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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Plum Balls



Plum balls are a fave rave in our household every August when plumbs are in abundance. Our family practice is to cut out the main course, and go straight to dessert. We do it this way at least once a year.

This is one of those recipes that I do pretty much by rote. It is like art - I know it when I see it, but I cannot tell you exactly when there is enough flour in the dough to make it perfect. More flour? Less flour? Use your judgement. It should not be sticky or too dry. My suggestion is to use this recipe as a start and then just play with it.

Amounts
Ingredients
To do
2c
bread crumbs
Melt the butter, and sauté the bread crumbs until they are golden brown. Keep stirring for a bit after you turn off the heat as they may continue to brown. Then set aside.
¼ c
butter
1 lb
Cottage cheese
Blend these ingredients together – I use a Cuisinart with the sharp blade
1
egg
1/3 c
milk
1 tsp
salt
2 c
flour
Dump in 1c, and then slowly add the rest
?
extra flour
For rolling out – The amount of extra flour needed depends on how wet the cottage cheese was. Roll out the dough until it is quite thin.
some
plums
Slit the plums enough so you can take out the pit and replace it with a sugar cube. Then wrap each plum in dough, and set aside on a floured cookie sheet until they are all done.
some
sugar cubes
lg pot
boiling water
Drop the plums in one by one, and boil them until the dough is tender and looks a little puffy. Maybe 5 minutes or so after the water returns to the boil
Then – remove from the water with a slotted something (spoon – sieve?), drain a bit, then roll in the browned breadcrumbs.
Serve with generous ladles of hot custard, smiles and love.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Quaigh of Rev Daniel Gunn Brown

The quaighs were deep, the liquor strong. Sir Walter Scott: Marmion

I recently noticed – once again - a photo in my collection of a quaigh (aka quaich - sounds like quake). It was amongst the first scans of documents and photos that I did in 2005 at Gilford Castle. The image is indistinct, but seeing it anew made me think of a more recent conversation with Aislin Hunter.
History is shifty, Aislin wrote, it looks out for itself, moves when you least expect it. In her acclaimed novel, The World Before Us, she takes us into a place where the past and the present collide. It is the story of an archivist, in her thirties, obsessed with how the circumstances of a missing child echo the known facts of a similar event a century earlier.

A few years ago, when Aislin and I were both at a party playing bocce, she did her best to explain thing theory to me. Between quaffing wine and tossing bocce balls, what I gathered was that Heidigger had claimed that an object becomes a thing when it can no longer serve its common function. That’s just part of it, but I have decided for the purposes of this post that the quaigh in the photo is now a thing not an object. After all, for the past 150 years, it probably hasn’t been used for imbibing strong liquor at a social occasion, but it has opened the door to hearing new stories.

Included with the photo of this quaigh was a description, written on September 24th, 1920, by James Francis Wright (1874-1954). A couple of decades earlier, the quaigh had been given to Sir Thomas Jackson. It was Jackson’s sister, Mary Griffin - mother-in-law to James Wright - who had kept it at the old family home at Urker, near Crossmaglen in South Armagh. Perhaps her belongings were being catalogued, to be put into some sort of order, sinceshe died a year later, August 9th, 1921, aged 77.

James Wright notes that this quaigh was made of Laburnum Wood, and was 2 ¼” high, 4 ½” in diameter, and 7” over the handles. There were 12 staves, tapered from 1” to 0” curved in & fastened at bottom by a large embossed silver rivet – the staves are held in place by a silver hoop 1” from the top.  In the last paragraph, we have a clue as to the thingness of it:

It was given by Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne of Newtownhamilton to Sir Thomas Jackson brother of Mrs. Griffin, in 1900. Mr Brown claims kinship with the Boyd’s of Kilmarnock & the Kirkpatricks Scottish [a word I can’t make out].
These two branches of Rev. Daniel Gunn Brown’s family both originated from Scotland, but they also had previous ancestral connections to Antrim. The name Kirkpatrick aka Kilpatrick translates as: church of Patrick. This has more resonance than one might think

It is easy to see on a map how close the early settlements on the west coast of Scotland are to similar settlements in Northern Ireland. It would have taken less than a day’s sail or paddle to get there. Dumfries, the ancestral home of the Kirkpatricks, is only 60 miles south of Kilmarnock, home of the Boyds. It is also one of the many alleged birthplaces of St. Patrick. Given that the Kirkpatricks supposedly descended from one of the many tribes of Scots who had emigrated to Scotland from Northern Ireland around 280 AD, or maybe a bit later, it would seem that St. Patrick was heading to Ireland close to when the Kilpatricks were heading in the other direction.

