We all knew we were going to be without water for a few days.
There was plenty round the corner in the sea but nothing coming out of the tap. The well had run dry and try as we might and no matter what buttons we pressed there was nothing coming out. If we turned a tap on there was a conciliatory grunt of air but nothing further. The water was done.
It took a breakfast and its dirty dishes for us to start missing it. The smell of milk could not be scrubbed away with hot water from the sea. It needed hot fresh water and soapy suds.
The pump in the orchard was working and Joseph Holland had shown us the screw to turn that sent water gushing our around our feet as we stood by it. The water was coming out of the ground but it wasn’t making it the few hundred yards from the pump to the Cottage.
Having talked it over in the pub we had called the number on the big sign on a wall on the drive through Drimoleague
Harte Bros Water Divining
& Well Boring established 1929
The diviner’s hand patted the air as he spoke. He had a pitched voice.
‘We’ll need a feckin’ hole’ he said looking at the distance between the pump house and the Cottage.
‘A feckin’ long hole. If we dig enough we’ll find the leak and then we can patch it up. We may not need to punch you a new well. Digging holes is the best way to do it.’
‘There was a man thought he could do it with food dye. He had more water than he knew what to do with coming out of his well. It was like a feckin’ great fountain so tall it went into the air. All he needed was one of those stone statues and he could have made something of his garden. But as soon as he connected the pump to the pipe to take the water to the house the water disappeared. So he should have dug a hole. But this man the feck didn’t want holes in his garden he had enough of that with the moles and their little black mounds on his green lawn. So he put a pot of purple food dye into the water to see where it came out. Well all of his pipe was fecked and the water was leaking all over his garden and in a week all his green grass he was so proud of had turned purple. And we still had to dig up his lawn to find the leak.’
‘So we’ll dig you a hole and we’ll find you your leak.’
He paused and looked at the ground.
‘And don’t you be thinking that I will be walking up and down here holding some sort of forked stick.’
‘They did a test with diviners. Put pipes with water in under a field and sent them out with their sticks and they walked up and down and dug holes to find where the water was. Then they covered up those holes and they sent some other men into the same field and just told them to dig some holes to see if they could find any water. Well the men who just went into the field to dig and carried no sticks with them found as much water as the men with their forked sticks. So why feckin’ bother I said to myself. Why carry a stick and try and pretend I know what I am doing when all I have to do is dig some holes to find water. A diviner see is a man who finds water. Well I find water by digging holes.’
‘So let us go to the pub and have a pint and see if there is a man there with a digger and we can start at the digging.
The talk in the pub cheered considerably when news got out that we had no water in the Cottage. It only took the one visit and a quick conversation at the bar with the diviner whose name I had not managed to catch and it appeared that everybody knew there was a problem. And it was one they could contribute to and it was on the doorstep so if a site visit was needed it could be done whilst another pint was being poured.
The first surprise was that we actually drank the water. There were one or two who had assumed that I managed get by on a solid diet of Murphys but then the concern shifted to the fact that we would put the clear stuff that came out of the tap and drink it and sometimes make a cup of tea out of it.
‘But feck it is filthy stuff straight out of the tap. Do you not do anything to clean it? How deep is your well? It it isn’t more than a hundred or so feet down there’s more piss than water that’ll be down there. Have you not counted the cows on the hills here?’
‘Before it comes out of your tap it has been there down in the ground and feck alone knows how long it has been there gathering dust. What does it taste like? Does it not have a colour to it? Some of the houses here they have a filter for the water so it is clean before you have a bath or use it to flush your toilet. Feck alone knows why you need clean water for that but there is some that don’t like to flush with dirty water. And you can’t get a good soap up unless the water has been cleaned.’
I thought of the water that came out of the tap in the Cottage. It has a thick brackish taste to it sometimes and it can be cloudy, almost ruddy, in a clear glass, but that normally clears after a minute or so. We have been drinking it for fifteen years now and still seem to be doing okay. But that was when it was coming out of the tap.
‘If it isn’t coming out the tap that’ll be a leak. And for a leak you will need to dig some holes. It’ll be a long pipe you have there so have you got a good shovel in your garage?’
Six men stood in the road including myself. We all stood there hands in our pockets looking down at the tarmac. The sky was bright and sunny and all the activity on the pier had shifted to the hundred or so yards between the low pump house and the Cottage. That activity was now focussed on the road that separated the Cottage from the orchard where the pump house was situated and the length of pipe that must run underneath it.
Having taken advice in the pub a series of holes had been dug. There were five of them running down the orchard and one across the road by the Cottage. Each of them had revealed a length of the black pipe that run from the pump and there was no sign of a leak.
There had been some debate as to exactly where the holes should be dug.
Some of the men thought there should be some science to it and so they suggested stamping at the ground with their feet. Tom Cronin said that if it sounded hollow with the ground being so dry that was a sure sign that there was the leak. So there was a stamping of feet and one of the men told Tom Cronin he was a feckin’ fool as all of the clumping sounded hollow to him and there was nothing to it but to dig some feckin’ holes.
We looked at the diviner but he just shrugged his shoulders and patted the air with his hands and told us to dig where we thought best and if we found the leak then there it was.
With that advice in our ears I was asked for a shovel. I fetched one from the garage and gave it to the man.
‘That’s not a shovel’ he said. ‘That’s a feckin spade you’ve given me. You can’t dig a hole with a spade. A shovel has a point you see. A spade you can use for digging potatoes but you need a shovel for digging holes.’
There was some delay whilst some shovels were found and we then set about digging the holes. There were done in a couple of hours but there was no sign of a leak.
There was a pause then for some further talk and as it was warm we took that talk in the pub. The pipe ran under the road to the Cottage and so the next place to dig was outside the Cottage near where the pipe ran in. There was concrete there and one of the men mentioned that his cousin had a small digger that would go through the concrete if he gave him a call he would have it on the pier whilst we finished off the next pint.
Twenty minutes later we stood by the Cottage and watched as the small digger tore at a patch of concrete. The pipe ran just under the surface but it was dry there as well.
Tom Cronin had the answer now and he pointed to the road. ‘There’s the leak he said. It’s in the feckin’ road. Look we’ll dig it up now and we’ll have your water back soon enough.’
I tried to suggest that perhaps we should not be digging holes in the main road up the peninsula.
‘You’ll need to wait for the council then’ he said. ‘If you wait for them you’ll have no feckin’ water for a year. Look any car coming down for the next hour we can turn it back and they can take the back road. The digger here will have the road up quickly enough and we’ll find your leak and then we’ll put the road back again and it’ll be no worse than any other part of it.’
I baulked at digging up the road even if it came with the promise of clean fresh water in the Cottage after more than a week without. Although Cork and its council felt a long way away I was sure they would come knocking if we started digging at the road.
‘Can we not pull at the pipe?’ I said.
Tom Cronin bent down then and took the black pipe is hand and gave it a hard yank. It came out loose in his hand. He pulled hard at it again and the rest of it came out a few drops of water spilling out of the end.
He scurried across the road and pulled out the other half. More water spilled out of that end. So we had the pipe in half, one piece each side of the road.
‘We have it. We have it!’ he cried. ‘There’s the feckin’ leak. It lies under the road and now all we need do is dig it up and put it together.’