Monthly Archives: August 2011

Openings 3

Gateway to Kilbride Cemetery

The graveyard is on high ground open to the worst of the bitter winds and driving rain so common in this part of the world.

With the years, the ground has sunken in places, so it is necessary to watch each footfall.  At one point I almost fell into an excavated grave.  Stop laughing Son-in-Law… you won’t get rid of me that easily.  😆

Ancient and modern, behind the wall is Kilbride Presbyterian Church, the headstone to the right of the foreground is modern, though I didn’t take note of the date.  I wonder how the smooth polished stone will look in a 100 years time?

Turning 180° look what I found:-

Pride of place in the graveyard belongs to the Stephenson mausoleum, which was built in 1837 and commemorates several of the family, including four medical men.  Among these is Samuel Martin Stephenson, who died in 1834, he was ‘Superintending Surgeon in the Madras Presidency’.  Perhaps that would explain the Indian influence of the tomb.

In memory of
Superintending Surgeon
Madras Presidency India
died July 1834 aged 50 years

Here lieth the remains of
James A Stephenson
who died at Killally
9th May 1839 aged 57 years

The doorway is well weathered and rusted, but if you look carefully it bears the name of a local man John Rowan*, who made it.

In the recesses round the mausoleum are memorial plates to the members of the family.  Battered by the elements over the 174 years, some were difficult to read.

Here lieth the remains of
George Alexander Stephenson
late Surgeon 3rd Dragoon guards
died at Brittas County Antrim**
28th November 1864 aged 76 years

Directly behind the mausoleum are four graves in a railed off area, so I was unable to gain access to the other memorials on the mausoleum.   Of the four standing memorial tablets in a line against the wall, the one on the right marks the grave of schoolmaster William Galt, a United Irishman who established what is believed to be the first Sunday School in Ireland in the late 1700s.  He also started a renowned book club which attracted many members, after the Battle of Antrim soldiers destroyed many of the school books by playing football with them.  He died in 1812.

A white headstone in the fore ground marks the family grave of a much loved local writer, Florence Mary McDowell.  Born in Bridge House in Doagh in 1886, she taught at Cogry Mills Memorial School.  She met her husband at the ‘tumbling’ bridge just next to her home.

In her eighties she wrote two books, ‘Other Days Around Me’ and ‘Roses and rainbows’, which recreated the Doagh of her childhood.  She died in 1976 but her ability to bring bygone age to life continues to charm a new generation of readers.

* Rowan, an engineer and inventor, established a foundry in the village of Doagh.   Along with various iron implements, field gates and ornate entrances, Rowan designed and built a steam coach and on 1st January 1836 drove it through Belfast where he had set up his agricultural machinery and boilermaking business in York Street.  He is credited with inventing the ‘piston ring’ which greatly increased the efficiency of engines.   Rowan was born in Doagh in 1787 and died in Belfast in 1858. A memorial to John Rowan stands in the centre of the village.

** An early name for Ballycastle is said to have been Port Brittas.

The best of plans….

I must be getting old, the days are flying by and it is time for LBC members to visit the playground once more.  Our topic this week was chosen by Padmini.


The animosity that Julia had shown to Edgar was difficult to understand.  There seemed no reason for it.  Edgar loved his wife, provided well for their four sons and showed care for his community by being a member of the voluntary Fire Brigade within the local area.  A loud siren reminiscent of war time, wailed over the town when the firemen were needed.  Nowadays the siren is silent and the volunteers are called by mobile phones.  Edgar’s days of fire fighting are well over.

Julia, born and bred on a rural farm, didn’t stray far from home when she married.  She had met Nick at a harvest supper in her local church.  The harvest supper was the hi-light of the social year round those parts, it was an occasion for a new dress, or at least new ribbons and lace to update last year’s creation.

Nick had inherited the family farm when his father died a year earlier.  Romance was far from his mind.  Nick saw Julia as a good catch, she knew the ways of the land and seemed capable of running a home, her offerings for the harvest supper were wholesome and tasty. As they chatter over the tea cups he judged her capable of dealing with the accounts too.  It would leave him free to work the land, so he began calling regularly to visit her  and eventually marriage seemed the natural progression.