A Gaelic kingdom, which roughly covered the territory of modern day Antrim in Northern Ireland as well as Argyll in Scotland, was known as Dál Riata. People crossed the Northern Channel of the Irish Sea all the time. It was easier than travelling by land. Whether Hugh Kirkpatrick knew it or not, his move to Antrim to minister at Ballymoney, was actually a kind of home-coming, albeit more than 1,000 years after the first move of his family in the other direction. Probably, as St. Patrick did, at least according to legend, the back and forthing happened repeatedly.

Taking a big leap forward in time, Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne (1808-1892) was not only an uncle to Thomas Jackson (1841-1915), but he was also Jackson’s most significant mentor. Browne had been born in Ireland more or less by accident. When his father, Rev. William Browne, had set sail for Persia in the early 1800s, planning to do missionary work there with his friend Daniel Gunn, he was shipwrecked just off the Skerries. He decided that God was sending him a message: Start your mission closer to home. So he settled in Tyrone, and named his only son after his friend and fellow missionary, Daniel Gunn.

After Browne’s death, Jackson paid for a large grave marker to be erected at the Creggan Parish Church. Even though Jackson had become a wealthy banker decades before Browne’s death, the gift of this quaigh can be seen as some kind of passing of the ethical torch. As a child, Jackson would have heard many of the stories of the Boyds and Kirkpatricks. He couldn’t have avoided it. These men were still legends in the tight-knit Presbyterian community, even more than a century after their deaths. When Browne lay on his death bed, Jackson had dropped all his business in London and hurried to his side. The two men were soul-mates.

The photo of this quaigh made me curious to learn even more, so I asked some cousins in England if they had heard of it. They went one better. It stood on their mantel piece. I must have seen it there when I visited, as I often did, although I had missed its significance.

Photo Credit: Venetia Bowman-Vaughan.
 
This quaigh had been handed down to the Browne family because Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne’s mother was a Beatrice Boyd (?-1850). We know little about her, other than the fact that she married Rev. William Brown (1770-1844). The Browne and Boyde families were thick with ministers, generation after generation. Sometimes they kept the letter e at the end of their names – as in Browne and Boyde – sometimes they dropped it. Also, sometimes the Kirkpatricks were referred to as Kilpatricks. This shape-shifting of names can be challenging.

Beatrice Boyd’s father, Hugh Kirkpatrick Boyde had been baptized at 1st Armagh Presbyterian on October 8, 1726, and was a son of Dr. Joseph Boyde, a medical doctor of Armagh and his wife Christine Kirkpatrick. His grandparents were Rev. William Boyd (d.1701) and Rev Hugh Kirkpatrick (d. 1712). There is one more family connection to this quaigh that often flies under the radar, even amongst those who know these histories: Dr. Joseph Boyde’s sister, Elizabeth, married a Richard Jackson (1673-1730), son of William Jackson and Susan Beresford. Elizabeth Boyde then became the mother of the Richard Jackson (1722-1787) of Forkhill, who set up the Forkhill Trust. When Sir Thomas Jackson contributed to this Trust in 1912, he referred to these Forkhill Jacksons as kin. I wish that I knew what he meant by this, but more detective work is still needed. All I know is that those Jacksons had come from Coleraine.

Nonetheless, these two great-great-grandfathers – Boyde & Kirkpatrick - would have given Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne bragging rights to two families who had long fought for justice in Northern Ireland. One thing that has always struck me about Browne’s written and recorded statements, as he championed the rights of both Catholic and Presbyterian tenant farmers, is how much his language echoed the language of Karl Marx. Or perhaps it worked the other way round. As children, both men’s family’s traditions had included regular Bible readings. Browne’s family focused on the New Testament; Marx’s on the Old. Since there is a connection in Browne’s statements to stances taken by his earlier relations, it is worth comparing a few quotes:

Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne being questioned at the Crime and Outrage Committee. 1852.
            Q: Did you, upon that occasion speak, as you felt, severely of the conduct of landlords?
A: I do not think I ever spoke severely, either then or at any other time.
Q: There are degrees of severity?
A: Yes, as you are well aware…
Q: Did you on that occasion speak of landlords as exterminators?
A: I do not remember that I used the term; but if I had used the term, I do not think it would be contrary to the fact.’

