Big thank you from

Decommissioning at Christmas

by the Rambler 22/12/00

MY most memorable Christmas was the year the guns came out!

A funny way to celebrate Christmas you may say but "wait till I tell you". There was fun 70 years ago.

There was, of course, no question of "possession with intent," the current sinister phrase.

Fowl were the only quarry that the men were interested in. Teenagers like myself had other targets. In fact, nearly anything was a target including a hole in a bar door.

It must have been a spell of hard frost that had brought the fowlers with the shot guns out.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day always brought out the gunsmen, weather permitting. There were only a small select band of fowl, and they were very narrow minded.

Blundering amateurs who were a menace were sternly side-lined 'the gulpins' who couldn't be trusted not to blow somebody's head off when crawling of through a barbed wire fence with a loaded shot gun.

Come to think of it I can't remember even the professional fowlers who frequented our land ever breaking their loaded guns when they were out shooting as they should have.

Granted, they had the wit to make certain there never was a human being in front of a loaded barrel.

All that I have rehearsed so far concerned the 'big people'.

Our excitement as school boys, was in 'Diana' air-rifles which had just come into vogue. We were all new-fangled with them and our pocket money had all been invested in 'slugs', as we called the lead pellets.

Darts were for children. We were 'men' and we scorned target practices. Darts and dart boards were for kids!

Sam Green of the Village store did a great trade when he first got air guns and ammunition. One lucky brother got our family air gun, a big brother, but wee lads bought ammunition knowing that they would get a chance to use it

Billie Bell was Sam Greens van driver and horseman and one day he left a brand new zinc bucket on its side, outside the stable door. A man, who shall be nameless, who wish to test his newly-purchased Diana had a plug at the bottom of Billie's bucket.

It was an easy target and the gun was better then the marksman anticipated

To be brief, when Billie took the bucket to the pump in the yard to fill it and water his steed, the air was blue.

Billie had a fine repertoire of expletives. 

There wasn't much fun in having a loaded air gun and no targets when rain drove us into the barn for shelter.

Then we had a bright idea - the finger hole above the latch on the back door. Great! It wasn't long until Tom, who was a pretty good shot, got a bull's eye. Sadly, Mum didn't appreciate how fine a marksman he was when the slug smashed a kitchen window across the yard!

The gun was temporarily confiscated and narrowly escaped being decommissioned by Dad.

It wasn't long until one gun was put beyond use. Coming home from school one day we dawdled at a pals house, for he had got an air gun.

When we left my older brother looked back just in time to suffer a grazed cheek.

Our pal, in a reckless gesture had fired at us.

There was a right hub-bub then and as we finally headed home we saw an unforgettable sight The butt of an air gun flew about 20 feet up in the air gyrating like the seed pod of a sycamore tree.

Out pal's find had struck the horizontal bowl of a threshing machine, hard, with our pal's brand new 'Diana!' - Decommissioned!

PS No license was needed for an air rifle in my boyhood years.

Ulster Star