Wallace was born in 1927 the sixth of eight children, into a family deep in financial crisis. With all of the children seven or under it’s unlikely that he got too much individual attention.
To recap: after Wallace’s father, Richard was swindled out of the proceeds of a cattle shipment to England in the early 1920s, he took the principled decision to pay farmers for their stock first. With no reserves to pay off a business loan, the bank, holding the farm deeds put it up for sale, and would do so annually for over 10 years. The family were ultimately saved from eviction by the goodwill of neighbours and farmers who refused to buy the Boggaun farm; no one would move against them. The strength of goodwill towards the Protestant family is put into relief by the upheaval of the previous decade, the War of Independence and the following Civil War, with the accompanying rise in tension between the Protestant and Catholic communities.
When Wallace’s brother Herbie died at 19, there was an expectation on Wallace and the others to take up the slack after his death.
From a young age Wallace proved to be a free spirit; his father would often lose his temper with him particularly when Wallace dared to row with him. After one of these spats Wallace ran away and lived for a month with the Sheridan family on The Rock, about half a mile up on the mountain. He knew the family well and many of their children were friends from Mullaghduff National school. An older brother Michael Sheridan had been interned as an Anti-Treaty activist during the Civil War some years earlier.
About 1945 his parents arranged a year’s work experience for him on a farm in Co Antrim, hoping that he would return settled, to join their agricultural effort. He spent the year in the North but didn’t come back with any greater love of farming.
A growing number of motor cars were appearing on Leitrim’s roads and Wallace wanted to drive one. There was no test, you just learned by trial and error. When my father came to Larkfield with his first car, Wallace took the opportunity to slip away for some practice. He hadn’t gone far when the car ended up in the ditch, luckily with only minor damage.
In the early 1950s Wallace, or Wally as he was known outside the family, joined the ESB rural electrification programme, working on the transmission line from Ballyshannon to Carrick-on-Shannon. At that time most workers stayed in digs as daily travel to work was impractical. Wallace’s workmates Paddy Harte and Ray Devine from Sligo boarded in the Davis home for a time and shortly afterwards when construction moved south to Mohill, Wallace boarded there.
As Larkfield farm finances improved Richard helped his son buy a car, a black Ford Prefect, reg number IT 2501, hoping he would settle into a taxi business. Wallace, in his mid-twenties, was now his own master; he could work when and where he wanted. The Ford Prefect proved too small as a taxi and was changed for a larger Ford Pilot V8. However, it came to an unfortunate end when he crashed coming home from a wedding. As the sole occupant in the car he came off lightly enough, an injured heel in plaster for some months, but the car was a write-off.
This was the wreck that I was to play in at the Larkfield farmhouse, its leather back seat used as the sofa in the house. Before disappearing under weeds and briars the rusting wreck was a secluded spot for laying hens and storage for broken tools and implements.
Wallace got a third car and resumed taxiing, unfortunately becoming involved in another accident just outside Manorhamilton. A young Dominic Rooney cycling at the tail end of a group of friends on the Glenfarne Road thinking the road behind was clear pulled out into the path of the oncoming Wally. He was knocked to the ground, broke his leg and spent the following three months in traction in Our Lady’s Hospital, Manorhamilton. Dominic would not run into this family again until we met last year researching these and other local stories, discovering the Wally Davis connection.
To be concluded in next blog.