Big thank you from

A norration that's still remembered Rambler

by Rambler 31/05/2002

IN my rambles around Colane, which straddles the townlands of Tamnyvane in County Antrim and Aghadrumglasney in Down, in other words, Aghagallon and Soldierstown, I passed over quite a few ordinary men and women, some of whom deserved notice.

Firstly, there is Anthony Lavery, nicknamed 'Anthony Duck' who took to the road with a bag on his back at an early age and lived rough until old age.

In his own words 'Just a poor man looking for a wee bit of help.'

He never slept in a bed for decades, was never hospitalised, kept himself vermin free, and never received a penny of public aid until 1948, when National assistance was introduced.

For that, he needed a fixed abode, so he got into a West Belfast hostel and signed-on as unemployed at Belfast buroo, under the name 'Anthony Lowry'.

He was illiterate and had his own way of pronouncing 'Lavery', hence the buroo registering him as Lowry!

When an Aghagallon man joined the staff he was amazed to see Anthony shuffle forward to sign by mark when the 'box-clerk' at the buroo called out 'Anthony Lowry'!

When Anthony left school over a hundred years ago, there was only the 'poor house' for those in need, or a few pence of poor law outdoor relief for the chosen few that the poor law guardians chose to relieve.

A teenager fit for work would have been told to 'get lost' if he had sought outdoor relief.

Dismantle the entire national health and social security benefit schemes of the present day, and leave the hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries to fend for themselves, to put Anthony's plight in perspective.

At the end of the nineteenth century he would have been only one beggar man of scores who had to take to the roads of this country.

John Mooney, a near neighbour of Anthony's people, was a poor law guardian.

He and his kinsman and neighbour, Henry Mooney, were the most knowledgeable men in the locality.

As long ago as 1830 John Mooney's holding was mentioned in Ordnance Survey records as a place where a very, ancient silver coin was found, so they had very deep roots.

Another Colane resident, James O'Hara deserves mention as the man who caused a big norration.

When James was widowed he decided to marry a second time. He chose a lady from Clare, Gilford, a niece of his first wife, and bearing the same name, Margaret.

He was on in years (well-on) and when news of the wedding leaked out his neighbours organised a noisy hooley to mark his coming home. (a 'norration' was the local term.)

Suffice for me to say in this, everyman and every object capable of causing a din were assembled and a certain amount of wrecking took place until the desired objective was achieved, namely James had to shell out money to finance a trip to the 'local' for drink on the part of the mob.

The unusual caper of blocking the chimney was used as a lever, to extract money from the groom.

The date was circa 1930. The second Mrs O'Hara survived her husband by a very long time. In fact she hasn't been long dead, as she lived to near 100.

James had no family and his farm was sold years ago. But the memories of his second marriage still survive. It was the last such hooley held at Colane, now history.

P.S. The text of last week's article did not make it clear that Barney Campbell, Master Baker, actually baked the cake for the Royal Order.

Ulster Star