Saturday, 17 October 2020

Belle Isle: IV

Corrard ca 1970 (Image: Julian Brown)


The summers of our childhood were always sunny; or, looking back, that is how it seems.

I recall my father Esmond saying just that.

His youthful recollections of life on the family farm, Corrard, in County Fermanagh, were of days filled with sunshine.

He was born in the 1920s, and his early memories included being ‘glued’ to an old Bush valve radio during World War Two, listening to Lord Haw-Haw broadcasting propaganda from Germany.

His long summer days were spent on the land or on Lough Erne.

Once the chores and daily tasks of the farm were in hand, he would go fishing or rabbiting or shooting. 

My father told a story of how, as a young man, he put his hand down a rabbit hole and a rat bit him. 

The rat clamped its teeth and would not let go of his finger.

My grandfather, John James Brown (Esmond’s father) removed the rat by cutting the end of my father’s finger away with a pen knife!

My grandmother Margaret Brown’s larder was well supplemented during the war; the family was insulated from the full effects of rationing due to my father’s activities.

In addition, my grandmother was practically self-sufficient: Vegetables were grown and stored; fruit was abundant in the Corrard orchard and was bottled, preserved and made into wine; hens, ducks, geese and turkeys were kept, as were dairy animals, beef cattle, pigs and sheep.

My grandmother had a pony and trap, and every few weeks she would ride into Enniskillen to buy those provisions that she could not grow, like sugar and tea.

I recall her as a very industrious and intelligent woman who did not suffer fools gladly!

Corrard is just across the lake from Belle Isle.

The road into Corrard is less than a mile from the road to the island of Belle Isle.

Corrard had once been the seat of the King baronets, and Sir Charles had owned it until his death in 1920.

The two estates, Belle Isle and Corrard, are separated by a thin ribbon of the water at one point, a mere hundred yards or so.

In winters gone by, Lough Erne could surround Corrard and it became an island, when the waters rose in winter.

I recall flooding during winters in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Lough came up and Corrard did become an island for a short time.

The approach into Corrard is by means of a steep, downward hill, through a pair of imposing stone gate-posts.

I remember beautiful white gates hung here, when I was a child, but they were removed many years ago.

At this point there is a crossroads, and it was here that the road could flood.

Beyond the crossroads is a steep hill leading to what was the mansion at Corrard.

The roads that fork to the left and the right led, in former times, to cottages that belonged to the estate.

There were, at one time, five cottages.

For anyone who knows Corrard the cottages were, on the point hill, at Innishbeg gravel pit, at what became the Glenn farm, in the Church Meadow and near the Lough shore behind Corrard House.

Corrard House was badly damaged by fire in 1921.

My grandfather knocked half of the house down and restored the remainder when he and my grandmother acquired Corrard in 1921.

My father was brought up on the land and the Lough.

He worked the land with love and knew every mood of the Lough.

He would go out in a boat in all weathers and was fearless.

As a young man, having finished his schooling at Portora, in Enniskillen, he worked with his father on Corrard.

His brother Cyril was, during the Second World War, a ‘Pathfinder’ in the Royal Air Force.

My father’s war contribution was made by increasing the yield from the farm.

Esmond was enterprising and modern in outlook: he wanted a tractor and machinery.

To this end, he began logging timber and floating it down the Lough for milling and sale.

Esmond is famous, too, for driving a tractor across the Lough from Corrard to Belle Isle in the hard winter of 1963 when Lough Erne was frozen!

This, and other hair raising escapades, are another story for another time! 

First published in May, 2012.


The FitzGerald said...

that must have been a very hard winterto to drive as tractor on the ice but I think he knw what he waas doing ...I seem to recall that water as very very shallow especially around its edges ...still......risking a trac tor at those times? replacements weren't easily come by

Sally Legg said...

Hello Marguerite,

Margaret Jane Brown's maiden name was Humphries (I know as she was my grandmother), not Molyneux.

Sally Legg (nee McMorris)

Julian Brown said...

Hello Sally. I have just realised that you are my cousin, Aunt Beatrice's daugher. I knew Terry and Ann when they lived for a time at Corrard but never met you. It would be good to hear from you? Corrard was a magical and very beautiful place. An enchanted oasis. Julian Esmon Brown.

Sally Legg said...

Hello Cousin Julian
We've never met, but I too remember Corrard as a magical place for a young child. It's been lovely to read your memories and learn some family history at the same time.