A tribute to the legend from Vincent Collard.
Many years ago before the Celtic Tiger had even been born. In the townland of Ballymerrigan that wild border country that borders Rathnew and Glenealy an old poor farmer lived with his wife on that dusty road that connects the two hamlets. Farmer McNabb had a son and some daughters. But tragedy struck the McNabb household when their son James went missing while picking blackberries in Aghowle. Some say it was the little people who spirited James away others said he went dancing in Barniskey and ended up in Coolawinna with a woman from Carrigeenshinnagh.
The poor farmer and his wife prayed for another son to help out on the farm as they were no longer able to. One day as tears fell from the poor wife’s eyes into a stream as she washed some linen. The little people watched on as she cried and muttered ‘oh for a son to get the work done ‘. Now the little people always seem to get bad press but they are as likely to do a good deed as long as you’ve never upset them. That night a strange storm blew down from Carrick. The Banshee was heard up in Cronroe. Horses hooves were heard galloping up the dusty road. 3 loud bangs was visited upon the farmers front door, then there was a deafening silence. The family inside were too frightened to open the front door but were startled when they thought they heard an infant cry. The crying grew louder, the farmer’s wife knew the sound of a hungry infant and begged her husband to go open the door. The farmer grabbed his gun and reluctantly approached the front door. Slowly he undone the old rusty latch, he swung the door ever so easily open. The moon was shining bright as day outside and there on the grassy knoll was a willow basket. The crying stopped as the farmer stepped towards the basket. He cried ‘get out here wife and tell me my eyes are not deceiving me’. The wife stepped outside and there lo and behold was an infant covered head to toe in red hair inside the basket.
The farmer’s wife picked up the furry baby and brought it inside to warm it at the fire. The infant soon became part of the family, they named him Barry and he grew into a healthy strong boy. The family though always had Barry fully dressed to hide the red hair that covered every inch so as not to rouse suspicion.
One day the farmer asked Barry to clear some stones and rocks from a field. Now the field was quite large and the farmer estimated it would take his son 7 days to clear the area. He was amazed when Barry came back to the house before lunchtime. The farmer thought something was amiss and asked was Barry feeling unwell. Barry told his father I’ve cleared the field and want to know what you want me to do next? The farmer grabbed Barry’s arm and led him back up to the field fearing his son was telling lies. When they entered the field the farmer was stunned to see the field totally cleared. How did you do it Son , so quickly? Barry went towards an old ash tree and broke off a yard of ash. There was a small granite boulder lying next to the tree, with a flick of his wrist the piece of granite was sent flying up over the Black Hill. My God, Son you are indeed blessed we must get you a proper hurley, a camán made from the sacred ash from Ballymanus Wood. The camán was fashioned by that old wily wizard Staunton. It’s said that when Barry first held the camán a shaft of lightening was seen in the sky.
Now Barry went from district to district clearing land and hunting and frightening the boys from Carnew. He could hunt rabbits from over a thousand yards , sending a pebble from his trusty camán . One day while out hunting above Ballykilivane, Barry spotted an old neighbour in trouble. The neighbour was coming off the Black Hill when the brakes went on his old Ford tractor. The tractor was building up speed and heading down through Ballinabarney. As the tractor was approaching Ballymerrigan Barry spotted the Dublin Wexford train in the distance making its way from Rathnew to Glenealy. The tractor was heading right for the train. Barry had no time to waste he grabbed a handful of fraughan’s from his pocket that he had picked earlier. As the blue juice ran down his chin, Barry spotted a well rounded glacial granite boulder of at least 14 pounds. He flicked the boulder up into the air as if it were a balloon. ‘Smack’ the noise of Barry striking that rock with his camán was heard in the whole of County Wicklow. The rock raced through the air like a surface to air missile. It whistled as it went towards its intended target. ‘BOOSH’ the granite exploded on contact with the tractor. When the dust and smoke cleared the train was seen to pass along its tracks unscathed. The old neighbour and tractor had been directed into a muddy pond and had stopped dead. The old neighbour was none the worse for the ordeal but the tractor was needing a new front axle and engine.
Barry was hailed a hero as he had averted a catastrophe. A ceremony was held to reward and recognise Barry’s heroics. The Lord Mayor’s of Glenealy and Rathnew presented Barry with a plaque to mark the event. On it it read ‘ In recognition of your brave and heroic deed from this day on you will be known as ‘Tractor’. The crowds cheered and led Barry shoulder high down into an old inn ’An Teach Rathnaoi’ were they all got locked. Today Barry’s camán hangs proudly in Glenealy Church. On match days the Glenealy boys will visit the fabled piece of ash and rub Barry’s camán as they always want to rub Barry’s stick for it’s said to bestow magic upon them. As for Barry he is quite happy letting others rub his camán as he has no use for it anymore. Today Barry can be seen like another old Irish hero Tom Crean once did, pulling great pints and telling tales and yarns in An Teach Rathnaoi. And thus that’s how a Legend was born: Barry ‘Tractor’ McNabb