Memories of the Rosses

By John Ward of Glasgow

My mother Ellen Ward, nee Gilmartin, was born in the Lower Rosses, and my cousin Betty Devaney still stays there.

Before the war, when my brother William and I were about ten years old my mother used to take us to Rosses Point on holiday. My brother and I used to caddy on the golf course for two shillings, or two and six, which gave us money to spend on sweets. We also searched for lost golf balls in the bent beside the sea, and sold them on to the golfers for about a shilling. Then the war came and we could not go to Ireland, as travel was banned from this country.

The ban was lifted around 1946 and we started to go back again to Rosses Point on our holidays. I remember one dreadful year in the 1950s when Martin McGowan took a few young men from Rosses Point over to Ward's Bar on Coney Island. There was about seven of them in a rowing boat, and on the way home the boat capsized in the strong current. Only one man survived. I forget his name, but he was engaged to Paddy Bruen's sister.

We were on holiday at the Point that year but the whole village was in mourning. There was a body washed up by the tide nearly every day. Redmond John's Dance Hall, the Elsinore, was used as a mortuary, so all dancing was banned.

My brother and I knew everybody on that boat. We were staying at Ethel Ormsby's Hotel at the time, and there was one night the whole family got a terrible fright.

I've heard about Banshees and did not believe anybody about them, but on that terrible night I changed my mind.

Around midnight there came this awful wailing. It started in the distance and increased in sound right up to the door of the Hotel. I felt the blood draining from my face and the hair standing up on my neck.

I'll never forget that night, not as long as I live. We were actually glad to get home that year.

I am now 74 years of age, and many a time I think back on my holidays at Rosses Point. I remember Jontie Boyers' Shop, Mrs Ewing's Shop, Redmond John Bruen's Bar and Dance Hall, Francie Feeny's Bar and the McVey's Bar.

I remember playing the accordion in McVey's one night. It was coming up for midnight and the bar was closed, but there were fifteen or twenty people in the small lounge at the back drinking away.

I was playing The Soldier's Song to finish the night when the back door burst open and a Sergeant Kelly and Garda McLaughlin from the Garda Barracks at Rosses Point came charging in and started asking people for their names and addresses. There was a man there by the name of Alex McDaid. He used to drive the bus between Sligo and Rosses Point. He walked over and pulled the hat off the Sergeant.

Listen you, he said, You should be standing to attention during The Soldier's Song, you in uniform too. Alex kept whispering to me to keep playing it as the Sergeant stood to attention. It allowed a number of people to escape out of the back door. I don't know how many times I played The Soldier's Song. The few who didn't escape that night were fined five shillings. Alex was fined fifteen shillings. Mrs McVey was also fined but I don't know how much.

My mother had a small thatched cottage in Rosses Point next door to Eileen Reddy. There is a photograph of it hanging up in Redmond's Bar. My sister, Kathleen, saw it about three years ago, when she was on holiday over there.