NOTE: THIS IS JUST A ROUGH INTRO TO BUNMAHON FROM MY OLD JOURNAL…NEEDS TO BE POLISHED…HOPE MY BOSS DR. NORM PATTERSON
IS NOT OFFENDED. WE HAD A LOT OF TROUBLE ON THIS JOB. THERE ARE LOTS OF TYPOS.
THE UNFORGETTABLE SUMMER OF 1960…BUNMAHON
Flying in to Ireland in 1960 was like flying back into time. Wonderful…spellbinding.
This piece of the story covers my first month on the job in the tiny village
of Bunmahon. it was not always a village. At one point in the 19th cetury the
population exceeded 2,000. In 1960, when we arrived the population was 200 at
best and likely less than that, Many were unemployed and glad to see us.
There was high hope that the ancient copper mine could be reopened. Our
survey would help make that decision.
Tuesday June 14, 1960
At last our crates of equipment have arrived in Bunmahon. Long trip by rail then ship to Liverpool, then trans shipped
to Dublin and finally put on train to Waterford then by truck to Bunmahon. That trip took nearly a month, two weeks
of which I spent in Dublin trying to expedite things. No matter. No surprise really. The good thing is that we are now ready
to get the survey underway which means the pressure on me will increase exponentially. I think I am ready.
HISTORY OF KNOCKMAHON COPPER MINE and TANKARDSTOWN COPPER MINE, BUNMAHON, COUNTY WATERFORD, IRELAND
Once upon a time there were two big mines here.
The Knockmahon abandoned mine site does not look as dramatic as Tankardstown with its stone ruins stand high above the cliffs that far the Atlantic Ocean in
County Waterford, Ireland. Copper stained these cliffs for centuries so even the most ancient Irish people were aware that there was
something different about the place. Mining began in earnest at the Knockmahon site in the1820’s reaching peak production in 1840
the copper seams were exhausted unless the miners decided to tunnel under the sea. A new mine was found nearby at Tankardstown
which thrived through the 1850;s when copper prices were initially high and then began to fall. In 1879 the Tankardstown mine was
abandoned. In the glory days there were more than 2000 men using picks and shovels and blasting powder to make a near starvation
living wresting copper from the depths. Some of their passageways and stopes extended far out beneath the sea. (*Later I would get
a chance to crawl on my stomach through these old mine adits and shafts. Stupid and dangerous but I was young and foolish.)
The rise and fall of the two mines occurred at the same time as the Great Potato Famine of the mid to late 1840’s. Where did all these
miners go? Most were present among the starving Irish families who risked their lives on the immigrant ships crossing the Atlantic to
Canada and the United States.
Today, in 2019, the whole 25 kilometres coast from Tramore to Bunmahon is a walking trail and road designed to attract tourists
Called the COPPER COAST.
THE 1960 RECONSIDERATION OF THE IRISH COPPER COAST
Copper prices jumped in 1960 largely due to a crisis in Africa where political instability threaened
the world supply of copper. Big mining companies began to look elsewhere. Denison Mines decided
to give another look at these two old Irish copper mines. Had the mother load been missed?
Were there still rich copper seams to be exploited?
JOURNAL ENTRIES OF ALAN SKEOCH, AGE 21, INSTRUMENT MAN
TUESDAY JUNE 14, 1960
I guess I am nervous because I spent a terrible night in my new bed, Body began twitching. Nervousness
I imagine. Much is expected of me. Hope I can deliver. Got up and wrote letter to Marjorie. I should be fine
since I am now surrounded and I assume protected by quite a collection Roman Catholic icons.
My room is large but damn cold. Meals
cooked by Mrs. Kenneday are good. Before we started laying out our base line and getting things underway
we had to get our bearings so we went down to the sea, below the cliffs and then on top of the cliffs. Then
the three of us took a close look at the ruins of the old Tankardstown mine. Several shafts. Dangerous. One
shaft has been used as a garbage site by local people. Noticed a great pile of old glass milk bottles…antiques
but worth your life to retrieve them as they are on the edge of a great black hole. The mine operated here
in the early to late 19th century…1870’s it seems to have been abandoned. Must have been a big community
here at one time for locals say there were once 21 pubs and now there are only two. Kerwin’s is the Catholic
pub and therefore the most active…hub of the community it seems. The other pub across the road is
Anglican in clientele. Few people. John Hogan very wisely spent several hours in Kerwin’s pub playing darts.
