I'll be going out for a dander soon but think it's time to get the tracksuit bottoms on and put the shorts away for our next spell of warm weather. I'm not a tea drinker but like a mug of strong black coffee which will set me up for the day. It's been a while since I wrote about my travels but this morning I'll write about a place I've never been to ...
My friend Andrew phoned me the other day asking if I fancied going for a drive to Ballymoney. 'Ballymoney'? I asked, and he said there are one or two things which may interest me. So, being the inquisitive type I said why not.
Ballymoney was the only town in Contae Aontroim I've never been to because there are no GAA clubs in the town and yer man Davy Tweed is from the town - oh aye and for oul people like me who remembers a certain comedian called Jimmy Young also hails from that fine town. Jimmy was big in the 1960s and he was regularly on the radio but I never got him and even when I listened to repeats years later I would roll my eyes and wonder why so many thought him funny. It's not necessarily a generation thing because I found the likes of Groucho Marx funny when I listened to his radio shows.
Anyway, off we went the other day and on the way up we read a bit about Ballymoney, or to give it its proper name Baile Monaidh, meaning the town of the moor. It's 48 miles from Béal Feirste and I can understand why very few people would go there because it's a boring drive. But me and Andrew had good craic on the way up talking about everything from politics, sport, music. books, films and people we don't like! Andrew is younger than me and has different tastes in music, reading and films but there are things we both like.
When we reached the town the first building we noticed was a Presbyterian church so we parked across the street and walked into the graveyard. This was the reason for our visit because we had heard a certain person called Hutchinson was buried there. He is known as 'Bloody Hutchinson' because he was responsible for not only crushing the rebellion that took place in the town in 1798 but also for convicting and personally hanging one of the rebels named Alexander Gamble. He told Gamble that he would spare his life if he would inform on his fellow United Irishmen. Gamble replied:
I will die some day, and know not when; but it will never be cast in the face of my children that their father betrayed others to save himself.
After the defeat of the United Irishmen in their strongholds in many parts of Aontroim there has been a massive change with towns and even villages being divided along sectarian grounds, and this is despite the fact many of the rebel leaders were Presbyterian.
We found both of their graves and after leaving the graveyard we walked through the town and as we reached the the town clock tower we were surprised to see a plaque in memory of two men who were hung there on June 1798, one of whom was the boul Alexander Gamble.
We were strolling along taking in the sights and as we passed one of the few pubs we stopped to speak to two men who were standing outside. We asked how much a pint costs and were told £3.40 for Tennants but if we wanted a can of beer it was 'only £2.40'! We thought they were taking the micky with us because they heard our accents. By the way a lot of older country people refer to Belfast people (we're not Belfasters nor Belfastians!) as McCooeys after a radio show of the same name which was written by a Belfast actor called Joe Tomelty. I never heard it but I do remember seeing Joe when I was a young lad. Anyway we bade farewell (not the place to say slán!) to the two fellas. Ten minutes walk around the town is all it takes to see the townhall, orange hall, protestant churches, shops, a few cafes and four pubs. We kept our coats on just in case the locals wouldn't have got the message on our T-shirts. Oh aye, a funeral cortege passed us so being respectful we stood watching but because we are atheists we didn't bless ourselves! Another town off the list but even though it was nice enough I don't think I'll be back, but who knows ...