Big thank you from

That was the winter of `37 

by the Rambler 19/01/2000

WITH the days lengthening and the sun reappearing, it is tempting to assume that winter is over.

In a couple of months' time it will be mid-month. Hopefully winter is over.

I would hate to be a pessimist but bitter experience bids me think gain.

The worst snowstorm of my lifetime actually occurred in March, around the 7th to be exact, and it did not clear for ten days. The year was 1937.

The day it started is one that I will never forget, for I reached home utterly exhausted, and it took two days in bed to recover, although I was young and fit

I was in my first job as a teenager, eleven miles from my home, with a tiny 1931 baby Austin Seven saloon for transport.

That six-year-old car had cost me £30 a year earlier. It had tiny wire-spoked wheels, poor bakes, a 'toy' windscreen wiper and no heater.

Some wags called it 'a run-away, pram and indeed it wasn't unlike an over-sized baby carriage.

As the snow thickened in early afternoon, a Thursday I think, the boss sent us all home and off I went, alone.

I had over five miles to travel to Lurgan. Happily traffic was fight, and when I did an involuntary U-turn on the outskirts, there was no harm done.

I was able to turn around and proceed, painfully.

A mile out the Antrim road, on treacherous bends around 'Cherrymount' the going was rough, very rough - so bad that a drift of snow across the road between a pair of field gates opposite each other brought me to a standstill.

At the second or third essay, I got over the hump, but the open farmyard of a friendly farmer beckoned me. In I went, and abandoned my vehicle. I was snookered.

I still had four miles to travel. It was still snowing but riot heavily, so I took to Shank's Pony.

I had the road to myself and only abandoned bread vans and other motor vehicles by the wayside to guide me. I cannot recall encountering a living soul.

Three miles on, I had to leave the main road and take a by-road. I had no experience, but I soon discovered that I was in worse trouble, deep trouble.

Where roadside hedges were low, or missing due to gaps, snow had drifted and it took me over the knees. I had exactly a mile off that by-road to travel, and there were no occupied houses for the first two-thirds.

At the first farm, a close friend and neighbour's, l was virtually waist deep

A hill on one field by the wayside was virtually clear of snow. It had all blown into the lane-way.

I should have sought shelter, but foolishly l ploughed on.


Finally, in a state of collapse I reached home.I recall that when my mother removed my tweed overcoat it was so stiff with frozen snow that it stood erect, like a snowman.

I was helped to bed and plied with hot drinks suffering from acute exhaustion and two days in that state followed.

Our immediate neighbour had been two days dead and her funeral was to have been held on the morrow. In the event, it was five days before it was accomplished.

Malcolmson, the undertaker, got to the house in three days by carrying on an empty coffin over fields, but it was not until council workers and neighbours dug a mile long canyon in dew snow that it was possible to carry the remains to Soldierstown Church.

I watched firm high ground and I recall the scene, like one from the Alps.

The sun glinted on the brass mounting of the varnished coffin, which was bedecked with a single floral tribute. A few score bowler-hatted mourners completed the picture.

When the cortege had passed, I mounted my bike and explored the canyon. At one particularly deep mound of snow I was unable to see over either wall.

A week later, Tom Gilbert and I tackled the task of getting my Baby Austin home.

We failed. When we reached the bye-road, we had to park at a neighbour's farm for two more days until March 17.

That canyon took a heck of a while to thaw sufficiently to allow passage for a motor car.

You see, it had fairly acute bends and Austin Sevens were not bendy. Wide running boards were a problem.

Now, if you think winter is over, I can but admonish you-beware the ides of March!

Ulster Star