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Bushmills - Islands of Carnmoon

The yarns below were based on stories from Tommy McKaig of the Islands of Carnmoon and give a flavour of life 50 years ago.

Personal Stories

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COUNTRY YARNS

Submitted by Nevin Taggart.

The Dervock Donkey

R.J. McIlmoyle, the famed Dervock preacher, sheepbreeder and storyteller, was once faced with a rather unusual query: "What will we do with the donkey?"

A group of travelling people had departed from their roadside camp on the edge of Dervock, leaving behind the remains of a dead donkey. It was said to be traditional for them to move to new quarters on the death of a traveller or one of their animals.

Following the request from the local people R.J. said that he would ring the Ballymoney Rural District Council to see what they could do.

"What's your problem?" said the council officer. R.J. described the situation and said that his neighbours wanted the dead animal "taken away out of this". "Isn't it one of your jobs to see about burying the dead, Mr McIlmoyle?" "You'd be quite right thinking that", said R.J., " but it's also another of my duties to inform the next of kin!"

Just a Penny

A long time ago, when a weekly newspaper cost 1d, two sisters owned a little shop in Islandranny. In those days, there seemed to be one of those businesses every two miles. The sisters were called Elizabeth and Mary McKeeman and they supplied the little extras that added variety to what would otherwise have been a very plain and monotonous diet.

On a Friday evening, regular as clockwork, William Boyd walked the half-mile to collect his weekly paper. He did not pay at the time but settled-up at the end of the year. When the appointed Friday arrived William inquired "Well Mary, what do I owe you for the paper?" " That'll be fifty-two pence, William", said Mary. He handed over the money and headed for home.

About half an hour later William arrived back in the shop in a great state of agitation and determination. "Mary, I'm afraid there has been a bit of a mistake about the paper", said William. "Oh",said Mary,"I'm very sorry to hear about that. What seems to be the matter?". "When I went home, I did a wee bit of checking and found that there were only fifty-one weekly papers printed last year!" Mary apologetically handed back the extra penny and William walked home happy.

Smelling a Rat

When Joe McKaig was a wee bit of a lad he had a terrier dog which was very good at killing rats. His uncle Joseph McKeeman, who lived across the fields, invited the youngster to come over one day as he was going to thresh corn in the barn. "Why don't you bring over the wee dog", said the uncle, "Ther'll be plenty of rats in the bottom of the stacks". "What'll he get for killing the rats?", said Joe, not one to miss a chance for making a bit of money. "Every rat the dog kills, I'll give you a penny", said the uncle.

The threshing got under way and soon there were rats running in all directions. In no time at all there were twelve rats laid out side by side, much to the uncle's consternation. "Look", said Joe, "I've a shilling's worth already!". At that time one shilling could buy a lot of sweets. "I doubt I couldn't give you a penny for all them", said the uncle, hoping to renegotiate terms, " A ha'penny will have to do". Joe rushed over to the stack and pulled the dog out from amongst the sheaves. He gathered the little terrier up in his arms and glowered defiantly at his uncle. " That's one thing he'll never do", said Joe, "Sink his teeth in them for less than a penny!".

McKaig's Revenge

Maggie Graham lived in a little dwelling at the end of a single-storied row of thatched houses at the Whinhill, Carnmoon. The windows were quite small, letting in only a little natural light, and in the winter evenings a small oil lamp barely illuminated the interior of the small working kitchen. Maggie's home was the rendevous for the young fellows from round about who gathered together in the evenings for a bit of crack and occasional mischief.

One Friday evening the lads were sitting on stools, drawn up in an arc around the big open peat fire, telling stories. At that time they all had long handle-bar type moustaches, apart from McFaul. He had shaved his off earlier that day, in the mistaken notion that the rest intended to do likewise.

William John McKaig arrived in from his home across the moss at The Islands and slipped into his customary seat in the corner. He was wearing his favourite moleskin trousers. These had been washed many times and had now acquired a classy white sheen and the envy of his mates. The conversation, which had been bubbling along, slowly dried up. Some of them started to giggle. "Why don't you move over closer to the fire, William John?", said one. William John rose and there was a loud burst of laughter as the imprint of the freshly painted seat rails appeared on the seat of the once immaculate moleskins.

The following day William John was back at the Whinhill to scale dung in a nearby field. When the time was right he made an excuse and slipped over to Maggie's house. He slipped into the bedroom and lifted the blue serge "Sunday" suit, of one of his friends, from the wardrobe. From his pocket he took a brush and a small tin of paint. Very carefully he drew a fine red line around the edge of the coat lapels and likewise down the outside seams of the trousers - in the style of a postman's uniform. Revenge was sweet!

