Chapter 8


In the 1970's, fishing in the lake was a great pastime for a lot of local men. The lake was periodically stocked after the Department of Agriculture took over in 1960. Many an enjoyable hour was spent with Tony McAllister and his stories. Tony was a Forester in the Demesne and loved fishing. He had a Golden Labrador Dog called 'Mick' - his best friend and star of all his tales. It is a fact, if a Fisherman's float flew off when casting, Mick would swim out and bring it back to the owner, but Tony remembered the stormy day the lake was very rough and Mick ran into difficulties. The dog had to burst every bubble on the lake until it found the one that wouldn't burst - then it knew it had the right one. Such was the determination of that dog. To further Mick's education, Tony brought the dog to a weekly Obedience Class in Ballynahinch, which finished the term with a prize-giving exam. According to Tony, at this event, Mick could be seen to be highiy embarrassed parading around with all the fancy little poodles, though he did the best he could. While the Judges

Tony McAlister with his greatest.

Tony McAlister with his greatest achievement. When he pulled this fish out the water level went down a foot.
were summing-up, Tony sat on an empty mineral box in the corner of the hall with Mick at his side looking extremely worried. As the name of a lady with her little Chihuahua was called for third place, and a man with his Collie for second, the nervous Mick began to edge behind the mineral box in an effort to get out of sight. But when the name Mick McAllister was announced for first place, Tony said "You should have seen the look on the ol' bastard's face when he knew he had it". Two weeks later, Tony was invited to bring Mick to Ballynahinch for an Obedience Display at that Town's Civic Week, unfortunately, all efforts to get Mick to perform were in vain. He just went on strike and let Tony and the whole Town of Castlewellan down. Tony died in 1980 and the fishing in the lake has not been the same since.

The Group of Men responsible for restarting the Horse Show.

The Group of Men responsible for restarting the Horse Show.
Left to Right: Wallace Shaw, The Furniture Man; Charlie McCrum,
Newcastle, Home Bakery; John Kennedy, Farmer from dough; Alfie Colgan, Dentist;
Paddy Kelly, The Town's Blacksmith; Harry Caruth, Teacher and Grocer,
who had entered a wooden lorry (when a child) in the infancy of the show in the 30's,
and finally Jose McComiskey the R.U.C. Sergeant in Castlewellan at that time. 1968.

The Castlewellan Agricultural Show first started in 1928, being held in the Demesne and always in the Month of July. In the peak year, 1930, there were thousands of exhibits as well as the entries. The first prize for all classes of horses and cattle, was, 1, second, 15 shillings and third 10 shillings. A special prize for sheep was a tin of Sheep Dip. Every class and breed of fowl and farm animal was to be seen on that day. The Handicraft and Art entries were so large, and mostly from the Town that it took fifty women and a few men to judge that lot. In the Wildflower Section more young boys than anyone else were competitors. The prizes for those entries, first 5 shillings, second 3 shillings and third 2 shillings. All the Hardware Stores in the Town sold every type of horse drawn farm machinery at that time and had it all on display at the show. There were also wooden hen house, huts of all shapes and sizes, and the running noise of the variety of stationary engines showing their potential, kept the thousands of visitors busy for the whole day. The Show was discontinued at the start of the War in 1939 and in 1968 was restarted as a Horse Show only. It is still little more than a horse show today. (see photo).

All those men are horse lovers, but this was unknown to a stout little man who spoke with an Italian accent and drifted into Castlewellan about 1970. He said he came from Armagh, and with his wife, set upswingboats beside the Corncrame. It was Autumn time and one Thursday in a deserted Town, this wee man called at Mullen's Garage for a gallon of petrol for his lighting generator. There was a bitter wind blowing, strong enough to hurl a large bush up the street. With shivering voice this stranger remarked "This is the greatest one horse... " and halted, for, at that second, McComiskey walked round the hotel corner with a horse in each hand. "Jeany" cried the man ".... two horse town I was ever in ". This couldn't be right, because Wallace Shaw, Alfie Colgan and Harry Caruth all had horses and that added up to more than two. Obviously business wasn't too good with the Armagh Italian and only lets one see how far the kids of today have advanced in interest beyond the swing boat.