Karl Marx in NYT June 28, 1853
The agrarian murders in Ireland cannot be suppressed because and as long as they are the only effective remedy against the extermination of the people by the landlords. ...
The needy Irish tenant belongs to the soil, while the soil belongs to the English lord. As well you might call the relation between the robber who presents his pistol, and the traveller who presents his purse, a relation between two traders.

Rev. Daniel Gunn Browne.
I mean by a social wrong this kind of case: that if I take a farm and improve it, the improved value would be absorbed by an increase in rent, without giving me compensation for what I consider to be my property, because I made it, and that at any time, upon seven days' notice, I am liable to be ejected through the caprice or arbitrary conduct of the landlord".....
I think if you give a constitutional remedy for these social wrongs, you would cut up crime by the root and establish order on the basis of justice. [NOTE how contemporary this approach sounds.]  …Justice is the only firm basis of public order. The oppression of rack rents and of extra police taxation, punishing the innocent for the guilty, exasperates and disturbs the community and drives multitudes away to a land where labour finds its reward.[He is referring here to America.]

The Indian Question – Irish Tenant Right. Karl Marx. London, June 28, 1853.
A tenant having incorporated his capital, in one form or another, in the land, and having thus effected, an improvement of the soil, either directly by irrigation, drainage, manure, or indirectly by construction of buildings for agricultural purposes, in steps the landlord, with demand for increased rent. If the tenant concede, he has to pay the interest for his own money to the landlord. If he resist, he will be very unceremoniously ejected, and supplanted by a new tenant, the latter being enabled to pay a higher rent by the very expenses incurred by his predecessor, until he also, in his turn, has become an improver of the land, and is replaced in the same way or put on worse terms. In this easy way a class of absentee landlords has been enabled to pocket, not merely the labour, but also the capital of all generations, each generation of Irish peasants sinking a grade lower in the social scale, exactly in proportion to the exertions of sacrifices made for the raising of their condition and that of their families. If the tenant was industrious and enterprising, he became taxed in consequence of his very industry and enterprise. If on the contrary, he grew inert and negligent, he was reproached with the “aboriginal faults of the Celtic race”. He had, accordingly, no other alternative left but to become a pauper – to pauperise himself by industry, or to pauperise by negligence. In order to oppose this state of things, “Tenant Right” was proclaimed in Ireland – a right of the tenant, not in the soil, but in the improvements of the soil effected at his costs and charges.

The fight for tenant rights in Ireland is all part and parcel of where this quaigh, as a thing has taken me. I have since found out that Browne’s great-grand-uncle Rev. James Kirkpatrick (1676-1743), was another one of Browne’s many opinionated Presbyterian ministerial relations. Like Browne, he was not a supporter of violent or unlawful methods, but he was devastating when he aimed his rhetorical guns - essays and sermons - at the powers that be. He was a brother of Browne’s great-grandmother Christian Boyd née Kirkpatrick, and he was not only a Presbyterian minister, but also – like his brother-in-law Dr. Joseph Boyde –a practicing physician. In 1739, he wrote: An Account of the Success of Mrs. Stephens's Medicines for the Stone. It was, however, his “anonymous” publication, An Historical Essay Upon the Loyalty of Presbyterians, that created the biggest waves:

Note that the authorship of James Kirkpatrick was inked-in sometime post-publication. In the 600 pages that follow, Kirkpatrick sets out the history of Presbyterians in Ireland, as well as his extensive rationale for opposing their persecution by the Established Church.
The complexities of the various theological wars that played out in England, Scotland and Ireland from the mid-1600s to the mid-1700s can be as hard to grasp as the philosophical writings of Heidegger, so I will leave that part of the conversation to those who are better qualified. My focus in this post, as in other such posts, continues to be: follow the money – a less lofty focus, but no less revealing. After all, the pursuit of financial power usually goes hand-in-glove with the persecution of religious minorities (one example would be to follow where the land went after the Salem witch trials). The persecution of others also piggybacks on the tendency of many of us to feel more united and strong when we have a common enemy.

When it came to money, one of the burrs under the saddles of the Established Church bishops at this time was the Regium Donum, or the King’s Gift. This was an annual donation of £1,200 per congregation which was initiated and funded by King William. It galled the bishops that he had done an end run around Parliament by funding it from the royal purse – not as a result of a vote in Parliament. Unlike the Established Church parishes, Presbyterian parishes had no authority to levy tithes as a source of income. This grant also conferred legitimacy upon them.

