Friday, May 8, 2015

The Leaving of Boyle

The old Ford car crossed the hills, affectionately known as the "Three Dollies", on the Boyle/Frenchpark road. The early mists of Ballymore challenged and reshaped the youthful myth and magic of my imagination. Pressure on my leg from the compressed cardboard case, which contained all my worldly possessions, was now the symbol of reality on that lovely May morning long, long ago. The dismantling of the psychological support props of childhood was gathering momentum.

It was my first time travelling to Boyle in the cattle dealer's car
...and there would be no charge.

I had said my goodbyes and had collected my "good luck" money from my friends and neighbours. "The meadow will be saved when you come back" remarked the dealer "and in the hayshed too" I managed to reply. In silent thoughts I remembered my goat and wondered would she have three kids. Unseen by anybody I had said goodbye to her in the fort on Sunday. It was my first and somehow I knew that it would be my last goodbye. My Home Guard potatoes, bought from the sale of five hens to Associated Merchandise, Lower Oriel Street, Dublin, will get mixed up with the Kerrs Pink and my rhubarb will surely be neglected I thought. Nobody had any value on rhubarb save myself. "Too much sugar" they said. It was majestic in full growth.

I was full of grief and a barely concealed fear of the unknown. The old dealer could not be fooled by an eighteen year old still wet behind the ears. "Everybody is lonely when leaving for the first time" he said with authority. His well intentioned comment gave me no consolation "You won't know yourself when you start earning the money, you will have more than any of us then. It is hard to get money and it is harder still to keep it" he said with sincerity. "I heard somebody say that you were thinking of selling rhubarb in the town one time, is that right?" "Yes" I said. "Sure nobody would buy rhubarb from you" he said. I made no reply, it was too late to start defending myself.

We arrived well before the train time. He took the case off my knees. "I will say goodbye to you here" and he then grabbed my hand and wished me luck. In that "shake hands" he passed me a half-crown. "Don't lose it now" he warned.

Five days later I received my first pay, in cash, from a middle aged man who was the head cashier in my new job. He was at least thirty five years old. "Always remember this day" he said. "From now on you will have to pay your own way" he said. I made no answer.

Monday, April 27, 2015



The month is November. This surely is the quietest time of all. You can stand in the middle of a Killaraght field and savour the stillness. The world is a huge silence, not heavy or depressing, but rather contemplative of growth and movement to come. Like a gentle sleep from which joy, life and energy will return renewed.

Some trees have given up the struggle against the winds. But there is much to compensate for their lack of colour. Remaining leaves run the rainbow's gamut. Hedges proudly push forward their robust and brilliant children, the hips and haws.
Frank Conry - 12th November 2006
The wild red sky evokes some quality of Russian literature. Clouds are flaming cloaks which throw a pink reflection on the dead bracken, pale yellow grasses and greyish reeds. The air has a softness more tender for the lurking bite of the night frost.

 Along the edges of the silence run sporadic noises. A bird squawks with seemingly unnecessary raucousness in a grove of disrobed tress. Swans on Lough Gara are rehearsing their plaintive chant in anticipation of the heavy frost. In the hollow a vixen screams. The gathering silence is disturbed. A sullen roar can be heard from the heavy lorries on the distant Frenchpark road. Dogs bark sharply in Ballymore and voices with flat cadences are raised in greeting.

For contrast, there is the silent movement in the swift flight of another bird, followed lightly by its mate. Evening mists, like shreded lace, start rising from the bog, swirling frothily to cover the bushes in the fort and eerily enveloping the trunks and branches of the nearby trees.

