Published Monday, 10 September 2012
The Deer's Meadow by the Spelga Dam is a beautiful place in the summer months which is when "boleying" actually happened, and even in the middle of winter it has its undoubted attractions, but standing beside a sod hut in the driving rain with a damp television crew probably isn't one of them.
We were very close to cancelling the whole event, or at least postponing it to another day, for purely humanitarian reasons, when we thought of all the bother Mickey had gone to in constructing the hut - with wood and sods and wire and straw, all of which had to be transported up the mountain and assembled on site. So we decided to soldier on and make the most of it and I'm very glad we did.
They're made of stern stuff in Hilltown and they entered into the spirit of things, even to the extent of wearing period costumes, which might have looked the part but did very little to protect them from the elements.
Their stoicism was contagious. We were cold and wet and we should have been miserable but, in fact, it was one of the most cheerful and enjoyable episodes in this whole series.
Vinny, our cameraman, was having to wipe his lens every thirty seconds and Billy, a sound man if ever there was one, kept shaking his head and muttering about the wind and all of us were trying to huddle behind the hut for shelter the whole time but it was quite simply, great fun.
And the curious thing was, the weather actually added to the authenticity of the affair. Yes I know "boleying", the practice of taking the animals to mountain pastures and living in temporary dwellings there, was very much a summertime activity but, for a short while at least, you got a real sense of that way of life, the hardship and the hilarity of it all for sure, but also of the communal existence, the shared experience of "boleying".
That must have made for strong bonds among those Hilltown people who practised it for generations up in the Deer's Meadow long before there was any Spelga Dam.
We almost regretted having to leave to go back to our nice warm hotel in Warrenpoint to have hot showers and hot toddies.