Nick was a quiet hardworking man of the land with little in the way of humour to lighten his load.  He rose early, worked all the daylight hours and sat by the fire of an evening reading his bible or the weekly newspaper.  He had no truck with dancing, or the demon drink.  He had given Julia a daughter, and once that duty was out of the way he contented himself to peaceful uninterrupted sleep.

Julia devoted her every waking moment to her duties, her head for figures stood to her and she watched as the farm increased in size.  They had a good living from it and she had her only daughter for company.   She knitted and sewed, cooked and baked all for her beloved Ann, but mostly she dreamed for a future that she herself had missed.

Ann was a lively student who showed promise.  Julia was torn between encouraging her to further education, but that would mean moving away from home, or keeping her close to hand for the company.  If truth were told, Ann was the only friend that Julia had so she set her heart on finding a farmer husband for her daughter, who would one day take over from Nick and run Ann’s inheritance.

Ann, a young lady of her time had other ideas.  Life in the back of beyond was rather dull and she craved being at least closer to the town, if not the City.  When any chance came her way, she sought permission to stay with one of her class mates.  The girls loved dancing and it was at one of the local dances in the town hall that Edgar invited her on to the floor.  They moved with ease, perfectly comfortable in each other’s arms.  The sprung floor was an added bonus.  They danced together for the remainder of the evening and at every dance that they both attended.

Ann felt she had found her dream, and forgot all about moving away to college.  Julia was again torn, annoyed that Ann would not go further with her education, yet secretly pleased that she would remain close to home.  As soon as Ann reached her majority, she married Edgar and moved into a modern house in the town.

Within a year the twins, Roger and Oliver were born and Ann and Edgar were delighted.  Their dream was complete and they had little room for any outside distraction.  Giles arrived when the twins were two, and the love for the growing family increased.  Five years later the family was completed with Christopher, or Crisp as the twins loved to call him.  Somehow the name stuck.

Edgar worked all the harder and for longer hours in order to give the boys a good education.  For Roger and Oliver learning came easily, and they were star pupils all the way through school.  Giles followed in their footsteps.  It became a quiet household of books and study, Ann and Edgar were happy and provided every opportunity for learning to their beloved boys.

Crisp seemed a little different, not so fond of his books but happier working with his hands.  He liked to go to the farm and help his grandfather.  As he grew the more time he spent with his grandparents, Nick was happy, but Julia still missed the companionship of her daughter.   She blamed Edgar for taking Ann away.

Then one year Nick had a nasty accident on his tractor.  His back gave him trouble and his farm became an impossible chore.  Julia made the decision to sell up, it was the opportunity she was waiting for, and the farm was on the market before she even told Nick.  She had always kept her eye on property for sale, farms were making good money and she saw a suitable house for sale around the corner from Ann.  The fact that it was also around the corner from Edgar never entered her head.

Julia sold the farm and made a tidy profit, to secure a comfortable old age, even after buying the house and re decorating and furnishing it.  The garden was small and easy to look after.  Still in charge of the money, Julia arranged to have the wills updated.  She talked Nick into following her wishes, which he did without a murmur.  Everything was left to each other with a settlement made for Ann.  Julia was happier than she had been in years.  She saw Ann nearly every day.

With retirement, Nick had developed the habit of bringing morning tea to Julia in bed.  One morning she was still asleep when he set the small tray on the bedside locker.  Shaking her arm gently, it suddenly and heavily fell over the edge of the bed.  It was cold to the touch and Nick realised that he would no longer be carrying that tray to the bedroom.  Julia was dead.  How would he tell Ann?  How would he manage without Julia to take care of him.  He would think about that last question tomorrow.

By the time the twins went to College Giles had caught up with them.  All three boys graduated with First Class Honours.  It was a wonderful time of family celebration.  The boys moved across the world as they continued with their careers.  They kept in touch with home no matter where they went.  Crisp missed his brothers and struggled with school.  He stuck it out until he was sixteen and went in search of an apprenticeship.

At this time Nick was becoming frail so Edgar suggested to Ann that he move in with them.  The boys were away and there was plenty of space.  It worked well.  With regular meals prepared for him and constant company Nick improved and began to enjoy life once more.

Ann had a blow out on the motorway and broke through the central reservation into the path of an on coming truck.  She was dead before the traffic stopped.  The family were devastated and pulled closer together.  With time a form of normality settled in and Nick, Edgar and Crisp learned to care for each other.  They had a lady who came in for a few hours every day, making the main meal and dealing with the cleaning and washing.  It was a good arrangement.