As is so often the case in such matters, the bishops acted as if their main grievance was theological and was also fueled by concern for the safety of their communities. What they really feared was legitimizing Dissidents and risking the possible future erosion of their right to income from tithes. Their chosen weapon was the Test or Act of Conformity. This rule was applied to all appointees to public office. They all had to take Communion, within three months, in an Episcopal Church – a visible community act – or else they would lose their positions. It meant that all devout Presbyterians could forget about being a school-teacher, magistrate, post-master or local councilor. Not only that, but the lease to their farm might not be renewed, and their land could be seized without recompense.

These kinds of rules held sway because Established Church bishops, all of whom owned land, held the balance of power – about half the seats - in the Irish House of Lords. They whipped up fear amongst others by conveniently equating the refusal to sign the Oath with treason. Some Dissenters were even executed for their refusal to sign. In this focused attack on their faith, Presbyterian ministers were also banned from offering Communion to their parishioners, and if caught were fined £100. In spite of this, a covert underground movement made barns available for religious services, and gave shelter and sustenance to ministers.  Dozens of anonymous essays were published, and passed hand to hand, much like samizdat texts in Soviet Russia.

In Kirkpatrick’s  Loyalty of Presbyterians, you can practically feel the steam coming out of his ears as he defends the right of all Presbyterians to practice their version of Christianity, as well as their innocence of the charge of seeding sedition. He also notes the hypocrisy of his accusers. (The bolding in the text is mine.)

The first Presbyterians never sent any Minister to any place but at the desire and Invitation of People of their Persuasion there. The Principal Occasion of their Preaching in several Places, where there were no Meetings before, is, that many parts of the Country were laid Desolate by the late War; whereupon, several Protestant Landlords (and even some of the Established Church) encouraged those of our Persuasion to settle themselves and their Families on their Estates, formerly occupied by Irish Papists. And to draw 'em to such New Settlements, have assisted them in Entertaining Ministers of their own to Preach amongst them; and they hope it can neither appear reasonable, that such Protestant Dissenters shou’d be derived of the same Liberty of Worshipping God in their own way, which their Brethren everywhere else enjoy nor that it will be thought dangerous to Church or State, that British and Protestant Inhabitants, tho' Dissenters; shou'd be settled in Places that before had feared any but Papists.

In his posthumous essay, A Defence of Christian Liberty, published in 1743, one of Kirkpatrick’s concerns is with the fight against arbitrary power. The fight for this was the same as triggered the American, French and Irish civil wars and uprisings which followed. It was also central in the later ongoing fight, by Browne and others, for the rights of tenant farmers in the mid to late 1800s. As Kirkpatrick put it:

Civil Liberty has been always supported by invincible force of Argument; and, Civilized Nations have never reckoned it too dear a purchase, when they could gain and secure it at a vast expense of Blood and Treasure … and with a just Zeal for the Right: of Mankind never to be Sacrificed to Arbitrary Power in any Shape.



Photo Credit: Venetia Bowman-Vaughan.
The inscription on the handles of a hand raised in blessing represents the blessing of Christ, but it is also a feature of the Boyd family crest. This makes it likely that the B refers to Boyd – but if that is the case, then what do the letters F and E refer to? I don’t yet know. The next step is to find out how old it might be, but we are somewhat stymied in this because there are no silver marks on the base. What we do know, is that not only the quaigh, but also the passion for justice which was indeed passed down from generation to generation, from the Boyds of the late-1600s to the Victorian era Rev Daniel Gunn Browne, and then on to his protégé, Sir Thomas Jackson. It may seem like an oxymoron to some, but Sir Thomas Jackson was an ethical banker.

One last thought. I wonder if the staves have shrunk, or if this quaigh could still hold whiskey without leaking. Just curious. I must ask my cousins, or better yet, try it out on my next visit. In the meantime, there is a bocce party coming up next weekend – the last of its kind since the house of the friends who host it has recently been sold. Maybe in the distant future, one of these bocce balls will become a thing, and oh my goodness, the tales it will tell – depending on who tells them. As Julian Barnes notes, in The Sense of an Ending:

That’s one of the central problems of history, isn’t it, sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.

Note the technique - the wine glass is level.

