The very first time daddy brought us to see a round tower it seemed to touch the sky and you needed a rope ladder to reach the door which was a long way off the ground. The window holes were like slits and had no glass in them, so it must have been very draughty and dark inside. A round tower was like a round room and it was not as wide as our house. In my head it seemed only as wide as our toilet, well that was the smallest room in our house (separate to the bathroom) and I needed to get things in proportion.
I seem to remember being told then that round towers were originally built to protect our ancestors from raiders such as Vikings.
My childish mind worked overtime when I thought about it. To begin with I was small for my age when I was young, my father and uncles were all over 6ft tall. If they were standing when they spoke to me I had to look a long way up to see their faces. When we were near the tower daddy didn’t reach the bottom of the door. I hoped there would be no more Vikings. I didn’t want to climb up there.
Anyway, if we did manage to get inside how could we all fit? Maybe I would be lifted up onto someone’s shoulders. The round room went way up to the sky remember, so there would be lots of people standing on other peoples shoulders! What would I do if a heavy person was standing on my shoulders? It would be terrible if their feet were dirty and smelly. Again I hoped there would be no more raiders.
What brought this on?
You may well ask!
At the weekend I went out for a walk in the sunshine and on my travels I saw this round tower:
In 1866 James Chaine, the son of a prosperous linen merchant from Co Antrim, bought the Larne harbour with a down payment of £9,000. He repaired the existing pier and quays and had them extended and developed a rail link to the Port. In 1871 the Larne and Stranraer Steamboat Company was formed and a new paddle steamer the Princess Louise commenced a regular service between the two ports on 1st July 1872.
A mail route was established in 1875 and a trans-Atlantic service between Glasgow, Larne and New York began in 1873. Using the renowned State Line vessels, this service continued until December 1889 and many hundreds of emigrants left Larne to start a new life in America.
James Chaine died from pneumonia in 1885 at the age of 44 and as a mark of respect the people of Larne and district raised funds by public subscription to build the Chaine Memorial Tower which dominates the entrance to the harbour.