Gorlough, Taugheen, Claremorris
THE wise words in the calendar and thought for the day of May 9 was “you cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails,” a saying which Jack McHugh fully complied with on his life journey.
He was a spiritual, genuine, questioning, forward thinking man. He embraced new ideas in all aspects of society and adapted to change in agriculture with considerable ease.
His father James McHugh was born in nearby Poldrian in 1879 (the year the Land League was founded and the Knock apparition) and consequently would have stories to pass on about the Great Famine.
James worked in the construction of the Claremorris/Ballinrobe Railway which opened in 1892. Jack’s mother Winfred McDonagh was born in Ballyglass, Scardaune.
Jack was born on February 11, 1926, the same year as Queen Elizabeth 1, Ian Paisley, Garret Fitzgerald and Charlie Haughey. Radio Eireann was not yet on the air and TV wasn’t invented. Jack’s sister Kathleen (Joyce) passed away in 1983.
He attended Taugheen Old National School (built in 1880 ... Boys & Girls School) in the 1930’s. There was no playground so at break-time the scholars played on the road. Jack finished his education in 1939.
In 1940, the family moved from the village of Knockataggart (Priest`s Hill where Mass was celebrated in secret in Penal Times) out to the Gorlough road. A new house was built from the Government grant plus £100 to cousin Paul McHugh to build and £20 to quarry the sand at a nearby sandpit. Donnellan`s watermill was busy at the time (the War Years) and Gilligan`s shop, Carramore, was the hub of social activity, trading in wool, eggs, turkeys, travelling shop, phone, telegrams, post office, groceries and hardware.
Jack married Nell Barnicle from Knocknakell, Mayo Abbey, on March 1, 1954, at 9am in Mayo Abbey Church, followed by the wedding breakfast in Knocknakell. Bridesmaid Mary Monaghan and best man Oliver Foye are still in good health.
Jack and Nell settled into a rural lifestyle and all six McHugh siblings were in their childhood in Gorlough in the 1960`s. Jack applied for a Driver`s Licence in 1964, 21 years before he got a car.
It was pre EU and most farmers along the two mile Gorlough road carried out mixed farming enterprises. A few milk cans were sent to the “creamery” in Claremorris, sows, bonhams and pigs were reared (Claremorris Bacon Factory), sheep kept (Gilligan’s Wool Merchants and Fair Days). Poultry provided ample eggs and meat for sale and consumption and turf was harvested for domestic use and sale. Mixed farming was labour intensive and weather dependent. Jack and Nell and family worked hard at the Spring crops, turf, haymaking and the harvesting of cereals and root crops.
The purchase of a tractor, the advent of silage, installation of a milking machine, provision of a Group Water Scheme and the availability of a turf cutting machine in the early 70’s considerably reduced the intensive labour requirements.
Jack was an avid reader and his big worry as a youngster was he would have read all the books in the country. He made fortnightly visits to Claremorris Library and usually read 3 books weekly. He was a wonderful conversationalist and could converse on any subject in any setting. He was a regular Reader in Taugheen Church and was comfortable in any company.
In the late 70’s, Jack and Nell embraced travel and visited relations in England, America, Australia and travelled all over Ireland. He was delighted to visit places and buildings he had read about in books.
Jack was outspoken and definitely wouldn’t be employed as a diplomat. Visits to and from his mother-in-law Kate Barnicle were entertaining affairs as they debated the politics, personalities and issues of the day.
Nell McHugh passed away on November 16, 2007, just six weeks after she and Jack returned from Lourdes. Jack then lived on his own for 8 years, content with his books, two cats, dog Tiny, radio, TV, flowers, plants and family visits.
He (and Tiny) resided with his daughter Ann McNamara from November, 2015, and died a happy, peaceful death (as he wished for) early Tuesday morning, May 9, 2017. He was in his 92nd year. His faithful companion Tiny was under the bed. There was a book on the bedside locker and he was tuned into the radio (to the previous day’s current affairs repeats).
Jack is survived by his family Ger, Tom, Ann McNamara, Mary Dixon, Catherine Sweeney, Cora Lagan, in laws, 21 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren, and the extended family.