Memories . . .
My grandfather, Daniel McEleney, was born around the year 1836-'37. I heard him say that his great, great, grandfather was herdsman for a land lord that lived in Fannad.
In his spare time, the herdsman Owen McEleney, made a piece of a garden for potatoes and vegetables. This was brought to the notice of the land lord, that his herdsman was neglecting his work, by tilling the land for his own purpose, with the result that the land lord arrived one evening on horse-back. When he saw the garden in full bloom he was delighted and he told him that he should have made the garden much larger when he was at it. As far as I can gather , Owen McEleney was the first man to turn a sod on what later became known as the Cochrane Estate. I often heard him talk of the famine years. When the people got over the shock of the failure of the potato crop, they settled down to certain ways of living, with the result that there was nobody around his locality in any danger of real starvation. He said they dried their corn on a cam and then crushed it between two stones for meal. They then punctured a vein in the cattles' neck and drew a quart of blood at a time, from each cow. The meal and blood was then boiled. They called this niixture bro-se. The people depended a lot on what they would take from the strand at that time, such as dulse, wrack, sloke and barnacles, winkles and sand eels. They were also very good with the pole and creel, catching salmon. The younger people spent a lot of their time digging up what they called preddie-mada-ruaid.
They always had plenty of clothing, all home-made of course. When they would plant their potatoes in the Spring time, they had to watch them day and night in case they'd be stolen out of the ground. There was a number of men from over the hill from the direction of Dunree who were caught one night in Glassmullin on their hands and knees, scratching out the small potato shares and eating them raw. There was only one woman that died from starvation that he heard of. She was found dead one morning at a place now known as McDaid's gate, with a fairly well nourished child of less than one year old, alive and well, clasped firmly in her arms. It was never known who she was and it was taken for granted that she was a travelling woman. At that time they killed all the hill calves and slaughtered their older cattle as well, because at that time there was no sale for them in the market. There was a farm of land, changed hands for four stone of meal in Ballinlough. (This same farm of land would go at least £3,000 or probably £4,000 at present day prices).
He also remembered the Land League and also the evictions. There came men around a few times organising the people. They held a largely attended meeting at green stone. They insisted on some of the local men speaking from the platform after they had finished themselves. There was an old man made what was considered a fairly good speech and wound up by saying we weren't prepared to accept a slice of the loaf or yet a half of the loaf. He said it was to be the whole loaf or no bread. He was highly applauded by the entire crowd, the visitors in particular. The next old man that got up said he was sorry that he had nothing to say only that Gubbin spoke well on the loaf (Jerry's grandfather).
He saw a lot of evictions taking place, very often in a forceful, destructful manner. They often man-handled the occupants and tried to break and destroy all they could of their personal belongings, such as they were. There was a young family evicted some time during the dark of the night unknown to the people until they saw the children coming out of a neighbouring man's byre in the morning. The youngsters spent the night huddled at the cows' heads for warmth.
He remembered a tenant in the Meena-murra. This tenant grazed around 300 head of young cattle during the summer months. These cattle were nearly all sent down from Inch and Burt. There was also a large number of horses sent down from the same area after the spring work would be fmished.
He also remembered his father to keep a small herd of pigs running almost wild on Bulaba. These pigs gathered up at night to under an over-hang, known yet as "Jackie's Pig House". These pigs would be put in for feeding when they would be one year old for about three months. They would then be killed and home cured. He said they would turn out to be a rare quality of lean tasty bacon.
I heard him saying that he walked to the Long Tower in Derry in order to be present at the first benediction that was given in the diocese of Derry. At that time, there were quite a few of his neighbour women did their shopping in Derry. They'd walk in and out on the same day. He was chains man for the draughtsman drawing the surveyance map. He said this draughtsman was a rather self-conceited snob, until one evening he went out of his way to have a bit of fun with an old man bringing home his cows. He started by asking the old man the measurements of some of the fields within their view. In the end both lost their temper, with the result the old man took the chain and stuck the peg in the ground. He then made a complete circle he then asked him could he tell him the exact measurement inside the circle. He spent some time trying to make it out and failed. He then asked the old man if he knew. He said he certainly did, either in pers, yds, ft., or ins. From that evening onwards Grandfather had a different man to work for. I heard him saying that his wife had two uncles that took part in the Klondyke gold rush and struck it rich. One of them was stabbed to death before he got leaving it. The other brother was followed and suffered a similar fate.
In his young days there was a pig market held at the cross. The dealers came there and bought the pigs alive. They were then handed over to him as he was a butcher at the time. He drove them home and had them ready for the Derry Carts the following evening. He'd have between twenty and forty to kill. I have 9.5ft. of the beam and some of cleeks that these pigs were actually hung from. I often heard him say that there was a worse period some time about 1880 than the famine years because at that time there was no such thing as charity and money was real scarce. He said that he had to work very hard for four shillings per week and then go to some man at night to thrash a flail, while a penny candle would be burning for the sum of one shilling. He said very often he didn't know whether it was him or the candle would go out first. He learned quite a lot in his youth. He made his own candles from rush and tallow and he made some class of soap as well. He could make very snug lasting ropes, from rushes and could also make very useful ropes from bog-fir.
My grandfather had the strength and courage of a lion and the honesty and simplicity of a child.
Written by the late Daniel McEleney, Minaduff.