Loch Gara, home of the wagtail and the unseen monster of the deep. The Librarian of the past, guarding in her watery archives the untold stories of our ancestors. Affectionately known as "the lake". Repeatedly the same questions were asked -- "Were you at the lake today?" "Was there any take?" "Were there many there?"
Shoals of perch nudged each other under Clooncunny bridge and we were there to catch them. We had no fancy spoons or spinners and our fishing tackle had no "breaking strain". Just a hazel rod, a few feet of pike line, few inches of gut, a cork, a hook and a big bog worm.
Each captured perch met the same merciless death. It was banged on the concrete bridge and next day fried on the pan by the open fire. There were no solid fuel cookers, no calorgas and electricity was for the towns people.
We were young in an old world. A world full of faith, folklore, myth and mystery.
We knew the lake was fed by rivers from far away places -- like Breedogue and Ballaghaderreen.
Loch Gara is lonely now for the annual regatta. She misses the boys from Ballinafad and wonders where have all the calling women gone who sold "peggy's leg, and the paper on it".
We learned to swim off Brennans' shore. The late Peter Harrington made red rafts; some were horizontal, some were "V"shaped. Under his expert guidance we learned the life saving skill and rejoiced in each others achievement. On the homeward journey he gave us plates of cornflour with red jam. He understood the enthusiasm of a small boy in wanting to catch a grasshopper and with a knowing smile he relived the wisdom of youth. The big man with the big heart. Heaven is sure and Peter is there.
Down on the Ross Line we watched the swans and cygnets sail silently into the angle. Flannerys' tall trees guarded the far shore. A meannan aerach shuddered the silence as it streaked across the darkening sky. The cows were milked and the calves were fed. Gradually the banging buckets died away and no shout could be heard from Brennans' shore. A roar from an ass on Mullaghatigh was amplified in the timeless hills as it rolled thunderously across the lake. Gradually a satisfied silence crept over the land which was interrupted here and there by the raucous calls of the corncrakes.
We left the swans to their watery vigil and warmed our bare feet in the dust of the untarred road.
With the confidence of youth, we knew that tomorrow would come and the carnival of living would start again. And so it did. The Killaraght fife and drum band belted out "Let Erin Remember" and all roads led to the sports in the five acre field where the "Blondy Bombshell" blazed her way through the wall of fire.
Two young priests helped in the digging of the long jump pit. They killed a field mouse and they discussed the morality of their act. In unrepentant silence we listened and remembered the shoals of perch under Clooncunny bridge.