This project is about the history of the people who inhabited the necklace of townlands, which hang from the peaks of Sliabh-an-Iarainn and Ben Croy, between the towns of Drumshanbo and Ballinamore and the areas in it's shadow.
It is dedicated to the memory of the Ultachs, who were displaced from their Ulster homes in 1795 and came to live on the mountainside. To those who tragically lost their lives in the famine and are buried in mass famine graves on the mountainside. To the large number of our people , who died on coffin ships, in their flight away from deprivation, hunger and disease. To the emigrants forced by circumstances to live their lives in foreign lands – we thank you for your loyalty and remember you with pride. And to all those who, despite all obstacles managed to eek out a living on Sliabh-an-Iarainn, and build a wonderful, well integrated and contented community upon a foundation of peace and justice.
The project started in 2004 with the idea that this area had a special story to tell. With the vast changes taking place in our time, the story, if not told now, could be lost forever.
Phase 1 of the project produced books in three volumes: Mountain Echoes (vol.1), Mountain Shadows (vol.2) and Mountain Roots (vol.3). These contain historical facts, photographs and unique personal accounts of a shared way of life, all of which together make up a living, vibrant treasury, which we of this generation can proudly pass on to the next.
Famine and Emigration inflicted horrific pain on the mountain people as is outlined in a number of articles ie: “Famine on the Mountain”- Mountain Roots, (vol.3)
“The Scattering”- Mountain Roots (vol.3)
“No week went past without an American wake on the mountainside. No sooner had children finished national school than they were on their way to America, Canada, England,............We can only imagine the loneliness and distress as parents, grandparents, neighbours, relatives and friends said goodbye to their loved ones almost certainly never to see them again and in most cases they never did”.
In “Drumshanbo in the Rare auld Times”- Mountain Echoes (vol.1) Noel McPartland outlines how his father, a sub agent for the Cunard White Star Line, worked very closely with Christie Lee of Aughacashel, who was the main agent. They made all the travel arrangements for the many emigrants going to the U.S in particular in the 1940's and 1950's. His father would drive people to Cobh or Rinneanna (now Shannon), a journey he made 3 or 4 times a month. The sea voyage took 7-9 days before arriving at pier 50 in New York.
As you queue to get parking across the border or to take the plane to New York to do your . christmas shopping remember the excitement of going to Daly's in Drumshanbo to be togged out “Aeroplane value at submarine prices”- Mountain Echoes (vol.1), where “if the amount of goods purchased looked like becoming a decent sized parcel the customer was asked “are you cycling or do you have a lift?” If you were cycling the goods were wrapped in strong brown paper with a , double length of twine and finished off with a “handle” made from twine which enabled the customer to slip the parcel around the handlebars of the bike”.
With the long winter nights approaching and after you go online to book in your livestock for sale at next week's mart you can read, among many farming stories, “The Harvest Fair”- Mountain Echoes (vol.1) “The countryside seemed alive with the sound of animals- Tommy Moran shouted out instructions to Rose with the same urgency as if he had his finger on the Nuclear button............slowly we moved on towards the town. There were more and more cattle on the road now and dealers were springing up like mushrooms, bargains were being made at every turn, much slapping of hands, spitting on palms, splitting the difference and of course the luck penny”.
In Mountain Shadows (vol.2) Mary Ann McGirr recalls:
“I stole a glance back at the mountain where I had spent all my life and the tears came into my eyes. What was in front of me and how would I cope? How would I live with this man beside me who was a stranger? Would I get on with his mother? Would she like me? Maybe she would be like the mother I never knew”.
The resilience of the Mountain people, whatever way they made their living, is aptly summed up by Paddy Wynne in “Remembering the Aghacashel Mines” Mountain Echoes (vol.1) where he says:
“Miners were ordinary men working in an extraordinary environment and, for better or worse, our kind will most definitely never come again”.
'The Head Sheaf '
On 1st. August 2010 a 222 page book was launched putting 'The Head Sheaf' on this project.
The book comprises 47 new specially commissioned articles as well as 8 historically important
articles from the previous three volumes and circa 250 new photographs.