NOTE: Thanks to the many people on Facebook who gave me useful suggestions about what the symbol of the hand might mean, but especially to Venetia Bowman-Vaughan for finding the connection to the Boyd family crest.
SEE ALSO Kirkpatrick Archives and A Dictionary of National Biography Vol 31. 1892 p220. It mentions that there was (at least in 1892) a copy of Rev. James Kirkpatrick’s portrait in the First Presbyterian Church of Belfast. Maybe someone in Belfast could find it for me.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Killynure - the Life of a House




NOTE: This post is dedicated to all those relations and friends who at some time have belonged to Killynure. The synonyms of the word belong include: fit in, be suited to, have a rightful place, have a home. As for me, although I will never own it, nor would I ever want to, but I do know that part of me will always belong there.

On Tuesday, May 23rd, 1995, I walked out from Armagh City heading south-west on the Monaghan Road with my brothers Struan and Bruce, and my sister-in-law Sara. It was my first time back in Ireland as an adult, and their first visit to Ireland, ever. The four of us were hoping to find Killynure, a townland that had long been the home of our ancestors. Part of our reason for seeking this exact place was that our father had died about six weeks earlier and we had brought some of his ashes with us, to bring him home.

We knew hardly anything about our family history back then, but we did know that our great grandfather had built a house at Killynure with stairs so solid that they never squeaked. When we had mentioned this to a clerk in a leather goods shop in Armagh, he told us that Killynure was a large brick house, and that it would be on our left after we passed Milford. In Brown’s Hollow. If we passed the road to Aghavilly, we would have gone too far.

We stopped in first for a beer at Damper Murphey’s, and then headed out. Three miles or so later, there it was, set back from the road with cattle grazing in the surrounding fields. The last time I had been there was in 1950, as a small child, and my only memory was of running back to the house with my great aunt Blin in the midst of a sudden downpour. She had put her raincoat over my head to protect me from the rain, and held my hand tightly as we ran. I can still recall the smell of the tartan lining of her oil cloth raincoat.

1995 - View from the road to Monaghan
The first house that our Oliver ancestors lived in at Killynure in the early 1800s wasn't visible from the road in 1995. It was a typical, one story bungalow, now part of a square of farm buildings. Our g-g-g-grandfather Benjamin Oliver and his wife, Elizabeth Bradford of Cavananore, Co. Louth, had raised their seven children there. In 1816, Benjamin had planted 270 trees: ash, larch, scotch fir and spruce fir. There was also an orchard, primarily of Bramley apples, the best for making apple tarts.

The original bungalow no longer has a chimney and has not been inhabited for more than a century. I can’t be sure whether the original structure was as large as it is now. One day, I would like to check out the interior walls. Maybe they will shed some light on this question.

Unfortunately the 1836 Field notes recorded no information about whether the roof was made of straw or slate. I suspect the latter.  The outlines of the house and its outbuildings are indicated in an 1835 map. Sometime between 1835 and 1856, when the Griffiths Valuation was done, a second barn was added. The roof was reslated recently, and I suspect that the hip roof, seen on the left was not part of the original structure. The curved corner is an uncommon feature for local bungalows, although some cultures had a tradition of curving the corners of buildings so the devil would have no place to hide.
After the death of Benjamin Oliver in 1831, and then the death of his eldest son in 1873, Benjamin’s grand-daughter Bessie Jackson and her husband Thompson Brown were the next to inherit Benjamin’s lease at Killynure. They lived in the bungalow before building the big brick house. In a letter dated March 2, 1881, Eliza Oliver says of her daughter: Bessie & her family are well; but they will never be right comfortable till they build a new house, which I hope they will do before long. Partly the delay in building was because of a court challenge over Uncle William Oliver’s 1873 will. Had the challenge succeeded, it would have benefitted two of Bessie’s cousins: John and Ben Oliver. Even though they don’t seem to have won the case (I haven’t yet found the outcome), there might have been some legal merit to their claim on 1/3rd of the value.

In another letter, June 8, 1883, which Eliza wrote to her son Thomas Jackson, the brick house was still new enough that it was worth commenting on: I spent a fortnight in Killynure lately, and was greatly pleased with the new house; it is both handsome and comfortable.  This helps to fix the completion date, as do the Valuation Books for 1883. They show a jump in value for the buildings from 8.10.0 to 17.0.0 at a time when the valuations of neighbouring buildings showed no such jump.