The place is dark and rather decrepit. But the bar is fascinating. Good to show the flag here as it were.
We had a tremendous evening meal in our private dining room at Mrs. Kennedy’s. That was followed by
a religious discussion where I was odd man out. Kept my mouth shut. John Stam and John Hogan then
set up a game of pinochle. Never played the game before but won all the same. I no longer need worry
about expense money as John Stam brought lots. Wrote another letter to Marjorie. I need some rough
clothes. Lucky that Mrs. Kennedy also operate the only store in the village or in the region. She sells
everything from clothes to cigarettes to hard goods and even food. Her main floor store is big but very
dark. Business does not seem to be good. Village empty most of the time. Very little traffic on the
main road. One man approached us about a job. He would be the first of many. Seems the villafge
is placing great hope in our work.
Wednesday June 15, 1960
The Kennedy family of Bunmahon made room for us in their sprawling house above.
Mrs. Kennedy ran the only surviving store in Bunmahon which was a combined dry goods,
hardware and limited grocery store. It was very dark inside indicating sales were anything but brisk.
The Kenneday family made us feel very welcome. Their handicapped son Gerald was especially enthused about
our arrival and he would have willingly followed me into the hills and galleys had not Mrs. Kennedy interfered. She
was the boss…not only of the family but also the leading matriarch of the whole community. Mr. Kennedy was
a genial man who loved his large farming operation. Their daughter was shy but very happy to have us as tenants
in rooms that were abandoned most of the time.
Woke up and got dressed early. Everyone else asleep. Nice Irish Breakfast with all the trimmings
including fried tomatoes and Irish back bacon (like a steak). The house is really a row of houses
all linked together and lived in by the Kennedy family. Sort of reminded me of Charles Dickens
house where Miss Havisham lived her solitary magic life…A house that Time forgot filled with spider webs and very musty and sad…
but that is an unfair comparison for the Kennedy house is very
much alive. Damp and dark though.
Now facing the big test. I am supposed to be a veteran instrument man who has worked for HUNTEC
for some time. In other words I bloody well seem to know what I am doing. Got the Ronka E.M. unit
and took it to the old stage road for a test. I remembered much about it but took time to read and re-read
the manual just in case I made a mistake. When all seemed correct I switched it on and the damn ‘in phase’
did not register nor did the ‘out phase’. Tested again and again on 60 odd stations at 50’ separation.
Gave up finally. Then visited the little lumber mill and bought 1,000 stskrd got 5 pound. Needed to mark
stations when things get working. Then I spent the afternoon playing around with the Ronka. Worried.
Finally…miracle of miracles…I got the thing working. Amazed at myself. We are trying to keep John
Hogan unaware of my ignorance. Must Speak a kind of pseudo professional mumbo jumbo.
I expect to be here well into the month of August. Played pinochle all evening. Great meals.
We drew up a grid for our test survey using the Turam as opposed to the Ronka. But the Turam has
not arrived. It is the backbone of the job. Bill Morrison taught me how to set it up and operate it
on the Alaska job last summer. My memory is pretty good…not perfect…but good.
Went down the sea for a few minutes. Weather is changing and some huge waves are
crashing into the stony beach. There is a huge iron ball on the beach. A reminder of World War II
…a decommissioned floating mine about the size of a small car. Holes now evident where once
the detonators were.
Thursday, June 16, 1960
Heavy fog this morning. John and John planned to attend a special mass being held for them but
heavy fog was a problem. The Fiat car would not start anyway. I cannot understand why a special
mass was being done for John and John. Obviously they know I am a Protestant and are therefore left
out which is fine by me. Seems to make me the only Protestant in the village…but that does not seem
to be a problem so far. Took the Ronka out for the whole day…62 stations, 3 lines, dual frequency. We
came across a number of old mine shafts…perhaps air adits…will have to be careful as little warning, false
step and down we go…lucky there is a cable joining the Ronka hoops at 50 or 100 foot separation. Fall in
a shaft and hang there until partner pulls me out. Bad joke. Now that
is more of a joke than anything else but the open shafts do exist.
