Clady panady and ‘Boodley’s’ epic court

The late Charlie Haughey - or ‘Boodley’ as he was known - was unceremoniously dumped by Maggy Donaghy after she got bored with him following an epic 47 year courtship.

Poor Charlie had been walking the roads of Clady to see Maggy - literally for generations - when all of a sudden their romance ended.

At least that’s according to Katy McLoughlin and Frank McCorkell who tell the yarn.

“Charlie was renowned: he was going with his girlfriend for how many years? At least 45 years,” recalled Katy.

Frank McCorkell puts the longevity of ‘Boodley’ and Maggy’s relationship, which went on for nearly half a century, into some perspective.

“I actually walked the roads then, courting with ‘Boodley,’ still going to court Maggy, because he was courting Maggy when my Da was courting my Ma,” said Frank.

Katy added: “To make a long story short, Maggy Donaghy finished with Charlie.

“She was bored. Gone with him after 47 years. And she was finished with him and he was found dead in his bed a couple of days after. He was found dead in his bed when Eileen went to waken him.”

Katy and John were among nine participants from the Clady, Strabane and Castlederg areas, who recently talked to the Border Lives multi-media project for a film focusing on the villages and towns of the Derg, Finn and Mourne rivers.

The participants talked about times gone by as well as some of the challenges they still face today in building cross-community relations.

Katy and Frank were joined by several neighbours, including Cyril McGhee, who remembers hearing cattle rustlers in the dead of night when lying in bed as a boy.

“We lived in a dwelling. I wouldn’t call it a house as it was formerly a customs hut and we were frequently flooded.

“One of my earlier memories was lying in bed hearing the hooves of the cattle running, being smuggled across the border,” said Cyril.

Living on the border meant the area was a popular haunt with smugglers and it also did odd things to commodity prices, as Pat Kirk explains.

Gordon Speer.

Gordon Speer.

“The goats come to the back of the bridge and then the lorries come to the foot of the bridge and you put the goats on then. There was a whole scatterment of goats,” said Pat.

“The tea would have been cheaper here. It would have been very dear in the Free State. You used to get a pound of tea for a pound.”

Sam and Joe Bogle remember a happy childhood that wasn’t without hardship.

“There were two houses and underneath them the Kirks kept pigs and cows,” said Sam. “They were underneath this, the wooden floor, and we lived there.”

“As Sam says, where we lived was above a byre just,” agreed Joe.

Frank accepted that there was poverty in the village but it was normal at the time.

“We were all poor. Of course we where. We weren’t aware we were poor because we had nobody to compare it to. Occasionally we did. It was a wee bit intimidatory even going to Strabane to a brightly lit tea shop,” he said.

Harvesting the potato fields and the blackberry bushes was one way of raising a few bob and an extra bit of income.

Pat recalled: “The schoolchildren used to get so many holidays during the black berry picking time and the potato gathering.”

Sam added: “Your parents would have got you to gather praties and blackberries and the money you would have got off that you would have bought yourself a pair of boots for the winter.”

Katy says her own family sold turkeys and on one occasion used the money for a musical treat.

“You kept dogs and we kept pigs and the first gramophone we got we got with the turkey money,” she said.

A great comfort food of the time that has now largely fallen out of fashion was the traditional ‘panady’ bread pudding.

Pat gives his recipe.

“You got yourself a slice of bread, you put it on the plate and you put some sugar in it and then you put hot water in it and then a drop of ‘mil-lik in it - as Eddie Forest would say - and then that was your panady and that was it.”

Up the road in Castlederg the current Ulster Unionist Party Councillor (UUP) for the Derg Electoral Area, Derek Hussey, was amongst those who also took part in the film.

“This area was often referred to as the ‘Castlederg salient.’ There is a section of Northern Ireland that goes out into Donegal, surrounded on three sides by the Republic.

“I grew up in Omagh, in John Street, which is a fairly strong nationalist part of Omagh Town but my friends about the area where both Catholic and Protestant.

“Through school, obviously my Protestant friends, but my Catholic friends would have been neighbours in the area and people who I’m still friendly with and I meet folk when I’m up in Omagh and I meet folks. ‘How you doing Derek? Long time, no see.’ You know. ‘You’re getting no younger.’

“And these are folk I would have known in the area of Omagh, known as The Hill.”

