It has been said that Killesher Parish is the only parish on the island of Ireland without a pub, but there is plenty of good cheer in this area without the need for beer.

Florencecourt is one of the villages nestled inside this Border parish – and it’s a far cry from the image of a sleepy wee village, with plenty of good, hard-working people at its heart.

The strong work ethic and kind-heartedness of the residents set this area apart – so says David Armstrong, a former shopkeeper who ran Wm. Armstrong General Merchants in the village until 2006.

He knows the area like the back of his hand, thanks to time spent since he was a young man working in the family’s mobile shop before later taking on the shop which became synonymous with the village.

Saying that Florencecourt is “absolutely fabulous”, and recalling his time in business with great fondness, Mr. Armstrong said: “In 1975 I married a wee girl, Evelyn, and she and I took over the business, as my father had a stroke, and he died shortly after.

“We had a fantastic business, from the Blacklion border to Teemore border and further afield, but that was my main catchment area

“I retired in 2006, as my wife was ill with cancer, so I retired to look after her. No regrets; she died in 2009, and we had time to travel and see our kids and family.”

He recalled growing up with his brother, Geoffrey, and how as a young child they ‘borrowed’ workmen’s bikes in the village.

“Geoffrey and myself used to steal the bicycles and go for spins! We were five or six – that kind of age – and we rode these big men’s bicycles with your leg under the bar; you couldn’t get over the top of the bar.”

Mr. Armstrong spoke of a time of quintessential rural life; of helpful neighbours, traditional wakes, eating quickly as a boy, or else you wouldn’t have got eating at all; and of a time of shebeens.

He also remembered those who left Fermanagh in search of a better life, but who never forgot those who did them a good turn.

With a glint in his eye and a smile, Mr. Armstrong said: “There were a lot of people who emigrated to England and America and all over.

“I had a fella came in 20 years after he left, and he had borrowed the price of a suit off my father to go to America, and he came back to pay for the suit.

“I said there was no record [of that], and he said, ‘I got it, so I will pay for it’, and he paid me the price of the suit!”

The welcoming nature of the village was further emphasised by village pharmacist, Ciaran Brady, who said that when he opened his business in 2011, he was welcomed straight away.

“When we opened here, I was new to the area. I’d have been about Florencecourt, growing up, but people wouldn’t have known much about me.

“But they made me feel very welcome straightaway,” he said, standing in his pharmacy, which seems to have all the essentials and more.

He spoke of Florencecourt as a close-knit community; as a place where businesses and organisations work together, and where people enjoy a chat.

“I am from Teemore but it is an area very similar, in the sense it is an agricultural area.

“Florencecourt is very self-sufficient; it has its own school, its own doctors, its own pharmacy.

“While there is no shop in the village, there are four or five shops close by.”

Mr. Brady added: “It is a very close-knit community; everybody knows everybody and pulls together when needs be.

“There was a concern a few months ago about the South West Acute Hospital, [with an event] organised in the hall, and everyone was at it.”

The pharmacy has a busy calendar ahead as one of the hubs in the community, and Mr. Brady and his staff will be busy with their usual duties, as well as providing winter vaccines.

Preparing for the Christmas party rush in Tullymill Restaurant was head chef John Roche. He said Florencecourt and the Border region cater for tourism experiences, welcoming in diverse trade.

“We have a lot of cross-Border business; we are kind of situated where we are a destination for Sunday Lunch.

“It is out in the countryside, you go for a nice drive around the Marble Arch Scenic Route, or walk the Florence Court National Trust estate.

“We are in a nice destination, nestled in the forest. It is kind of a romantic setting; it is a special place to go, and that is how we are treated by customers,” added Mr. Roche.

Florencecourt has the potential to be a busy area for tourism, he said.

“We are seeing a lot of the Republic market coming in, doing the walks, doing the Fermanagh Lakelands.

“When you come here, you do Cladagh Glen, you do Marble Arch, you do Belmore Forest, and you can go into the Cavan Burren.”

Praising the area, Mr. Roche added: “There is a lot going for it. People drive past Florencecourt and say ‘It is just a village’, but it’s not."

Directly opposite the Tullymill complex lies the Miller's Cottage. The historic building is home to Glen McNeill and his wife, Eilleen.

The two retired Portora Royal School teachers moved to the area in the early 1980s and renovated the cottage.

Mr. McNeill recalled how he and his wife met. “I had been teaching and Eileen came in as a new teacher, and I gave her a cup of tea and a shortbread, and the rest is history!”

He said: “Florencecourt is a lovely place to live, and everyone is very friendly.

“I like living out in the country. Coming from Sion Mills, I was born and brought up in the country, so living out here is no aggravation to me, and for most of the year, the Florence Court Estate might as well belong to me!”

His great passion in life is his garden, and he brought us on a guided tour. He estimated he has between 600 and 700 different types of plants.

Discussing his love of gardening , Mr. McNeill added: “I just get a feeling of peace in the garden.

“I enjoy the physical labour. None of us are too far removed from the land – you only have to go back a generation, and most of us were from farmers.

“It's [farming] in my genes – it’s probably in all our genes, this urge to look after a little bit of land, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of it.”

Someone else not far removed from the land is Caroline Smith. The lifelong Florencecourt resident is the owner of Smith Sawmills in the village.

Ms. Smith said Florencecourt has a good community, and that she has good neighbours.

“They look out for each other; you don’t normally see them until you need help, and then you can call on them when you need them.”

Agreeing with other locals’ views, she said the location is advantageous for cross-Border business.

“We get a lot of custom from across the Border, and it is a good catchment area, with people going to Asda or whatever.”

However, she thinks the village could do with a few more amenities: “We need a good shop, and we need a good pub.”

When asked for a location for these, Ms. Smith laughed and said: “Walking distance, please!”

Summing up the feelings of many of the residents of the tranquil area, she added: “I love living in the country. I am here all my life, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”