Shortly before my mother died on the 10th June 1996 I asked her to write for me an account of her childhood at the Argory, Moy, which is now the property of the National Trust. My sister Marian and I were told wonderful stories of her childhood there. She had a great love of all aspects of natural history and passed on to us much of this aspect of her life which we both cherish to this day - one year she found one hundred and eleven birds nests (she remembered it by the figures III), knew all the birds, their eggs, habits etc. This is the account as recorded by her, some six months before her death.
"I remember, I remember
The house where I was born"
"Memory the friend of us all."
I am thankful indeed for the very happy memories of the first thirteen years of my life spent at the Argory. My father, the late Isaac Allen, went to take up the post as Land Steward to the estate of Captain Ralph McGeough Bond Shelton in 1892 and married my mother Elizabeth Allen in 1893, She was the daughter of Ephraim Allen, J.P., of Grange Lodge. Their son Edgar was born in 1894 and I was born in 1903 and my sister Doris in 1905. My father managed the estate for 25 years, his work was to engage men to work on the land (more than 300 acres), buy cattle, he used to go to Killarney to buy the Kerry cattle, paying the men on Saturday nights and altogether seeing the estate was run on a profitable basis.
When I was born my father's salary was raised by £20 per annum, and Captain Shelton said "It's to be a present for the baby." So my parents decided to include the name "McGeough" with my other names and so it is to this day! I did not go to school till I was 9 years old, my mother taught me at home and she did it well, she bought us lots of books which we had pleasure in reading. My next sphere of education was Tullyroan National School where the teachers were a worthy pair Mr and Mrs Jackson greatly respected and talked about to this day. My mother was a member of The Society of Friends (Quakers) and as such she received a good education at Friends School Lisburn, her brothers and sister were also pupils there. She had a store of general knowledge which she imparted daily to my sister and to me.
I think so often of her and of all I learned in our days of childhood and from her. We had pets of different kinds at the Argory, cats and dogs, white rabbits, kids, pigeons, and my father bought donkeys each for my sister and me and he taught us to ride them, I still have scars on my left hand caused by a donkey as it took me through a barbed wire fence. My father also bought us bicycles and taught us to ride them on the main avenue leading up to The Argory house, few children had bicycles in those days. We always had plenty of good food, most of it supplied by my father's gun as he was an excellent shot, we had woodcock, pheasants, wild duck, rabbits and even snipe (a hard bird to shoot.) I was a young girl when the First World War began in 1914.
I remember a man coming one day, he was buying horses for the war, my father brought out our lovely cob for him to see, one of our men paraded it up and down to show its paces - the end was it was sold to go out to the Front, for at that time there was no motor power and the soldiers rode into battle on horseback. I thought my father was cruel to part with our lovely horse in this way and I went into the laurel bushes and cried and cried when I thought of our horse going to the battlefield amid the bombs and the bullets. I must mention the Sunday School. It was held in a house in the wood, perhaps 100 yards down the road from the Avenue to our house, past the back entrance to The Argory House. The Superintendent was an elderly man Mr Wilkinson who walked all the way from Moy every Sunday, his daughter Miss Lily Wilkinson also taught, she took the young children and a third teacher was a Mrs Woods of Copney who was a teacher in Derryscollop school.
The highlight of the year for the pupils was the Christmas tree party held in the same room as the Sunday school. Captain Shelton provided the prizes - my mother and Miss Hill the housekeeper went to Belfast in Captain Shelton's chauffeur driven car, a Daimler, to buy the prizes.
This was an enjoyable outing in those days when everyone travelled by horse drawn vehicles! Canon Archer rector of Moy came to present the prizes, his daughter also came to help. We played games "The Farmer wants a wife", "Nuts in May", "Blind man's Buff" etc. We had buns and tea and a great time altogether, I must refer to the staff as I remember them.
Miss Hill was the housekeeper, I remember the housekeeper's room and all the cupboards where she kept the 'goodies', sometimes she would share them with us, Ann O'Brien was the cook, Mary Ann Kennedy who lived in the gate lodge at the front gate - she did the cleaning work at The Argory; her old father Robinson, worked in the farmyard at the house where we lived, Jimmy Kennedy, son of Robinson, was the cowman, Eccles Maguire, who lived in the cottage at the bridge over the river Blackwater worked the sawmill, Lizzie Coulon was the laundry maid, her brother Davy was the ploughman, Matt Davidson was the carpenter, his brother Billy was Captain Shelton's chauffeur and drove the large Daimler car, their father was Robert Davidson a blacksmith at Tullyroan. Captain Shelton was more or less an invalid and couldn't walk so he had a valet, an Englishman called H.R. Rodgers, he was a comedian and mimic and used to entertain at concerts in schools, church halls etc.
One of the most important members of the staff was Alex McKinley who was in charge of the large walled-in garden where he grew fruit of all kinds, vegetables, greenhouse produce including tomatoes, melons, cucumbers and often peaches. Alex had a wife and five children. Mrs McKinley was a dressmaker and they were fine good people, they lived in the gate lodge at the back entrance (near the garden). Alex was a local preacher in the Methodist church. I would imagine his wages weren't more than 15 shillings per week (75p in today's currency!) so all will agree that his wife needed to augment the family income. Their eldest daughter Mrs May Buckley now in her nineties lives in Portadown. I meet her from time to time when we recall old times long ago. I was at school with her.
Captain Shelton had a sister who was the mother of Lord Louth of Ardee Hall, Co. Louth. I remember his visits to The Argory, When Captain Shelton died in 1916 his funeral took place to the Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh and he was buried in the family vault, He bequeathed The Argory to his nephew who was a high court Judge in Egypt, he later was knighted and became Sir Walter Bond (Walter being a family name in the Bond family). The last owner of the Argory was his son and only child Mr Neville Bond; he loved The Argory and is buried in the grounds.
He bequeathed the property to the National Trust and I can recall him saying to me that he had great pleasure in leaving it to the Trust and that he felt happy in knowing people would find pleasure by walking in the woods and through the house and also knowing that the estate would in future days be maintained and cared for by such a body.
Sir Walter Bond made new arrangements and my father left after 25 years. We went to live on a farm my father bought near Loughgall. So ended my days at The Argory. I can't say my sister and I were sentimental about leaving for children aren't sentimental.
I can well remember our leaving, my sister and I riding our bicycles, our parents in the trap drawn by a frisky cob, for my father was a great horseman, the dog "Shot" running along beside it. So ended my 13 years of happiness at The Argory, the first home I ever knew".
Signed - Muriel Annie McGeough Mullen
16th November 1995