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Jem Murphy

Back to Peter Fearon
Extracts form the article, reproduced, with the Society's permission, from the 1990 Journal of The Creggan Local History Society

It was a wet, misty, miserable evening in August, 1930, when I first heard of the Lappin brothers, the Carrive blacksmiths of 1798. It was also the first and only time I saw a Lappin bayonet. The story unfolded by chance in the course of the evening's work, as most stories in Carnally then did. It was in no way planned, it just happened and, although it is now 60 years ago, I remember that particular day and the evening before it as well as I remember yesterday.

............When the tae was over and we sat for some time gossiping, father said he was going to see Peter Fearon, a local blacksmith, who was ill, and "Craig", the son of the house, said he would go with him. Jemmy Donnelly said; "Take your time for a minute and I'll be across the fields with yous - when I put a `lasog' (6) to the pipe".

I had known Peter Fearon, the blacksmith, for many years before. I would be sent to the forge with a "soc" of the oul swing plough, or maybe a "couther", or a "singletree" to get "brogues" tightened, or a horse to get shoes on.

I remembered then the first time I went. It was with a new "soc". It only wanted dressing. I wasn't able to carry it on my own, so father wedged a piece of wood in the "eye" and my younger brother, Pat, took the side with the wood, I took the point and, between us, we managed it. I don't think either of us were started school at the time. The instructions I got leaving home were to tell Peter to put "land" and "hoult" on it. When we arrived at the forge, Peter was shoeing a horse. When he saw us at the door, he came to us and inquired who we were, took the "soc" and knocked the piece of wood from the "eye". It was then I delivered my message and told him he was to put "land" and "hoult" on it. He replied: "And have yous the land with yous?". I hesitated for a while and then said: "No". "Well", he replied, with a very serious face, "I can put `hoult' on it but I can't put `land' on it unless I get the land". Neither of us spoke and, after a few seconds, he said: "No matter"; took one of us in each arm and left us sitting on the hearth where we'd be nice and warm. That day, now over 65 years ago, I got my first whiff of the smell of a burning horse's hoof. There was an Irish word for it but 1 can't remember it now. When he was dressing the "soc", I watched to see him put the "land" on it but didn't see him do it. I was puzzled. That night, I inquired from my father as to when the blacksmith puts "land" on a "soc" and he replied: "Before he puts it in the fire". "Well, I didn't see him do it", I said. "Oh well, he did it unnoticed to you. Peter's hand is brave and quick".

It wasn't long after until I found out that "land" meant the point of the "soc" to point towards the land and away from the furrow and that "hoult" meant the "soc" running in a downward direction, giving more depth to the sod.

...........On through the fields we went until we came to John Coinne's (8) loanin', continuing on the loanin' until we came to the Carnally road. Father and "Craig" would be leaving us now. They would be going on in an eastward direction across the "crocken" (9) and over the "clochans" (10) by the scutch-mill and out on to the Dundalk-Armagh road, at Cortresla Cross. They would now be beside Fearon's forge. They would have to climb the hill to the house, not so big a task now, as the top was taken off and the hollow running out to the main road filled up three years before. It wasn't now the steep hill that William Stewart Trench described in his book, "Realities of Irish Life", when he made his first journey by stage-coach from Dublin to school in Armagh one hundred or so years before.

[NOTE (P. Devlin): The modifications to the road were made by Johnny Boyle of Tullydonnell, (known as the Roadman Boyle) whose son, Felix, married Peter Fearon's daughter, Katie.]

..........."Aw, it flows like buttermilk from a jug", said Jemmy. "You spoke there of Fearon's forge. How is Peter Fearon? Did you and 'Craig' see him last night'?'.'. "We did. It's only a matter of time", said father, shaking his head. "I'm sorry to hear that. Peter was a genius. He wasn't hard to pay either, and half of them never paid him", said Jemmy. "As well as being a good tradesman and a decent man, he was also a staunch Land Leaguer", said father. "He wouldn't shoe the grabbers horse". "No", said Jemmy, "and he wouldn't shoe the landlord's horse either. It's a wonder oul Bond didn't evict him". "Bond's day was over then", said father. "Ten or twelve years before, it would have been a different story". "It would", said Jemmy. "God be with Parnell and Davitt".

6. A small flame
8. Pronounced Toin in Carnally; Irish for Quinn
9. Name on a small round hill, usually surrounded by a swamp; Donnelly's crocken
10. A row of stones in wet ground, used mostly by the scutchers going to work in the mill; stepping-stones.