Mrs. McSorley’s Tamlaght
Newtownsaville and the Surroundings
Perhaps it is time that the village of Newtownsaville, so often described in these snippets of her out of print book, should serve as a model for other townlands described in the Eskra parish. So we turn to a description of the townland in today’s discourse.
TAMLAGHT – tamhlact (a burial place or plague monument) Population: 1841 – 236, 1988 – 56. Family names: Brogan, Donnelly, Hackett, Kelly, McGinley, McGinn, McKenna, McMaugh, McSorley.
[The Ordnance Survey Memoirs shows it as a townland which contained] …a sufficiency of bog land for the supply of its inhabitants with fuel. The village of Newtownsaville is situated in the north of this townland, through which the road from Ballygawley to Omagh runs. The mail coach road also passes within 1 and a half miles of the village, from which there is a direct road across to the mail coach road. This townland has several small patches of bog land scattered over its surface, sufficient for the supply of its inhabitants with fuel. There is a large ancient fort or mound, through the centre of which the road runs close to the village.
Dispensary – Michael and Brigid McKenna’s house is in fact on the site of the dispensary where a Clogher doctor used to hold a weekly surgery. McSorley’s owned the house and Harrison, the creamery manager and wife lived there. Paul and Patricia Donnelly’s house is on the site of ‘The Cage,’ which was the home of a family of Daly’s. Maggie and Biddie were dressmakers and the shop or cage was a wooden/wire structure with felt and tar and built for them by a returned Yank.
Mrs. Pauline Donnelly’s home was once Newtownsaville National School. Story teller recalls – “I mind when there were a hundred at Newtownsaville school and Davy Marshall left and there were 99 at it for two or three years after that. There were tow teachers in one room. One lot stood round the room and a couple of classes would be told to ‘toe the line’ and the rest sat.”
In Father O’Harte’s tenure, Dan McSorley (Brian’s father) donated a piece of his land for a playground for the school. “Before that the children played on the road – there were no motors, nothing to annoy you – maybe an odd horse and cart going to the creamery, but they wouldn’t be going for a bag of male because they wouldn’ta had the price of it.”
The Blackbird’s House (McSorley’s)
Former inhabitants of this house included Willie Bird, Jimmy McGinn, Paddy ‘Skim,’ Willie Mulligan, Kate McGinn, Jimmy McCart, and latterly the Mulholland family.
The ‘Blackbird’s’ was renowned by the traveling folk as a place to stop for a few days. Food and shelter were provided while the travelers sold their cans and other wares. One woman stayed longer than she anticipated –
“A Mrs. Rafferty was a beggar woman who died in the Blackbird’s one night. Jimmy McGinn was the owner that time and himself and another man went and got a coffin and brought her to Eskra graveyard. They buried her down where it marches the river and that was all there was about it – no mass nor nothing – that’s how it was in them days.”
First Public Telephone – 1940
It is recalled that it arrived in sections and a local lady, Mrs. Annie Laurie, was in the shop and asked Vinnie McCann what it was. On hearing that it was a public phone she said, ‘Oh God bless us and save us, now the bad news’ll come quicker.
The Fever Hospital
We are told this hospital, now the property of Mrs. May Ewings, Tulnafoile, was in use until the opening of Omagh General Hospital. [A picture was included in the book and it was noted that the ‘now derelict remains of the Fever Hospital was at Lavelle’s (‘Level’s’) corner…’]
Other features [included]: Old Creamery, fort, pub, Ulster Bank, Shop, Town Brae, town corner, post box, McNelis’ forge, Well Lane, and Newtownsaville Church of Ireland.
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