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My sister Mary's memories....

Mary Guilfoyle nee Mc Cormack

Not many of you readers will recall the summer of 1956. As my short-term memory diminishes, my memory for times past seems to sharpen. With that I can say that July 1956 was a glorious summer month as I helped to save hay in our "back" field. That was the month that I left Aughdoorish to start my nursing career in Belfast. At that time I was too young to begin SRN so I was taken into a specialist hospital in Greenisland as nursing assistant. This was a Tuberculosis treatment unit and when my uncle in London heard about it he was very concerned. He put a lot of pressure on me to get out of there. It just shows how much fear surrounded tuberculosis at that time. It had been a devastating disease for many years until antibiotics came into use and the older people still had an inherit fear about it. Anyway, I stayed until I got into nursing proper.

How did I feel about moving to Belfast? My first experience was home sickness. I don't know if that would happen today. You honestly would find it difficult to understand how far away Belfast appeared to us at that time. To travel from Belfast to Aughdoorish was two bus rides to Draperstown and then a taxi home. And the same back again! The taxi from Draperstown cost me twelve shillings and six pence (65p). The return journey cost me a total of two pounds ten shillings. Not much by today's standards but as my monthly wage was seven pounds you can see that I could not afford to come home very often. When I was leaving home, friends and neighbours gave me money so that I was able to come home more often in the early days than would otherwise have been possible. I must say that in those years I was bursting with confidence and I think that must have come from my secure home background.

I don't recall starting school; my first memory is of a teacher Mrs Kielty giving me milk and biscuits. When Miss Bradley came I don't think I could add two and two but my mother did try hard with me. She was very conscious that education could provide an exit from the poverty that she and everyone else in our community did experience and to an extent were still experiencing. Daddy often felt sorry for me as I quite often got a "box" on the ear at that time. Then another teacher Miss Mc Kenna came to our school and she was tough. We didn't like her very much at the time but she was determined to get us an education whether we liked it or not. I can now think kindly about her. Anyway, I did get enough education to enable me to go on to do a nursing course.

As I have said earlier, I went to Belfast and spent two years in Greenisland doing my Prelim exams there. Then I went to the City Hospital and qualified there as a State Registered Nurse in 1960. I then did midwifery in the Jubilee. That was a great time for me and I loved it very much.

I got married in 1968 and had three children, two girls and a boy. The two girls are in Belfast, one is a solicitor and the other is doing Social work. The boy teaches English in France.

My brother has asked me to recall early memories of my time in Glenelly. When I was homesick in those early times in Belfast all my dreams were located around the meadows at home. When I was young we were quite self sufficient in food. We grew potatoes, carrots, cabbages and turnips. We had milk and we churned butter. We had eggs, mutton and bacon and we ate rabbits long before myximatosis was let loose. You know I never knew how lucky we were until I went to Belfast and saw so much poverty.

One particular event that happened when I was young still stands out in my memory. My uncle owned a small farm in Tamnagh out in Park in County Derry. One year he had a few acres of oats growing and my father and him were to spend a week out there mowing the crop. As there was an old house on the farm, it was decided that myself, Bernadette and Peter should go along too. We must have been very young. I think that I was about seven years old. We went by horse and cart and I still remember going out the road over Dart mountain. When we came to the junction where the road divides, one taking you to Griffin's farmhouse and the other going over the mountain, we began singing, " I'll take the high road and you'll take the lower road and I'll be in Scotland before you." We honestly thought that we were going to the other side of the world. It was such an adventure and recalling that time still makes me smile with pleasure.

I went to Legcloughfin Primary School but it has been derelict for over fifty years (but it is nice to know that my brother acquired the stones from that building and that he has built them into beautiful walls that lead to his house). They were great days when I went to school there with my brothers Peter and Mick and my favourite boy John Falls. We walked to school and we were always early, not to learn, but to play games on Johnnie Donnell's ditch. I did have an older sister but she always came late to school and once I waited for her and got slapped on the hand with an ash rod for being late. Education was becoming the "in thing'' but I didn't let the pressure get to me for I enjoyed life too much. I failed the eleven plus and my granny swore that they must have mixed up the names. However I did pass the Elementary and Technical exam and I spent three years in Strabane Technical College and I did well there. When I got my results I was delighted as it enabled me to begin my nursing career.

Nursing today seems to be very high geared with all its technicalities and specialisations. When I first started nursing I was handed a few cloths, some detergents and told to clean the sluices. Many's the tear I let drop into those same sluices in those early days as I thought fondly of home in Glenelly.

I must mention three other girls who left Glenelly shortly before me to do nursing in Belfast. Maggie Kane, the first person from our school to pass the Eleven Plus went to Belfast, as also did Annie Coyle who was in my class in school. Dympna Duffy also went to Belfast though she went to school in Goles.

I must say that I have been very lucky in that some of my family stayed at home in Glenelly and that I have been able to maintain my contact with the Glenelly Valley. Our family has always been made welcome when visiting and I love coming back. I even feel the air in Glenelly is different and it is as good as a tonic! Even our children look on Glenelly as their second home and get down there as often as possible. My favourite night's fun is sitting around the fireside in Glenelly with Teresa Jackson recalling old memories.