The sun shows a scarlet face low on the horizon. A lonely moon meanders vaguely higher up in the sky, accompanied by an embarrassed star. The stillness intensifies. It is time to go home.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A tale of one turkey

(By Frank Conry)

She was truly the Barn Queen, but we just called her the turkey.
...her true blue blood ancestral line could be traced back to a famous American Bronze dynasty. 
For some months she ate and perched with the domestic hens on the barn loft but, come the Spring time of the year, she was moved into the empty dairy. There she lived in splendid isolation, laid her eggs and hatched out her royal brood. Each speckled egg was treated like a nugget of pure gold and, for ultimate protection, the eggs were buried in a deep earthen ware crock of Indian meal. The turkey herself was nurtured with the care and attention befitting a queen of her stature. Her nest was hand-woven out of hay and straw and the outer rim was reinforced with black sods of turf. The final structure would surpass the work of a skilled stonemason.
The eggs were then retrieved from the dunes of yellow meal and ceremoniously placed under her ladyship.
Women prayed for birds but respectable men never "talked turkey".
After four weeks, the prayers were usually answered and it was then time to buy the pin head oat meal.
Unlike the riffraff hens of doubtful pedigree, the turkey dowager never grubbed in the gutter. Instead, she, and her brood, went on safari through the wild iris valley.
One evening, she forgot to come home. Her latent instinct had surfaced and she had gone to ground. A search party was quickly formed. With military precision, and the accuracy of a fine comb, the one acre of wild iris was searched from the big bush down to the river bank. Fog drifted in over the low land and threatened to engulf us all. The friendly surroundings of the day suddenly took on a menacing and distorted appearance. Fear pervaded the atmosphere and heightened the imagination. The old stories of the nearby ring fort, with its lone tree, might come true. Before breaking point was reached, the turkey was found and the valley was at peace and real again. No doubt, the fox cried that night.
In July, when the second cow calved, the royalty was moved out of the dairy and into the barn where a suitable perch was made. From now until December, the turkeys were stall-fed. In every way, they were encouraged with potatoes, meal and milk to commit gluttony. Eventually they developed barrel-chests that any pugilist might envy.
Turkey never appeared on a country house menu, not even the one drowned in the barrel. Towns people, with bells on their doors and willow-pattern plates, feasted on this royal delicacy.
One Saturday morning in December, the curtain went up on the last scene of the turkey drama. The kitchen fire was bright and thick slices of home cured bacon were fried on the pan by the open fire. There was an air of "eat and be merry" for tonight we'll have money and three new records for the gramophone.
Horse and donkey carts, full of turkeys, lined the fowl market in the town of Boyle. All along the military wall these dumb animals stood in silent vigil as they bowed their heads in sorrow. The royal birds, packed on the carts as tightly as sardines in a tin, were now reduced to pounds, shillings and pence as they lay helplessly bound on a mattress of straw.
Men selling turkeys were forgiven on the assumption that their wives were delicate. Gra mo Croi country women turned ruthless in their selling, motivated, no doubt, by their memories of wrestling with big black pots of potatoes. Priest or Parson, friend or foe, got no bargain on big market day.
In the market the tout was busy creating panic and confusion in the theory of supply and demand. With hawk-like eyes he could pick out birds suffering from the effects of infantile rickets. He never failed to spot a dethroned barn queen after her five years of royal reign. The promise of a prepaid pint in the "Beehive" bar helped to dim his vision.
On the fowl market, Maggie was like the proverbial lamb amongst wolves. Her big mistake was in ignoring the warning "buy from friends" and "beware of the sharks". Maggie was a low sized vocal woman who worked as a paid housekeeper in the kitchen of a combined shop and bar. Like most people, she thought she knew the answers to all of life's questions. The two additional pounds in her pocket reinforced her confidence and gave her the air of new-found wealth. She could not resist the challenge of the open market. Each cartload of turkeys was dismissed as too expensive. At last, she met the wise woman from Mullaghroe who sold her a bargain. As Maggie made her grand exit from the market she was assured that after eating a leg of that fine bird she would feel like dancing the "turkey trot".
On Christmas day, Maggie learned that fine feathers don't always mean fine birds. All the coal in Arigna would not soften that turkey's hide and a bushman saw could not carve her carcass.
The wise woman had sold a barn queen!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Boyle Facts

Here are some facts about Boyle Town
...relating to the year I first left there long, long ago!

