wide appeal.

The local call for a jig or reel

Has vanished in the bygone mist

In favour of a modern twist.

 

The travel craze has gripped I’m told,

The younger members of the fold.

The glowing bait of outside world

From dying hills the youths have pulled. 

 

Remaining few it is no lie

All seem to be so marriage shy.

In years ahead the dreamy braes

Will serve as runs for ewes to graze.

 

Prophetic as this phrase may be

It’s written there for all to see.

Deserted homes that once were filed

Lie crumbling midst the lovely hills.

 

So there it is my tourist friend

Is Ballynahaye with all its blend.

And if per chance you give a call

You’re sure of tea in spite of all.

 

A mouthful of the best you’ll get

To soothe the nerve and banish fret.

You’ll then go home a happy man

At having viewed a fairy land!

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