The Ballygullion Creamery Society, Limited

by Lynn Doyle

From “Ballygullion.”

’Twas the man from the Department of Agriculture comin’ down to give a lecture on poultry an’ dairy-farmin’, that set the ball a-rollin’.

The whole farmers av the counthry gathered in to hear him, an’ for days afther it was over, there was no talk at all barrin’ about hens an’ crame, an’ iverybody had a schame av their own to propose.

Ould Miss Armitage ap at the Hall was on for encouragin’ poultry-farmin’; an’ give a prize for the best layin’ hen in Ballygullion, that riz more scunners in the counthry than the twelfth av July itself. There was a powerful stir about it, an’ near iverybody enthered.

Deaf Pether of the Bog’s wife was an easy winner if her hen hadn’t died, an’ nothin’ would satisfy her but it was poisoned; though divil a all killed it but the gorges of Indian male the ould woman kept puttin’ intil it.

Ivery time the hen laid she give it an extra dose of male, “to encourage the crather,” as she said; an’ wan day it laid a double-yolked wan, she put a charge intil it that stretched it out stiff in half-an-hour.

Afther that there was no doubt but Larry Thomas’s wife would win the prize; for, before the end av the month Miss Armitage had allowed for the test, her hen was above a dozen ahead av iverybody else’s.

Howiver, when it came to the countin’ there was a duck-egg or two here an’ there among the lot that nayther Mrs. Thomas nor the hen could well account for, so the both of thim was disqualified.

An’ whin it came to the bit, an’ Mrs. Archy Doran won the prize, she counted up an’ made out that between corn an’ male, she had paid away double the value of it, so she wasn’t very well plazed; an’ thim that had spent near as much on feedin’-stuff, an’ had got no prize, was worse plazed still.

The only one that came out av it well was Miss Armitage herself; for she kept all the eggs, an’ made above twice the prize-money out av thim. But there was nobody else as well plazed about that as she was.

So all round the hen business was a failure; an’ it looked as if there was nothin’ goin’ to come of the lecture at all.

However, iverybody thought it would be a terrible pity if Ballygullion should be behind the other places; an’ at last there was a move made to start a cramery, an’ a committee was got up to set things goin’.

At first the most av us thought they got the crame in the ould-fashioned way, just be skimmin’; but presently it begin to be talked that it was all done be machinery. Some av us was very dubious about that; for sorrow a bit could we see how it was to be done Thomas McGorrian maintained it would be done wi’ blades like the knives av a turnip-cutter, that it would just shave the top off the milk, an’ sweep it intil a pan; but then he couldn’t well explain how they’d avoid shavin’ the top off the milk-dish, too.

Big Billy Lenahan swore it was done with a worm like a still; but, although we all knowed Billy was well  up on potheen, there was few had iver seen him havin’ much to do wi’ milk; so nobody listened to him.

At last the Committee detarmined they’d have a dimonsthration; and they trysted the Department man to bring down his machine an’ show how it was done; for all iv thim was agin spendin’ money on a machine till they were satisfied it would do its work.

The dimonsthration was to be held in Long Tammas McGorrian’s barn, an’ on the night set above forty av us was there. We all sat round in a half-ring, on chairs an’ stools, an’ any other conthrivance we could get, for all the world like the Christy Minstrels that comes to the Market House av a Christmas.

The dimonsthrator had rigged up a belt to Tammas’s threshin’-machine, an’ run it from that to the separator, as he called it.

The separator itself was a terrible disappointin’ conthrivance at the first look, an’ no size av a thing at all for the money they said it cost. But whin the dimonsthrator begin to tell us what it would do, an’ how by just pourin’ the milk intil a metal ball an’ bizzin’ it round, ye could make the crame come out av one hole, an’ the milk out av another, we began to think more av it.

Nobody liked to spake out wi’ the man there, but there was a power av whisperin’.

“It’s a mighty quare conthrivance,” sez wan.

“Did ye iver see the like av it?” sez another.

“Boy-a-boys,” sez James Dougherty, “the works av man is wonderful. If my ould grandmother could see this, it would break her heart. ’Twas herself was the handy dairy-woman, too; but what’d she be till a machine?”