(at the very end of this script you will find a key to the actual year.)
The town then had thirty one public houses and a population of 1,935

St. Patrick Street (12)
Mrs. Ahern, J. Conlon, T. Dowd, M.Duffy, Mrs. Gavacan, K. Lehany, Mrs. Mattimoe, Luke Mullaney, J. Spellman, M. McDermott, John White and Mrs. K. Lavin.

Two pubs in St. Patrick Street had a good sense of humour. On the outside wall of one pub the publican had painted a beehive with the following jingle: "Inside this hive we are all alive and our drink is sweet as honey, ere you feel dry come in and try but make sure you bring your money".
His neighbour, seeing the wit, decided that he would go one better. He too painted a beehive and added his own jingle: "Don't mind those bees and don't trouble them for their honey, ere you feel dry come in and try but don't bring any money"

Bridge Street (11)
John Cryan, Mrs. Mary Keaney, John Leyland, John Lowe & Co., Charles Mullaney, Mrs. A.O'Hara, Laurence Ryan, Martin Tansey, James Hever, "Rockingham Arms", F. Cunningham, P. Regan.

The Crescent (4)
J.H.Cox, J.A.Dodd, A.J.Grehan, J.J. Keaney

Elphin Street (3)
Kate Cahill
Joseph O'Dowd
Maud Tuite

Green Street (1)
James Feely.

The town had six clergymen:
Alfred Bradshaw, B.A. Methodist; Rev. Fulton, Prebyterian, Rev. Slator M.A. C. of Ireland
Rev. James Mulligan, P.P. Roman Catholic; Rev. J. McLoughlin C.C. Roman Catholic.
Rev. Bernard Tiernan, C.C. Roman Catholic.

Three Doctors: T. Kilgallen, R.J.B. Madden and Francis O'Hart.

Three Chemists: J.F.Brogan, Murtagh O'Leary and Philip Ryan.

Two Dentists: Edward McGown and John McKeon

Eight Solicitors:
1 Francis Burke
2 C.E.Callan
3 F. Callan
4 Thomas Callan
5 Eileen Forde
6 John Forde
7 Kevin McMorrow
8 James Sheerin

Seven Peace Commissioners:
1 J.P. Dodd
2 B.J.Earley
3 Thomas Henry
4 Phil Murray
5 P. J. Nerney
6 G.A. Stewart
7 Austin Tarpey

One Commissioner for Oaths: James P. Dodd, Main Street.

Nine Town Commissioners:
1 Michael McGetrick (Chairman)
2 James B. Clarke (V.Chairman)
3 Michael Tansey
4 James Feely
5 Richard Kelly
6 John J. Mattimoe
7 Thomas Egan
8 Christopher Daly
9 John Shannon

The old Boyle Workhouse was a branch of the Roscommon County Home and it was also a branch of the Roscommon General and Fever Hospital.

The Medical Officer was: Robert J.B. Madden, Tangier

and the Acting Head Nurse was: B. Egan.

Assistance Officer: Daniel P. Kelly.

Boyle Number One Sub-Committee, Under
the Old Age Pensions Act, 1908: Clerk – F. Kiernan, Elphin Street.

Garda Siochana Superintendent John Ryan, Boyle.
There were twenty six active stations in the Co. Roscommon. Headquarters in Roscommon town.
Michael Dennehy was the Chief Superintendent for the county .

University Scholarships: Three, value £120:00 (one hundred and twenty pounds) , each were awarded p.a. by the County Council for the whole county.

Secondary Scholarships: Ten, value £50 (fifty pounds) Five for boys and five for girls. Residential. £20 (twenty pounds) non-residential. Awarded pa. by the County Council for the whole county.

Matriculation Examination for University:
1 Irish
2 English
3 Mathematics
4 Latin, Greek or a modern continental language
5 One other subject, not already listed.

For degrees in Arts, including Music, Law, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, -- Latin or Greek had to be selected and passed at Number (4)

For degrees in Science, Engineering, Commerce, Agricultural Science, Dairy Science -- Latin, Greek or a modern continental language had to be selected and passed at Number (4).

