By Christina Stubbs (Tiny), December 2020
I was born in Halfcarton in the shadow of Mullaghmeen. At an early age I began my school life in Ballinacree old school, now the Community Centre. The school was about a mile for home and we (my brother and myself) walked all the way there.
Our first adventure was often with our neighbour’s goat, a peevish animal with no love for humans, especially little ones. He seemed to think we were invading his territory. Eventually we’d escape and could then have time to stop and stare.
We often met the water cart drawn by a red and white pony and driven by Margaret Creedy. The water cart carried a large barrel of water for household and animal use. It was a regular sight on our road. At ‘the cross’ there was a wide grass verge, ‘a gripe’ where a traveller family sometimes camped. The travellers were known to us as the tinkers because they made and sold tin cans and porringers. The porringer was like a very big mug and had many uses.
Sometimes we stopped to look at the large stone which was set in the wall on the Ballinrink side of the road. It was a memorial stone to Bryan and Margret Reilly, late of Ballinrink. He died in 1749 and his wife in 1755. The Reillys were once a powerful local family. It was hard for the very young to contemplate such a long time ago.
Hughie and Mickie Clarke lived near ‘the cross’ and their house was a ceilidhe house where the young people of the area could meet. It was a well-run meeting place where Hughie kept order and Mickie called time. The ‘cross’ was a focal point for the social life of the area.
The Mill Road joined the main road at ‘the cross.’ The road led to Smyth’s mill and in the autumn a procession of carts could be seen, all bound for the mill. The great mill wheel was a powerful sight when it was in action.
Our journey brought us next to Farrelly’s Cross where Katsie Brown’s shop with it’s penny bars of toffee was very tempting – but pocket money was very scarce. Soon after we’d come to Lord’s Forge which was a memorable sight. A great red glow lit up the inside and we could hear the musical sound of the tapping on the anvil as the blacksmith forged the horseshoes. Outside the forge large patient workhorses waited their turn to go inside. We were not to know that the forge and the horses would, one day, become redundant and the heart would go out of Ballinacree.
When the catechist was due to visit the school to test our religious knowledge we felt the need, when passing the church, to visit the grave of Fr Gerrard to ask for his help. Fr Gerrard was a very saintly man and a very kind one. The catechist was a very stern man and the catechism had some very big words.
Leaving the church and cemetery the school was within sight and our daily journey of adventure to the school was nearly over.