Big thank you from

The man who always looked on the bright side of life

The Rambler 14/02/2003

So long deferred the hope of Winters end
The lips however fair lack heart to sing
Ah! midst these warring winds that rave and rend
Who will dare dream of Spring?
Oh, foolish heart! Oh, doubting heart that quailed
Beneath the blackness of o'er shadowed skies,
Take courage now, for Spring hath never failed
And beauty newer dies.

MORE than sixty years have elapsed since I first came across that verse by Richard Rowley, the poet of Mourne, and it has not lost its appeal

Rowley (nee Williams) was a Belfast linen magnate who happened to gain office as Chairman of the first Stormont quango - the 1934 Unemployment Assistance Board.

He had as his Chief Executive, or equivalent, another writer, F C Moore, a transferee from Dublin Castle. He wrote a light-hearted book entitled 'My Countrymen' by an 'Irish man'.

I well remember having to report to him for work at 13 Ormeau Avenue, Belfast.

A friendly fatherly gentleman who reminded me that, subject to good probation, I had a permanent pensionable job for life, which would endure even if the then Stormont government ceased to hold office and was replaced.

I wasn't to know that the status quo was destined to endure until 1972 when Ted Heath re-introduced direct rule.

Richard Rowley emphasised the bright side of my life and now that Candlemas Day has passed and we can throw a candle away, cheer up. It's a bit lighter morning and evening and Viridian should be able to survive if we switch off.

Me! I am going to get (back) on my bike and keep rambling. I have just spent a pleasant interlude playing a `home-made' but highly professional CD entitled 'Shorelands', shorelands being Lough Neagh's banks, or more specifically, 'Aghagallon'. The disc features a lovely selection of Irish times and comedy sketches, the latter guaranteed to entertain (provided, of course, that you have paid your TV licence, and have not had a goat eat your red shirt).path along the

The Hannon family, whose roots lie deep in the Montiagh's osier-weaving country, appear to have had a big hand in producing the CD so I salute them on their skill in weaving songs and stories.

Seeing Lurgan's intrepid cyclist, David McKerr, featured in last week's 'Lurgan Mail', attired in a kilt, has put the idea of cycling back in my head.

David thinks little of a short (sit) run to Cork and back for charity, or even along the Great Wall of China, but as an old timer I'll stay closer to home, i.e. on Lough Neagh's banks.

Prominent signage has appeared recently all over Ulster, indicating cycling paths. Even some stretches of the towpath along the long-defunct Lagan Canal have been opened up. So, I will kick off at Shanport that little Co. Down inlet on the Shorelands.

The area of Lough Neagh which is in Co Down is mighty small, but it separates Antrim and Armagh, and is a gateway to a wide area rich in lore.

Jinny Bunting's hill in Down overlooks it and the houses on that eminence (originally labourers cottages erected by the local authority) dominate the skyline and are visible for miles.

Sages maintain that that was where Cromwell sited a cannon, on his second vicious foray into Ireland, to demolish the ancient monastery of Maghernagaw at Derrymore.

Anyhow, Jinny Bunting's tavern, circa 1900, gave it it lasting tag, Kilmore Hill it is now.

From Shanport, along Annaghdroghal lane, to the canal bridge is but a step. There one can take the towpath route to Cranagh (the area of the lake dwellings called 'cranoges') and on past Chapel Lock to Turtle Dove lock (what a quaint title but carefully inscribed on the earliest Survey maps).

Beyond Turtle Dove lode comes Goody Bridge.

(To be continued).

Ulster Star