When I switched on the radio this morning Aled Jones’ dulcet tones were belting out that famous Scottish song “O Rowan Tree O Rowan Tree” and I was immediately transported back to rural Ireland and the little cottage that we had moved into when I was a child. It did not have running water in it so we hadn’t a bathroom nor a toilet. The outside toilet was in a nearby field. A large hole in the ground had been dug out and then my father added a raised seat for our comfort – something he would say with a smile on his face. After that, he encased it in a shed for our privacy.
My father immediately started finding water that he could bring into the house. I remember him taking me across the field to find a Rowan Tree and as we walked he told me the story of the tree. He described the Rowan Tree as symbolising wisdom, courage and protection and – in particular – the psychic powers which connected with ours helping us to locate water in the underground.
When we reached the tree he started to climb it, with his saw strapped to his back. He said that he needed a branch – and not just any branch, but one in the shape of a fork.
As we headed back towards the cottage we made our way to the land at the back of the house where he was going to explore for water. He began walking over the ground holding the two ends of the forked branch with the long stick part facing outwards. He stopped suddenly, shouting with excitement “Mary, Mary look at the stick rising.” I did see it rise. He made me stand on the spot whilst he went for a spade and on his return he started to dig. With help from two of our neighbours and, after digging for a couple of days, they found water. I danced with delight hugging my dad and feeling so proud that I had been part of this magical experience.
After a couple of months of hard work, which, I, in fairness took no interest in, he had laid pipes into the house which connected with a pump so that the water could fill up the tank which he had built into the loft to collect hot water. He had also added a bathroom. Now, to get the water to the ‘hot tank,’ it had to be pumped by hand twice daily to ensure that the tank would never run dry. This task was put upon us children with my mother’s voice ringing in our ears: “If you let the tank go dry it will blow up.” Whilst this was an onerous task it was easier than when we had to walk half a mile down the road to a pump at our neighbours and carry two buckets of water back with us each time.
As a child, I didn’t appreciate what an amazing job it was that he’d managed to do. It is only now as these memories arise I can understand what an achievement for one man to bring forth. Indeed I remember neighbours popping in to inspect his “handiwork” as they called it. Often, on a Saturday night a lovely young neighbour used to come over and have a bath before going out dancing with her boyfriend; a source of great interest to my brothers!
Of course, it could be argued that my father moved the stick himself or that I had imagined I saw the stick moving. However, what I can say for certain is that well served our household for many years until the local water board brought water to the cottages in the road.
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