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“ACROSS THE SHEUGH”
My greatest fortune was to be born in Ireland. Sadly my early years of life were not to be spent in the ‘Emerald Isle’, because my family moved to England when I was only two months old. As a young married couple with a child my parents sought a better quality of life than was available to them in Northern Ireland at that time. This was the early 1950s, less than ten years after the end of World War II, and my parents decided that they would move to the North East of England and the major industrial area that surrounded the town of Middlesbrough. A year or two earlier my father’s family had moved to this area from their home in Carrickmore, County Tyrone, and they quickly established themselves in permanent jobs and new homes. It was their encouragement and assurance of better living conditions that finally persuaded my parents to leave “Ballydunn” and to begin a new life in Middlesbrough. Fortunately my parents were industrious people and they quickly found that their new life in Middlesbrough was as good as it had been promised. They both saw the potential available to them and the reality of the assurances that they could be substantially better off than they had been in Northern Ireland. It did not take either of them very long to find employment in full-time and well-paid industrial jobs, leaving me to be cared for during the day by my paternal grandmother and an aunt. In those early years I can recall living in a two-up and two-down terrace house in a narrow cobbled street near to the main railway station. Both of my parents worked hard to make that small, cramped, worker’s house comfortable and warm. I can recall my mother scrubbing the front step on her hands and knees, as my father fixed and repaired anything that may still have been of use to us. The return of my family to Northern Ireland is the reason why, for the title of this collection of stories, I chose the title “Across the Sheugh” (Pronounced: “Shuck”). My collection of stories begins, naturally, in England with fond remembrances of the town where I still have a large number of family members, and some very good friends living. It was good to recall and describe some aspects of the life that we lived there as a family. Only after I considered this had been amply dealt with did I then talk about the causes for our departure, and the adventure we had travelling “Across the Sheugh” to “Ballydunn”. As the reader makes their way through the pages of my young life they will notice that, in some places, I have included local colloquialisms or names. To assist the reader’s enjoyment of these stories I have included simple pronunciations of these words and, where space allows, some effort to enlighten the reader to the meaning of these words. At this time I would also like to point out to the reader that the names of some places and some people have been changed in recognition of their privacy and wish to remain anonymous. Moreover, in some areas of the stories I have been obliged to use ‘artistic license’ in my efforts to ensure their anonymity is maintained.
“SHORT STORIES AND TALL TALES”
This is a journey through, rather than a book of short stories and tales of the, “Mystical Ireland” that is my home. A land of celebration and a land of those who are not too saintly or too scholarly. It is an island of Banshees, Witches, Pookas and other strange creatures. There is much humour to be had in the Emerald Isle and some of these stories reflect that humour, be it rural or urban. These are stories of hardworking people and those who prefer to avoid work, whether it be hard or easy. It is also a book that describes an Ireland that is fast disappearing in this modern world, bringing with it its traditions and values. Much of what you read in these stories is still part of life in the “Emerald Isle” and we folklorists are trying our best to ensure that their memory will remain for generations to come. So come with me in this book to the land, where mists hide more than the eye can see and the mind accept as truth.
“QUARE OLD TIMES”