This is the earliest photo that we have of the “new house” at Killynure. Based on the ages of the children as well as the fact that the roses have grown up to the roof, I suspect it dates from 1892.
L-R Frances, Robert, Elizabeth, Mary, Mother Eliza, Father Thompson & Blin. It may be George who is holding the donkey. It may be someone else. The youngest child, Herbert, is astride the donkey– dressed as young male children were at that time.NOTE: The part of the roof that was made of lead was removed during WWI to be melted down for bullets

This photo of the family of Thompson & Bessie Brown was taken abt 1899. I have not yet positively identified which of the three older sister are which, but this represents my best guess.  
L-R Elizabeth? (who married Samuel GILMORE of Liscalgot), George, Blin, Thomas Jackson, with Herbert in front of him, Mary?, David, Robert. Seated Thompson jr., Eliza, Thompson Sr. and Frances?.
Several of the older children  were living –or had been living - in China, Persia, or Hong Kong.
.
By the time of the 1901 census, the eldest children were already grown up, and the household at Killynure had shrunk considerably. The parents, Thompson and Eliza, were there on the day of the Census, as were four of their ten children: George, Thomas Jackson (my grandfather – at age 21 already a Civil Engineer), Sarah Margaret aka Blin, and their youngest child, Herbert Evelyn. Other than that, there was also a family servant, Mary Hearty who was 21 years old. She probably had come from the Jackson farm at Urker, Parish of Creggan, and was probably a sister of John Hearty of Liscalgot. Also living with them was James McGlough, a farm hand. Perhaps he was the young man holding the reins of the donkey in the picture above.

Twenty seven outbuildings were noted in the 1901 Census including: 8 stables (the family were well known as avid horse people), 1 coach house, 1 harness room, 2 cow houses, 1 calf house, 1 dairy, 3 piggeries, 1 fowl house, 1 boiling house, 1 barn, 1 turf house, 1 potato house, 1 workshop, 3 sheds and 1 store. The original bungalow was not described as such. At some point, there was also a gate house at the top of the drive. When my Aunt Dorothy visited, sometime before 1954, it was still standing. She remembered the fireplace and bellows.

Blin Brown (1886-1963)
The last of Thompson and Eliza’s children to live at Killynure was Sarah Margaret aka Blin Brown (1886-1963). After the deaths of all her brothers and sisters, some of whom had returned to help out from time to time, she ran the farm for a couple of years on her own before selling it in 1954. It can’t have been easy. After Blin’s death, close to a decade later in a care facility in Belfast where she suffered from dementia, a loaded pistol was found in her effects. Thankfully, it hadn’t been used. Robert Foster and his wife Isabell White of Ballyloo (buried in Knappagh Presbyterian Cemetary) bought the farm, lived there, and ran it until after their daughter Amanda married Edgar Knox. Then they passed it on to the young couple – 50/50.

Fast forward now to May 23, 1995, when my brothers and Sara and I first walked up the laneway, and past the two Massey Fergusson tractors parked in the yard. As we looked around for a moment, two people, Edgar and Amanda, emerged from the milk barn. As soon as they understood why we were there, they doffed their working wellies at the door of their house and invited us in. Amanda excused herself for a moment, and returned in a skirt. Edgar told us all about his herd of 140 milk cows, and his 350 beef cattle, all raised by himself and Amanda with the help of “the Man”. Just as the Olivers had done more than 150 years earlier, the cows and cattle were grazed on fields at Killynure as well as at neighbouring townlands. The fields were remarkably fertile. Edgar was able to harvest three crops a year, compared to only one in most fields in England. After tea, we walked through the fields, and up to the perimeter of the March Hedge. Before we left, we had agreed to meet them later that night at The Hole in the Wall pub.
Edgar and his cows. 1995.
Even if I could recall how much we all drank on that particular night, I doubt that I would want to confess it. I recall how Amanda had a habit of pinching the front of her blouse to hike it up a bit, as if the weight of the silk on the back of her neck were too much. She was a quiet, gentle soul. Edgar and my brothers egged each other on, one-upping each other with their stories and jokes. Edgar and Amanda’s friend Faith, who had joined us that evening, was more outgoing than Amanda. Our different accents sometimes led to much puzzlement. Edgar had a Co. Tyrone accent, and when he mentioned floor boards, as he did in talking about a renovation, it sounded to us like fleurbirds. After a while, we learned to swap out vowels when we were lost. That night, we closed down the bar, and the seven of us agreed to meet up in a few days’ time.

