Welcome to Crossakiel

Christina received a lovely letter from a man called Neil Booker who used to live in Crossakiel as a young boy.  Neil has kindly given use permission to print his letter which includes great memories about the time he spend living in Crossakiel.  Neil's sister (Noelle Weir/Booker) has provided us with some photos relating to the church and the local area.
 
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Dear Christina

The last time I was in Crossakiel the roof was on the church and the graveyard overgrown. As we walked in expecting it to be the same and seeing you in the corner working on the flowerbed, and the graves all cut, it was a very emotional moment for me.

letter_neilbookerThe fact that you lived in the barracks brought back many memories. There was a Sergeant O’Hare (I believe), also two guards Ryan and Keirns. Ryan only issued one summons that I know of to a lady who let her cow roam the roads feeding along the edges. At court she was fined 7 shillings which the guard paid because he felt sorry for her! Times have changed. letter Neil Booker

The only other contact I had from Crossakiel was a Lawrence Carolan who grew up in the village. The family was very musical. I had heard he lived in Kells now so I looked up his number and spoke to him that day we visited Crossakiel. Jim, his brother, was my age (we were like brothers) and had joined the RAF in 1943. I hadn’t heard of him since then. It was great to talk to him on the phone.

The pump in the village used to have a horse trough and supplied water to most of the village. It seemed to have an endless supply of water. We had a well in our backyard. The moate (as we called it) used to be higher. The gardens of the shop at your corner back on to it. Lawrence Carolan told me his brother tried to find out if it was hollow and slid a crowbar through and they heard a clang on a stone floor inside. There are two other examples of the moate. They are about 35-40 feet high, sloped like a beehive and quite steep. One is in Clonabrany area, the other Loughcrew. Cromwell had been encamped in Crossakiel as it was high ground with great visibility. All of Ireland was crown land claimed by Henry VIII. Cromwell gave all the land in the valley towards Oldcastle to Wade. I know our family rented the land from him and must have finally bought it. I believe our forefathers were Hugeknots from France or Germany.

Events I remember:-

Point to point horse races. The largest event run by the Ballymacad Hunt Club. My dad was secretary of it. The course was 7 miles long and it had 8 or 9 jumps. It was very challenging so horses came from all over as a rehearsal for the Grand National at Aintree. I would say there were thousands, including bookies and Dublin Street vendors selling race cards and all sorts of goods.

The village fair were cattle, horses and other animals were sold. To encourage buyers to come my mother decided to make lunches. My father was walking up to the green and a man asked him where was “Bookers Ating House” and was the food good. Dad said “it’s not bad”!

We had a carnival week advertising the largest sprung maple dance floor. People were nailing the floor and laying it in the tent for weeks. Big bands played there every night for a week. It was down along the wall right opposite your house. I think the Hunt Club ran that as well. The pubs were busy!

The Royal Irish Constabulary Barracks was a house right beside the church. From 1916-1924 were dangerous times. The IRA burnt the barracks to the ground. Our family lived next door. (Attached to it) The walls were so thick our house was not burnt. Between 1922 and 1929 my father rebuilt the big house – he must have bought it. I was the first of the family to be born there.

This is beginning to sound like “this is your life”. The chances of not meeting you at the church were great. It certainly was a joy to meet you. Coming from the Outer Hebrides to Crossakiel and caring for the resting place of our ancestors has got to be a story in itself.

I thank you

Yours

Neil Booker

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