Jun 27 2008

Standing on Broombridge

Published by at 4:57 pm under News

broombridge-1-img_2383-2.JPG  It seems a strange thing now to be standing here on my own after all these years. There were forty two boys in my class at school and almost every one of them could swim, except me that is. This old bridge was the perfect spot back then for diving and jumping into the canal water below. Most mornings during our summer holidays nearly all of us would gather here on the brow of the bridge to plan some kind of adventure for the day. Some lads would arrive with a piece of torn bed sheet or part of an old towel under their arm with their swimming nicks wrapped inside. If a boy had an S-Belt with a snake for the buckle he’d tie it around his bundle to keep everything together. Most of the boys however would run up and down the canal bank to dry off in the warm sunshine. I would sit on the bank with my feet dangling lazily in the water shouting and cheering up at the boys flying through the air and watch them land with a splash into the canal. There were of course some boys who had no swimming nicks with them. They would quickly look around to see if any adult was watching and when the coast was clear they’d leap over the bridge as naked as the day they were born. With screams and roars of delight they too would plunge into the cold canal water below. We had a great life back then without a worry in the world. After a while some of the boys would head across the open fields to the Cabra baths for more swimming. Sometimes my little gang would head further up the canal where there was always a man fishing who never seemed to catch anything.  Quite a distance up along the canal bank we knew of a great place to rob an orchard. Along the way we would plan our strategy as to who would go over the wall first and who would keep watch in case anyone came along. We always had to promise to share out all of the robbed apples equally amongst those who had to keep watch. The excitement and noise amongst us would build up as we came nearer to our goal. Before going over the wall we had to make sure we shoved our shirts or jumpers down the front of our trousers. This is where we stored the stolen apples as we picked them off the trees. This was an easy orchard to rob because it belonged to the nuns and they couldn’t run fast enough to catch any of us. Our little hearts would pound like hammers inside our chests as we’d make a mad charge back down along the canal bank. For some strange reason the apples we robbed were always green and sour. The man with the fishing rod would offer one of the boys a pull on his cigarette in exchange for some of his apples.  We were like the Durango Kid and his gang of cowboys as we galloped along pretending we were on horseback. Out of the blue the old Mullingar train would come plodding along on its track. We’d all pretend that we were going to hold up the train and rob its cargo of gold bars. The dust along the canal bank would rise up into a cloud as we galloped even harder to keep up with the train. Some of the lads would fling their apples across the canal water pretending they were throwing bombs at the train. The few passengers looking out at us probably thought we were a bit simple or something. By the time we reached our starting point on the brow of Broombridge it was almost time to go home for our tea or dinner or whatever was on the table. Yes it certainly is a strange thing to stand here and remember all of those young boys whose names I can barely recall and whose faces I’ll never forget. Where are they all now I ask myself? Do they too remember what I do of Broombridge and the Royal Canal? Perhaps some day we’ll all meet here again and share our stories with each other…MC

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