An early frost took Nick by surprise and he had a fall hitting his head on the edge of a sharp kerb.  Two days later he was gone to be with Julia and Ann.

At the reading of his will things were easy to organise.  Nick had quietly visited the solicitor after  Julia had died,  The main beneficiary was to be Ann, and since the older boys were doing well, he left a larger portion of the residue to Crisp.

Now Ann was gone, and Edgar was the next of kin, Ann’s portion went to him.

Crisp bought a motorbike with his inheritance and his first journey turned into his last.  Young people may know how to increase and reduce speed, but that does not mean they are able to control the weight of a motor bike.  His next of kin was his father so Edgar ended up with all the money that Julia didn’t want him to have!


Now it is time for you to visit Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, gaelikaa, Magpie 11, Noor, Padmini, Ramana, Rohit, The Silver Fox Whispers, The Student Diaries, Will ,Nema, Paul &Plain Joe and discover the take they have of our topic.

Thursday Special ~ HAPPY ANNIVERSARY !!!

A couple were celebrating 50 years together..

Their three kids, all very successful, agreed to a Sunday dinner in their honour.

“Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad,” gushed son number one ….. ‘Sorry. I’m running late. I had an emergency at the hospital with a patient, you know how it is, and I didn’t have time to get you a gift.”

“Not to worry,” said the father. “The important thing is that we’re all together today.”

Son number two arrived and announced, “You and Mom look great, Dad. I just flew in from Los Angeles between depositions and didn’t have time to shop for you.”

“It’s nothing,” said the father. “We’re glad you were able to come.”

Just then the daughter arrived. “Hello and happy anniversary! I’m sorry, but my boss is sending me out of town and I was really busy packing so I didn’t have time to get you anything…”

After they had finished dessert, the father said, “There’s something your mother and I have wanted to tell you for a long time. You see, we were very poor. Despite this, we were able to send each of you to college. Throughout the years your mother and I knew that we loved each other very much, but we just never found the time to get married.”

The three children gasped and all said, “You mean we’re bastards?”

“Yep,” said the father. “And cheap ones too.”




Thank you Joe for this weeks story.

Another Hole

Following my post yesterday about the Holestone, Ramana left the following comment:-

My comment is on its way by mail GM. Hope that you will find some way to use it!

This cartoon was attached to the email

This cartoon reminded me of a tale from another time!

When my mother was a young bride she enjoyed nothing better than sunbathing in the privacy of her back garden.  The only way you could see into the garden was from the bedroom window of the house next door.

One day the lady next door called to mammy from over the hedge.   The neighbour was a little embarrassed about what she wanted to say…

“Would you not like to cover up a little and not be a temptation to the men”!

Mammy was not in an outfit like the lady in the cartoon, in fact mammy did not possess a bikini.  She was wearing a pair of shorts and a blouse.  The outfit in the photo below.  She had purchased it on holiday in Nice in 1939, just before the outbreak of WW11.

Mammy in Nice 1939

The shorts are still about, I wore them in the garden in my time.   Elly managed to model them at one point and now my sister wears them while painting and decorating.

The two ladies were neighbours for fifty five years and became good friends, but never thought to call each other by their first names.


Yesterday turned out to be a nice day weather wise so I took my camera gallivanting.  We scrambled over farmers fields and an old graveyard.  It is amazing what you find when you are scrambling about in Farmer’s fields!

I found a hole.

… well I had to try it!

Yes.  that is my gloved hand just about through the hole.  It was kinda difficult to have my right hand through the hole, and then lean round with the left one to take a photo for evidence.  I didn’t dare put my left hand through that there hole.  “Why?” I hear you ask.  This was no ordinary hole!

The Holestone

On the crest of a hill of private farmland close to Doagh, in County Antrim,  sits a Bronze Age megalith known as The Holestone.   It is 1.5 metres high, with a 10cm diameter hole cut into it about I metre from the base.

The Holestone is an ancient Celtic Stone that has attracted visitors, seeking eternal love and happiness, since the 18th century.

Upon reaching the Holestone, couples used to promise marriage by clasping hands through the hole in the stone.   The hole will only allow the hand of a girl to pass through and that was then clasped by the man as they made their vows.

