Harold Johnston has spent 55 years working at the family drapery business in Blacklion. He recalls the origins of the business in 1901, explaining that his grandmother, Mary Jane Frazer, set up a seamstress business in the town. She employed five girls, including two from Donegal who settled in the Blacklion area. Harold speaks in some detail about the link to Tara with early inhabitants of his area. From the 1920s, he explains that many Protestant families began to move from the area to Northern Ireland, recalling his schoolteacher mother, Florence’s story about her pupils. She taught 43 Protestant children in the local school in 1923. By 1972 only 6 Protestant children remained at the school. The outbreak of WW2 proved to be a turning point for Blacklion, as people travelled from the North to the town owing to the lower price of petrol and alcohol in the Republic. Smuggling also helped to create their own economy, Harold explains. In the early 1970s, everything was to change once again following the shooting dead of a part time UDR member who worked as a milkman in the locality. On one occasion, the IRA used rocket launchers, firing up the main street of the neighbouring town of Belcoo, causing structural damage. The bank manager at Dowra is also recalled due to an incident when his car was highjacked by the IRA close to Blacklion and money was stolen from the vehicle. Also, in the early 1970s, a car bomb, thought to have been planted by the UVF, exploded in the top of the town. All of these incidences resulted in a heavy Irish security presence in the area, which helped to restore order.
Recordings available via Cavan Co. Library Service