By The Rambler 02/03/01
History of AGHADRUMGLASNY
JAMES Addis' wife, Becky, was up before daylight, as usual: The daily routine was simple: out of bed, light the paraffin oil lamp, get dressed and light the fire.
That done, and the kettle on to boil, she woke the school children. Then she darted out to the stable and gave each horse a pad of hay. "Pad" was what James called the little sheafs of hay that he made up each evening and parked in a dry corner of the stable to suit Becky or some of the young ones.
Horses need at least an hour to feed before they are put to work. After they have eaten hay, they get a couple of "gowpens" of oats apiece, and last of all, water to drink.
Even the children knew when a horse had had all the water he wanted. He just lifted his muzzle out of the water and slobbered the last mouthful all over the place. After that, no power on earth would get him to imbibe another mouthful.
James was lying in. He wasn't feeling too spry. He had started the spring ploughing and following a pair of horses pulling a plough for a couple of days had left him heavy-legged. It took a week to break him in, every spring.
The big hill above the road had to be ploughed first, for potatoes, and James knew it would be the cynosure of other farmers' eyes, for James fancied himself as a, ploughman. He did some ploughing on a contract basis and, if ever a neighbour in distress had to be given a lift to get the crop in, James was always ready to organise a few kind neighbours to combine to help out.
Sometimes a newly widowed lady, or a man who had lost a horse, needed a helping hand. If three or four farmers got together on a set day to plough a field for a neighbour who was in trouble, competition was inevitable. James revelled in competition.
He had a hired man called Johnny Kilpatrick, but he tended to let Johnny clear up around the yard. Ploughing was a personal skill as far as James was concerned. Of course, when a field had to be ploughed a second time, Johnny was given the reins. Johnny didn't come until daylight in winter, and when he did, he reported first to Becky to see what wee turns she needed done, like fetching water to fill the crocks in the kitchen, filling coal buckets and that kind of thing.
That done, he went off to fodder any housed beasts, put corn in the horses' corn boxes, and cleared out the byre and stable. If there was a cow in season, that was another job for Johnny. The nearest bull was a mile away, at Joe Chapman's farm and the cow had to be led there on a rope.
By the time the horses had been fed and watered, and harness had been put on them, James was up and lowering a good Ulster fry. Becky had the children fed and ready for school. They had a mile-and-a-half to walk, rain, hail or blow, no school bus or parents' car in Becky's day.
With James and Johnny seen to, Becky had nothing to do but get on with her daily chores. First, she let the hens out and threw them some grains then she lifted any eggs there were in the nesting boxes and headed indoors to find wee Tommy on the doorstep in his shirt, wailing. He wasn't school age and when he had woken up in an empty house he had noisily protested.
It didn't take his mum long to get him squared up. Fried bread was his preference. Tommy fed and dressed, Becky had nothing to hold her back - no letters, no morning paper, no phone, no TV or radio just work.
On their way to school last week the wee ones were spotted on a high wire draped between two poles in Watson's garden and another wire connected to a window. They had heard that Sam Watson had got a wireless. "How could a thing with wires to it be a wireless?" they had asked James; James didn't know, neither did mum, nor Johnny, but everybody at school said Watson's had got a wireless and could hear a big clock in London striking.
On Friday night they saw Sam outside, and they asked him. He promised to let them listen in some day.
To be continued.