EPISODE 57 BECOMES EPISODE 73
Note to READERS: EPISODE 56 IS REALLY THE CULMINATION OF THE IRISH SO SOME OF YOU
MIGHT LIKFE THIS WRAP UP OF THE JOURNAL … EPISODE 56 THEN BECOMES EPISODE 73 IF YOU
WANT TO KEEP THINGS IN A SEMBLENCE OF ORDER. REPEAT OF SOME OF THE PICTURES SHOULD
THE NEXT EPISODE WILL TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT THE IRISH MINES WERE REALLY
LIKE BACK IN THE 19TH CENTURY…FUTURE EPISODE 74.
I AM SO GLAD THAT SOME OF YOU ARE READING THIS JOURNAL AND WOULD LIKE TO
THANK YOU FOR YOUR RESPONSES. IT IS A GREAT TRIP FOR ME TO TAKE ONCE AGAIN.
EPISODE 56 BUNMAHON, IRELAND TO EYWOOD ESTATE HEREFORDSHIRE … ALAN SKEOCH’S JOURNAL SEPT. 4 TO SEPT. 7, 1960alan skeochMay 2020THE IRISH JOB COMES FIRST:IRELAND IN SEPTEMBER 1960…KNOCKMAHON MINE. COULD IT BE REOPENED?RUINS OF THE MINE REMAIN TO THIS DAY (2020) AS TOURIST DESTINATION . IN 1960 THAT WAS NOT THE CASE…IT WASA RUIN.DR. JOHN STAM AND JOHN HOGAN…ON WAY TO MINE SITEIRELAND WAS CHARMING IN 1960…MUCH AS PICTURED IN THE FILM THE QUIET MAN.What is that expression about ebb tide? Shakespeare’s Julius Caeser where Brutus says….There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.I know this may sound silly but I have often thought of those wordswhen faced with an opportunity. Either I grab the opportunity or I letit slip away. In the summer of 1960 I had been trusted to operatea Turam electromagnetic survey on an ancient mine site on the southcoast of Ireland. A place called Bunmahon where copper had beenmined in the19th century and there was just a chance the old mine couldbe brought back to life.I was in the right place at the right time.The previous summer four of us…called ‘instrument men’ …who operateda Turam job in south west Alaska near the Aleutian Chain. One man, Bill Morrson,knew how to set upthe generator, base line, read the console, etc. I was assigned to be his helper. Bill taught me all theins and outs of prospecting with the Turam. The other two fellows,Don Van Every and Ian Rutherford also were instructed. That was1959.[POLICE KEPT WATCH ON OUR WORKThe following year much to my surprise i was the only person still around who hadoperated the machine. The other three guys had gone God knows where.I was on the ebb tide…riding high. Entrusted by Dr. Norman Paterson tosleuth out the old mine in Knockmahon, County Waterford, Eire. Dr. JohnStam, a professional geophysicist would interpret the Turam Readings.John Hogan wold do the geology. Itwas up to me to get the magnetic data…to make sure the Turam worked.Ireland in 1960 was exactly as tourist photos described.Local newspaper arrived occasionally … as did police …even the village priest…all kept close eye on us.“ALAN, DO YOUR REALLY NEED ALL THOSE EMPLOYEES?” Question raised by Canadian office.MY BOSS IN CANADA, DR. NORMAN PATERSON WONDERED WHY SO MANY MEN WERE HIRED. THERE WERE GOODREASONS. THIS IS PAYDAY … PAID MEN WEEKLY AND GAVE BONUS OF CIGARETTES AND CHOCOLATE BARS. YES,I WAS CRITICISED FOR THIS LARGESSE.MUCH MONEY WAS SPENT IN KIRWIN’S PUB. MOST OF THESE MEN WERE EMPLOYED BY US. TERRIBLE NEEDFOR JOBS.I RENTED THIS OLD TRUCK A COUPLE OF TIMES. NEEDED CRANK. FLOORBOARDS HAD GAPS.THIS IS THE TURAM…E.M. UNIT AT WORK IN AN IRISH WHEAT FIELD.IF WE HIT HIGH READINGS WE OCCASIONALLY HAD MEN DIG PITS DOWN TO BED ROCK.LOTS OF MYSTERY AS A REJULT OF SOME OF THESE EXCAVATIONS SUCH AS THEDEAD COW CAPER …LED TO DISCOVERY OF OLD MINE ADIT FROM 1850’S.June, July and August…I did my job. Tried not to let anyone down.This was a big responsibility which I took very seriously. There was asocial side of the job as well like A pint ofGjuinnes each night with Dr. Stam and John Hogan in Kirwin’s [ubhelped all of us relax. We hired the whole village. I will explainthat in future episodes. Perchance a few readers of these episodessaw the John Wayne, Maureen Ohara, Barrie Fitzgerald movie titled‘The Quiet Man”…an imaginary story about Ireland that was damnnear true. Surprised. Joyful.When the job ended. The Ebb tide came once more I made a fastdecision without prompting. After crating up the mining equipmentand shipping it ask to Canada. I set sail on the EBB tide forEngland. This was my chance to see if EYWOOD REALLY EXISTED.Truth be told I had no idea where I was going. Eywood was in HerefordshireEngland. First I had to get there. If I failed I would still fly home. Just a fewdays later