Big thank you from

Sam Wilson at 'Co Loanen' corner

By the Rambler 8/06/2001

ONE day this week, when I was travelling along the B12, eastwards towards Crumlin, I let my imagination run riot. I am old enough to have more sense, but I haven't. Join me at 'Co Loanen' corner, circa 1925.

I imagined I was Sam Wilson on the back of my old nag, Jack. He was ambling along screwing his back feet, like every other boat hauler's horse, deformed by pulling lighter sidewise from the canal tow path.

The wee wooden spools on his trace chains, put there to save his flank from getting chafed, rattled like castanets and all else was quiet except for the rattle of his shoes on the road. I had a bag of hay for a saddle and a 'Woodbine' fag in my mouth, as usual.

I had just pulled a lighter of coal all the way from Belfast to the Gut for Artie Mullan, collected a few bob and headed for Killough half asleep.

At Aghagallon Victoria schoolhouse, at Sherring Bridge, a gang of scholars were playing football on the road with school bags and coats for goal-posts and a big red hankie, filled with paper, for a ball. Most of them were barefooted.

I had had the road to myself most of the way from Campbells of the Milltown, where I had called in for a bottle of stout. Pat Lennon was doing barman.

The only motors that I saw were a couple of oil lorries, 'Shell' and 'BP' which had big metal kegs rattling like hell. Jack didn't like the noise and shied a little, but, he was too far through to do any lepping.

The usual, hen men, rag men, turf men, bread men, fish men, etc, were out and about, all with shelties and 'spring carts'. As well, 'Anthony Duck', 'Stephen Greer', Sam Lavery and an oul boy that we called 'light foot' were mooching about on the make, all beggarmen. The scholars knew them all - especially what to chant to make them mad to chase them.

At Aghagallon chapel I had met Saddler Clark and Bob Martin perched high on their gigs with silvermounted harness shining like a darkie's eye, and long whips at the ready. Both had nice trotting ponies, and boy did they let them go, passing the houses.

The rubber tyred gigs just purred at speed, but the rat-tat-tat of the ponies' shoes made spectators look up. That was the idea. Show them how the Aghalee men could do it! They travelled like clockwork at the same time every Thursday forenoon, heading for Lurgan dressed to kill, with hard hats and Dickie bow ties, every inch prosperous gentlemen on big business.

Maybe I should explain that the 'B12' is the Lurgan to Crumlin road, once a stage coach route. The Dublin/Crumlin route some people say.

What started by reverie was a series of new road signs at Bullick's bridge that is, just after you pass the 'Co Loanen' where the 30mph limit starts.

The signs give notice of a 'Give Way' ahead which puzzled me. When I rounded the bend at Campbell's farm I spotted the hazard - a metal chicane.

(I think that tag would fit?). It closes off the left lane and forces one to give way to approaching traffic. What happens when there is a gridlock caused by maybe scores of motorists leaving the parish cemetery nearby and heading west for Lurgan, I don't know. The day that I was heading east for Crumlin, I only had to wait until three or four cars emerged to meet me.

A chicane is 'an artificial barrier on a motor race course'. Seemingly, neither 30mph signs nor a sea of ramps have been deemed sufficient to curb 'speed merchants' passing through Aghagallon village. Surely a sad capitulation to law breakers?

Anyhow, one can but hope for the best. Actually the consensus of opinion locally is that some reckless young driver could come to grief at the chicane. If one such driver, maybe half asleep in the early hours, fails to hold the 30mph speed limit, he/she might well miss the 'Give Way' warning and come to grief!

Ulster Star