Relying on the education available in Boyle, it was not possible for any body (male or female) to pass the Matric. Who was responsible? The V.E.C., Local Authority, Religious and the people who set themselves up as the custodians/administrators of the Social, Religious, Cultural and Economic development of the community. Everybody in Boyle town and the surrounding country areas, for a radius of five miles, was denied entrance to University unless the parents could afford boarding school fees. Approx. fees: £55 to £100 p.a. per student. Of course, what were put forward as the elite schools: Jesuits/Loreto/Sacred Heart, would be much more expensive. Latin, Greek or a modern Continental Language, was not taught in the Convent of Mercy, Boyle which was a primary school and, even though the Technical School was officially state post primary, these subjects were not taught. The two schools in Boyle prepared their students for the lowest rung of the economic ladder: Civil Service / Local Authority/Statutory Bodies/Commercial Offices: Writers, Sorters, P. O. Learners, Telephonists, Shorthand/Typists, Typists, Apprenticeships Mechanics, Book-keepers, General Office Clerks, Hotel Management, Waitressing, Cooks, Domestic Servants, Shop Assistants, Gardening, Farming, Dressmaking, Tailoring, Carpentery, Nursing and Garda Siochana. Having completed the course in the Convent and Technical School, Boyle, entrance to University was not available, even if a rich aunt or uncle in America paid the University Fees. The course for Clerical Officer was not covered by these two schools.
If the records were checked by the County Council, no doubt it would show that no student from Boyle, who was relying on the education available in that town, ever entered University or was ever awarded a University Scholarship.
Teachers: Boyle had just two University Graduates as teachers. (with H.Dip and primary degrees). One taught Science and one taught General Commerce and English in the Technical School. All other teachers in the Technical School had teaching diplomas only. The Convent of Mercy had no graduates, teaching diplomas also.

As a matter of interest, we will compare Boyle to its neighbour.

1 Elphin: Rev. J. Wynne-Slack M.A. (Grammar School)
Sisters of Mercy Secondary School, Sr. M. Gavigan, M.A. H.Dip
Technical School – (1) J.O'Connor M.A. (2) H.Browne B.Com. (3) M.Keogh B.A.
(4) B. Chapman B.Sc. and (5) L. Connellan B.A.
2 All the neighbouring towns (Roscommon, Castlerea, Elphin already listed, Ballaghaderreen, Ballymote and Ck.-on-Shannon) provided Secondary education with the facility for obtaining the Matric.

There were five County Councillors in Boyle: (out of a total of twenty six for the County Roscommon)

1 John Beirne T.D. Lugnashammer, Croghan, Boyle
2 Thomas L. Callan, Warren, Boyle.
3 James Doherty, Cootehall, Boyle
4 Senator Peter T. Lynch, Keadue, Boyle.
5 Michael McLoughlin, Laragon, Corrigeenroe, Boyle

Town Clerk: Michael Nerney.

Court Clerk: Daniel Crosbie.

Treasurer: National Bank.

The Abbey Cinema: In the ownership of John Lowe & Co.. The official name of this Cinema was: "The Boyle Picture Theatre".

Library: Branch of Roscommon Co. Library, Bridge Street. Librarian – Edward McGee.

Tennis: Gerard Dodd was Hon. Secretary of the Irish Lawn Tennis Association (Connaught Council). Club affiliated to the Association by: Dr. R. J. B. Madden, Tangier, Boyle

Golf: Boyle had a nine hole golf course. The Secretary was: W. H. Bushell "St. Judes"

Dance Halls: The Clews and St. Patrick's in St. Patrick Street. St. Joseph's Hall was built much later.

Dancing Teacher: Miss McGowan.

Music Teachers: Edward McGee and Nancy O'Connor.

1 Bank of Ireland – T.F.S.Fullerton, Gaynor and W. Morris.
2 National Bank - J. Martin, M.McDermott and I. O'Sullivan
3 Northern Bank - J. G. Nesbitt.

Post Office: J. Coleman, Postmaster. Part of the Post Office building was called "Post Office House".