Hard to believe how cold Ireland is in June. Should have packed heavy clothes. Shivering. But the land
is beautiful with wild poppies blooming in the lush green fields and stone fencerows. Donkeys, horses, pigs
and cattle. Really old Ireland, some of the buildings even have thatch grooves while others have no rooves
at all…derelict cottages testify that the population is shrinking. Hundreds of miners, many of them from
The copper mines in Cornwall, left Ireland when the rich copper seams could no longer be found. Became
miners in Montana and Canada.
This is the Mahon River that flowed from the hills deep in the interior.
Bunmanhon has two churches…Catholic and Anglican…but only one is ;used…i.e. the Catholic Church
The Anglican church was abandoned and is now cemented at the doors and windows. Mrs. Kennedy
regaled us with stories of a local authoress who wrote ‘dirty’ stories about Ireland. The books are now banned
here in Bunmahon. The priest has burned any he finds. Our ears perked up at this story so we will
keep our eyes open for dirty books as we assume they concern sex. Then again the books could be about
politics which is less interesting.
Now that we have settled into the village the local men are approaching us for jobs. We will do some hiring
of course. I will need someone to help me get through the brier fences…thousands of sharp needles have
already ripped my shirt and punctured my skin. I saw a badger today…seems bunch of them have burrow
in a brier patch. After we plotted the results John and john got the pinochle game ready. Hogan told the
funny biblical story about Jacob tying his ass to a tree then walking three miles into Jerusalem…:That’s
stretching it,” he concluded. We get silly at times which is a very good sign. Maybe I will not need
to keep up the bluff that I am a very experienced field man and let John Hogan know i learned how to
run the Turam last summer on the barren lands of Western Alaska. That would make it easier on me.
Friday, June 17, 1960
Got up with the sun and wrote letters then heard Mrs. Kennedy getting breakfast ready downstairs. Beautiful
day today…warm, sunshine. Today was spent setting up stakes on our new survey lines. Pickets every
hundred feet on the lines running at right angles from our base line which is one long line of shielded copper
wire grunded at both ends with iron rods and hooked to our motor generator. We pump electricity into the
ground in search of possible mineral conductors. Seems weird but it works.
Sounds like an easy job putting in pickets every hundred feet on our survey lines. I thought it would ve a
piece of cake compared with doing so in the Canadian boreal forest with its thick btush and millions of biting
insects of varying sizes but all on a blood diet. Not so fast, Alan. Problems here as well. I fell headlong
into a six foot wide gulley of brier. Did not see the dip and in a microsecond I ripped pants and skin and
lay there with the brier needles all around. Dared not move for a few minutes so spent the time swearing
using fine sentences taught to us by our dad…”Goddamn son of a bitching bastardly brier,” etc. etc. Not sure
if Irish swear like that. Slowly and carefully I moved backwards and snaked my way out of the needle trap.
“These gorse bushes are trouble…big time trouble, John.”
“The are impenetrable.”
“No worse than a cedar and tag alder swamp in Canada.”
“Far far worse…each branch of gorse is covered with needles…rip my clothes and puncture my skin.”
and to make matters worse the damn gorse lines these tiny Irish farm fields. Today I could not get
through from one field to the other without shedding blood.”
“Surely we can cut holes with axes or machetes.”
“Can be done but it will be difficult and slow. And then there is going to be another problem…the stone
fences under the gorse. How will I be able to climb these fences when strapped to the Turam console,
receiving coil and battery pack…ear phones and field notebook as well.”
“What do you suggest?”
“I suggest we hire a man to help me get over the fences.”
“There going to laugh at you back in Canada.”
“More worried that Norm would see me as a bit of a baby.”
“Nothing worse than gorse in your pants and shirts…needles that could reach through almost
any material to make a person bleed. Hence gorse made excellent fences. In May and June
the gorse is deceptively beautiful.”
WHEREVER we experienced beautiful yellow flowers in June we also found thousands a stiff sharp needles capable of
penetrating clothes, boots and flesh. Good and evil on the same branch.
