I am tempted to start this story with “it was a dark and stormy night” because that’s the kind of night it was in Branch, on the last weekend of October in 1962. It was the night we celebrated the fifteenth birthday of one of my childhood friends, the late Elizabeth Corcoran. She lived down to the Gut and I lived in the Rocky Lane. We often met on the Corner and chatted our way out to school together.
The party was not a formal one with invitations and such. My sister Jean heard from someone, who heard from someone else, that there was going to be a bit of music down to Davy Corcoran’s on Saturday night because it was Elizabeth’s birthday. I think Mr. Davy had built another room onto his house and it was completed enough inside to provide a big open space for planking her down. I cannot remember if we even brought a birthday present, probably not, but I do know that when we showed up, we were greeted warmly. Mr. Davy and Mrs. Nora were like that. You were always welcome at their house.
With a brisk easterly wind whipping the rain through the night sky, it didn’t take long for all hands to start crowding inside. The delicious smell of moose soup and rabbit soup, simmering on the stove, hinted that we were going to be fed later that night. With Gerald Campbell’s accordion sitting on the floor and Edward English’s mouth organ in his shirt pocket, we knew that the music for the evening was guaranteed. It didn’t take long before both the accordion and the harmonica were belting out a lively rendition of Mussels in the Corner, and Ronnie Nash was stepping it out, to get everyone in the mood.
I said that it was a dark and stormy night, but the rain must have slacked off intermittently because I can definitely remember intervals when we would rush outdoors to cool off. I can still hear the golden voices of twin brothers, Billy and Jimmy Nash, entertaining everyone with the lyrics of Wolverton Mountain, which was the hit song on the Ranch Party, at that time. Those two could always be depended on to take you out in a set of Lancers and swing you off your feet. One time, someone’s shoe went zooming across the room, narrowly missing several heads. Old and young alike, we all had our turn going through the Lancers. In between, there would be the beautiful strains of “Molly Bawn” and “The Rose of Aranmore” for those who liked to waltz.
In the midst of all the revelry inside, and with rain and wind swirling outside, my sister and I were hesitant about going home. Afterward, our mother told us that, as the night wore on, she had begun to worry and made Daddy don his oil clothes and go check on us. Years later, Jean and I now look back, with love and appreciation, on a father who would walk all the way to the Gut, well after midnight, on a stormy night, just to make sure we were all right. All he said, when he got back home, was “You needn’t worry about them, Aggie. They’re all going to the beams dancing.”
Sweet, innocent fun with singing, dancing, laughter and camaraderie, that’s how I recall that night, forty-nine years ago. And happy, friendly, smiling, energetic and pretty, that’s how I remember the youthful face of Elizabeth, my friend from long ago.