than Dr. Paterson expected. My job was over anyway. Fastdecision to catch that Ebb Tide to Eywood.Perhaps my journal entries are the best way to describe thisadventure. Remember I was going almost blind but not totally.I had a name…Cyril Griffiths whose mother Polly had been inconstant letter writing contact with my grandmother from 1905 untilher death in 1954. And I had a name…Lower Wooten Farm somewherein Herefordshire, perhaps close to Eywood. Eywood itself wasa blank. The Estate, to my knowledge, had been put up for auctionand then demolished.Why go there at all? There was a sense ofmystery about the estate and just a chance that the estate gardens…where Granddad was head gardener for a decade…just a chancethat huge brick walled garden was intact.JOURNALSunday September 4, 1960Bunmahon,County Waterford,Southern IrelandPacking up the job. Has been an exciting time. Mr. and Mrs. Daye presented me with twofigurines. Mrs. Kennedy, the village leader, gave me a fine tablecloth. Tommy gave Me a nicebottle of Guiness Stout.CRATED EQIPMENT … BIG RESPONSIBILITY FOR ME…FLATTERED TO BE TRUSTED.In the afternoon I hired Barney Dwan to help crate up our equipment. Very sad to leave.Barney has been my right hand man. Later Dr. John Stam and I drove to Tramore for afast game of mini golf and a meal of fish and chips topped off with a bottle of Bass Ale.I am going to miss all in the village. Managed to hire quite a few of them so became amajor employer paying them one pound a day plus free packs of Wild Woodbine cigarettesand chocolate bars. Back in Canada, Dr. Norman Paterson wondered why I needed so manyemployees.THE SOUTH COAST OF IRELAND IS DOTTED WITH HISTORIC RUINSHERE ARE THREE OF THE BOYS TAKING A REST. THE CATTLE HAD TO BE PREVENTED FROM EATING OUR GROUNDEDCABLE…BUT COULD NOT BE STOPPED. LITTLE BALLS OF COPPER WIRE WERE VOMITTED…OR PASSED.THIS YOUNG BOY WAS HIRED TO GUARD OUR GROUNDING RODS AND GENERATOR FROMCATTLE AND SEMI WILD PIGS. HE TOOK THE JOB VERY SERIOUSLY. CAMPED THERE.“Cost of labour here is so cheap…. ten men amounts to less than cost ofone man in Canada. And I need ten men to protect our base line for the cattle keep eatingchunks of the cable then regurgitating balls of yellow sheathed copper wire. Try to stopthis from happening. Also need a man to lift me over the stone and brier fences. Soundsstupid, I know but these fences are a nightmare. Danger that a bull would charge and I cannotget away with console, battery pack, copper coil, record book, etc. Need another two mento protect our grounding points and tend the motor generator. Then need two linecuttingcrews…etc. etc. Want more Dr. Patterson”Barney Dwan told me a story about a nun crossingan open field. All they found of her were her shoes with her feet in them. Semi wild hogsgot her. Not sure I believe this story.”I will miss all these men. Just getting to know all their names and meetingtheir families and now we are packing up the gear. I will also miss Kirwin’s pub in theevenings. Quite a social hub. It does not take long to develop at taste for Guiness.MONDAY SEPTEMBER 5, 1960We finished crating all the equipment and made arrangements with Frank Kirwin totransport the crates to Waterford. Seemed like all was ready. Not so. I couldnot find my return tickets home…flight. Panic. Mrs. Kennedy helped…no luckso she called a great group of the villagers to her home. Why? Seemed strangeto me as well. “Master Skeoch has lost his tickets home. He needs our help.”There were about a dozen people gathered in the sitting room. Some got downon their knees and prayed. Others held hands in a circle. Then Mrs. Kennedy didthe strangest thing. She reached in the pile of records, papers, graphs,waste paper and pulled out my tickets…one reach only. I know this sounds farfetched but it was real. After that I took a family photo of the Kennedys. Bridey, mymaid (yes, I had a maid) presented me with an Irish handkerchief. You rememberBridey…she was the person who yanked the covers off me while inked andannounced “Time for Mass, Master Skeoch” and made certain I attended even ifI was a Presbyterian. Because of her we did not work on Sundays as we didon bush jobs in Canada.THIS IS THE KENNEDY FAMILY. MRS. KENNEDY RAN THE VILLAGE REALLY. SHE HAD THE ONLY STORE IN TOWN. HER SONGERALD WAS HANDICAPPED AS YOU MIGHT NOTICE. HE FOLLOWED ME AROUND AND WAS A JOY. THEIR LABRADOR