But most av thim wouldn’t say one thing or another till  they seen it workin’; an’, ‘deed, we were all wishin’ he’d begin. We had to thole, though; for the dimonsthrator was a bumptious wee man, an’ very fond av the sound av his own voice, an’ kept talkin’ away wi’ big, long words that nobody knowed the manin’ av but himself, till we were near deaved.

So we were powerful glad whin he sez to Mrs. McGorrian: “Now, Madam, if you’ll be good enough to bring in the milk, I will proceed to give an actual demonstration.”

But Mrs. McGorrian is a quiet wee woman, an’ wi’ all the crowd there, an’ him callin’ her Madam, she was too backward to get up out av the corner she was in; an’ she nudges Tammas to go, tellin’ him where to get the milk.

So Tammas goes out, an’ presently he staggers in wi’ a big crock in his arms, an’ sets it down.

“Now,” sez the demonsthrator, “if you’ll just get the horses goin’, an’ pour the milk into that receptacle, I’ll start the separator working.”

Tammas in wi’ the milk, an’ the wee son whips up the horses outside, an’ away goes the separator bizzin’ like a hive av bees.

“In a few seconds, gentlemen and ladies,” sez the dimonsthrator, “you will see the milk come out here, an’ the cream here. Kindly pay attention, please.”

But he needn’t have spoke; for iverybody was leanin’ forrard, holdin’ their breath, an’ there wasn’t a sound to be heard but the hummin’ of the separator.

Presently there comes a sort av a thick trickle out av the milk-hole, but divil a dhrap av crame.

The dimonsthrator gathered up his brow a bit at that, an’ spakes out av the barn windy to Tammas’s wee  boy to dhrive faster. The separator hums harder than iver, but still no crame. Wan begin to look at the other, an’ some av the wimmen at the back starts gigglin’.

The dimonsthrator begin to get very red an’ flusthered-lookin’. “Are ye sure this milk is fresh an’ hasn’t been skimmed?” he sez to Tammas, very sharp.

“What do you say, Mary?” sez Tammas, lookin’ over at the wife. “Sartin, sir,” sez Mrs. Tammas. “It’s just fresh from the cows this very evenin’.”

“Most extraordinary,” sez the dimonsthrator, rubbin’ his hair till it was all on end. “I’ve niver had such an experience before.”

“It’s the way Tammas feeds his cows,” sez Big Billy Lenahan from the back; “sure, iverybody knows he gives them nothin’ but shavin’s.”

There was a snigger av a laugh at this; for Tammas was well known to be no great feeder av cattle.

But Tammas wasn’t to be tuk down so aisy.

“Niver mind, Billy,” sez he; “av you were put on shavin’s for a week or two, ye’d maybe see your boots again before you died.”

There was another laugh at this, an’ that started a bit av jokin’ all round—a good dale av it at the dimonsthrator; till he was near beside himself. For, divil a dhrop av crame had put in an appearance yet.

All at wanst he stoops down close to the milk.

“Bring me a candle here,” sez he, very sharp.

Tammas reaches over a sconce off the wall. The dimonsthrator bends over the can, then dips the point av his finger in it, an’ puts it in his mouth.

“What’s this?” sez he, lookin’ very mad at Tammas. “This isn’t milk at all.”

“Not milk,” sez Tammas. “It must be milk. I got it where you tould me, Mary.”

The wife gets up an’ pushes forward. First she takes a look at the can av the separator, an’ thin wan at the crock.

“Ye ould fool,” she sez to Tammas; “ye’ve brought the whitewash I mixed for the dairy walls!”

I’ll say this for the dimonsthrator, he was a game wee fellow; for the divil a wan laughed louder than he did, an’ that’s sayin’ something; but sorrow a smile Tammas cracked, but stood gapin’ at the wife wi’ his mouth open; an’ from the look she gave him back, there was some av us thought she was, maybe, more av a tarther than she looked.

Though troth ’twas no wondher she was angry, for the joke wint round the whole counthry, an’ Tammas gets nothin’ but “Whitewash McGorrian” iver since.

