We Had It All To Ourselves

The lakeshore of Lough Mask in Tourmakeady was a few fields down behind our
house and the rocky shoreline with its Alder trees growing on the banks was a haven
for us children seeking adventure as we roamed along it’s shores. It was all of that
and more. It was freedom to play, explore and imagine in an unspoiled heaven of
nature where few men would ever have roamed.
We would set off down through the fields, jumping over gates, pushing
through ditches and avoiding any farm animals that we might see. Hopping along
from large stones to boulders, we maneuvered our way along that shore; clear water
and the wind blowing gently. It was afternoon and the sun gave us the energy to be
spies. Spies for whom ? Or what? We had heard about the old house along the
shore which some famous man from the film “jaws” had bought. But that did not
mean much to us. We sneaked up to the house along the graded sweeping green
lawn and peeped in through the windows. The place was old, forlorn and empty and
we thought of how it might be haunted. The history of the past made no impression
on our youth back then.
Running down to the shoreline again we came upon a stream, trickling into the lake
and a great big wooden box straddling it. “Treasure “ we thought and went to open
the lid. Inside were tens of huge eels swirling around. It was the most amazing thing I
had ever seen. I had never seen eels before and never as big since. People trapped
them and sold them I heard afterwards.
Back at my house we spent many hours trying to catch “ leebeens” in the little
stream flowing along by the garden. How we spent many hours trying to catch them
in jam jars but we never managed. They were always quite agile and quick but we
spent hours bent down looking at these tiny little fish – we didn’t think then how they
could have been the small fry of the famous trout that anglers came to fish on Lough
The larger river just a field over and which passed under the bridge at Treanlaur was
always dangerous looking after heavy rain. It took it’s clear and raging waters down
from the Drumcoggy mountains to the lakeshore. We would stop and watch the “cúr
bán” or white froth and marvel at the force of nature.
Back in the woods near Tourmakeady village we followed the Glensaul river and the
“eas” or waterfall was a sight to behold falling 20 meters from it’s rocky height. We
rambled through that wood of oak; a wood as old as the land upon which it grew.
Further on at the “dock” where a pier was built for small fishing boats we swam in
shallow waters under the watchful eye of our parents. We saw lizards sunning
themselves on warm stones. The call of the cuckoo brought summer and the
corncrake woke us in the early morning.
I have never walked that shoreline since. As children we had great freedom to do
so. Nobody took any notice of children wandering about. And everywhere was our
playground and adventure land. I’ve been back to the waterfall and the dock a few
times . It’s still unspoiled to some degree. But the hidden places of my past have
almost all been found. But we as children had it all to ourselves and that is a memory
I will cherish forever.