Gordon Speer, a project coordinator with the Castlederg cross-community Border Arts group, also remembers a mixed and harmonious West Tyrone in the halcyon days of his youth.

“Our house was just full of musicians all the time. Every Saturday night there would have been a whole get together.

“A couple of boys came down from Kesh - John Jarvis and Isaac Aiken - and we’d have met up in the kitchen and there would have been 15 or 20 musicians gathered around every night.

“We never felt, we never got any feeling of a Catholic/Protestant thing because we just had that much contact with musicians and people coming into the house, my father playing in a band, an accordion, ‘Herbie and the Ramblers,’ it was called.

“He played at dances all over. Catholic halls, Protestant halls, Orange Halls, pubs. It didn’t matter which.

“There was never any difference made of anybody. He played at weddings of all denominations as well.”

Derek recalls a harmony hard to imagine given the communal tensions witnessed in Castlederg over recent years.

“People forget that there was a time, when, come the Twelfth of July, the local Protestant family headed off to their celebrations. Their Catholic neighbours came in and took care of the farm or whatever work was to be done for the day.

“And vice versa come August. 15th of August. The Catholic neighbour went off to their celebrations. The Protestant neighbour looked after their wee bit of land and all the rest of it for them.

“People would have shared equipment. Communities would have lived cheek by jowl and got on with it.”

The darkness of the Troubles descended, however. It had a huge impact on the communities of the Derg, Finn and Mourne.

This is particularly pronounced in the testimony of the Castlederg contributors, which is defined by reference to the suffering wrought by the activities of the IRA.

Derek explained: “I suppose there were quite a few incidents in Castlederg. Notorious for its reputation as the most bombed community, small town in the provinces.

“A lot of suffering, a lot of pain, a lot of trauma, within the community that I had come to live in.”

Gordon says the proximity of the border and the salient geography extending westward beyond Killeter into a Donegal-bounded corridor made the area a soft target.

“From the seventies on, there was a lot of bombing went on. The border was so close they were able to bring bombs in and then go back over the border. You had a different jurisdiction so obviously there was lot of hostility towards the fact that the security forces didn’t sort of clamp down on people bringing in bombs and shootings.”

Derek says the town was blown apart during the Troubles.

“There are pictures of the town, totally decimated, and the resilience of folk in this area is absolutely tremendous.

“Within a couple of days businesses were back up and going again despite all that was tried to be done in this area, people were resolved.

“’No. This is our area. This is where we live. This is where we do business. We will stay here. We will get our businesses up and going.’”

Both men recall personal tragedies.

Gordon’s friend and neighbour was shot dead by the IRA outside Killeter post office in December 1972.

“A friend of mine, William Bogle, was shot going in the door in Killeter shop.

“He used to be in our house nearly every evening. He was a fisherman as well as being in the UDR.

“I remember him sitting in a wee shed out the back. We used to have a wee turf shed and these logs and I can remember him sitting on these logs, making these flies with his fishing rod.

“He used to have a copy of ‘Trout and Salmon,’ which I’ve kept and his name on it and it just always reminds me of those days.”

Derek became a teacher at Castlederg High School in 1972 and remembers losing a former pupil, William Brown, who was shot by an IRA sniper in March 1977, whilst on RUC patrol near Lisnaskea.

“The first past pupil that really impacted on me would have been William Brown, who had been a pupil of the school.

“William was a member of the RUC, shortly out of the depot and I think he was awarded the Queen’s gallantry medal.

“He died in an incident up in Fermanagh and William’s funeral would be etched in my memories.”

Derek also mourns another past pupil, Heather Kerrigan, and a friend, Norman McKinley, who were murdered when a landmine was exploded by the IRA near Castederg in July 1984.

“The next one that impacted very heavily on me were the deaths of Norman McKinley and Heather Kerrigan.

“Heather was a past pupil of mine from the local school and Norman I knew very well because I was playing in a Country and Western band in and around the area and beyond and Norman played in the Country and Western band with us.”

At the time, Gordon, remembers the sense of fear that existed in the area.

“Coming home from down here, maybe music or something and pulling into the side of the house and you were worried about somebody coming out from behind a wall.

“That kind of tension was there all the time and it was the same for everybody. There was that mistrust going on in the community.”

