'It's Us They're Talking about' : Charlie Owen

Margaret Farren

2 of 8

"There was a terrible rail strike in nineteen and twenty, and the line was closed down altogether. The 1914 war had ended and England had confiscated a lot of lorries from the Germans in part payment of the war debt, and they flooded Ireland with these lorries. They came from a place in England called Huddersfield. Eddie Devlin and Hughie Brennan bought one. Of course no one could drive in them times and they had to hire a man from Derry to drive it for them. The driver was called Barney Lynch. Barney drove the lorry and they would take the pigs to Derry, and take back meal, flour, bread, butter and all that. (It was very seldom anyone would buy a loaf, mind you, except for the tae on Sunday. And then it'd only be for the oul' people. The young 'uns'd hardly get a look in.) This went on for a while, but the lorry was cutting up the road, and was always getting stuck up in Shandron. A lot of times the stuff never got, and had to be carried to the top of Shandron and the lorry had to be pulled out. Pat McFaul also had one of them lorries. Your grandfather [Hughie Farren] was the first man to get a lorry with the modern tyres that didn't cut up the road.

"When we were wee, we'd run down to the Cross to see those lorries coming in. Comiskey's used to have a shop there, where Devlins have their Fireplace Centre now, and I min' well Brennan's lorry - it must have had 8 ton of stuff on it - and when the boys came back out after carrying some of the stuff in, the lorry was sunk right down to the axle in the mud. Hughie Farren had to come and pull them out! But anyway the pig industry was great 'til DeValera wouldn't pay the land annuities to England."

This sweep from the minutiae of everyday life in Clonmany to the larger national context managed to lose me completely. Sensing my confusion, Charlie begins to explain, but doesn't get far before another colourful illustration of the changing life of Clonmany presents itself to him.

"When the Treaty was signed, the Free State government got a loan from the English to pay out the landlords. It was always a promise by every speaker in Irish politics that when Ireland would be free the land would belong to the tenants. So they got a loan of 10 or 20 million - I never saw it in any book or paper

By the way that wee farm in Gaddyduff sold there recently was originally owned by a woman who came from America and was rackrented so much by the landlord because it was near the Cross. She also owned a house in the Market Square. I'd say if there were any of the old people alive who knew its history they might not have sold it. For sentimental reasons.

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