Convent of Mercy: Mother O'Leary was the Superioress and managed the convent which was a National School. She also managed the Convent's Steam Laundry which traded under the name of "St. Vincent". The laundry employed twenty six local girls and three local men. The Mercy Order in Boyle did not have an Industrial School or a Magdalen Home.

Abbey: Is in the townland of Knocknashee. Boyle was listed as a town under the "Town Improvements Act 1854". Boyle is part of the old Moylurg Territory which extends from the Curlieu Mountains (Hills) on the north to Elphin in the south and in the east from the Shannon to Lough Gara in the west.

Four Restaurants:
1 K. Doherty, "Bonne Bouche", Main Street.
2 Lynch's House.
3 McNamaras Cafe.
4 McDonaghs, Patrick Street

Mrs. MacManaway was Manageress of the "Royal". In the year that I left Boyle town, this Hotel was advertised as having twenty four bedrooms, all with hot and cold water. Spring interior mattresses and bed light in each room. The Hotel had its own putting green and tennis courts. It could garage sixteen cars with five "lock ups". It was fully licensed and had electric light throughout. It was registered an Irish Tourist Board Grade "A" Hotel and the telephone number was Boyle 16.
It was in this hotel that the fictional father in John McGahern's book asked the son on the top of his voice "whats the dearesht on that yoke" (menu) - "The duck replied the son" very embarrassed in front of the English Anglers who were about to sit down for their evening dinner. "Krisht we'll have the duck" replied the father, with no hint of embarrassment. All that showed on that evening was his newly acquired pride over his son winning the scholarship. And in a very loud voice he addressed the anglers "this lad won the scholarship, and he bet the kemisht (chemist)son."!!

Authority: I did not give permission to change the name of the "Burma Road" into Cootehall St./Rd. whatever.!! The same applies to "Tangier Terrace" - who said that should be Lower Marian Road?!!

Key to the year which is covered by all the information given:

You must first establish the year in which I was born. The clues are hereunder. When you find the year I was born, add eighteen, and then you will have the year covered by all the information

Irish President : Office not yet established.
Taoiseach : Eamon de Valera
British P.M. : Ramsay MacDonald
Pope : Pius XI
Pint of Guinness : 10d
Loaf of Bread : 4 1/2d.
Pound of Creamery Butter : 1s 4 1/2d.
Newspaper : 2d.
3 b/r house in city : £670
Average cost of car : £500
Yearly Wage : £129
Gallon of Petrol : ls 7d
20 Cigarettes : 1s

I share my birthday with : I will not tell you. That would make it too easy.

Grand National Winner that year was : Kellsboro' Jack

All Ireland Winners:
Football: Cavan 2-5 Galway 1-4
Hurling: Kilkenny 1-7 Limerick 0-6

Tennis: Wimbledon Winners – Men: John Crawford Women: Helen Moody
FA Cup: Everton 3 Man.City 0

The most popular film was "King Kong"
The most popular band was Ted Weems
The most popular singer was Dick Powel.

In that year Germany established the first "telex" operation between Berlin and Hamburg.

As already said, and at the risk of repeating myself, when you establish the year of my birth, add eighteen, and that is the year when I left Boyle for the first time. All the details, excluding the clues, recorded here about Boyle relate to that year. Goodbye and good luck.

Frank / 27.03.'06 

The Great Famine


(By Frank Conry) 06/05/'03

Oh! stones of sorrow, stones of pain,
You heard their cries; You called their names,
Your wrote them down in the pale moonlight
And left them here to die.

The complexity of Irish history culminated in the Great Famine of 1845-1848, which is quite immediate to me as my four grand parents, (Conry. Flanagan, Flannery and Sharkey), were born before and during that period.

The 100th anniversary (1945-1948) of the famine horror was ignored in Ireland on a local and national level. On that 100th anniversary no attempt was made to confront the social and cultural patterns of denial associated with this tragedy. This denial is deeply embedded in the Irish Psyche.