Saturday June 18 1960
Both E.M. units, the Ronka and the Turam, are designed to pick up signals from an artificial electrical impulse forced into the ground
by s motor generator attached to a base line of yellow shielded copper wire. Barney Dwan (above) is setting down this three mile long
strand of wire across an open field section. Our ‘lines’ were set out at right angles on both sides of this base line. NOTE: We
had big problems with this yellow wire base line…BIG PROBLEMS. In Alaska I had a roll like this strapped to my back once when jumping
from the helicopter pontoon to the cabin as we took off. I did not make it but fell between pontoon and cabin as we lifted. Unhurt because
of the melted bed of sloppy summer muskeg above the permafrost. Our problem with the wire in Ireland was much different. WHAT PROBLEM?
You will see.
Saturday June 18, 1960
Base Line #2 North west 30,
Up a little late….8 a.m….on job at nine, worked until three extending the base line from 2400 to 7600feet over some very rough patches of brier (gorse) and
nettles. Lots of cattle in the small fields which could be a problem if they get curious about our yellow electric base line cable. John Hogan joined me in
the field as he is quite curious about the project naturally. Had lunch in the pub…2 shilling bottle of corona (apple cider…hard kind) Then back to our rooms
took a bath, washed clothes then we drove to Tramore for a game of miniature golf on the strand after which we found a pub for 3 beers and a five course supper
(12 shilling, 6 pence) then carried on to Waterford for a glass of creme de menthe and the movie ‘Carry On Nurse’. Wish there was more to do other than drinking
and pinochle in evenings. Must keep client happy however and John Hogan does love touring and socializing. An easy life except when doing the dirty work
crawling through gorse fences and bleeding. Saturday is a day of rest in the normal world. It has never been such doing Geophysical surveying…seven day week.
But 7 day week does not work here in Ireland.
Sunday June 19, 1960
Bridey woke me. Who is Bridey? She is our caregiver…gets us up in mornings, makes our beds, and supervises our spiritual lives. Today she entered
my room and hauled off my covers commenting, “Time for Mass, Master Skeoch…out of bed.” I am not sure if she knew I was Protesant or not. Did not matter
to Bridey for she was determined I go to mass, perhaps to make me into a better person. That posed a dilemma.Should I conform and go to mass or should
I just take the opportunity to sleep in on Sundays? I chose mass…with Bridey’s encouragement. Glad I did as our presence at Sunday mass made us part
of the Bunmahon community. John Stam and John Hogan are both Catholic. Spent the afternoon writing and playing pinochle then we went down to Kirwinn’s
pub where the village drinkers gather. Only stayed briefly as I decided to take a long walk along the cliff footpath above the ocean. Looked down upon that
huge cast iron land mine on Bunmahon beech. Reminder of World War II.. Later in the evening I quizzed Mrs. Kenneday about Dunhill Castle. “Stormed by
Cromwell,” she said. Then she casually mentioned that a previous Canadian mining crew (McPhare Group) set a bad reputation for Canadians. The inference
was that they did not go to church and raised hell in the evenings.
It was only 15 years earlier that floating mines like this were floating submerged along the Irish coast.
“When Mrs. Kenneday found out I was Presbyterian she commented “the new bridge over the Mahon River was built by a Presbyterian” . John Hogan respnded
“Christ, that bridge will never last long.”
Sad to see so many local people spending all their money in the pub. None of the Kennedy family go to the pub though so there must be others who avoid
drinking. Perhaps the expression that Guiness is a “meal in a glass” makes sense. Someone told
us a local joke about a visitor to ireland asking: “When do the pubs close?” “September, I think.”
Monday June 20, 1960
Rose early…beautiful sunny day. Did 12,000 feet of line with John Stam and our Irish employees (Bandy, John and Larry). The going is very slow…obstructions
everywhere, especially those gorse covered stone fences. Nightmare. Used the Brunton Compass to try and keep lines straight. Worked steadily with just 20
minutes for a fast lunch. Returned to Bunmahon at 6 p.m. Letter from Arbuckle arrived saying the Turam E.M. unit would arrive tomorrow. About time as the
Turam is our key unit. The Ronka is our back up. Stopped at Kirwan’s pub for a beer then home to Mrs. Kennedy’s for a grand supper. Did some writing before
going back to the pub where I was shown a collection of old weapons, some from “the time of the trouble”, an” expression meaning the 1920’s and gaining of
Irish Home Rule. Just as I was looking at the weapons a gentleman arrived with a shotgun and his hunting dog. Dressed like a lord. The dog befriended me
although the hunter said “that was not his habit.” Four girls seem to congregate in front of the house each evening. Seems vain to say but they seem to be
interested in me. Played another game of pinochle which is becoming very tedious. I am really getting to enjoy the village life of Bunmahon which has a lot
of similarities to the John Wayne and Maureen Ohara film ‘The Quiet Man’ even down to the friendly toleration of a Church of Ireland (Anglican) minority who
visited the pub across the road from Kirwin’s. (seemed empty most of the time though).