Howaniver, they got the machine washed out, an’ the rale milk intil it, an’ there was no doubt it worked well. The wee dimonsthrator was as plazed as Punch, an’ ivery body wint away well satisfied, an’ set on havin’ a cramery as soon as it could be got started.

First av all they wint round an’ got the names av all thim that was goin’ to join in; an’ the explainin’ of the schame took a dale av a time. The co-operatin’ bothered them intirely.

The widow Doherty she wasn’t goin’ to join an’ put in four cows’ milk, she said, whin she’d only get as much out av it as Mrs. Donnelly, across the field, that had only two. Thin, whin they explained to the widow that she’d get twice as much, ould mother Donnelly was clane mad; for she’d thought she was goin’ to get the betther av the widow.

Thin there was tarrible bother over barrin’ out wee Mrs. Morley, because she had only a goat. Some was for lettin’ her in; but the gineral opinion was that it would be makin’ too little av the Society.

Howiver, all was goin’ brave an’ paceable till ould Michael Murray, the ould dunderhead, puts in his oar.

Michael was a divil of a man for pace-makin’, an’ riz more rows than all the county, for all that; for whin two dacent men had a word or two av a fair-day, maybe whin the drink was in them, an’ had forgot all about it, the next day ould Michael would come round to make it up, an’ wi’ him mindin’ them av what had passed, the row would begin worse than iver.

So, whin all was set well agoin’, an’ the committee met to call a gineral meetin’ av the Society, ould Michael he gets up an’ says what a pity it would be if the Society would be broke up wi’ politics or religion; an’ he proposed that they should show there was no ill-feelin’ on either side by holdin’ this giniral meetin’ in the Orange Hall, an’ the nixt in the United Irish League rooms. He named the Orange Hall first, he said, because he was a Nationalist himself, an’ a Home Ruler, an’ always would be.

There was one or two Orangemen beginnin’ to look mighty fiery at the tail-end av Michael’s speech, an’ there’s no tellin’ what would a’ happened if the chairman hadn’t whipped in an’ said that Michael’s was a very good idea, an’ he thought they couldn’t do betther than folly it up.

So, right enough, the first gineral meetin’ was held in the Ballygullion Orange Hall.

Iverything was very quiet an’ agreeable, except that some av the red-hot Nationalists kept talkin’ quare  skellys at a flag in the corner wi’ King William on it, stickin’ a man in a green coat wi’ his sword.

But, as fortune would have it, little Billy av the Bog, the sthrongest wee Orangeman in Ulsther, comes in at half-time as dhrunk as a fiddler, sits down on a form an’ falls fast asleep. An’ there he snored for the most av half an hour, till near the end av the meetin’, whin the chairman was makin’ a speech, there was a bit av applause, an’ ap starts Billy all dazed. First he looked up an’ seen King William on the flag. Thin hearin’ the chairman’s voice, he gives a stamp wi’ his fut on the flure, an’ a “hear, hear,” wi’ a mortial bad hiccup between the “hears.” The wee man thought he was at a lodge-meetin’.

All av a sudden he sees ould Michael Murray, an’, beside him, Tammas McGorrian.

Wi’ that he lepps to his feet like a shot, dhrunk as he was, an’ hits the table a terrible lick wi’ his fist.

“Stap, brethren,” sez he, glarin’ round the room.

“Stap! There’s Papishes present.”

Ye niver seen a meetin’ quicker broke up than that wan. Half the men was on their feet in a minit, an’ the other half pullin’ thim down be the coat-tails. Iverybody was talkin’ at the wan time, some av thim swearin’ they’d been insulted, an’ others thryin’ to make pace.

Thin the wimmin begin to scrame an’ hould back men from fightin’ that had no notion av it at the start, an’ only begin to think av it whin they were sure they wouldn’t be let.

Altogether there was the makin’s of as fine a fight as iver ye seen in your life.

However, there was a lot of dacent elderly men  on both sides, and wi’ arguin’ an’ perswadin’, and houldin’ back wan, an’ pushin’ out the other, the hall was redd without blows, an’, bit by bit, they all went home quiet enough.

But the Cramery Society was clane split. It wasn’t wee Billy so much; for whin people begin to think about it the next mornin’, there was more laughed at him than was angry; but the party feelin’ was up as bitther as could be.

