My Glen Ballyeamon by Rose Emerson

Ballyeamon, the only one of the nine without the prefix Glen, was where I first saw the light at day, at Knockans, nearly 80 years ago. For me it has always taken pride of place in my love, and always will. Today I think I’ll walk up the glen and may be lucky enough to have a bit at a crack or a good yarn with some of my old neighbours and recall those bygone days when neighbour loved neighbour and their joy was your joy and their trouble was your trouble, and always time for the kindly word night or day. Those childhood days were the good old days when children were children and the parents’ word was law. By that I mean the word obeyed was always adhered to, thus creating a close and loving harmony in the home.

Almost each townland had something of its own as far as art and craft went. Tavanaharry was foremost: here the McCurry family lived, and Henry was a master craftsman. From rods and willows he could create a masterpiece, be it a chair, cradle or basket, even a photo-frame. No matter where you found any of these things, you immediately knew it, for he put his trade mark on them, a Harvest Knot. I wonder how many people could make one now? His arm-chairs were not only comfortable and relaxing to sit on, they were beautiful, with a harvest knot in the centre of the back and intricate rod weaving surrounding it; and they were durable and hard-wearing. I was fortunate enough to have one of these chairs to give to the “Glens House” at Cultra Folk Museum. As for his baskets, they were like all his other work, perfect; hamper baskets with lids which closed down and held in position by a rod passed through two loops on the basket. One could be found in every household as those were the days when the housewife carried her butter and eggs to the shop and carried home her messages. This particular basket was always the popular one, but he also made beautiful smaller baskets, boat shaped and round ones, and they always earned the harvest knot.

Henry was not the only one in the home to be well skilled in craft: his mother, Mrs McCurry, known with affection throughout the Glens as Mattie, carried off three first prizes at the first Feis in Waterfoot for spinning, knitting and dyeing of the yarn. She was an expert at the latter art, obtaining her various colours from plants and lichens. One wondered why were these arts are lost to posterity.

One can meander up the glen past Malnaskeagh, famous for stone cutting and where one, if so inclined could still find curious stones. I remember when an old man, Green by name, would visit the houses in the glen frequently, looking for these stones. I wonder what happened to his collection, as he must have collected hundreds of them.

On up past Isbann, Barard, Tigmel and continue to the end of Gaults Road, named after the man who built it, where you can turn round and come down the other side of the glen past Retreat Station and the ruins of Ewins’ buildings. These buildings were erected by a landlord’s agent named Evans, but was always referred to by the Glens people as Ewins. The idea of its erection was to collect grain from the farmers who had not the money to pay their exorbitant rents; but he reaped no grain from his granary as he could not keep the scourge of rats away from it. Therefore it stands in ruins today never having achieved anything but the hatred and lothing of the glens people. It may be worthy of notice to say that Evans met his death at the end of Mill Street, now Main Street, Cushendall, by a missile from a slingshot (catapult). No one was ever accused of his death and the only person on the street at the time was a blind man from Ballyeamon.

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