Shortly after the tour coach pulled away from the Maudabawn Cultural Centre near Cootehill and headed toward Monaghan town, our tour guide and moderator, Aogan Farrell, picked up the mike and called our attention to a long stretch of weathered stone wall on the right hand side. Long stretch indeed. Four and a half miles of it. The wall was a make work project during famine times, and this work went on stone by stone, mile by dreary mile, without a break seven days a week...keeping nothing within its border and nothing without except the merest bit of poverty and hope. Men over sixteen years of age were paid one penny a day, seven pence a week. Boys under sixteen, only four. One hundred and fifty years have barely altered its jagged face, but a more appropriate memorial to a time that begs to be forgotten is hard to imagine. And what begs to be forgotten, inevitably begs to be remembered.
Our tour group disembarked for late morning tea at Glaslough. Ron Kendrick, the innkeeper, owner, showed some of us pub lovers the old bar, still in daily use since early in this century. On display were copper siphoning tubes which transferred Guinness or Jameson from the barrel to the bottle and also a heavy cast iron corking stand that put a cap on for carry out. These were treasured pieces in what has become his museum. No less quaint and treasured was the women’s room, not what you would think. Women did not frequent pubs in that by-gone era, at least not very many. And for what few did, the innkeeper provided privacy, their own wee room with their own wee window through which passed their pints. Only in the recent past has a ladies’ room as we know it been installed.
And while in Glaslough, who wouldn’t want to see the utterly charming parish church, San Salvator, where Paul McCartney got married. It wasn’t hard to imagine a church literally filled with white lilies. What was hard, even shocking, to imagine was the towering spire of the church toppled by lightning in the early 70’s. Thankfully, no trace of its damage or the destruction of a major portion of the roof remained, a tribute to the love and care and fund raising abilities of a devoted congregation.
We inched our way through heavy downtown Monaghan traffic, and disembarked at The Memorial for the Six, the five men and one woman who died in the bombing in 1974. Names of each are laced vertically in the tower. We circled on the paving stones and read them and felt the toll of the tragic event. It seemed singularly appropriate to be reminded as Americans what our Irish friends all too readily can’t forget.
Written by Joy Davis - Summer of Travel 2007