Tuesday June 21, 1960
Today we drove to Waterford to get the Turam. We? Hired the local owners of Kirwan’s pub (Frank and Kevin) and their aged Ford truck. All was ready and soon
loaded then we retired to a local pub where I bought the boys a glass of Guinness and lunch. Quite a different atmosphere in this pub…very political…had to be very careful
cautioned Kevin and Frank. Sort of interesting. No smart remarks. We drove back to Bunmahon and began unpacking while cleaning up the Kennedy garden shed
which would be our workshop and paymaster shop. Hired two men…Andy Kirwan who is very shy and will not talk unless forced to do so and Tom Powell who talks a
lot…perhaps too much. John came back and assisted another man to coil 15,000 feet of shielded copper wire. All set for tomorrow with the Turam. It has been a long wait.
Tried a new drink called a shandy…ale and lemonade…probably I will stick to Guinness as most do. Nice to have clean clothes to wear thanks to mrs. Kennedy and Bridey.
Wednesday June 22, 1960
Wrote home then packed cable on the back reel for our first Turam baseline of 14,500 feet…nearly three miles. Very rough going. We set up our generator base down by the
Atlantic Ocean. Cranked motor…held my breath. It would not start. Gas was wrong…put in regular gas and the motor purred. I know that sounds simple but it was not so
simple. I was supposed to be the expert on the Turam but I had no idea what was wrong and just changed the gas on impulse. Floyd told me years ago that all problems are
usually simple to solve. “Al, do not make things difficult.” Floyd was my first real wilderness scholar and teacher back in Canada. He nicknamed me Fucking Al for some
twisted reason. It was not used as a hateful term. I think he liked me. Maybe he spoke in opposites.
We hired two new men, Andy and Tom. Today I saw my first Irish hare…big speedy creature. At night John Stsm and John Hogan got into a religious discussion with me. I am
not really up to speed on religion…never will be…although I stood my ground as a Protestant and they took theirs. No hostility. Very Canadian. I think most Canadians are
really Humanists. Then we got down to another serious game of pinochle. I would rather be out walking the cliff trails at sunset.
Thursday June 23, 196-0
Now our real troubles began. Started the motor generator but not generating. Took a long time to figure out why. Again the problem was simple…the base line
wire was broken in three places along one thousand foot stretch. Some creatures had nibbled…foxes? rabbits? Simple to repair. Looks like we will spend hours
and hours repairing our base line each day. Did not know which creature was doing the damage but as usual it was simple and should have been obvious right from
the start. The fields had herds of cattle. Cattle like to munch grass but they also liked to munch yellow copper cables.
Three of our employees are resting after lunch. Bandy, on the right, became my right hand man. We were good friends in not time
and he shared some wonderful adventures with me. More of that later. Behind the men are the cattle…peacefully chewing up ou
grounded cable. Then ruminating and vomitting balls of copper wire about the size of baseballs.
the Turam operated perfectly on 660 cox frequency so the rest of the day was a success. We had data for Dr. Stam at last. Began training more men as instrument
helpers. I was surprised to discover that one our new men, Willy, could not count. He never said so. Wish he had as that would have made my job easier. I would not have asked
him to mark the pickets. Larry on the other hand cannot hear which makes things difficult. Not their faults. All and all things went well today and we found two anomalies which
were plotted on graph paper in the evening. Surveying in a country as old as Ireland brings lots of discoveries such as the stone bridge we found today covered in ivy but no
sign of ever been connected to a road network.
Got a long letter from Marjorie. She is a wonderful writer…better than me for sure. She seems to be enjoying herself back in Canada.
John Hogan and I went down to Kirwan’s for cider and the owner bought us each a pint of Guinness.
There is an old black Labrador dog that belongs to the Kennedy’s and has a special job. He is trained to keep Gerald from drowning in the sea. Gerald is Mrs. Kennedy’s disabled son.
