Big thank you from

Recalling some of the best cracks over the years

The Rambler 29/11/2002

NOVEMBER days are dull. Leaden skies and pouring rain are not conducive to creative writing.

Today, I have been doing naught but recalling some of the best cracks which I have collecting over the years. Here goes:

Big Joe had more brawn than brains but he wasn't soft. He worked for a neighbouring farmer - when he couldn't help it, for he was endowed with a wide streak of laziness.

Many a gem he confided in me in my boyhood days.

For example - "I love to see the oul hens going to their roost about half-three." That was in the days when only an outdoor paraffin carrying lamp (named like a contemporary snooker ace, 'hurricane') was the only illumination available in the farmyard.

There was very little outdoor work that could be done with a carrying lamp, so Joe enjoyed early quitting time.

He went to work across the fields from home in summer, or frosty weather, but in winter, when the fields were water-logged he had to walk about two miles, which brought him past our door.

Rain hail and snow, Joe whistled like a bird (quite musically in fact).

Then there's 'Shoesanna' and Johnny. Johnny was an eel fisherman, when sober. In between times, he went 'on the tare'. Shoesanna depended on him as she had a quota to fill. (She did skipper for the fishermen).

When Johnny blotted his copybook and failed to deliver, Shoesanna was 'fit to be tied', as they would say in Tyrone..

This day, Shoesanna was seated on the front seat of the bus at the Barton's Bay terminal, when Johnny dandered along and mounted.

He had done it again, and 'her ladyship' was fuming.

"How're ye Shoesanna," he chirped. "I've stopped talking to tramps." "Ah! but I haven't."
(End of story).

The lady's name was Susanne but locals had a different momentclature.

I'll bet ye didn't believe me when I rehearsed how Big Joe confided in me once that that "It was great to be 'an owl dog' with nothing to do but lie there in the sun and have his mate (food) carried to him."

Niblocks threshing mill was purring away and Joe was toiling with a three-pronged graip clearing straw from the back of the threshing mill, with sweat blinding him and the dinner time break long of coming. (And, do ye know, I believe he meant it).

'Anthony Duck', who went from house to house as "a poor man in need of a wee bit of help," had a short fuse and "a bad tongue". Any suggestion that he was a tramp was enough to light his fuse.

One fine morning, he was lounging on a roadside ditch at Rock Lane reading a 'Lisburn Herald', near Thompson Teuton who was pruning a hedge. Pat McGrory, a near neighbour, came along.

Thompson: "That is a great morning, Pat." Pat: "Boy it is. I never saw so many tramps out. "That started it! Anthony went to war immediately (verbally), dancing in rage, cudgel waving.

Anthony regularly slept in Pat's byre, on the sheaves of hay behind the cows and even brewed tea in his 'Billie-can' on Pat's hearth at late bed time.

In other words, friendship was firm but Pat was an irrepressible tease and Anthony distrusted him for that reason.

It was a kind of love-hate relationship, which endured for a life-time. Both were fellow parishioners.

Anthony lived to a ripe old age, sleeping rough, in the days when it was a case of either work or want.

There were very few jobs and many tramps. Lord Beveridge's Welfare State had not arrived and the Poorhouse did not pamper the able-bodied.

Ulster Star