I’ve been reading the memoir Better Late Than Never... by Father Gerry McAteer, who came from around Matty’s part of the world. The Wee Bro bought it for her and she devoured it in two days. I’m taking a bit more time over it as I keep rushing to the internet to google stuff that he’s writing about. A chance remark that he spent time cutting turf in Sloggan Moss ‘above Randalstown’ lead me to an account of an event in 1835 referred to as a bog burst. It was fascinating. I got the OS maps out and found out exactly where it happened and some of these days I’ll be going for a wander around it. But I’ll have to mind my step and keep a bit of a lookout in case it swallows me up or carries me off. It seems there is far more to fear in the bog than falling into a moss hole.
The bog began swelling on the 17th September. It had reportedly rose to a height of 30 feet before starting to move forward in the late afternoon. It moved slowly forward for several days, first in a north-easterly direction then changing course towards the west. By all accounts the people of the country watched anxiously to see what it might do next.
...it moved but little until Friday the 23rd; when about three in the afternoon, it rushed suddenly forward with the speed, as the peasants expressed it, of a race horse: they found it impossible to keep up with it. It was while pressing thus rapidly onwards, that a hare, pursued by some boys and a dog, leaped on the bog, and, jumping from tuft to tuft, succeeded in reaching the centre of the morass, where it was seen struggling for several minutes, but at last disappeared in the torrent of black mud that flowed down upon it. The dog followed; but terrified at feeling the ground moving, as it were, from right under his feet, and gradually giving way, leaped off again, and ran away with his tail between his legs, evidently much frightened. (Hunter, Magazine of Natural History, Vol IX, pp251-260)
By the 25th the travelling bog reached the River Maine where, over a period of several days, it was carried into Lough Neagh.
And fortunately there was no injury or loss of life apart from the hare and the salmon and trout killed when the bog entered the river. The fish did not go to waste for they were gathered up in their hundreds by the country people from miles around.
The Belfast to Derry mail coach was greatly inconvenienced as, by all accounts, it took forty men many days to clear the debris from the main road running between Ballymena and Randalstown.
I've found this account engrossing to read about but what does rankle me is, I knew people, people from 'around our doors', like Paddy Heffron and even my own father, who might have had first hand accounts of these happenings from their own grandparents. It's far too late to ask them now.
My next blog will give an account of how Father McAteer renounced the evil nicotine. It's so good it needs to be passed on.