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The master and the apprentice

News

SOUND AS A BELL Matthew Maloney is pictured at the Pollagh Church Bell with his grandfather James ‘George’ McNamara (right) and James Cafferkey. Pic: Conor McKeown

Young Matthew Maloney is taking on the mantle of ringing an old Achill church bell

Edwin McGreal

For 30 years the bell at St Patrick’s Church in Pollagh on Achill Island didn’t ring.
Now its future is in good hands with young Matthew Maloney learning the ropes, quite literally, from James Cafferkey.
Matthew is only 11 but has taken to the responsibility like a duck to water. He has in James a very good teacher and the two are firm friends.
Matthew was in church one Sunday morning with his ‘gaga’, grandfather James ‘George’ McNamara when he heard the bell ring.
“Gaga, I want to ring that bell,” he said. George knows James Cafferkey and so introductions were quickly made and since then the pair have worked side by side, ringing the only church bell on Achill Island every Sunday before 11.30am Mass.
“It is great fun. It lifts you up when you ring it, it nearly takes you off the ground! I get on very well with James. I didn’t know him before I started ringing the bell,” Matthew told The Mayo News.
With that James Cafferkey arrives and the excitement from Matthew reveals how well the pair get on.
James is 72 and is confident the future is in good hands.
“Matthew is a quick learner, I can tell you. I showed him once and he has it off. It is great that he is doing it and, what’s more, it is great that he wants to do it. We’re the best of buddies,” said James.
Matthew, a fifth class pupil at nearby Dooagh NS, is drawn to music. He plays the tin whistle, guitar and piano and is a sean nós dancer. He loves football too, playing Gaelic football with Achill GAA and soccer with Achill Rovers. He reckons he will be ringing the bell for a few years yet.
“I won’t get bored of it, that’s for sure. I will be doing it for long enough,” he said.
James Cafferkey is originally from Pollagh and now living in Achill Sheltered Housing in Keel accommodation in Keel. When he was Matthew’s age he served in Pollagh church and often used to ring the bell as part of his duties. He left for work in the UK when he was just 14 and was gone for 49 years, working in construction in Wales and London, before returning home for good in August 2010.
Indeed, Matthew and his school friends will be visiting James and other residents of the sheltered housing in the coming weeks to play some music and have a Christmas party.
The Pollagh bell had failed to ring for 30 years until another local man, Tommy ‘Shesh’ O’Malley got it moved from its old location at the back of the church to its present location in 2016 and then passed the mantle onto James Cafferkey. And from there to young Matthew Maloney, who will help to ensure a Pollagh tradition will keep going for some years to come.