Gerry McLaughlin, known by most as a news and sports journalist, has many strings to his bow, among them a love for reading and writing poetry. He has penned this poem which is about Christmas in Corlea, a small border townland near Belleek, to where his father Willie came in 1925.
Gerry told us: "It was and is a magical place and will hold my heart forever. I hope you enjoy this poem about it."
A Corlea Christmas 1930s
The stars of Heaven are shining brightly over the Red Hill
And a sickle moon is wrapped warm in a soft cloud
There are razor blades in the breeze from Bonahill
But I am kept warm in a townland of trees
And will never feel the winter chill
For Christmas is coming to Corlea.
Eddie Moore touches the bow and plays the Coolin
And his 22-year-old heart beats faster
For he knows his true love
Is coming around the valley with her greatest gift
A smile that could open Heaven above
There’s music from the byre as Willie milks the grey cow.
Standing stately like a queen of the land
And the calves are calling quietly from the stable
For they know that Joseph Mary and Jesus are their eternal band
Up in Belleek the pubs are heaving with banter and bile
Raised voices, a few broken glasses and even noses and hearts
As breast- fed feuds are taken to town.
And the men with too much drink slink into Midnight Mass
For Christmas is a terrible time to fall out of love and into hate
But my five year-old heart is waiting on the one with the white beard.
The one who will be flying in from Cashelard
With all my hopes and dreams on board
Barney Daly, from the blue-eyed breed of the bards
Shafted a shovel for Gerry ‘The Bull” McBarron
And it was brought back to the “Bull”
Wrapped up in the bars of a rhyme
Billy Moore is making some home- made beer
And Thomas John Ward is shaking his shoulders
Reddened with rum and black and telling all
How he spotted the banshee as clear as
You would see a white cow in a bog.
And I am watching my mother Rose, who always cried
When Eddie Moore played the Coolin.
A song of loss and loneliness stealing over icy ash trees
A song for the young who don’t know the sorrow of true love
On Eddie’s singing fiddle before the flickering flames of Christmas
But Corlea never bent the knee to the stranger
And there was always something sharper than straw in the thatch
And gold whiskey and “white lightning” soon loosened
Tongues around the flickering flames as they remembered
Major Moore and his mistress Madame Bideau.
They weren’t the worst but their kind were happy
To see the natives pushed back to rushy hills.
To see caps doffed in sullen silence
And Irish rents to pay the bills for living on their own land
It is later now and the stars of Heaven are still over the Red Hill.
And the sickle moon is the wing of an angel.
The two big oaks on McCann’s Mountain
Are surely the Father and Holy Ghost
Watching the baby Jesus, in the stable of Christmas in Corlea