Bellaghy Historical Society – May 2014

TUESDAY 13th, MAY 2014
Real name, William James McBride (he has a brother John), born 1940, the second youngest of five on
a farm in Moneyglass. His father died in 1944. The family kept the farm.
He helped milk the cows before school, walked three miles to school at Dineen. Children of all religions attended that school. The clergymen of the different churches visited the school.
He recalled some boring jobs like pumping water from the long-armed pump in the yard.
He remembered the hayricks in the fields; haymaking; work horses – there were no tractors.
He helped sow flax (lint), look after it, pull thistles – there were no sprays then; pull (not cut) the flax, put it in the dam with stones on it, filled it with water – how it stank! They would then lift the stones, lift the flax and spread it on the field the same day – as it dried on one side, it was turned with sticks; it was then taken to the mills where it was spun/carded into linen.
Farming then was very labour intensive.
It would take two horses and plough two weeks to work a 6 acre field!
Lunch was bread and a pint of buttermilk.
The scythe was used to reap the corn; a stoop of corn was made of 4 sheaths.
If work had to be done on Sunday, cutting corn, feeding hens, milking cows, it was done after midnight, so as to observe the Sabbath!
Potatoes were gathered with the help of Tony Mc Coyʼs father! They were taken out of school for this job – a job which Willie hated! The neighbours were good to each other-helping to gather the potatoes, thrash the corn…
Fr. Mullen gave great advice and help.
All farmers killed their own pigs – the pig man came to do it. His mother would give the livers to the neighbours.
A lorry would collect eggs – the egg-man would give groceries as payment.
The fish-man from Toome would call.
Tillage payment was made to the RIC.
During winter, they would sit around the fire. They never had much money but always had good food.
1950s saw big changes as the family bought a tractor and a car.
Once a year, he would go to Portrush with half a crown in his pocket.
Sport didnʼt feature in his earlier years and there was no sport in his family. His first sport was pole-vaulting. He taught himself using the roost in the hen house and bags of sand! He won medals at Ulster Schools level -clearing 9ʻ9ʼʼ in his second year in competition. He travelled to the finals by train from Ballymena to Belfast, then trolley bus to City Hall and another to Cherryvale Grounds – with his own 12ft long pole!
At 18 years of age, he played rugby in his last year at school. He then applied for a job at the bank.
He played a few games for Randalstown – he would cycle there. They had to lift cowpats & sheeps droppings from the field (given to the club by Lord OʼNeill) before each game – except when playing a  Belfast side!
He played with Ballymena all his sporting life. The changing rooms (Nissan huts) had showers but if they were frozen, they would wash in the Braid river!
One of the older Ballymena members told him how to cope with disappointment, how to be successful,…
Farming stood to him – it gave him physical and mental strength. He never wanted to be second best, but the best. When he was with the Ulster team, he wanted to go for the Irish trials & the Irish team; when he achieved that, he wanted to be on the Lions team – he was in South Africa for 4 months, 1962.
His mother attended one game; his brothers, farmers, attended 2/3 games.
Travel and rugby broadened his mind and he learned a lot about life and how to get the best out of people -and he brought that to banking.
1971 – he transferred (bank) from Coleraine to Belfast.
He has lived in Ballyclare for 40 years. He loves to keep busy – he keeps chickens and gardens three acres there. He is often asked to travel /cruise all over the world with sporting groups; and is often asked to speak at functions.

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