Mr Noble Hetherington
Noble Hetherington turned 100 on 30 June 2021 and was born in 1921, in what is now the Cherry Tree Bakery in Lisnaskea. He had three brothers (Desy, Albert and George) and one sister, Rachel, of which only his youngest brother George is still alive, aged 84, and living in Belfast.
Noble’s father had served in the Great War in the Royal artillery with the ‘big guns’. He came home to the shop in Lisnaskea which they sold and moved to Newtownbutler.
During his childhood the great depression had a big effect on the businesses and the family sold the shop and returned to farming at the small thirty acre farm in Kilgarrett where he still lives with his wife, Margaret. The original house was thatched and was rebuilt in approximately the 1960s.
The family farm included approximately one third bog and in his early life they made a decent living selling turf (peat) for firing to the local people. Noble delivered turf locally by pony and cart for many years in his youth for just a few shillings. The turf was cut by hand with a man to catch.
Noble went to school in Newtownbutler walking the mile there and back. He left school at age 14 and never went to secondary school. In his day there were only 2 teachers at the local school. Noble describes himself as ‘not too fond of school’ maybe because the Master at the time was cross and he thinks his hands were crooked from putting out your hand for a slap. He used to kick football at lunch time and had no interest in girls. He remembers playing with Bobby Montgomery who later signed to play for Leeds United but was tragically killed in World War 2 at the age of just 22. Read More
Noble describes how he milked the 4/5 cows by hand before building a byre (himself) with drinkers which enabled an increase in the numbers milked.
When the World War II broke out Noble was just 18 and like many young men would have liked to go and join the RAF. It was, however his older brother Desy who went away and served in the forces (Palestine Police) during the war. Noble was expected to stay at home and help on the farm. He joined the home guard and trained with them. In wartime because deliveries of food were scarce, the family grew vegetables such as potatoes in the fields and set traps to catch rabbits.
During the IRA Border Campaign (1956 to 1962), the two bridges across Upper Lough Erne became a target. Noble joined the RUC reserve and for a number of years was deployed to guard the bridges, mainly on night shift. Whilst on duty he was involved in an accident as two land rovers collided on a frosty morning. Noble was unfortunately caught between them and lost a leg in the collision. He has a prosthetic limb and describes how heavy and cumbersome these early limbs were. The first leg was made of wood and you had to have two straps around your shoulders to support it. Despite the artificial limb Noble was always out farming, growing vegetables and playing pipes – this didn’t hold him back in any way. Chuckling at his own joke, Noble says you can’t bury anyone with a wooden leg – you need a spade!
Post-war the farm became a small dairy farm, and Noble continued to run it in a traditional way with a mix of activities. He kept hens and ponies, grew vegetables, had a few beef cattle as well as dairy, and even cut turf for the family hearth in the bog right up until the late 1980’s. Noble describes rucking hay by hand (rucks were old fashioned Irish haystacks built around a tripod of poles about six foot high). When he got a tractor then he could bring the whole ruck into the hayshed.
In his youth Noble had a great interest in bands describing his attendance at the ‘twelfths’ as only an interest in the music and not the politics. He played for Newtownbutler Pipe Band but cycled to numerous other band halls to help teach young players using a chanter. One of these was Killyfargey Hall in Scotshouse, County Monaghan, where he met his wife Margaret. She lived close by to where the band practised and he also met her at dances. Margaret trained as a midwife and became a ward sister in Belfast Royal Maternity Hospital. After her marriage to Noble she began a new career as a district nurse in the Lisnaskea and Newtownbutler areas.
Noble and Margaret had three children – John (1966), Jean (1968) and Cecil (1971). He was 44 when he married Margaret in Scotshouse Church of Ireland on 4th September 1965 with a reception in the Leonard Arms, Clones which was paid for by ‘the wife’s family’.
Noble used to bring the pram out to his vegetable plot or into the byre at milking time while Margaret was on duty. They also had a neighbour who would come in the afternoon for the children coming in after school to look after them, make the tea and do some ironing. The three children were all involved in farming life as they grew up, particularly at hay making time. Noble and Margaret passed on a love of plants and gardening to their children. The youngest son Cecil describes a happy childhood and how his father helped his brother and him make pocket money each spring by growing seeds to sell plants.
Foreign holidays were not a feature of life for the family in the 70’s and 80’s – Portrush was the favourite summer destination. Although Noble has never been an adopter of the latest technology, he did have a box brownie camera which was well used on special occasions and holiday time.
Noble’s attributes his long life to plenty of hard work and fresh air, as well as a happy marriage and being surrounded by a loving family.