L-R: Sara Brown, Amanda, Sharon, Bruce (in front), Edgar and Struan.
When we were invited to tea at 7:00 PM, a couple of days later, we hadn’t grasped that tea in Ireland meant that a meal would be served. In our ignorance, we had already eaten, and then were faced with platters of salads, hams and cheeses, as well as one of Amanda’s Pavlovas. Eugene Fegan was also there that night. He had been a farm hand at Killynure in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and remembered me visiting there as a child. His ancestors had also held land there in the mid-1800s.

On my subsequent visits, Edgar and Amanda always invited me to stay with them. One time, I slept in the same room as my father when he had lived there in the 1920s. His family had come back from Canada for a while, and had lived there after his grandmother was widowed, frail and needed care. On one of my visits, Amanda, feeling a little abashed, had told me that some of the Brown’s furnishings had been left in the house, and that the headboard of a brass bed had been used by her father to help firm up a concrete retaining wall that he had poured. Such are the twists and turns of history.
L-R: Natasha, Natalie, myself, Hannah & Aiden. April 27, 2016
Two decades would pass before I was photographed once again on the porch at Killynure. It so easily might not have happened. A few days earlier, Brendan Oliver, of Olivers Fruit & Veg in Armagh, asked me: how could you be an Oliver when your last name is Brown? When I explained about our connection to Killynure, how Benjamin Oliver’s grand-daughter Bessie Jackson had married Thompson Brown in 1867, he told me that Amanda Knox’s will had recently been contested. It seemed as if history were repeating itself. It was 1873 all over again. I told him that I had wanted to contact Faith, to see if I could learn more, but I couldn’t recall her last name. Brendan didn’t miss a beat. She works across the street, he said. At the Spar. A few days later, when I went back to thank him, it turned out that he had gone to Cuba for a couple of weeks for a family wedding. By the time he would be home again, I would be gone. The chance to meet up again with Faith had been that close to being totally missed.
L-R Natasha, Natalie, Hannah & Aiden & Faith. April 27, 2016
The evening that I met up with Faith, we didn’t close down a bar, but our time was no less memorable. Two of Faith’s daughters, Natalie and Natasha, and two of her grandchildren joined us. From Faith and her daughters, I learned that Amanda had willed part of the farm to Natalie, Faith's eldest daughter, now a nurse. No surprise there, at least for me. Eight years earlier, Amanda had told me that this was hers and Edgar’s intent, not that they had ever told Natalie this. Natalie had been like a daughter to them, often slept over there, and had also worked at the farm as a teenager. During Amanda’s final months, Natalie had cared for her, making it possible for Amanda to stay in a hospital bed in her own living room at Killynure for as long as possible.

Over dinner, I shared as many of the stories that I could recall and that there was time for. Thomas Andrew Jackson (1930-2007), one of my third cousins, had once told me that he would never forget the taste of the Brown’s hams – the best in the country. He had said that they had been smoked in a specially constructed chimney, but when I got back to Canada, my brother Struan set me straight. These renowned hams had actually been salted, not smoked, and had then been hung on hooks in the coolness of the basement. The ones that Thomas enjoyed would have been cured by Blin. They also would have been covered by green mould. Penicillin, was what my grandmother called it. The mould was always cut off, and the hams were then soaked in apple cider to reduce their saltiness before cooking.

Blin had studied culinary arts in Scotland. Had she wanted to marry, she would have made a great catch, but I suspect that she felt no interest in men, at least when it came to marrying. My 3rd cousin, Eilie Ryder, knew her well, and still has her cookbook. Somewhere I have made a note of her recipe for Mayonnaise, although I haven’t yet tried it. In the years leading up to WWII, Blin canned and preserved an entire cellar-full of provisions. She had been prescient that there was going to be a war, and she wasn’t known for doing things by halves. When rationing was imposed, as she had foreseen, she was more than ready. Her neighbours, Catholics and Protestant alike, all hard hit by the lack of sugar and meat, recalled her gifts of jam, preserves, and salted meat.

Blin’s other obsession was horses, and I suspect that she would look fondly on the affection that Natasha, Natalie’s younger sister, has for the horses that she cares for these days in the barn at Killynure. I also suspect that Blin, and her grandmother Eliza Oliver would both feel that it is right that it will be the lives of these two sisters and their families which will write the next chapter in the ongoing story of Killynure, whatever that will be.

April 27, 2016 - Natasha and her horse at Killynure.

See also some other posts on my web site about Killynure: