We’d spotted him weaving from side to side on his bike whilst we were in the process of getting lost and he’d cadged a lift from near Donamon Monastery bridge to Castlecoote after we’d asked him where Castlecoote was and where Nonie Golden lived. Luckily he knew Nonie, so we chucked him and his bike into the transit van and he directed us to our destination. Nice bloke. He said he’d see us in the bar that evening and we did, and we bought him all his Guinness all night. Several pints of it.
We still had a few wrong turns to go though. We turned left at the Rovers Return pub (yes, really) and sped along the Fuerty road passing two workers digging at the side of the road, who waved politely at us. I knew we’d gone too far, as there were only open fields in the distance, so we turned round at the Old Forge Inn and set off back, passing the two workmen who again waved politely. At we approached the Rovers Return for the second time, we decided we’d come too far as we’d already been there, so we turned round again, passing the two workmen on our way who again politely waved at us. We came to a right turn but knew it was not the road, that was the road to Castlestrange, so turned round again and went back the way we had come, passing the two workmen who by now had stopped work and were sitting on their shovels. They politely waved then looked at each other as we drove past. They were probably wondering if was groundhog day or maybe it was just four daft Englishmen who were lost.
Eventually we passed the Rover’s Return for the third time and found Lisheen. So we should have turned right at the Rover’s in the first place, but the priest said turn left. Eventually we understood why, because Nonie owned the Old Forge Inn and was more likely to be there than at the Lisheen farmhouse. As coincidence a red Commer came shooting up the drive as we pulled up outside the house. Out got a black haired woman who made her way towards us. We introduced ourselves and she welcomed us into the hall.
Within minutes a bloke came rushing in to talk to Nonie. His name was Jack and he came from Darnall in Sheffield. He had just caught a 35lb pike and he wanted to know if Nonie wanted him to kill it so it could be stuffed and put in a glass case, maybe put it over the bar in the pub. After a brief discussion it was agreed to put it back to live another day. Quite a start.
We were shown to the kitchen and given some home made soda bread and home made jam and several cups of tea then Nonie whizzed off again in her red Commer back to the Old Forge Inn, which was to become our second home for the week, due to the Guinness. The main priority however was to get some petrol for the van. There was a tanker driver’s strike and Ireland was fairly well crippled through a lack of juice. Nonie had two petrol pumps outside the Old Forge Inn so we thought we were in luck, so she stuck the nozzle in our tank, a couple of drops came out, it packed in and that was that, empty!
There had also been a postal strike, and although she had some correspondence from the travel company, nothing had arrived to confirm the booking, not least the monies. Lisheen was fully booked, so we couldn’t stay there. However, Nonie is a very resourceful woman and said follow me, so we did. 5 miles later and lots of twists and turns we turned right up a long gravel driveway signposted “Carrowroe Park”. up to a manor house. It was huge. More about this later on.
After we’d had a chat with the owner, a Mrs Molloy, we dropped our bags and clothes off in our room, which was also huge and did a spot of driving around the area, getting our bearings, looking for the river, the lakes and the pubs. We couldn’t resist getting the fishing tackle out. We went to Stonehams Lough. When I think about it now, what we did was a bit risky, but we were not to know. We tackled up & waded into the reeds, eventually settling for catching loads of rudd. What we didn’t know until a few days later, was that where we had waded was infact a floating reed bed & underneath was a soft deep bog which would catch us out more than once during our first visit to Ireland.
Nonie told us we could use the Priest’s boat at Stonehams during the week, but not on Sunday afternoon as the Priest would be using it. She had a key for the padlock. It was chained up alright but the chain was merely slung over a broken branch. And so began our my Irish odyssey.