It's Us They're Talking About: Laurence Farren

Margaret Farren

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Master Patrick Kavanagh Another talent Master Kavanagh had was he spoke a kind of Romany, or whatever kind of language it was that the Stokes down the Binnion Road used to speak. I remember a story that when Kavanagh was at the races in Buncrana, two travellers approached him for tips, thinking he looked like a horsey kind of man. They got some fright when he answered them in their own language.

"It was Master Kavanagh who gave us a list of topics for the folklore commission and we'd go out to find some old person who might tell us something about it. I don't care what anybody tells you, you did it because you had to.We didn't appreciate what we were doing.We might have if we had been older.

"It was hard enough work too. You wouldn't understand everything the oul' people would say or the way they would say it. There were a lot of things they would say that would take you a long time to get right....oul' Irish words that you never heard of. And they wouldn't know the meaning of it either. They'd know what they meant by it, but they wouldn't know how to translate it. And you'd a lot of Irish stories too and they would take a while to get down. So if the old person wouldn't talk to you and often they'd be reluctant- well, divil the hell you cared! You could just go home again. [laughs]

"The old people were very suspicious of anything official and if you said it was for the department, they mightn't want to say anything. The pension at the time was about one and sixpence and if you had half a dozen hens you could lose the sixpence. So they were very careful what they say.

"It's a suspicion that goes back a long way. I remember a story that goes back to when the RIC was disbanded. There was an old wallstead -the ruins of the first house ever built in Clonmany -and it was called Sheil's corner. That was where the old fellas would sit and smoke their pipes. Two oul' fellas were sitting there one day, John Quigley and Colman McCreevan, and the new Garda sergeant came down the street to introduce himself to some of the locals -and a very ill man he was too, by all accounts. So when the people saw him coming they all ran indoors and looked out the windows at him. He walked on down to the two boys at the wallstead and started a conversation with them: it's a nice day and you have a lovely village and all that. He was looking up at Raghtin and he says 'What's the name of that him' Oul' John Quigley turns round and looks up a the hills and turns back to Colman and, without answering the sergeant at all, "Jaysus. I never noticed that there before'. [laughs] So they mighn't be too talkative!"

One thing my father had in common with the old people of '38 was that particular brand of shyness that makes you think they have something to hide! He displayed a great willingness to suggest someone else I should be talking to. Counting on the fact that we were "friends", I was directed to his full cousin, Liam Grant in Magheramore.

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