Tobar an tae, a cupful!

There were very few houses in my West Cork townland, away back in the fifties, that did not give
pride of place to the white enamel bucket inside the half-door and its companion, the Pint kitchen
measure ready for the regular grand fill. The hob-kettle by the open turf-fire, which was known to
burst into song at suppertime, had its sturdy insides lined with a gushing fill from the ‘Spring’
bucket; that palate-pleasing taste of Mams tea-time pour had the memorable taste of pure crystalclear
nutrients from the small Vshaped Well hiding under the craggy ditch, below the hen haven.
We marvelled, as children on a jug-filling mission, how this tiny, rather obscure water-hole never
stopped giving even when the shaky flag at its mouth, scorched our bare feet in those hot Summers.
It was quite a mystery to us and we loved the incessant, subtle music from the gentle trickle at the
rear ‘neath the drooping ivy that peeped from the little well’s stony dome roof. What gifted stone
mason carved out our bounteous family shrine that yielded the basic thirst-quenching swallow, at
every round-table feast.
We loved the trips to the well and the soothing paddle on the exit-stream that flowed
noiselessly down the cows boreen. We’d sit on the pale stone and pat faithful Lassie’s head, often in
hushed silence at the nearing soporific warble of the visiting cuckoo, as she alighted from the
thicket of mountain ash rising towards the Cúm-Na Croí bogland. Yes, all of Natures gifts were
shared out from the surrounds of our sheltered spring well and we could talk to the trees, the bright
lemon primroses and the vibrant curly, scented bluebells. We didn’t have an endless store of Nursery
rhymes in those days but we made up our own and hummed to the tune of the meandering stream,
until our Mam called out for the awaited kettle-fill.
The old boreen Well-stream was also the first taste of paddle for the pretty soft yellow baby
ducklings and we took turns at minding these fragile creatures from following Mother Duck along
the muddy cow-track that lead to the wider sruthán na mBó. There was also the threat of the
hovering hawk on the beady-eyed prowl for such fluffy little foragers so our designated post
demanded watchful eye at all times.
The spring-well was a recognised meeting point for women homemakers in bygone days and
they looked forward so much to the chat, story-sharing and togetherness that the daily visit to the
well meant to them. The cross-over apron was often filled with goodies like rosy apples from the
gáirdín orchard, a quarter of Musgraves tea-leaves, a taoscán of sugar cubes for the Station
breakfast; all borrowed requisites from the grámhar neighbour. These niceties were sometimes
accompanied by a few securely wrapped ‘Woodbines’ or a generous pinch of snuff for herself, the
lady of the house to enjoy on a quiet moment.
Yes our seasons will change, rivers will run, tides will ebb and flow but every time I pause to watch
Natures wonders and my gaze fixes on the tireless meander of a silvery stream, I love to escape into
that magic watery grotto, the white enamel bucket fill, childish chants and chirpy yellow