Mongoloid little boy who is sure friendly and good natured although severely handicapped. When he strolls down to the sea the Labrador dog goes with him. He is allowed to wade
a bit but never deeper than his ankles before he is pushed back out of the water by the dog.
Friday June 24, 1960
New gas for the generator. Expected a fine day with lots of distance covered. That did not happen as a serious of small disasters tumbled out. First, the cable was broken in three
places none of them close…had to cover 8,000 feet to find them. Second, something wrong with the gas again. Suspect water got in somehow as rain is regular occurrence. Third,
there were two broken instrument cables and some kind of short circuit. Fourth, the motor itself broke down once we got clean gas. Why? Fifth, another cable broke just as we
finally got started. Suspect cattle. Solution is to hire a man to walk the cable each day and make repairs. Even with all thsse problems we managed to get 3,000 feet of survey line
Good news when we got back to Bunmahon. My university results arrived. I passed. I would like to have had higher marks but word I was getting that a number of my friends did
not pass. John Hogan came back after a short visit to Killarney. I think he rushed back just to play $%^%$ pinochle.
I made up the pay checks for our employees and they lined up outside the garden shed office. Got cash through Mrs. Kenndy. I bet the boys back in Canada are wondering why we need
so many men on the payroll. I have an answer. “The wages here are 1 pound per day…about $2.50 a day…so we can hire a lot of men for very little money and they need it badly otherwise
Kerwan’s pub will go bankrupt.”
Here is our crew, most of them, lining up on a Friday evening for their weekly pay. John Hogan
is the man on the left. He represented our client Denison Mines. Dr. John Stam is
our company geophysicist (far right). His job was the most important for he would interpret
my survey results and write a report that would either support the idea of a new mine in
Bunmahon or state there was nothing worth retrieving.
Payday in the Kennedy Garden Shed. The wage was one pound per day…about $2.50
Canadian. Not much really. Some days the men worked overtime though for more money. And as
my job as paymaster proceeded I got a bit carried away and gave each man a
pack of cigarettes then added a chocolate bar. Dr. Norm Paterson would be amused back in Canada
if he saw this picture..which he will never see..
“ALan, just who do you think you are…some kind of philanthropist using other people’s money?”
“Right, I guess I made payday a little excessive.”
“Where did you get the idea of adding cigarettes and chocolate bars?”
“Do you mean you were beginning to think you were The Quiet Man?”
‘Suppose it looks that way.”
“What did they think back in Toronto?”
“I think Norm Paterson…Dr. Paterson…used the term precocious applied to me.”
“He continued to call me Fucking Al.”
We became quite the community celebrities as the local police constable kept close eye on us as did
the local priest who was often seen standing along the road as we crossed nd criss-crossed.
Saturday June 25, 1960
“Why hire so many local people?” The answer is not so simple. I am not trying to run a charity on
Huntec money. We need people that we never needed in Canada. We need a man to check our grounded
cable and make repairs. The cattle chew chunks regularly…must taint the milk a bit but they regurgitate
the balls as they ruminate. A bigger worry is cattle biting into the live cable. One farmer claimed a cow was
knocked down and out by the electric charge. That my or may not be true but we want to assure the local farmers that
we are being careful. The government of Ireland made me paint a danger sign in English and irish and place
that sign where our generator is located. We have hired a local handicapped boy to guard the motor generator site.
Then there is the problem of the fences and the gorse. We need a man to help making a path and lifting me over
these places and there are many of them as the fields are small. We also need a linecutting crew of three men
to survey and mark with pickets the 50 and 100 foot spaces for readings to be taken. We are lucky that so many
men are available and willing.
This young handicapped lad just loved his job protecting our base line. He set up his campsite wherever we moved
the motor generator and took his job very seriously. The first job he ever had and perhaps his only job. The other
employees covered for him so that I would not notice he was mentally handicapped. I knew.
Drove to check cable as usual with Bandy as helper. Today I discovered his real name was Barney Dwan but
the local dialect was so hard for me to understand that “Barney” became “Bandy” much to the amusement of
everyone who started calling him Bandy. I wondered why the men laughed so much.
