Mrs Evie Bowles

Mrs Evie Bowles was born Annie Evelyn Elizabeth Rutledge on 31 October 1920 in Hill House, Cornafanog, Lisbellaw.

Living with her parents and maternal grandmother, she was the only girl with four brothers (two older, Jack and Ernie, and two younger, Edwin and Harold) whom she outlived. She always loved working on the small holding with cows, hens, pigs a horse and dog helping her Dad to feed the pigs.

Evie Bowles
Evie Bowles
Evie's father, Edward Rutledge
Evie's father, Edward Rutledge

She remembeed life before a tractor when she was younger;she could catch the horse whilst her brothers couldn’t. Evie had a pony and remembered going over its head one day when out riding. The oil lamp was the only form of lighting at that time. The lamp was taken out in the evening and put away in the morning;one of her jobs was to clean the globe with paper. Beds were warmed at night by the pottery hot water jar which went around all the beds! Entertainment was provided through the ‘wireless’ which was a dry cell battery and had to be charged frequently. Her mother was a talented seamstress, making all the clothes for the family and many of the neighbours too. Evie fondly remembered a dollie she had when she was small;called Elizabeth, the doll had a little cradle and was very precious – she loved cuddling her dolly.

Evie remembered the excitement of the transition from the hearth fire, where the iron was heated on the embers, to the cooker her dad bought with a water section for hot water. Occasionally, Evie went to stay with her Uncle Bill and Aunt Daisy and cousins in Belfast and had vivid memories of panicking on hearing the air raid warning siren, which no-one ever thought to tell her was only a practice one.

She attended school locally at Lisbellaw Primary school, walking or cycling the 6/7 miles, it was a long day as she had to do the milking first. Once a door caught her heel, but she still had to go to school, cycling with a slipper on. Mr Brady was her school master and she described herself as a good girl doing what she was told.

When she was older Evie taught Sunday School in Cornafanog Church Hall, along with a distant relative Lily Rutledge. She also sang in the church choir. Evie’s faith and love of singing continued throughout her life and she started every day singing a hymn (often What a Friend we have in Jesus), along with a bowl of porridge.

Following school, Evie cycled each day to Maguiresbridge to Miss Goulding to study book-keeping, typing and short-hand. These skills were to prove invaluable throughout her life and career. She then worked initially in Creightons hardware shop in Lisbellaw. She always had time for the owner’s son John Creighton who she often helped with his homework when he came in from school.

Evie and Fred Engagement Photo
Evie and Fred Engagement Photo

There she was to meet her husband, Fred. From Milltown, Belturbet, Co. Cavan. He came to work in Brownlees Grocery shop in Lisbellaw. During their courtship they loved to attend dances, where it was the norm to cycle there and back,often 20/30 miles each way in the dark, as this was during the blackout when lights were not allowed. They also cycled to see each other on their days off before they married on 6 December 1944 in Tempo Parish church.

Derek, Fred, Evie, Gladys, Lorna, Lynda, Wilma
Derek, Fred, Evie, Gladys, Lorna, Lynda, Wilma

After marriage they lived initially at Drumad Lisbellaw where her two eldest daughters were born, (Gladys and Lorna). They then moved to Newtownbutler when Fred got a job managing McCoy’s shop, owned by Hamilton Johnston. Herethey had three more children, Derek, Linda and Wilma. Evie had 9 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren and family was very precious to Evie. She always wore a locket with a picture of her husband Fred and daughter Wilma (who died aged 42) to keep them close to her heart.

After the owner died Fred then bought the shop in Newtownbutler and the family lived beside the shop.

Together they built up the business selling small hardware with a small amount of groceries. They also had two vehicles;one mobile grocery shop and one cattle feed delivery. The grocery van was shelved and stocked with groceries to allow people to do their weekly shopping without going into town. Almost like click collect and deliver before the time! Tommy Caughy worked in the shop and also drove the grocery van, previously driven by Wesley Brown. Evie tells how she didn’t like being the boss and always treated everyone the same.

The men who worked in the shop got their dinner cooked in the evening by Evie and she describes them as a little unit. Despite the hard work Evie said the shop never made them rich! In total they employed four people giving vital employment in a rural area.

Fred and Evie lived in Newtownbutler until 1976, when they sold the shop and moved to Lisnaskea. There they lived very happily in their retirement and loved to go out to lunch and shop. Fred died 5 May 2014 (one month short of 102). An independent lady, Evie continued to live on her own until 2018 when she moved to Gortacharn Nursing Home. The staff at Gortacharn loved her personality and like many others referred to her as “Granny.

As well as working in the shop she could often be found knitting behind the counter if there were no customers. Her children and grandchildren fondly remember the never-ending supply of jumpers and cardigans but hated having to sit for hours with arms outstretched while she wound skeins of wool into balls for knitting. Everyone, including the staff in Gortacharn Nursing Home, received many gifts knitted by Evie until very recently.

Examples of Evie Knitting
Examples of Evie Knitting

Wednesdays were half day in the shop however it brought no rest for Evie. She spent her half day baking rock buns, doughnuts, treacle scones, caraway cake and apple fadge – her children loved coming home from school to the smell of fresh baking. Not content with just baking for her own family she also baked wheaten and soda cakes for the local GP Dr Dolan’s household. Wednesday evening was also her time to visit various friends including Mrs Carey, Mrs Moore and Mrs Darling among many others.

Evie never took a drink but confessed to having an odd cigarette – which her daughter didn’t know until interviewed.

A busy place, not just customers called to the shop. Many people also called to use the phone, as few people had a phone in their own home. When she turned 100, Evie got her first mobile phone to help her keep in touch with family. Her daughter Lorna remembers “kangaroo petrol” in the car at Rossnowlagh beach when her Dad tried to teach her Mum to drive. She never mastered driving, preferring to just cycle or stay in the shop.

Although the shop was open on a Saturday, customers often arrived to find the shop abandoned. They were welcomed into the living quarters to the sound of laughter to watch Evie’s favourite wrestlers on the TV. Big Daddy and Les Kellet were among her favourites.

Managing a country store was a challenge.Fred and Evie rarely got on holiday, often only managing a few hours off on a Sunday. It was many years later before they got a holiday on their own and their first was to the Isle of Man.

Despite working long hours,they ensured that their family never missed out. The family have many happy memories of holidays to Portnoo, Portrush, Bray and Rossnowlagh, where they shared a house with their Auntie Dawn and Family. On one holiday Barbera raided Auntie Dawn’s suitcase and found chocolate which they secretly enjoyed until discovering it was a laxative!

Evie never really wore make up and only had her nails painted for the first time when she moved to Gortacharn. She always loved perfume favouring Estee Lauder Youth Dew.

Evie celebrated her 100th birthday during Covid restrictions. Following a post on Facebook by her grandson Gary about not being able to have a family party, this popular centenarian received over 1400 cards from all over the world. Her family describe fondly how Ena Trimble and the Gortacharn Residential Staff didn’t let the birthday go unnoticed and organised a fantastic birthday party for which Evie and her family were very thankful for. She also made an appearance on BBC newsline.

Her advice to everyone was to treat everyone the same and keep your head up!

Mrs Evie Bowles died peacefully at Gortacharn Nursing Home on 19 September 2021 at Gortacharn Nursing Home, Lisnaskea in her 101st year.