Derek lost another friend in June 1988 when the IRA shot UDR member Michael Darcy on the Killeter Road.

“Then in 1988 a very close friend, Michael Darcy, he was murdered. He played in the local flute band with myself. I was bandmaster and Michael was that guy in the band that looked after all the young fellahs, you know.

“But we had been out at a parade in Beragh and Michael brought the young fellahs home and drove into the back of his house and so somebody opened up from the back of the car and murdered Michael.”

Whilst the Castlederg contributions to the film are defined by reference to the Troubles, the watershed of the 1970s was also acutely felt up the road in Clady.

Cyril McGhee remarked: “Clady wasn’t a very safe place at a time - 1972 particularly, was a bad time in Clady. There was a lot of shooting going on from across the border and then you had the British Army checkpoint here. Permanent checkpoint, which infringed on our life, our daily life, greatly.

“When it was set up we were told we would not be impeded going to our place of worship but it ended up that we were, according to who was on, what type of soldier was on.”

Joe Bogle recalled that mourning families had to run the gauntlet of the border checkpoint and found it a degrading experience.

“There was a funeral there. People had to take their remains out. And where you had to walk was only about the breadth of this and it was very degrading, people carrying the remains over the wee narrow pad. Two big holes were in the middle of the road.

“You had to carry the remains the whole way to the chapel - say on a winter’s morning - with ice on the road. It just wasn’t very nice and then when you came back to the checkpoint and them asking you: ‘Where were you?’

“Maybe some boy’s father you were burying, you know, you were very... your emotions were playing with you a wee bit.”

Katy McLoughlin said the Troubles created division in the village that hadn’t existed previously.

“There were two shops here, both Protestant shops, and nobody has mentioned that. Hamiltons’ and Humes’.”

Frank McCorkell asked: “How far could we blame the Troubles times for those people moving from the village?”

Katy replied: “One hundred per cent. Surely.”

Frank: “So in the village now, the village proper, we do not have our separated brethren, if you like, we’ll call them that.”

Fast forward 40 years post-Belfast, St Andrew’s, Hillsborough, and most recently, following the completion of the Border Lives project, the Stormont House accords, community relations have improved again, but there is yet work to be done.

Gordon Speers explained: “Eventually we got agreement to reduce the tensions in the parades and that worked well.

“Over the period of the last five or six years [to 2013] there wasn’t one arrest at any parade. There were no incidents at all at any parades.

“A few years ago we managed to talk to all the people putting up the flags. Flags were up all year around in Castlederg because they just never bothered taking them down and people mark out their territory, type of thing, and so you had an awful lot of people complaining about these flags, business people were getting a bit annoyed about it because people were saying, ‘Look, we’d love to come into your restaurant or your pub but we just feel uncomfortable with the atmosphere it creates so two years ago we managed to talk to them and got all the flags down for the first time in 25 years. That got on great until last December [2012] when the flag protest happened at City Hall.

“That had a ripple effect in Castlederg. So then there were two protest marches here, which were handled well, and then about March time last year there was the announcement that the Tyrone Fleadh would be held in Castlederg for the first time ever.

“Last year just deteriorated into a disaster. Just one thing after another. The way it happened.

“We’ve moved back five or six years, I would say. So the situation at the moment is - we are trying to pick up the pieces and develop a four pronged sort of attack.

“Try to get our clergy grouping together to involve all the churches; try to get the businesses to come together to promote the town; and we’re trying then to get the youth organisations and the community groups together; and then the Orders, the police and the residents’ groups.

“I can act as a mediator. They are happy enough that I can go to them and speak to one side and then convey what their concerns are to the other, work it out like that in the meantime, but eventually I would like to see all the four groupings coming together eventually.”

Reconciliation is always achievable. One example from the past serves to illustrate.

A final word to Cyril McGhee who remembers a poor soldier who had been deployed to the dangerous border posting at Clady turning to a lynchpin of the local nationalist community for comfort.

He’d asked the local Catholic priest to send a copy of the Bible up to the sanger and so the PP had sent a local missionary.

“He was stopped at the checkpoint and said: ‘I’ve a bible here for one of your soldiers,’ and the guy up in the crow’s nest shouted: ‘That’s for me, mate’. This soldier was looking for spiritual comfort and he got it from our parish priest. That’s a story that probably would never be told.”