The Nationalists was mad at themselves for givin’ in to go to a meetin’ in the Orange Hall, for fear it might be taken that they were weakenin’ about Home Rule; an’ the Orange party were just as afeard at the papers makin’ out that they were weakenin’ about the Union. Besides, the ould King William in the corner av the Hall had done no good.

I’m no party man, myself; but whin I see William Robinson, that has been me neighbour this twinty years, goin’ down the road on the Twelfth av July wi’ a couple av Orange sashes on, me heart doesn’t warm to him as it does av another day. The plain truth is, we were bate at the Boyne right enough; but some av us had more than a notion we didn’t get fair play at the fightin’; an’ between that and hearin’ about the batin’ iver since, the look of ould Billy on his white horse isn’t very soothin’.

Anyway, the two parties couldn’t be got to join again. The red-hot wans av both av thim had meetin’s, wee Billy leadin’ wan side, and Tammas McGorrian the other, an’ the nixt thing was that there was to be two Crameries.

The moderate men seen that both parties were makin’ fools av themselves, for the place wasn’t big enough  for two; but moderate men are scarce in our parts, an’ they could do nothin’ to soothe matthers down. Whin the party work is on, it’s little either side thinks av the good av thimselves or the counthry either.

It’s “niver mind a dig yourself if ye get a slap at the other fellow.”

So notices was sent out for a meetin’ to wind up the Society, an’ there was a powerful musther av both sides, for fear either of them might get an advantage over the other wan.

To keep clear av trouble it was to be held in the Market house.

The night av the meetin’ come; an’ when I got into the room who should I see on the platform but Major Donaldson an’ Father Connolly. An’ thin I begin to wondher what was on.

For the Major was too aisy-goin’ and kindly to mix himself up wi’ party-work, an’ Father Connolly was well known to be terrible down on it, too.

So a sort av a mutther begin to run through the meetin’ that there was goin’ to be an attempt to patch up the split.

Some was glad and not afraid to say it; but the most looked sour an’ said nothin’; an’ wee Billy and Tammas McGorrian kept movin’ in an’ out among their friends an’ swearin’ them to stand firm.

When the room was well filled, an’ iverybody settled down, the Major gets on his feet.

“Ladies an’ gentlemen,” sez he—the Major was always polite if it was only a travellin’ tinker he was spakin’ to—“Ladies an’ gentlemen, you know why we’ve met here to-night—to wind up the Ballygullion Cramery Society. I wish windin’ up meant that it  would go on all the better; but, unfortunately, windin’ up a Society isn’t like windin’ up a clock.”

“Now, I’m not going to detain you; but before we proceed, I’d like you to listen to Father Connolly here for a minute or two. I may tell you he’s goin’ to express my opinion as well as his own. I needn’t ask you to give him an’ attentive hearin’; ye all know, as well as I do, that what he says is worth listenin’ to.” An’ down the Major sits.

Thin Father Connolly comes forward an’ looks roun’ a minit or so before spakin’. Most av his own people that catched his eye looked down mighty quick, for they all had an idea he wouldn’t think much av what had been goin’ on.

But wee Billy braces himself up an’ looks very fierce, as much as to say “there’ll no praste ordher me about,” and Tammas looks down at his feet wi’ his teeth set, much as if he meant the same.

“Men an’ wimmin av Ballygullion,” sez Father Connolly—he was aye a plain-spoken wee man—“we’re met here to end up the United Cramery Society, and after that we’re goin’ to start two societies, I hear.

“The sinsible men av Ballygullion sees that it would be altogether absurd an’ ridiculous for Catholics an’ Protestants, Home Rulers an’ Unionists, to work together in anything at all. As they say, the two parties is altogether opposed in everything that’s important.

“The wan keep St. Patrick’s Day for a holiday, and the other the Twelfth av July; the colours of the one is green, an’ the colours of the other orange; the wan wants to send their Mimbers av Parliament to College Green, and the other to Westminster; an’ there are a lot more differences just as important as these.