The instrument failed again. Wasted three hours trying to find the problem. Narrowed it down to the amplifier which
I could not fix so gave the men half a day holiday while I took he Turam to Waterford for repairs Very depressing. Spent
some time in a Waterford pub waiting then drove back west to Tramore for supper. Saw the movie “Sirrocco” after playing
a round of miniature golf with John Hogan who accompanied me on the trip.
We were all startled at bed time when John Hogan found a tick buried in his thigh. Gorged in blood so the damn
thing looked big. Got it out using a cigarette and careful work with tweezers. Mickey offered us his bicycle for our
use if we needed to get a doctor. We slathered the wound with rubbing alcohol and hoped for the best. From now
on we will examine our bodies after work as the area is infested with ticks. A close look at the cattle herds show that as
most of their noses have ticks hanging there like little sacks.
Ticks Were something new to me. At first I dismissed them as creatures of no consequence to me personally for they
seemed associated with sheep. Surely in Canada the hords of black flies, moose flies, deer flies,
mosquitoes and midges were far worse than ticks. Ticks cannot fly and if sheep or cattle or horses were carrying ticks I
was unlikely to pick them up for petting domestic animals was not part of the job.
Ignorance is no excuse. Irish ticks may not fly but they do know how to leap from a waving piece of long grass to
a piece of exposed flesh and then begin their burrowing and do so painlessly. Once engorged with blood the female tick
just drops off and continues its’ life cycle. It is possible to be a tick host and never know it. Ticks are not themselves dangerous
The serous problems arise from the bacteria the tick transfers to the human or animal host. Ireland in 1960 had lots of ticks but
most were not too dangerous. Hedghog ticks were the most likely to grab us as we climbed over and t through gorse covered fencerows.
NOTE: TODAY, 2019, Black Legged ticks are spreading through Ontario perhaps aided by global warming. These ticks are
extremely dangerous for they transmit Lyme disease to humans. People die.
Sunday June 26,1960
An uneventful day. Went to mass at the Ballyaneen RC church. Then we played pinochle until noon, had nice lunch, read
part of Forster’s Passage to India and dosed off until evening, Repaired cables and switches and then went to the dog
races where I lost three beers to John and John.
Monday June 27, 1960
Bandy (Barney) had long ground cable repaired from cow damage by 8 a.m. Worried about Turam but took it out on wild
hope it would work but once again it let us down. John Stam is very depressed and even considering giviing up the contract.
So I took out the Ronka for the day. On our first set up disaster happened when a car drove right between us tearing the
connecting cable apart. Could have dragged us along the road if cable had not snapped. We made rough repairs and continued.
At four p.m. the Ronka stopped working, likely the rough
connection reoair. No matter because John Stam arrived from Waterford with the newly refurbished Turam which seems
Andy offered to buy me a beer…very generous as his income is close to poverty level. I bought a bottle of cider for John and John
to drink at our pinochle game where, as usual, we discussed religion. I was surprised to learn that Catholics actually believe
in Adam and Eve. Maybe they were putting me on.
Got nice letters from Marjorie and Russ Vanstone. Spent sleepless night worrying about the Turam.
Now here is an interesting pair of photos. On the left we are working across an Irish grain field in 1960 while
the right I am doing the same kind of survey in Alaska in 1959
Tuesday June 28, 1960
Got up early and soldered some cable heads in our little shed. What a beautiful day and even the Turam seemed to notice
the sun on the irish greenery. The Turam worked perfectly until noon when once again our cable was severed by some cow
located somewhere along the three mile base line. Sure enough. A cow had bitten the live wire and got knocked out. “She
fell like a stone!” We are lucky that the local farmers have not launched law actions if we have been stunning or knocking out
their cattle. I wonder if the knock out story is true? The Irish are good story tellers after all. Some farmers are after us according
to my Irish crew who are not too concerned. There seems to be a cultural division between the largely unemployed cottagers
and the distinctly better healed farmers. They do not like each other.
John Stam is more cheerful today since our expense money arrived in Dungarven. My day was terrific because the Turam worked
perfectly. We crossed over some old mine shafts which are hardly guarded or protected, Some seem to be used as garbage pits.
“Some animals fall down them but not many…no worries.” Some comfort! I did my washing in the evening, wrote home and
as usual did some light repairs this time to the voltmeter connection. Mrs Kennedy served us tea while we played yet another
game of pinochle. Outside the night was stunning with Golden clouds and a crescent moon.
