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Recollections of Trevor Lees

Glenelly Valley

Cranagh ViewThere are many glacial river valleys in Ireland and beyond which are picturesque, beautiful and rich in history and folklore, but the Glenelly valley is special to me because it is where my ancestors come from.

I know little of how they got there, but the farm which is still in the family, is just east of Sronnahervy Burn, under the shadow of Dart Mountain. It would have been a mixed cattle and sheep farm, but mostly sheep. The land is now grazed by stock belonging to good friends and neighbours.

I have fond memories of spending many school holidays down there with my Uncle Paddy. In fact, I went there as often as possible because I loved the peaceful, green surroundings and following him around the farm helping him with the various jobs needing done. I did not recognise at the time that I was witnessing methods of farming which have almost vanished. The farm never modernized so was very much manual and low tech because that is how my grandparents would have taught it.

It is not possible now to see simple things such as the use of scythes to cut any groundcover or the use of hand shears to clip sheep in the late spring. Nor will one see pretties growing nor kale or corn. Haymaking has become rare, replaced by silage. Many farmers no longer lamb sheep outdoors but in sheds and there seems to be an absence of dipping troughs.

Whitewash and tar don't seem to be needed anymore. They don't suit modern bungalows. Houses and sheds are no longer built of stone and there certainly isn't any call for thatching.

Much of this is in the interests of progress, old methods invariably mean harder effort, and being that farming this hill country is not easy, then who could be blamed for letting technology lighten the load? However, the more modern ways usually don't look as good or last quite as long.

Another huge area of change is the people. I am sure there is still a very strong and warm community in the valley; its just little things like that you don't see so many people walking down the roads anymore, and there is an awful lot more traffic and it isn't people you'd know.

There were many characters of the previous generation who I met many times and remember well. Joe McGarvey who could fix anything, Francie Kane who was always walking on the road, Johnny Neddy, Fred the fitter (Francie McSorley), James Coyle and his mobile shop, Pat Falls who never didn't have a pipe in his mouth. Johnny McGarrity a giant of a man who lived across the river.

There are many others I could mention and they would all invoke memories to an older generation who are still around. I hope this short piece will re-awaken some memories.

If anyone has memories of my mother who was Bridget Theresa Conway (the paddy barney family of Garvagh), she would have been at school around the late forties /fifties I think she went to Goles school then Barnes school. I would be very grateful if they could write and share their precious memories of her, she died in 1983 so I only had a short time with her, and she never got the chance to tell me herself. Any information whatsoever would mean alot to me.