40 Years A Missing
It was a beautiful summer’s night as I was went up to the gate of Springtown Camp. I was looking for my mates Brendy (Smilie) Wilkinson, Jim English, Stevie Wilkinson, Micky Curran , Danny Feeney,Sammy or Hubert (Sarge) Porter. I could see none of them so I decided to go and look for them. My first stop was to check to see if they were in Tommy Moore’s shop and anyway I wanted to buy some sweets. After being served by Bridget Moore I asked was any of my mates in to-night.
“Aye, Brendy Wilkinson was in and when you see him tell him I’ll put my boot where the sun don’t shine when I see him.”
“Why?” I asked “what did he do?”
“He took 2 lucky dips and only paid for wan!!”
I left the shop in a hurry and walked down the camp past Sarah Lynch’s and Callaghan’s wooden huts and turned right. On looking back at the gate I saw Jack Mc Laughlin,Sammy Porter,and Hugh mc Monagle coming in to the camp after walking their pet dogs out the Branch Road. Coming towards me was Needle’s Anderson with her daughter Margaret heading to Mc Connell’s shop. As I dallied on I could hear Jock Brennan singing “Flower of Scotland” him well on and in a jovial mood. Outside his hut Tommy “ Moonman” Duffy and Hugo Mc Connell were scrapping over a harp or a head at the tosspit “ Butcher” Carlin broke them up with his rolled up Belfast Telegraph ! Jock Brennan kept on singing “ Flower of Scotland”. I moved on and saw “Elkie” Clarke shadow boxing. He was showing Andy Doherty how to throw a swift upper cut in preparation for his next boxing match. Neekie Henry was riding his bike, shouting to Andy Doherty “Right me boy, time for some road work!”
Andy set off jogging accompanied by “Neekie” on his bike. “Good on ye boys.” Seamus Fleming shouted to them as he was heading to “Seekie” Mc Clelland for a hand of card with Danny Sweeney and Neil “Uncle” Mc Laughlin.
“Don’t bother going in to Seekie” I told them.
“He has the cards marked!! They laughed and went on, in their search of winning a few bob.
As I rounded Chada Doherty’s hut Willie Edgar was walking his two greyhounds .I asked him did he see “Smilie” or Stevie Wilkinson about.
“Naw, but they are probably over breaking Mary Ann Meehan’s heart as usual,or nick knocking.
“Did you see “Uncle” about?”Edgar asked me .
“Aye,he is away in to Seekie’s for a hand of cards.”
“Go in to Seekies. Tell him I want him. He owes me 10 bob and I want it before he gets busted at the cards.” says Edgar.
“I can’t go in to Seekies. I’m barred. Sure he would kill me” said I.
“Why?” he asks.
“I broke wan of his windows yesterday with me slingshot !”
I told him.
“Ah, I will go in myself. Here hold these dogs for me.” , Edgar came out with his ten bob and took his dogs and continued his walk.
“I can’t go in to Seekies. I’m barred. Sure he would kill me” said I
Still no sign of any of my mates. I walked on by Willie Scallon’s hut and heard all this noise and sure enough it was my mates running towards me and shouting,” Run! Run!” I saw wee Archie and Joe Doherty running after my mates. I also took flight with them.When we finally out ran the Dohertys . I asked them what happened and Smilie told me they pushed Doherty’s car and it started to roll and it ran in to the railings. Then all hell broke loose. Some of the older girls passed us, Maureen Lynch,Margaret Doherty, Frances Lynch and Mary Divin all singing “Runaway”. They even drowned out Jock singing “Flower of Scotland”. Flashing by us on his scooter was George Lynch with his mate Hugo Henry riding pillion passenger and holding on to Geroge with all his might. The moon was shining brightly from the sky.
We dandered on and passed Rita (Nash) Duffy ,Mary Edgar,Jinny Scallon and Maggie Campbell playing cards on the doorstep of Rita’s hut.We asked the women what time it was.
its half ten said Mary Edgar…..Nearly time to go up to the gate and see what the craic would be off the twenty to eleven bus. On we went to Donnelly’s hut to buy some toffee apples and some iceing and wait for the last bus. We had a bet who would be the first off the bus.We always did that on a Friday night. No point in betting who would be the last off as it was always Eddie “Tipperary” Canavan with bottle in his hand shouting “If you worry ye die if you don’t worry you still die. So why worry?” Also waiting was the ever present Rosie waiting to “GREET” her husband Danny with her umbrella in her hand . Jim English won the bet. He picked Big Kevin Scanlon.They flowed off the bus, most in good humour, Jimmy Deery, Tommy Lynch, Rory Quigley , Paddy “Banty” Doherty, Mary “B” Kelly John McLaughlin, Lornie Burke,Chada Doherty,John Burke, Jackie Mc Closkey, Alex Duffy, Willie Campbell George “Bussard” Mc Laughlin, and the women who were at the pictures, Rose Ann Bridge,Minnie Mc Dermott,Hanna Burke, and some folk who lived up the Springtown Road.Then with a 10 minute gap, off came “Tipperary”.Not wan angry word!! We were disappointed. Nearly time for bed now as I had to gather brock in the morning and others were going out to gather spuds. One last call before we departed for our huts to buy an ice pop in Mc Connell’s shop before they closed. Willie Mc Connell was serving and talking to Frances Clarke at the same time. So with icepops in hand off we went to our huts and bed.
The camp was quiet in the still of the night as I walked home. Then the silence was broken by .”Flower of Scotland” being belted out by Jock Brennan. The sound of Jock Brennan’s voice faded and everything went dark. The feeling of contentment came over me and the silence was broken by the sound of my alarm clock. I awoke looking up at a white square ceiling .I had been dreaming of my old home, my old friends,neighbours ,the tin huts, rushie field , corn fields bluebells,buttercups,daisies but alas all missing now ,actually “40 years a missing”