Jottings of my Life in Tyrone, Ireland – Strange Visitors

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Strange Visitors

We used to get much enjoyment out of the different sorts of old people who made frequent visits to our home to see Grandma and get some help from her. One afternoon we met a little old man who was rather peculiar in his ways. As Neddie was coming along the avenue, he enquired of us if the mistress was at home. So, my brothers and a cousin or two asked him what he needed. On being told it was clothes he wanted, we thought it would be a good joke to fit him out ourselves. To had him wait outside the house while we went indoors and asked the servants what they could find in the way of old clothes for Neddie. One of the first things they found was an old red hunting coat from which my brother removed the brass buttons. Then we came across a pair of lady’s unmentionables, you know the kind I mean, the fresh-air variety with just the two legs attached to the waistband. Then a pair of top boots came to light, and a cast-off coachman’s tall hat and a red necktie.

Well, we gave the things to Neddie and persuaded him to go around to the backwoods and put them on. When he reappeared arrayed in all this grandeur, we could hardly keep from screaming with laughter. Had it not been for the size of his ears, the tall hat would have slipped down over his eyes. The red coat without buttons, over the white drawers and top boots, gave him the most grotesque appearance, to crown it all, he held an old pink sunshade over his head as if to protect his complexion, which was like an over-ripe grapefruit.

Now, dear old grandmother was in the garden, so we told Neddie he would find her there. Off he went singing at the top of his voice a song he was very proud of, entitled,

“Holly and ivy so green – John FitzGerald’s paugeen”.

No one seemed to know exactly what that meant, but it always brought a roar of laughter. So, Neddie went down the belfry road, rang the bell at the garden gate, and asked for Grandma. I cannot describe the look on her face when she saw him walking up to speak to her! Needless to say, she was very much hurt to see Neddie dressed up like that I may say here that the unmentionables were hers! – and at once, she requested one of the gardeners to see that his clothes were changed. After that, he was taken up to the house and treated well by everybody. Poor old Neddie.  I never saw him again after that.

Another eccentric person Grandma would not allow ordered off the estate was a demented schoolmaster. He was about seven feet tall, wore a long dark coat; he went without a hat, and his wavy brown hair and beard would fly around his gaunt elongated face in a manner that would turn the “sons of David” green with envy. He would avoid everyone and if, by chance, anyone spoke to him, he would say that he was looking for the missing link. He was very fond of music, and we noticed that he would come out of the woods at night when the drawing room windows were open, and keep listening to the strains of melody from within. If he thought anyone noticed him, he would simply “fly away”. When he got tired of being around our place, he could be found in Christopher Redington’s woods, where he was often seen kneeling before a big book on the ground, his face turned up to heaven as if he were contemplating the wonders of the sky. He never gave us any trouble and repeated his visits year after year, and no one ever thought of molesting him.

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About this record

Written by Elizabeth La Hiff Lambert

Published here 08 Sep 2022 and originally published 1979

Page 0097 of the Athenry History archive.

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