Celtic Illumination, part 33, Animal farm, under-age drinking and castration.
I suppose, looking back, and it is only today that I consider such things, but the experiences I had at the family farm in Dromara were quite important for the future King of Ireland and a world leading Master Candle Maker to learn. I was taught about farming and about food production. We shall not mention the other farm outside Glenarm, at Feystown, where the only thing I learned was that, as a youngster, if you drink enough cider you become what is known as very drunk and again, despite the fact that I was unconscious for most of the journey back to Belfast, it was an important lesson but still remains one of the most uncomfortable memories of my young existence.
Dromara was alcohol free. I loved the smell of the meal that I would mix to feed the pigs. The sows were lovely but the boar was a brute of a thing, kept separate from the girls and I remember that it would try to take the legs off you when you would enter his sty to feed him. Of course, having short trousers and the loveliest legs in Ireland would present such a delicious culinary sight that the old boar must have thought he had died and gone to pig heaven.
I too remember the piglets, they were so cute and pink and I especially remember my uncle siting on a box just inside the barn door. The new piglets were gathered behind, hemmed in with walls of straw bales. One by one the piglets were presented to my uncle who gripped each male piglet between his legs and whipped off the testicles with a single edged razor blade. Something was applied to the wound and the piglet was returned to a new pen. The testicles however were thrown to the dogs and I mean that literally. The two dogs loved this time of year.
Cats too were on the farm but this is where you learn that on a farm everything has to work for its keep and as a young boy you don’t really think it strange that a litter of new born kittens should be put in an old potato sack with a couple of house bricks. Neither do you think it strange that the sack, the bricks and the kittens were then unceremoniously dumped into the nearby stream. Very strange, but another lesson learned.
Thinking back now, the Dromara farm was quite advanced compared to other places I had stayed. The cottage we had near Lurgan didn’t have running water. It did have an outside toilet along with the obligatory plank, neatly ripped squares of old newspaper on a string and ginormous spiders so big and fast they would have been more at home wearing a saddle and a jockey then entered into the Grand National.
The cottage at Lurgan had a large wooden water butt that collected the rain water from the roof and for breakfast you would collect a saucepan full to make the tea and a basin full to have a wash. In Dromara there was an outside toilet, which wasn’t that bad, not many spiders, I would hate to think what happened to the spiders on the farm but the Dromara farm did have running water. Unfortunately it was running from a pump across the road so I would be sent out with two buckets and would pump the water up, fill the buckets and carry them back to the farmhouse. Little did I know it but I would meet a similar water pump a few years later at Violent Hell.