DOGWAS TRAINED TO KEEP GERALD FROM WANDERING INTO THE SEA. MR. KENNEDY WAS A FARMER.The boys all came to see me off. Very sad farewell, This has been a bigadventure for everyone including me. Would it mean the rebirth of the village?That would remain to be seen. (It did not happen)Tommy, Frank and I drove to Waterford in the old truck. Met John Stamand John Hogan. Picked up newspaper that had featured our crew andthe attempt to reopen the old Knockmahon mine. Then I caught thetrain to Dublin and road in the first class compartment…like John Waynedid in the The Quiet Man movie. Seemed I had been reliving that movie.TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 1960Woke early and enjoyed the full tourist breakfast…several eggs, sausages, rasher of bacon,fried tomato, marmalade and triangles of toast…then coffee. Viisited Arbuckle, Smithand Company to finalize arrangements with KLM airline for my flight home.Then went shopping in the rain. Portable clock,27 shillings, sixpence;Sweater for Marjorie, 3 pounds, 10 shillings; three fake shillalahs , 40 shillings;2 pints of Guiness, 2 shillings; gifts for Kevin Behan and family, 10 shillings.Rented a slide projector and showed slides of Bunmahon job to the Behanfamily who had hosted me so well in Dublin. Kevin became name of our first sonin distant future … named after Kevin Behan.Back to hotel late…deep sleep…too deep as it happened.WEDNESDAY , SEPTEMBER 7, 1960Late awakening. Alarm clock did not work. Had a hell of a rush to make theferry boat to England. Miss that boat and all my plans to visit Eywood Estatewould be ruined. “Can you get me to the docks fast?”, I asked the taxi andwe speeded through the streets of Dublin. Made it by skin of my teeth.Boat trip was uneventful but nice.Where was I going? I really did not know. Caught a train out to Herefored whichseemed a good place to start since Eywood was in Herefordshire. What to doin Hereford? I looked up the name of Cyril Griffiths in the telephone book. Feltlost really. The train platform emptied. I was almost alone. Almost.“Can I help you son?”, asked a well dressed older man.STRANGE EVENT HAPPENED: “Yes, you can help maybe. I am looking forCyril Griffiths who lives at Lower Wooten Farm somewhere in Herefordshire.”Just saying that made me realize this venture was really stupid.“I know CyrilGriffiths and know Lower Wooten Farm, perhaps I can give you a lift there…nearthe village of Almely…some distance from here. I am the local bank managerfor Cyril.”CYRIL AND NANCY GRIFFITHS. NEAR RELATIVES. THEY OPERATED OATCROFT FARM ON THE EYWOOD ESTATE UNTIL THEESTATE WAS BROKEN UP. THEN THEY OPERATED LOWER WOOTEN FARM PICTURED BELOW. WONDERFUL PEOPLE.What a surprise. The whole Grifiths family were expecting me. Mom had sent thema letter that maybe I would arrive in early September. Shy greetings. Cyril andNancy Griffiths, aunt Polly, and their son David who was about 14 years old.HERE THE WHOLE GRIFFITHS FAMILY IS OUT FOR A FORMAL PICTURE. OUR PATHS WOULD CROSS MANY TIMESFROM 1960 TO THE PRESENT.THIS PICTURE IS BACKWARDS BUT GIVES GOOD VIEW OF LOWER WOOTEN FARM. PICTURE WAS TAKEN ON A SUBSEQUENTVISIT. MARJORIE IN DOORWAY. ON THAT TRIP WE CAUGHT A HEDGEHOG ONE EVENING…IT CURLED UP LIKE A BOWLING BALLSO WE BOWLED WITH IT A FEW TIMES THEN IT TRUNDLED AWAY TO THE FENCEROW.Lower Wooten Farm was a storybook farm. Built in the 16th century and designated anhistoric building that could not be changed. The Farm was wonderful. A bed was ready.The floors were uneven. The ceiling was held up by oak beams. The roof was ancientslate. (SEE PICTURE)THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 8, 1960Beautiful day in a wonderful setting. Young David took me around the farm where wehelped Cyril debeak turkeys so they would not cannibalize each other I assumed.Then Cyril drove us into Eardislely, a quaint black and white 16 th century village.In the afternoon we drove to a farm auction near Leominster.VISIT TO EYWOOD …EYWOOD AS IT REMAINS TO THIS DAY…A RUIN.“Alan, I expect you will want to see Eywood. Not much to see anymore. The greathouse has been demolished…just a few brick walls and the stone entranceway remain.but your grandfathers place is intact…the gardens were bought by Henry Mills.I know him well. He will be glad to see you.”END PART THREEPART FOUREPISODE 57: COMING NEXT: EYWOOD … WHAT REMAINS OF A GREAT ESTATE