'I am back as a little girl peeping out through the curtains, looking at the men staggering under the enormous drums, battering them until their wrists bled'

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'I am back as a little girl peeping out through the curtains, looking at the men staggering under the enormous drums, battering them until their wrists bled'


Mary reflects upon growing up in Cloughmills, Co. Antrim and the relationship between the Catholic and Protestant communties in the village. She notes that by and large the relations between people were harmonious. However, she recalls tensions arising during the July marches.


Mary Dynan


Trinity College Dublin




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Mary Dynan

Is Part Of

Childhood and Early Life


Life Story

Spatial Coverage

Cloughmills, Co. Antrim

Temporal Coverage


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I suppose Cloughmills was a special place in that in the Northern Irish context, for most of the time, there were harmonious relations between the people. Our parish of Dunloy and Cloughmills had three centres of population. At one end was Dunloy, predominantly Catholic and nationalist, with great enthusiasm for Gaelic games and in the days of my youth very successful teams. Clough was at the other end of the parish and it was predominantly Protestant and Orange. No Catholics lived there and even driving through in the bus we felt a frisson of fear. And Cloughmills was in the middle where the two communities met. While we lived together in harmony for the most part, it would not be right to say that the dark side of the music of Ireland did not impinge, particularly from the 1 to the 12 July each year. Then we heard Irish tunes with words that hurt, as people sang about kicking the Pope down Dolly's Brae, and all the access roads to the village got their annual dose of paint announcing that there was 'No Pope Here'. Seamus Heaney's poem Orange Drums, Tyrone 1966 really strikes a chord of truth for me and I am back as a little girl peeping out through the curtains, looking at the men staggering under the enormous drums, battering them until their wrists bled, at the drumming competition which took place every year on the 'Twelfth' eve at Patton's barn on the other side of the street. And all the drumming said, even to a 6 - 7 year old 'Croppies lie down'. The odd thing in Cloughmills, was that many of the people who looked so fierce and frightening were employed by my family and on the day after the twelfth would be smiling benignly at 'wee Mary'. The lambeg balloons at his belly, weighs Him back on his haunches, lodging thunder Grossly there between his chin and his knees, He is raised up by what he buckles under. Each arm extended by a seasoned rod, he parades behind it. And though the drummers Are granted passage through the nodding crowd it is the drums preside, like giant tumours. To every cocked ear, expert in its greed, His battered signature subscribes 'No Pope'. The pigskin's scourged until his knuckles bleed. The air is pounding like a stethoscope. The scene had not changed in Tyrone 1966 from Antrim 1946, though that year my grandmother, who lived next door, died on 11 July and the bands and drumming in the 'Twelfth' parade were stopped and it passed the house in silence out of respect for her and her family. In Cloughmills Tennis Hall we had dancing classes run by Sally McCarley, a wee dynamic protestant lady from Ballymena. She taught Irish and tap, and entered her pupils for the Feis. I remember teaching some of my protestant fellow competitors to bless themselves in Irish, because they couldn't qualify to enter the dancing competition unless they could say something in the language! Then she had a concert in the Tennis Hall coming from her other angle, and all of us were lined up as the army and the navy and the airforce. Anne and I were pressganged as sailors and danced the Sailor's Hornpipe, Barney and Alastair were soldiers with tin hats singing 'Pack up your Troubles', Roisin was a different sort of soldier marching around and singing Kiss me Good Night Sergeant Major That was OK, but at the end of the show when the curtain went up and God Save the King struck up, half the cast went on strike! I can remember standing there with my mouth tight shut. I think my grandmother who was the guest of honour in the front row was mortified. I loved reading and could not get enough books. The Rev Hughes, the local Anglican minister, used to call each Sunday on his way to the service at Drumadoon with the library box. I was in the 'William' phase and he always had a 'William' book for me. This was different from the people who worshipped at the Meeting House. If we were out playing in the garden on Sunday afternoon as they came or went to their service, dressed in black - the men - or in their very formal Sunday best, carrying what seemed to us enormous black bibles, we had to get inside for fear of giving offence. My experience then was one of a community where people for the most part lived and let live. We children played together and generally only in the run up to the 'Twelfth' did community tensions obtrude. One notable exception was when Fr Leonard started a GAA club, and the Presbyterian minister at Ballyweaney so worked up his flock about the potential desecration of the Sabbath that this would bring about, that they broke all the windows in the houses of people associated with the venture and dug up the playing field. They also made a grave in the middle of the field on which they put the inscription 'To the memory of the Rev Vincent Leonard'. I cannot remember any retaliatory measures on the part of the GAA club, which played its first game the next Sunday despite the damage. However I do remember the hushed tones in which over the next year the series of disasters and misfortunes, from serious car accidents to suicide, which befell the perpetrators of those who so insulted 'the priest' were discussed. Vengeance was seen to be the Lord's.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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