Reco (Richard) Davis was born in 1921 and died in 2011. He was the eldest surviving son of Richard and Annie Davis born at Larkfield, Boggaun, County Leitrim. Other than his brother Cecil, who would remain on the farm throughout his life, he was the last of his generation to leave.
I first remember Uncle Reco in the kitchen at Larkfield, a day’s work done, his elbows on his knees, talking over some story or other, thumb dancing around the end of a cigarette cupped in his big hand, skimming ash to the floor, flicking the butt to the open fire.
As a young boy he looked up to his older brother Herbie, who seemed to be his father’s favourite. Herbie and Reco left school in the early 1930s to work on the farm, taking on more responsibilities than they already had. A few years later just after they had gone out to work, bringing in much needed funds to the cash-strapped household, Herbie contracted diphtheria.
A doctor attended Herbie, but his condition continued to worsen. After weeks of nursing he suddenly became gravely ill and Reco was sent off on the horse and cart to Manorhamilton with express instructions not to return without the doctor. Their doctor refused to come saying that he could do nothing more. A short time after Reco’s return Herbie died. Traumatic as this must have been for Reco, that time was seared in the memory of all the family.
Reco, now the eldest, continued to work with the family horse and cart on the Land Commission’s construction of the Rock Road, the only significant local employer at that time. Like his father he took on ploughing and mowing grass in the area and he became known as a skilled ploughman. He would maintain a love of horses and horse breeding throughout his life.
In the early 1900s the family bought a neighbouring hill farm from the landlord of Frank McLoughlin, “Frank’s Ground” they called it. Frank lived there until his death and in the early in 1950s the house and outbuildings were scavenged for stone, carted down to Larkfield by Reco and Cecil to build a new cow byre. This was no great distance but the steep climb up and down through untracked fields was not without challenge and mishap. The stone was loaded and unloaded by hand. Reco and Cecil were brought up with such heavy work, the lot of the farmers at that time.
His marriage was arranged by his parents, at a time then this custom was coming to an end. Reco had been going out with a local girl but his mother did not approve of the union. With high rates of emigration, a wife was difficult to find. It is likely that the match was arranged through his Grandmother’s family, Grahams from County Sligo. Reco was introduced to Dorothy McElroy and in 1957 they married in Ballymote Parish Church. Reco moved from Boggaun and they settled into Dorothy’s family farm at Woodhill near Bunnanadden in County Sligo.
“What kind of a farm did Reco get?” neighbours would ask, and if the question was ever answered directly it was,
“A farm of good Sligo land, better than what he left.”
Reco’s was dedicated to Dorothy and with long days and hard work they built up a small dairy herd and improved their farm significantly; there were no children. Ned Stenson, hired to the farm before Reco arrived, was to become his lifelong friend and helper, remaining at the Woodhill farm until his death.
On and off the farm Reco was valued for his judgement and wisdom. When he retired, he passed the farm over to his niece and her husband, Isabel and John and he lived out the rest of his life amid the hurly-burley of their growing family.
There are a number of previous blogs that relate to this story. Two links are provided in the text above: firstly, on the short life of Herbie Davis and secondly on Reco and the construction of the Rock Road, Connor’s Line”.