He bought that house from a jilted Orangeman who didn’t know that land
was not to be sold to Fenians and tried to buy it back. Maggie Henderson
was orange enough to make up for us – King Billy looming in her hall
and tea brewed for the ‘wee soldiers’ who set up checkpoints on the road.
Her quiet husband Hughie walked with the Black Men in August.
She kept cats that reeked and snoozed on the roof of her henhouse.
They said there were dead Franciscans under us – a medieval graveyard
but all we ever found were shards of willow pattern when we tried to dig
to China and the monastery overgrown at the turn of the river where we went
to play in the sheep tunnels under the railway lines. The Mc Cullaghs were our
neighbours on the other side who arrived bedraggled one night in a storm when
the electricity off. They came from the mountains – ‘the Plum’. She had
a countrywoman’s disdain for pets and drowned the only kitten I ever owned.
I would sing on my swing and imagine that Paris lay beyond the hills.