Reminiscences of my Grandfather James Brown as dictated to his daughter
Nora Brown in the winter of 1904-5
Recorded by Alice G. G. Brown for George Ithell in 1982.
Wages were very low prior to the 47 famine, 4 shillings a week was the usual wages for a labouring man, but my father always paid his men five shillings. Some farmers gave their men food instead of wages and I was told by a man in Omagh of a neighbour of his who hired his men on these terms, but would just not feed them on Sundays and gave them a penny instead. Servant girls were paid as low as five shillings a quarter, but by late November when food was dear, many were glad to work for their food with out any wages. After the famine emigration increased largely, and wages have never been so low since.
The Donaghmore Brewery was owned by Mr Alexander McKenzie who lived in Malligdown? and by my uncle Mr James King who lived in the cottage. He was one of my mother’s three brothers Alexander who married Miss Turnbull, and lived in Mahon, and Henry who became a Doctor in the navy being the others, James married Miss Trimble of Clocka? On retiring from the Navy Henry married Miss (somebody) and lived in Castlecaulfield in the house now occupied by Mr David Achison. My mother had two sisters, one married William Struthie and the other Hugh Weir.
Robert Brown’s two sons, Lawrence killed in action in 1914-18 War, and Oliver who became a Missionary, from an original photograph which was later produced as an advertising post card
The brewery by then had became such a prosperous concern that I can remember 28 carts loaded with beer and whiskey leaving it in a single morning. Mr Corone who came as a book keeper afterwards became a partner in the business together with Mr George Slithen who was a nephew of Mr McKenzie and lived in Dungannon where they had another brewery on the site of the present railway station. In my recollection it was not used as a brewery but the buildings were turned into a corn store. Part of the premises now used by Messrs Dickson as a bacon factory and then a distillery owned by Mr John Falls. In 1841 Mr Falls opposed Lord Lochlan as parliamentary representative for Dungannon and the Labour latter gained his seat, a very bitter spirit was aroused. The woollen traders of Dungannon having sided with Falls the local gentry boycotted them and bought their goods from Silas Weir of Cookstown. This boycotting affected some so severely that they had to emigrate to America, amongst these being Henry Oliver and Richard Tenner and although this seemed a hardship at the time the families of both succeeded much better in America than they ever could have done in Ireland.
The Presbyterian Minister of Castlecaulfield was the Rev. John Bridge who read his services in the old Meeting House which had been one of the out buildings of the Castle. He became very unpopular owing to his having failed to attend the Omagh Assizes to give a character to a man called Ritchie who was tried and afterwards hanged for murder. It was a party quarrel and he was said to have struck with his spade shaft the man who was killed In consequence of this Mr Bridge left Castlecaulfield and was succeeded by the Rev. Joseph Acheson who married my sister Amelia. He preached at the Old Castle until he built the present Meeting House in 1841.
The character present preaching at this time was the Rev. Robert Hollafield, an excellent man who worked very devotedly for the spiritual and temporal well being of his people.
John Wesley visited Castlecaulfield on one of his tours of Ireland and my grandmother who was a Godly woman took my father though a little boy to hear him preach there. He said the circumstances impressed him very much and the seed then sown did not fall on stony ground. There were two doctors in Donaghmore, Doctor Neill and Doctor Corr, the following had retired from the Navy and did not practice much. He lived in a cottage on the site of which side a bank was after built. Doctor Corr was the general practishioner and a Roman Catholic he was followed by Doctor McMullan and Doctor McClean. Mrs McClean and Mrs Corr assisted their husbands in their practice and continued it after they became widows. Both were celebrated for pulling teeth, Mrs Corr was said to have removed an inch and a quarter of Thomas Hoggets jaw bone along with the tooth one day. In later years Doctor Henry A’Way? had a considerable practice in this neighbourhood, Doctor Nevill of Dungannon being dispensery Doctor.
When anyone in my young day required a suit he took the tailor with him to a cloth shop together they choose the stuff which was taken home by the tailor to make up, in the same way the shoemaker went with the customer who required boots or shoes and helped to choose a piece of leather of which to make them. In the country there were no shops where ready made goods could be had. The shoemaker in Donaghmore used to make cheap shoes and take them to Dungannon to the market where they were sold on the streets. It was a common sight to see the women on the market day, sitting down at the foot of Gallows Hill to wash their feet in the little stream before putting on their shoes and stockings they had carried so far, and which they only intended to wear in the town.
There was then a court for the recovery of small debts called the Seneshals Court which was held monthly in Dunleys public house. Donald McKenzie was the seneshal and he called a jury of twelve men to help him to ajucicate and it was said he looked under the table to see which men had boots on before deciding who should be foreman
Fees or costs were largely spent on drink for the good of the public house of which there were five in Donaghmore and two on the back road. These courts ceased when the County Court were established.
People here often date from the time of the big wind, that was the 5th of January 1839. It unroofed the brewery coolers and did much damage elsewhere. When George Mahood came to his work next morning, someone asked him how he got on during the night, knowing he had a thatched cottage, ‘Oh all right’ said he ‘I just slept on the roof to keep it on’.
About 1845 Daniel O’Connell was at the height of his popularity a comical illustration of this I had, when talking with a man in Beira, a small grocer who was a great admirer of his. He told me O’Connell had attended Omagh assizes as a barister on one occasion, and that he had ridden into Omagh six miles off that he might see Daniel. He stood about the Courthouse steps until he had the opportunity to shake him by the hand, when telling the story to me afterwards he held his right hand aloft and said emphatically, “and I never put that hand into a herring barrel since”.
Illicit distillation was very prevalent then, so much so that my mother told me on one occasion the military came to Middletown and seized twenty two stills, it is easy to understand what a demoralising effect such a state of things must have entailed.
Footnotes by the Editor
Alice G. G. Brown was the daughter of Robert Brown who with twin brother David organised Ballymaclinton from 1908 to 1910 at Shepherds Bush, London. In 1993 Alice was awarded the M.B.E. for ‘services to the welfare of animals’ being actively engaged for 57 years with the Ulster S.P.C.A..
Barilla was a Mediterranean plant which when burnt produced Alkali. This was used to produce a plain unscented soap and was one of the firms main products with large sales in the colonies, mainly Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. This came about as the result of a book ‘Papers on Health’ published by Professor Kirk, a man with a considerable reputation as a nature cure practitioner of Edinburgh, in which he recommended the use of McClinton’s Barilla Soap for its purity.
About 1820 David Brown started making houshold soap in a room at the back of his grocers and bakery shop for sale to his customers. From this small beginning, he built up a family business. He was succeeded by his son James, who considerably expanded the business until, he was employing upwards of a 100 people in the soap works and a farm. About 1895 he purchased a toilet soap business Messrs McClinton of Belfast and moved the production to Donaghmore.
A long car was an Irish cart where the passengers sat sideways, back to back, also known as a Jaunting car.
After David’s death Robert carried on until he became too old to run the business. There being no-one in the immediate family to succeed him the soap works was sold to a relative Mr David Acheson of Castlecaulfield. Unfortunately he contracted a serious illness and in 1953 it was decided the works must be closed down. The goodwill was purchased by one of the firm’s travellers Mr Smyton, who carried on the business from Dublin. On his death the manufacture of Colleen Soap was taken over by Messrs McCormack of Dun Laoghaire Co. Dublin. Miss Alice G. G. Brown’s notes written in 1977 tells us, as far as she was aware it was still being manufactured at that date.
© Exhibition Study Group 2009