Mary looks into the fire behind the glass of the stove. The turf is burning away slowly. Something she won’t see where she’s going, a place she has lived for the biggest part of her life.
It’s one of the home comforts that she remembers from her childhood living out the Glen.
It’s the night before her departure back to Glasgow. The family sit around the kitchen table at her daughters’ home. Mary’s younger brother Danny is there. They are known as the ‘Harrys’ out the Glen after their late father Harry Gallagher. Mary’s three daughters and their extended families are there, the girls and a son who were born in Glasgow moved back to set up home in Donegal.
By Brian McDaid
Mary will be 88 in June this year and has lived in Glasgow for two thirds of her life and hasn’t lost one single ounce of her Glenswilly accent. Just as her daughters who have lived more years in Donegal than they lived in Glasgow they never lost their Scottish accent.
Mary talks of growing up in Ballyboluader which is not far from Temple Douglas cemetery. She remembers her days at school. If her father Harry wasn’t a shoemaker they would be the same as a lot of her classmates going to school in the bare feet.
She remembers how as children each one of them had to take a piece of turf to school with them to heat the two classrooms at Keeloggs National School.
She remembers her teachers for her years when she was there. Master O’Leary, Master Quinn and Miss McKeague. Mary is left handed but was taught to write with her right hand at school.
Mary remembers a wooden partition with windows between the two classes. The younger classes were taught on one side and the older classes were taught on the other side.
She recalls learning the alphabet not one way but also was taught it back to front! Mary still can recite it with ease back to front 80 years after she left school. .zyx and wvu… adding in the odd “and” like a hinge to link it all up.
Mary was the oldest in her family and recalls after she finished national School she worked on the family farm with her father and mother. She can remember setting Kerr Pinks Purdies with her father by hand and then running up the ridges with shovels around the crop.
She remembers walking a red cow from her home out over the hill at Soccar into the fair day in Letterkenny. It was in the summertime but it was still dark when the set off. Mary walked in front of the cow with a sheaf of hay under her arm and the cow followed her. When Letterkenny came into sight they stopped and gave the red cow a good breakfast of hay before heading into the fair where their red cow was sold.
Mary often gathered cooking apples from orchards near her home and cycled into Letterkenny to the parochial house where her younger sister worked as a housekeeper and made homemade apple tarts for the priests and Bishop.
When Mary was in her teens her father bought a Ford Popular (Mary recalls the registration of the car in the same way as she recited the alphabet, IH 82 and a nought -5 (IH 8205) putting in the word ‘and’ to link it all up. They bought it from their cousin Davy Mc Cauley whose family had a shop and lived at Lr Main Street, Davy worked in the Donegal Depot in Letterkenny as a salesman.
The car sat at the house for a good while then Mary decided that she would drive it herself; she never went very far just around the Glen. She would take it to mass on Sunday. She had faith in the mass but hadn’t great faith in the hand brake on the old Ford in the steep carpark at Glenswilly Chapel so she parked it at a house on the level near the Chapel and walked the rest on foot.
When Mary’s younger brother Danny was in his teens he started driving the old Ford Popular and Mary stopped driving and never felt the need to drive again.
She married Hughie Connaghan from Gartan and with no work around the place they decided to emigrate to Scotland.
Hughie, who was mechanically minded, got work as a welder and did maintenance work at low tide in the Clyde on big pumps. Mary also recalled Willie working at the front of their house with a big electric light lead running from the house out under the bonnet of cars that he worked on on dark evenings after work that he repaired for people.
Mary and her husband became big Celtic supporters and remembers the crowds at the games. She recalls her husband losing a shoe at one of the games against Rangers and finding another shoe outside the grounds and coming home with two different colours of shoe and two different shoe sizes.
It was very hard growing up in Glasgow. Living in one room apartments with a coal bunker outside the door where the coal man had to carry bags of coal up to the first floor. Mary remembers living in housing that was located beside big old industrial sites that were condemned and neighbours held back in paying their rent in protest .
Mary always recalls that she kept paying her council rent even though the conditions were cat. But when semi detached houses became available. Mary got one. It wasn’t a new house but it was new to her, and Mary loved it. Proper L shaped kitchen a wee bit of a garden from and back. Mary was home.
Over the years Mary was a regular winner in the local garden competitions she was house proud, officially she never worked but to make ends meet she cleaned houses for people to help raise a big family. Every Saturday morning along with The People’s Friend Magazine, Mary would get the Derry People newspaper from a shop near her in Glasgow that shipped it over from Donegal. She would read it from cover to cover and then she would send it up the street to a house who had connections with Gweedore back in Donegal.
Mary also was a great one for sourcing Doherty’s mince and links. (Links is one of the few words Mary uses from Glasgow, a word to describe strings of sausages.) Asked if it was special or ordinary Doherty’s mince, Mary said it was ordinary mince most of the time. “It’s what we got at home, I would fry it up for dinner or put the mince in Irish stew.”
Mary has made many journeys home to Donegal since she first emigrated, all of her journeys are still done by boat as she hates flying. When Mary and Hughie first went to Scotland they left from the Quay in Derry on the cattle boat, that was an overnight journey up the Foyle and out into the rough Atlantic before making their way around the top of Northern Ireland before getting up the Clyde into Glasgow. The cattle had to be unloaded first before they set foot in Scotland. Mary mostly made the journey home with Feda O’Donnell. Back then Feda had a wee minibus at the start and it was packed to the gills. One of Mary’s daughters recalls sitting on a step for the full journey. Mangans had buses on so had Danny Collins. Mary used their bus the odd time, but most of journeys she travelled to Donegal throughout her life were on Feda’s Bus.
In later years Mary’s family do the driving to and from for the sailing from Scotland and sometimes when they go to collect her they wish they took a Feda bus with them to carry all the luggage Mary packs for her journeys overseas.
In 1995 Mary’s husband Hughie was sadly knocked down in Glasgow in a car accident and died. He is buried back in his native Gartan.
Mary still lives in Glasgow and even though she wears glasses for distance she can read the Derry People every Saturday morning without the glasses. She is up with technology, well kinda! She has a mobile phone but seldom uses it. She charges it up and takes it with her to the shops in case anything happens.
Her other big weekly routine is to tune into the Church Service website and view the mass at her native chapel, Glenswilly every week. She knows the backs of the heads of all going up to receive at communion time she jokes. Mary always went to mass in Scotland with a friend but in recent years her friend became ill. Mary will only walk to mass now when the weather is good.
As the clock ticks away Mary talks about home in Glenswilly on her last evening of another new year before she departs for Scotland. She talks about the double creels for cooking at the open fireplace and the two wee stone seats either side of the fireplace in her old home. She talks about herself and her brother Danny, cycling and footing and saving the turf away up the Glen and how they got them home on a horse and cart, a world apart from that in Scotland, a place where Mary made her home.
But for Mary “Harry” her heart is still at home in the Glen.