Fifty years later (1998), Killaraght, Boyle, Breedogue and Ballinameen had no communal Famine Service in Killaraght Graveyard and no memorial was erected in the graveyard for the famine victims buried there. That, indeed, is a sad refection on the awareness of the whole area, especially when we know that our immediate ancestors experienced the horrors of poverty, destitution, starvation and emigration. Some people survived, some succumbed.

People exposed to these conditions of sheer horror can display tremendous courage, generosity and caring but also they can experience shame and guilt, an urge to ''hang on to what you have'' and a capacity to ''turn a blind eye to the needs and sufferings of others''. The contradictory traits of famine trauma are. - callousness coexisting with compassion, competition coexisting with cooperation, silence and hypocrisy coexisting with openness and honesty. Failure to confront and understand the origin of these traits serves only to perpetuate them to the detriment of the individual and the community as a whole.

The litany of cases in Irish private family life and community, in the institution of the Church and in the State institutions, which has, and continues to shock this country, all display elements of the same pattern - brutality, cover up, silence, secrecy, hypocrisy, xenophobia, and double think. These traits are as much part of our collective mental legacy from the famine as is courage, honesty, kindness and compassion.

The areas, Killaraght, Boyle, Breedogue and Ballinameen, which have been listed above, with burial plots in Killaraght, and with pre-famine ancestral roots, should have acknowledged, on site, our victims and survivors buried there. A memorial, in stone, should be erected and a ''WE CONFESS'' reconciliation service for these victims and survivors should be held in the graveyard.

The famine reality was sanitised, made remote, detached and impersonal when commemorated in church, through abstract symbols, or in an area without shared ancestral roots.

Denial of the famine is there at a local and national level. The second level history course in Ireland, which was examined in the year 2001, had no place for the famine - the course started some two decades later. In New York schools, the Irish Famine is right up there beside Slavery and the Holocaust (ref. Harry Browne, Irish Times EL). Denial of the famine is below the collective surface of humanity and this was borne out by the demolition of Boyle Workhouse which, of course, should have been retained as a sacred place of pilgrimage. In contrast, King House or the Cistercian Abbey were not demolished. No contrived symbols of the famine would be required in Ireland, if the Irish Workhouses were left intact. The demolition of these hateful houses did not eliminate the truth and served only the reinforcement of denial.

Denial of the famine can also be seen in the art of John Behan's National Famine Memorial, which is a ship in bronze, at the foot of Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo. A ship, if you think about it, is only a partial symbol of the famine and is far more representative of survivors than of victims. The construction of the ship is dramatic and abstract. So abstract that the incorporation of the ''lazy beds'' in this symbol requires an interpretation. Stone is the appropriate medium not bronze. The Workhouses were constructed from stone. In the Workhouses the famine victims broke stones for the making of roads. The famine was real; it is immediate and the use of an inappropriate medium, like bronze, or abstract symbols, at this distance in time, is denial. On the other hand, Liam Swords, (priest/author), used a very sensitive symbol in his book ''In their Own Words'' when he wrote about the Famine. Indeed the Church liturgy should incorporate, for about five years, readings from Liam Sword's book and for that period the Old Testament readings could be dropped.


This reenactment was a commemoration of a battle which was fought outside Boyle on the 15th August, 1599. It was acted out on site with period props and costumes and a horse memorial was erected. Temporal boundaries were ignored. Quite an amount of research must have been undertaken for this show. No such research would be necessary for a famine commemoration and the absence of a realistic commemoration for this tragedy can be seen only as an expression of collective guilt. There is an ear for personal guilt but, obviously, the collective guilt of the famine is still taboo.

Even though the people from Killaraght, Boyle, Breedogue and Ballinameen are separated by temporal artificial boundaries, we can, nevertheless, unite in a community spirit with our dead in Killaraght graveyard and have a communal reconciliation service for our famine victims and survivors buried there. A famine memorial should be erected in Killaraght Graveyard.

Like a horror dream, the famine is beyond our control and can never be altered. We will always walk in the shadows of famine victims unless we turn on the light of awareness which would find expression through a famine memorial based on truth and reality.