The Boxer

Big Herbie fancied himself as a bit of a boxer. On a Saturday night Herbie would select his target, offer a certain amount of provocation and then fell his victim with several well placed blows. "Where did you hit him, Herbie?", said one of his fellow peatcutters. Herbie explained his technique in graphic detail.

Now his mates had heard this boasting before and had their strategy well thought out. The outline of a man had been traced on the soft wet black face of the peat bank and the buttons were marked on the jacket. An old hard peat had been pushed into the face of the bank and lay just behind the third button. "Come on Herbie, show us where exactly you hit him." Herbie clenched his fist, drew back the arm, took careful aim and slammed his fist right on to the third button. The roars from Herbie could have been heard a mile away.

A Man of Many Talents

Jamie McAleese lived alone in a little thatched house on the Islandranney road but was more than capable of looking after himself. It was said that he could bake scones, churn butter and fix a puncture on a bicycle tube all at the same time.

Alec Campbell was sometimes there to offer advice. "Look, Jamie", says Alec, "There's a rat up there in the thatch". Jamie would reach into the corner for the pitchfork and shove it up in the direction that Alec was pointing. A cloud of sods and dust would descend on the griddle where the scones were baking. "Oh look, Jamie", says Alec, "You're going to ruin your scones!", knowing all along what was going to happen.

Jamie's mother had been a very cleanly woman. She used to take butter to Liscolman for sale in the shop. When she died Jamie continued on making the butter but without the same success or concern for hygiene. "When my mother was alive", says Jamie,"They would meet you at the Watches crying "Tell Maggie to keep me a pound! Now, nobody in Liscolman wants to buy butter".

These yarns were based on stories from Tommy McKaig of the Islands of Carnmoon, and give a flavour of life in the Route about 50 years ago.

They were recorded in the spring of 1993 and published in Portcaman Vol 1, the magazine of the Bushmills Folklore and History Group.

 

YOUR RESPONSES

Sylvia Brown - July '08
Does anyone know anything about Sam Brown and his wife Alice Brown nee McLoughlin? They lived in Liscolman. Sam lived from 1882 till 1972 and died at the age of 84, he had 4 children - 2 sons and 2 daughters, Neil, Jim, Cassie and Bella - most likely worked in Liscolman Mill.

Gayle (McKaig) - Feb '08
I live in Ontario, Canada and my maiden name is McKaig. Any McKaig's from Canada please respond.

Jennifer Murray (nee McConachie) - Feb '08
Does anyone know of the McConachie family who lived in the Liscolman area in the 19 century? Some of them moved to Bushmills in the late 1800s.

Nicola Wedlock - Jan '08
I would just like to add that Annie and Alf have since both passed away and Carnmoon has been sold on. The memories I have of my grandparents are very fond and I would give anything to walk down the lane and see Carnmoon as it was with animals in the yard and the sound of laughter around the kitchen table as a few bottles of marrow wine were cracked open. I would like anyone who knew them to remember them as the plain and ordinary country folk that they were, and Carnmoon as the haven it was. I'm very proud to be there grand-daughter.
Nicky, Ballyrock, Bushmills

David A Chambers - Dec '07
Hello All, Searching for a connection with my great grandmother Eliza Anne McKaig, b1849 in Belfast, Ireland. She was a 21yr old widow when she married my great grandfather William James Slater in 1872, at St Matthew's Church of Ireland, Woodvale Rd, Belfast. Her first husband was named FALLS. Eliza Anne's father was an Andrew McKaig. Any information gratefully received.
Regards to all,
David A Chambers, Newtownards, Co. Down, N.I.

Mark Grove - Apr '07
Great article on The Mckaig clan!

My name is Mark Grove and I'm from Canada. I had a different name at Birth. Danny Mckaig. Is the name Irish or Scottish?

Sounds like it's a combination of Irish and Scottish, depending on where your ancestors are from originally. If anyone can tell me if it's Irish or Scottish would be appreciated.
My Grandfather is Irah Mckaig and lived in London,Ontario Canada.
He has passed on.

Any insight into whether Mckaig is Irish or not would be appreciated.

Sincerely,

Mark Grove

Debbie Klein - Mar '07
Searching for information on John Mckaig who married Mary ann Merritt, and their children who include John Mckaig born Liverpool 8 aug 1863.

Nevin Taggart - Feb '07
Robert Irvin McKaig is from Araboy Isle in the townland of Araboy which is adjacent on the east side of the Islands of Carnmoon.

