Lives Remembered

Teddy Hagan: Small in stature but giant in loughshore life for more than 70 years

Teddy Hagan

TEDDY Hagan was at his best when he had a challenge, when people had to be organised to tackle and complete a task, be it big or small.

He knew when to cajole, when to use the sharp word, when to lead and when to praise.

A man small in stature but an outstanding and respected figure in community life in Lower Ardboe and around the shores of Lough Neagh for more than 70 years.

Teddy – or Edward J Hagan, as he would sometimes introduce himself – was born in the townland of Aneeterbeg in 1928, the first of 11 children of Paddy Hagan and Sarah Devlin.

The Hagans and Devlins, like most people on the loughshore, were fishing families who lived on a piece of land in the Moss, as the local bog was known.

Growing up in the 'hungry thirties' was an education in itself: by the time Teddy left school aged 14 he was fit to turn his hand to all farming and fishing operations.

Life could have been bleak, but there was one pastime which would be an endless source of enjoyment – music and song.

Every other house in the Kinturk/Aneeterbeg area was a céilí house, where people could meet at night to exchange gossip, to listen to a fiddler, and to sing the old traditional songs.

Teddy, a fine singer himself, thrived in this atmosphere and for a few hours the problems of life would be forgotten.

He joined Kinturk band, which in those years was a flute band with a drum corps. Soon he was involved in the running of Kinturk Hall, helping to organise fundraising dances, concerts and plays.

As a matter of course he also became a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and entered the world of committees and decision-making, an ideal milieu for a young man who enjoyed debate and, yes, arguments.

When a Gaelic football club – Mullan St John's – was established in 1949, Teddy was inevitably one of the principal organisers.

In the 1950s, like so many other young men at the close of the Lough Neagh fishing season, he took the boat to England to work on building sites or as a bus conductor.

By 1957 Teddy and his siblings were able to build a new home for their parents. “The oul house” remained standing in the Moss as a reminder of where they had been reared.

As the centuries-old dispute on Lough Neagh between fishermen and the Toome Eel Company intensified in the 1960s, Teddy found the heated debates within the Fishermen’s Association to be to his taste - he thrived on the argument and counter-argument, he saw the necessity for the way in which the fishermen’s leader, Fr Oliver Kennedy of Cargin, organised, met fire with fire, anticipated and out-thought the opposition, and just kept going when things went against them.

These tactics ultimately proved successful in 1971 and the fishing families were rewarded at the end of a very long struggle.

Almost 20 years later Teddy, by now chairperson of Kinturk Cultural Association, was able to draw on his experiences with officialdom to help win another big battle - funding for a purpose-built community and cultural centre which would not only serve the local people but provide a welcome to visitors from all over the world.

The vision was much bigger but the well-learned methods worked - speak to people as equals, debate, make your point, argue, but always show respect.

And this was never a problem for Teddy, because he could argue and harangue all day, and then tuck his thumbs under the lapels of his jacket, give a wee smile and say, “I’ll sing you a wee song that you’ve never heard before...”

Another argument won, another friendship reinforced. That was Teddy.

Teddy Hagan of Aneeterbeg, Ardboe, Co Tyrone, died on September 25 aged 92.

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Lives Remembered