How can I say to John and John that i am getting to hate pinochle. Bunmahon is so interesting. I would rather walk the cliffs
and have a pint of Guinness at Kerwan’s. I would like to have a pint at the Anglican pub but fear that would cause trouble.
It would be interesting to hear what the Anglo Irish minority have to say. Perhaps they would say nothing. Amazing how close
to the stereotypes created in the Quiet Man fit the local social dynamics of Bunmahon. I am sure, however, that such a comment’
by a newcomer like me would be resented so I try to take everything in but keep my mouth shut. The men seem to like me.
This is Kirwan’s pub on every Friday evening when a percentage of income was spent
on a few pints of Guinness. We joined as often as we could. Sometimes the fellows
wanted to treat us to pints of Guinness. Without insulting we thanked them but
avoided these ‘free’ pints. John Hogan is lighting up a Wild Woodbine cigarette on
the far left. Mrs. Kerwan is presiding over the bar on the far right.
Kerwan’s pub has a dark sitting room featuring slabs of pine nailed to the walls and stumps tables.
In this case John Hogan and I are relaxing.
Wednesday June 29, 1960
John Hogan took off early to drive to Dublin for some reason. I had a successful day with the Turam finishing 2.5 lines in the morning
then Andy brought me a quart of Cidonia (hard cider) for lunch in an Irish field before finishing line 4400 and finding a very large
anomaly. Then the motor stopped and we had another two hour delay.
In the evening Willy and Bandy took me to a hurling match in Dunhill. The game can be rough if they hit each other
with the curling sticks that look like shortened hockey sticks. Clubs if you will. The outdoor washroom was interesting.
A few sheets of corrugated iron were anchored in place by steel posts and that was a washroom. I do not know what
Hurling is an Irish brute force kind of game.
Thursday June 30, 1960
Got an early start today which was spoiled as usual by a broken base line cable. We are now getting used to finding baseball
sized rolls of our base line wire here and there in farmers fields. Farmers are getting more and more concerned that our wire is
endangering their dairy herds.We did 4 lines today working from 8.30 to 6.30. A long day here in Ireland. In Canada I would cover
much more territory doing Turam work pushed on by the millions of flies f
Willy had to be sent home when his lumbago began acting up. Then the console connection broke and had to be soldered.
Today we saw an old fort…2,000 years old according to Bandy. “Supposed to be filled with fairies, you know.” “There are ghosts
in this valley.” “Then there is the mystery of the postman that just disappeared one day.”
Bandy alerted me to another danger today when we crossed a field dominated by two huge boars. Big tusks and angry
demeanour. “Be careful with the herds of pigs, Maser Skeoch, a nun disappeared around here once when she crossed
a field with pigs. All that was found was her boots with her feet inside.” The men love telling me stories. Maybe some of the
stories are true or have a kernel of truth. Enjoy them immensely. Today we worked until 7 p.m. and then I spent the evening
trying to fix the Ronka with no luck. The men are all good workers and I hate pushing them but we are expecting Holmes to
arrive any day from India. He is a top man with the company. Needs to be impressed. Tired tonight…”Too tired to
climb the stairs,” as my grandmother used to sing to us on winer evenings at the farm.
Small thatched roof cottages were located here and there on the outskirts of Bunmahon. Small holdings
of an acre or less. Some of these cottages turned most of their land over to potatoes. Others managed
to keep a few animals, even a horse or two.
Friday July 1, 1960
“Mass! Master Skeoch get out of bed…time for mass.” Bridey hammers on my door then enters the room
and rips of my covers reminding me all the time that I must not miss mass. She even carries a BELL that
she rings with gusto.if I am not out of bed fast. Lucky I wear in a bIg night shirt because Bridey
rips off the blankets to speed me up. Mass is very important to Bridey and she has made mass feel
important to me…a Protestant…a Humanist.
Quite amusing…nice really.
STOP FOR A REST
END OF THE INTRODUCTION TO BUNMAHON…LOTS MORE TO COME
SUCH AS AN INTRODUCTON TO THE BOYS WHO MADE THE SURVEY
AND THEN THE PRIZE OF PRIZES WHEN BARNEY SUGGESTED “MASER SKEOCH
DO YOU WANT TO GO UNDERGROUND IN THE OLD MINES….I KNOW THE SECRET