The Wedlock family, Portrush - Nov '06
Much appreciated comments concerning Annie and Alf, our parents and grand-parents. They will never be forgotten nor will Carnmoon as it was Alf's and only he could make carnmoon as it was. Their love for their animals, and the countryside was shown in the character of carnmoon. Under the circumstances of Annie's illness she can no longer be there, but it will be forever in her heart. Alf's departure from carnmoon was a sad day as from that day carnmoon was never the same. It will live on in our memories.

Becky McKaig - Sep '06
My husband is in the John McKaig of 1765 line living in Missouri. We are aware that there are these McKaig families: the family of Patrick McKaig (1765-1831); John McKaig of (1765-1841); John McKaig (1803-1864); Francis McKaig(1803-1865); Donald McQuaig and Nancy Brown of Islay Island Scotland that settled in Canada and Robert Irvin McKaig born in county Antrim, Ireland in (1824-1903) We have understood that there was a large McKaig family in Scotland that moved at least in part to Ireland and then on to America after the potato famine in 1845. We think that the families in America come from brothers of the same family, but have not been able to find information to tie them all together. I have the genealogy of John McKaig 1765 but have not been able to go back farther than John. I have the genealogy of Robert Irvin McKaig that was brought up to date 30 years ago. It is the family of a friend of mine from High School, whose grandmother was a McKaig. I would love to hear from anyone who has information that could tie these together.

Nevin Taggart - Aug '06
Lorna, it is indeed me. Many thanks for the greeting. Dorothy lives in Co Armagh and I still live in the home place on the Causeway Coast.

Lorna Finch - March '06
Could Nevin Taggart be the brother of Dorothy Taggart and did Nevin go to Bushmills Grammar. If so, then I remember you well, best regards, Lorna Finch, nee Millar.

Sona - Mar 06
I'm writing in response to Mary Whitsell's request about John McKaig. I'm the GG-Grandaughter of William McKaig, Silas's brother. I have quite a bit of research on John and am currently in the process of trying to find John's father. The furthest I've gotten on John is that he was in the tax records in 1794 in KY. From there they went to OH in 1803 where he died in 1841. In fact I'm headed for KY in April to do further research. I just received information on all the Mckaig's in the Civil War which included Jefferson. Mary can e-mail me for futher information. I would be glad to hear from her.

Mary Whitsell - Nov 05
My grandmother, Betty McKaig, was the daughter of Jefferson McKaig, from Missouri. Jefferson McKaig was the son of Silas McKaig, and Silas was the son of John McKaig. All I know about John McKaig was that he had an amazing number of children (over a dozen) and lived in Ohio.

Jefferson McKaig, my great-grandfather, was a volatile, fiery character, a lay preacher who liked his whisky. At the age of 16 he entered the Union Army and was critically injured at the Battle of Prairie Grove Arkansas. My father told me that his party piece was being lifted up off the ground by his thick red hair; he was proud of his thick hair and tough scalp. He had many brothers (two of whom died in the Civil War) and one of whom was a hangman in Fort Madison who, I am told, weighed 350 lbs.

Anyone with any information whatsoever on John McKaig, born 1765, married to Martha Craig, born 1769 -- I would be most obliged to hear from you.

 

Matthew John Bickerton McKaig - November '05
It is interesting to see the name McKaig on the web! I had thought it was a relatively rare name until recently - |I think it is in England, but in the Commonwealth it seems fairly widespread. I don't know if I'm related to any of the NI McKaigs (but then I suppose we are all related!) but thought I should throw my name in anyway.

My father was John Rae McKaig, also my Grandfather - both of Liverpool - but the latter was born in either Dundee of Moffat I believe.

Matthew McKaig (aged 45)
Nr Wells
Somerset

Charles McKaig - Oct 05
I would love to know more about the McKaig family in Ireland. My great great grandfather, Archibald McKaig, was born in County Down in 1838. He moved to New York around 1860. If anyone has any information, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks from Canada

David McKaig - April 05
Hello - my father is the oldest surviving brother of the Mckaig family who lived at 'The Islands'. He is now 92 and presently on holiday in the South of France, where I, his only child, have a house.

Any further information or yarns would be really welcome!


Brewster - December '04
Hi everyone, Alf Le Surf lived on the islands of carnmoon for about 40 years. He shared this fantastic homeland with his loving wife "Annie" Annie was a very well known girl in Bushmills. She was from the Montgomery family. They all came from chuch street in Bushmills. Alf was a London man, but his family are the finest Bushmills folk you'ld ever meet. He lived there in Carnmoon right up til his recent day. 52 Isle road is a complete heaven of peace and tranquillity. Alf Le Surf made it that way.

 


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