Big thank you from

A retired Aghalee carrier looks back

The Rambler 27/12/2002

SAMMY has rehearsed his experience of the late twenties when he acquired an ancient second-hand T-Model Ford lorry for £24. It was a one-ton model, but he boasted that he used to draw 30cwt on it. In the same breath, he laughed, as he recalled that "there was no brakes on her!" There was no self-starter either, just a starting handle and a magneto. (He added something about the early models having coils in the cabin instead of a magneto).

For a spell he conveyed bricks from Lurgan railway station to Carnegie St at two shillings a load. He also carted bricks from Maze Kiln to Lurgan at five shillings a load. The lorry only carried five cwt, and he managed four loads a day. Some were for Sweeney, the builder; some for Callaghan (Magheralin). He had no helper.

He explained that two levers ('horns') on the steering column controlled the feed, and the ignition, and the magneto provided light only when the engine was running! The vehicle had solid tyres.

Sand from Lough Neagh was another commodity which he carted. He paid 2/6d a load for it and got about ten shillings for it, delivered maybe to Dunmurry or Lisburn.. "wherever you could get rid of it."

He used the same vehicle to cart produce to Belfast market: maybe only a few dozen scallions for somebody - if you didn't get rid of them, you got nothing for carriage! He carted produce for Davy Baxter of Magheralin for years and also carted grass-seed to Soye's and Hurst's and sometimes to Beflast, for growers - also potatoes. He had to be in the Belfast market by six am!

"I mind I didn't do so well at the start, in Belfast market, until I fell in with a few customers. Then one day there was a man there, a wholesaler, and he was drunk. He bought off me and after he went away, I found a purse with £46 in it. I searched the market till I found him, and when I checked that it was his, I gave it back to him. That made me! He was my friend ever after - and so was everybody else in the Belfast market! Everybody knew me!"

He also mentioned carting 'suckie' pigs from Aughnacloy for Joe Matchett and Joe Best (both of Craigmore). "There wasn't much money in them days". Around Best's of the Cairn was a great place for 'water grass' (cress?). Jimmy Totten of Aghalee, who wrought for Freddie McKeown, used to gather loads of it and Sammy carted it to Belfast market. John Scullion of Colane gathered it too - and blackberries, chestnuts, mushrooms, crabs (crab apples) and other fruits, in season. Sam Galway of Soldierstown gathered mushrooms, crab apples and other things. "I carted them all to Belfast market."

Later he got a better lorry and 'drew' (carted) meal from Belfast for farmers in the district - sometimes from Parks or Abraham Neills, or Mercers. Also timber from J P Corrys. He mentioned Isaac Gilbert of Ryefield, Tom Hayes of Broomount, Charlie McCorry of the Grove, Bob Ellis of Ballykeel, Willie Bunting of Aghalee, Joe Chapman, Aghadrumglasny, Sam Watson of Ballykeel, the Walsh's, The Tallon's, Mrs McGeown of Colane and Fitzpatrick's of Kilmore as regular customers.

One of these parties had a reputation of being 'very near', ie, close fisted. I heard how he had on one occasion hired Sammy to take a load of sheep to Allam's saleyard in Belfast and fetch a load of timber from J Corry's on the return trip. The (rich) farmer went with him and assured him that the timber was ready for lifting. When they got to Corry's, they had to hang around for hours, and the rich farmer "never said food, nor did I!" Sammy didn't get a bite from early morning till late evening as a result! (The farmer had a reputation for looking after the ha'pence).

When he delivered the timber, the farmer paid him, and also ordered coal. When Sammy delivered those in a few days' time, the farmer gave him the £17.10, which was the price. Sammy stuck it in his pocket, uncounted and when he counted it later, he discovered he had an extra fiver! A week later he met the careful gentleman, and gave him the fiver back, and told him to mind his money!

"My, a My, did I make a mistake!" the wee man exclaimed, "My, a My..." He took off his cap and scratched his head, and looked at the fiver, and went on, and on, and on about "making a mistake." Sammy chuckled as he told me - "ever after, I got tea and my dinner, or whatever was going, when I was at his place!"

Ulster Star