By Tom Nestor

It’s the day before New Year. I am furtively alone. I pass the broken cottage by the sweep of a bend, ducked through the briars that rear above me and I am utterly still. This is not the first time you’ve come, often I came for a week or two, but probably the last now. Yes, never again. I am too old to be chasing shadows.

Everything that I knew is gone, the sweep of round that whirled around and headed almost the other way, the folly of a great house high on is perch, the winding road to Creeves. I peer through the clump of thorn and ivy and find a spy hole that leads to where the hall stood.

The hall is on its last legs, the roof has fallen in, the ivy has captured every place it could find a footing. I will never see it again, nothing here for me now.

That hall was originally built by some local people who got together to oppose (Taoiseach, Eamon) De Valera’s action when he stopped paying the annuities – the payments to the landlords – whose lands were given to Irish people. As a response, the government in London stopped the market for Irish cattle. That caused great hardship to many farmers.

My father used tell me that the market was in the skinners, they bought for the hides only, half a crown for two. When the politics settled down, the hall carried on. It morphed into a dance hall, mostly in summer and autumn.

Sometimes the local members of the dramatic society would decide to stage a play and the training would be worked out in the hall. I saw The Man from Aran film there and watched as the ladies in front pull up their coats when shots of great waves were shown. I heard one say, ‘we’ll be drenched, Hannie, drowned we will’. Ah, beautiful simple days.

There was a cottage across the road. Billo lived in there. He kept an eye out for the hall and held the key. He is a platelayer who cycles seven miles to the railway and back again. He also walked the line every day making sure that no obstacles are strewed on the track.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own