Growing up in Drumbally

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3. Glassdrummond

Ballsmill in 1929The narrow country road we lived on led from Creggan to Glassdrummond, where we went to school. Ballsmill, which was directly on the Armagh/Louth border, was a mile further on. Glassdrummond was a very small village as there were but two or three houses, two small shops and the chapel - St. Brigid's, the school and a small parish hall. In fact there were two chapels, a de-consecrated one in the graveyard, where all my Boyle ancestors are buried, and the new one, completed in the 1930s, a short distance away. For a short period in the mid 1950s Father Halfpenny, the Curate in Crossmaglen, arranged for the building to be electrified by a generator in an adjacent building and ran picture shows several nights a week. One of the shops was very dilapidated, with the slates caving in. The interior was dark with a high counter and rows of glass bottles filled with boiled sweets, liquorice, barley sugar sticks and other treats. Whatever else was sold there, my childish eye saw nothing but delights. The ancient owner, his name I remember was Willy Batterton (locally "Battern"), would tip the glass bottle over the pannier of the scales, carefully weigh out a pen'orth of sweets and tip them into a paper twist neatly folding over the top. Only recently (2001) did I learn that Willy and I were related! He was a first cousin of my grandfather, John Boyle, his mother having been Boyle. Subsequently, the property was completely renovated and became the home of the Kieran family, one of whom, Tony, was a contemporary at school and later became its headmaster.

Just across the road was Conlon's shop where we used to buy cinnamond buns after mass on Sundays, when we had the money.

Glassdrummond ChapelGlassdrummond chapel sits on a rise and commands a good view of the surrounding countryside. I remember that during mass, when I was about thee, I used to crawl under the seats to Granda Boyle and he would give me a penny. Later, I remember particularly the Christmas midnight mass. The lateness of the hour, the deep darkness, the candle lit church - this was before it was electrified - the colourful robes, the intoxicating smell of incense, the sense of hush and gladness, the singing, the long walk home along the dark tree lined road, the dim flickering glinting of candles in the windows of the sparse scattering of houses in the seemingly empty countryside.

Fr McFadden in 1950, at the funeral of Malachy Conlon MPWhen I was eleven or twelve I became an altar boy. Mother made my red and white surplice. The mass was all in Latin and I had to learn the correct responses. I had to light the altar candles, reached from steps behind the altar, place the bread and wine on a side table, taking them to the priest (Father McFadden) at the appropriate point, pour water over the priests fingers at the washing of hands, ring the bell at the right points, assist with the communion, carry the chalice and patten away at the end of the mass and finally put out the candles. I once took a sip of the communion wine and I was not impressed. I assisted at several funerals and one wedding, and much pleased at the tips I got - 10s 0d was the going rate.

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