“It’s thrue,” goes on the Father, “that some ignorant persons says that, after all, the two parties live in the same counthry, undher the same sky, wi’ the same sun shinin’ on them an’ the same rain wettin’ thim; an’ that what’s good for that counthry is good for both parties, an’ what’s bad for it is bad for both; that they live side by side as neighbours, an’ buy and sell among wan another, an’ that nobody has iver seen that there was twinty-one shillin’s in a Catholic pound, an’ nineteen in a Protestant pound, or the other way about; an’ that, although they go about it in different ways, they worship the same God, the God that made both av thim; but I needn’t tell ye that these are only a few silly bodies, an’ don’t riprisint the opinion av the counthry.”

A good many people in the hall was lookin’ foolish enough be this time, an’ iverybody was waitin’ to hear the Father tell them to make it up, an’ most av them willin’ enough to do it. The major was leanin’ back, looking well satisfied.

“Now,” sez Father Connolly, “after what I’ve said, I needn’t tell ye that I’m av the opinion av the sinsible men, and I think that by all manes we should have a Catholic cramery and a Protestant wan.”

The Major sits up wi’ a start, an’ wan looks at the other all over the room.

“The only thing that bothers me,” sez the Father, goin’ on an’ takin’ no notice, “is the difficulty av doin’ it. It’s aisy enough to sort out the Catholic farmers from the Protestant; but what about the cattle?” sez he.

“If a man rears up a calf till it becomes a cow, there’s no doubt that cow must be Nationalist or Orange. She couldn’t help it, livin’ in this country. Now, what are you going to do when a Nationalist buys an Orange  cow? Tammas McGorrian bought a cow from wee Billy there last month that Billy bred an’ reared himself. Do ye mane to tell me that’s a Nationalist cow? I tell ye what it is, boys,” sez the Father, wi’ his eyes twinklin’, “wan can av that cow’s milk in a Nationalist cramery would turn the butther as yellow as the shutters av the Orange Hall.”

By this time there was a smudge av a laugh on iverybody’s face, an’ even Tammas an’ wee Billy couldn’t help crackin’ a smile.

“Now,” sez Father Connolly, “afther all, it’s aisy enough in the case of Tammas’s cow. There’s no denyin’ she’s an Orange cow, an’ either Tammas may go to the Orange cramery or give the cow back to Billy.”

Tammas sits up a bit at that.

“But, thin, there’s a lot of mighty curious cases. There’s my own wee Kerry. Iverybody knows I bred her myself; but, thin, there’s no denyin’ that her father—if that’s the right way to spake av a bull—belonged to Major Donaldson here, an’ was called ‘Prince of Orange.’ Now, be the law, a child follows its father in these matters, an’ I’m bound be it to send the wee Kerry’s milk to the Orange cramery, although I’ll maintain she’s as good a Nationalist as ever stepped; didn’t she thramp down ivery Orange lily in Billy Black’s garden only last Monday?

“So, boys, whin you think the matter out, ye’ll see it’s no aisy matther this separatin’ av Orange an’ Green in the cramery. For, if ye do it right—and I’m for no half-measures—ye’ll have to get the pedigree av ivery bull, cow, and calf in the counthry, an’ then ye’ll be little further on, for there’s a lot av bastes come in every year from Americay that’s little better than haythin’.

“But, if ye take my advice, those av ye that isn’t sure av your cows’ll just go on quietly together in the manetime, an’ let thim that has got a rale thrue-blue baste av either persuasion just keep her milk to themselves, and skim it in the ould-fashioned way wi’ a spoon.”

There was a good dale av sniggerin’ whin the Father was spakin’; but ye should have heard the roar of a laugh there was whin he sat down. An’ just as it was dyin’ away, the Major rises, wipin’ his eyes—

“Boys,” sez he, “if it’s the will av the prisint company that the Ballygullion Cramery Society go on, will ye rise an’ give three cheers for Father Pether Connolly?”

Ivery man, woman, an’ child—Protestant and Catholic—was on their feet in a minit; an’ if the Ballygullion Market-house roof didn’t rise that night, it’s safe till etarnity.

From that night on there was niver another word av windin’ up or splittin’ either. An’ if ever ye come across a print av butther wi’ a wreath of shamrocks an’ orange-lilies on it, ye’ll know it come from the Ballygullion Cramery Society, Limited.