I would have loved to return to our old home, and I could picture it and its surroundings at different seasons of the year: In the spring, when the woods at the back of our home were radiant with young leaves, and the undergrowth and shrubs were interspersed with wild flowers peeping through the tangle of young grass and ferns; the hedges on each side of the avenues bedecked with primroses and dainty violets. The fine old trees on the lawn, in the centre of which was the old sundial with its stone steps on which one could sit when the afternoons were warm and enjoy refreshments in the scent-laden atmosphere.
I can close my eyes and see it all again. And then, too, the early summer with the whiffs of newly cut hay and the sound of the gardeners at work among the fruit trees in the orchard; when nature clothed everything with her beautiful colours and the happy little birds singing their songs of joy and contentment. The summer showers added a still further charm to what was already lovely, and then the sun would burst forth again and the rainbow would spread its magic arch across the sky. I remember, too, the cooing of the pigeons in the garden outside the nursery windows or perched near their little cots under the eaves of the house and the blackbirds and thrushes singing among the old oaks, beeches, elms and mountain ash the latter laden down with crimson berries in the late autumn. I can still hear the woodpecker tapping away at the trunk of some old tree, while in the distance, perhaps, would be heard the report of a gun scattering death among the very birds we so enjoyed having around us.
Although I always felt sorry when the shooting season was on there is no denying the fact that a good partridge, pheasant or perhaps a choice little woodcock make a very delectable adjunct to the dinner table. The skylark, whose mellow notes we so often heard wafted on the gentle breeze while he soars above his nest in the corn field, was considered one of the daintiest of morsels served as entrees for delicate people; but I thought it was wicked to kill them. My brother Tom was such a clever shot, he could bring down three snipe with one cartridge. This was considered smart shooting because snipe as a rule fly in a very erratic zigzag manner. Actually, most of the family were good shots, including the Lamberts as well as the La Hiffs.
Between us, we owned the Derrybrien Mountains in County Clare. It was a very large piece of property covering hundreds of acres and supporting quite a number of tenants who farmed a large part of it. My-people kept it for the pleasure of having shooting parties there where several old-time friends would spend weeks at a time. It was one of the best sporting ranges in that county. All sorts of foodstuff and the best of liquors would be stored there, and helpers trained to make everything comfortable for the crowd of sportsmen who, after enjoying themselves outdoors all day, could have a very hilarious time in the evenings with cards and sporting yarns. Often the tenants would be invited with their wives and daughters to dance sing and be merry until the early hours of the morning. Generally, there was someone who could play the bagpipes, and always two or three fiddlers to supply the music. They certainly must have had a lively time.
Uncle Tom Lambert owned quite a lot of property around Kilquaine and whenever the hay and corn had to be cut and stored away for the winter, his tenants who lived in the Derry Brian Mountains would come along in crowds and stay about two weeks at a time putting the corn, grass and crops in shipshape. No salary was paid, but they would be royally entertained and housed by the managers of the estate. And when everything was done, Uncle Tom would give them a real hearty time of it. All the outhouses would be decorated, fiddlers hired, all kinds of food prepared, and dancing kept up all night, or rather night after night. All of Uncle Tom’s old friends, too, would come over for the harvest gathering and take part in everything that was going on. A real harvest meeting! It reminded me of that old Irish ballad:
Oh, to dream of it. Oh, to think of it.
Fills my heart with joy to-see.
Oh, for the sounds of the merry dancing
Pass along like our lives — too soon.
Uncle Tom and his wife, Aunt Lizzie, were a very affectionate couple. He was a very handsome man with an impressive height of over six feet, while she, a very pretty and sweet little soul, would flit around him like a humming bird looking for honey. She would always call him, “Tom pet,” as if to remind him of her love for him. Well, that’s what I call, “How to be happy though married.”
I really think that men are more peaceful than women. I always liked being with my brothers or boy cousins, better than with girls so, whenever a chance would come for me to get away, I was at my best. I thought nothing in life could give such a thrill as going on long shooting trips or following the hounds. I think one of the loveliest sights on a crisp autumn or winter morning is to see the hunt meet at some home, and the thrill of hearing the horn, and seeing the flash of the red coats of the riders as they follow the hounds off through the woods. One who has never been to a hunt can hardly realize the beauty of the scene. Mother was a wonderful horsewoman. In fact, all my relations were fond of outdoor sports. A good sniff of the morning air laden with the smell of the trees and shrubs one can never forget!
Feature Photo: Knockbeha see –Derrybrien and Sliabh Aughta
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Written by Elizabeth La Hiff Lambert
Published here 22 Aug 2022 and originally published 1979
Page 0087 of Athenry History