Throughout the first half of the Twentieth Century, he traversed the roads and mountain paths of many counties. Resolute, with heavily lined, time worn features, placid nature, invariably turned out in worn tweed suit, mouse eaten hat and homemade nailed boots, knew the song of the birds from early dawn. A journeyman, sheep dealer and drover, to him hardship a way of life, saw more winter dawns and moonlit nights on rain lashed roads and mountain paths from Glan Gap to Coolaney. in Sligo, Bangoriss, Crossmolina, Newport, Mulraney in Mayo. Maam and Leenane in Connemara, Barnes Gap in Donegal.
Returned eventually with his flock, by rail and often on foot to West Cavan, effecting sales in pub grounds after last Mass and in local fairs. Youths with little cash purchased stock with a promise to pay later. Most did, often from Luton or Liverpool. He was wont to say “Gossoon, you have to make a start”. His spontaneous with and repertoire were legendary.
Riches he never enjoyed, but always managed enough to struggle along, content with his lot, doing what he wanted to do. He travelled light through darkness and storms, knew the sheltered retreats to rest his stock, often sleeping in outhouses, gaining heat from the animals.
When trade was good, he somehow managed to pen his stock in Fairgreen in Navan, and the Bullring in Drogheda, both Mecca’s for dealers.
Bring abroad in all weathers ensured Hugh has lots of cold showers and few hot baths. Inevitably exposure took its toll. He was taken to hospital where the efficient Sister in Charge made an appraisal and dictated a bath, several layers of clothing were removed along with a deep rooted film of grime which had insulated him for so long. All washed away and with its Hugh’s last stand. They said it was pneumonia but those close knew better, the constraints and confinement were just too much. In his last battle, his spirit paid one last visit to the mountains of Donegal and Mayo.
Late in the Twentieth Century old timers in the West spoke of Hugh with kindness and respect. They said his word was his bond, never broken.
The mourners come in droves to celebrate a final tribute to one of nature’s true characters. Hugh Pat Hughie McGoldrick was the last genuine sheep dealer in Glangevlin. His eternal health was toasted with many reminiscences of a time when life was simple. The end of an era.