The Rambler 11/10/2002
I HAVE been listening to old people reminiscing for decades and I am still being surprised.
A long time ago I heard the lines 'the thoughts of youth are long; long thoughts'. Don't ask me the source! I forget.
During the holidays, at the fireside of my oldest friend, he mentioned an equestrian centre which is being set up at Portmore. He had seen a piece about it in the 'Star'.
Anyhow, away he went down memory lane 80 years back, actually 82.
In great detail he recalled calling on a Sunday afternoon at the Portmore farm where he worked as a farm labourer for 15 shillings a week (75p).
He knew a cow was about to calve and he had gone to check. The cattle were 'miles away' on the Lough shore. When he found them, the cow had calved.
The cow wouldn't leave the calf and the calf wasn't well enough on its feet to follow its mother. There was long grass, whin bushes and weeds all over the place, about three field lengths from_ the house.
He tried to carry the calf but he had to put it down and tramp away to the farmyard for a big wheelbarrow. Getting that to the shore was a job, but eventually he managed it with the sweat blinding him. It was a summer day.
He described how he got the 'dropped calf' into the barrow but it wouldn't stay. After trying to hold it and wheel the barrow, he was 'bate again'.
What was he to do? He pulled off his tie. It was Sunday and he hadn't on his working clothes. Anyhow, he got the calf and crossed its two legs, a front one and a back one, and tied them that way.
Then he lifted it into the big barrow and set off for the farmyard. The mother followed but it took him all his time to wheel the barrow over the rough ground with whin bushes and' ups and downs of all sorts under the wheel.
When he got to the house, before he loosed the calf, the 'gentleman farmer' arrived home on his bike. He had been away as usual on a visit to a crony.
"Boys! Alfred," he said, "Had you no help? Had you far to wheel that calf? You could have done with a bit of help...".
"I was done out, and ragged as well, and he got a short answer I can tell you. Soon after, for times were bad, he had to cut his outlay. Instead of giving me help, he told me that he was going to have to cut my pay to 12 shillings (60p).
"I made up my; mind I wouldn't take it, so I packed up and left. When I told my mother, she cried 'What will we do without your money?' she was vexed about my tie too. But I had made up my mind.
"There was no `buroo' or anything in, them days, but I wasn't going to work for less money.
"In a week or so, Alex came round. 'Is it true you have packed up at X's?' I told him it was.
"'And are ye not going back?' "'I am not.'
"'Well, if you want to give the baskets a try, I'll give you a start.'
"That's how it all started. I soon picked up the basket making and I never left it till it stopped."
That is a fairly ordinary story. The extraordinary thing is that I first heard it 20 years or more ago, yet the raconteur was able to rehearse it again word perfect, not a detail changed, in the summer of 2002.
The man is now just under ninety-seven years old and was going back to his teenage years! '
The thoughts of youth are certainly long, long thoughts! What powers of recall! Amazing!
The story didn't end there. More anon.