There is a legend regarding a black horse that inhabits the field in which the holestone is situated. According to this legend a young couple were married at the stone, but the groom committed an act of adultery on their wedding night. For this act he was cursed by the stone to spend eternity as a horse, never dying, and never able to leave that field.

I looked all about me, I found plenty of dried up cowpats, but saw no horse.

Camera sitting on top of the Holestone

and again

Not a sign of a horse anywhere!

I will keep you waiting until Saturday to see what I found in the graveyard! 😉

Food Monday ~ Macaroony Biscuits

Macaroony Biscuits.
Pre-heat oven to 150ºC

4 egg whites from large eggs
4 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
250 ml coconut
Chocolate for filling

Cover a Cookie sheet with Parchment paper.
Combine egg whites, vanilla and almond extracts, and sugar, then fold in coconut.
Drop small mounds (1-2 inches across) of the coconut mixture onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, leaving a couple of inches between each of them.
Bake the macaroons for about 15-20 minutes, until golden. Transfer with the parchment paper, to a rack and let them cool for about 15 minutes, then sandwich with a thin layer of melted chocolate and leave to set before putting them in an airtight container.

Mill Work

Millworker – Hot Forged Steel
Eamonn Higgins.

Northern Ireland of the fifties and sixties was a landscape dotted with “Mills” of that time, and with those of the past.  These Mills were the life blood of many a village. They were Flax and spinning mills, not forgetting the paper mills of Ballyclare and Larne.  They provided employment for everyone – from young children to the elderly.

Rear view of the Millworker

Not to be confused with Kells, County Meath or Kells, County Kilkenny. the village of Kells that I have in mind today, is in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, near Ballymena.  An old stone bridge crosses the Kells Water, separating Kells from the adjacent village of Connor.

Click to enlarge

Children were legally permitted to work at the mills from about the age of ten years on a part-time basis. They usually spent alternate days at the mill, typically working as doffers (replacing full yarn bobbins on the spinning frames with empty ones), and in the classroom. When they first started work, many suffered what became known as ‘mill fever’ before they adjusted to the high temperatures, damp or dusty environments, noise and exhaustion.    They were working 14 – 16 hours a day, with short breaks for meals.  Some of the children were deformed by the work – the long hours would make them tired and clumsy and there would be accidents as they were caught up in the machinery.

The noise from the belts that came from the line shafting which drove the machinery from the water wheel was deafening and the air was filled with dry flax plant dust called ‘pouce’ and workers could not avoid inhaling it. As it settled in the lungs, it caused shortness of breath and many bronchial complaints.

Detail of apron

Eamonn Higgins is a Sculptor/Artist based in North Antrim. He specializes in and for the most part, works with hot forged steel, but he has been known to work with other materials i.e. ceramics and glass.

Eamonn’s work is about the subtle delicacies of the relationships that bind the people together, whether it is about the things that have nurtured who they are, or the positive things that will define who they will become.

Eamonn is presently pursuing this philosophy through his residency in the South Lough Neagh wetlands by challenging our perception of elegance and beauty through uncompromising deformation of metal using fire.
Eamonn believes that beauty can be found in the balance between contrasts, as it makes us ask questions about the similarities that lie between. In a community, for example, this may be prevalent between the young and old where a mutual feeling of persecution can be a catalyst for an expression of cultural pride and communal togetherness.

This short video is based on cotton and woollen mills on Mainland UK, But I am sure there was little difference in the conditions of the Mills in Northern Ireland.  As an aside the video seems to be in a bright museum, the actual mills would have been larger, darker and more full of dust.

A very interesting link to a History of Irish Linen.


There goes that Anu, in and out of the Dusty bluebells…..  The young lady is up to her tricks again.  She had the choice of topic today.

My Childhood

I am struggling here.  Not because I cannot remember back to the far off days of my childhood, going back is easy, but please do not ask me what I was doing two minutes ago.

I’m a Dingly Dangly Scarecrow.
With a flippy floppy hat.
I can shake my hands like this.
I can shake my feet like that.

My problem is trying to find some aspect of my childhood that has not been covered here on the blog, in the last few years.

Here we go ’round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush,
Here we go ’round the mulberry bush,
So early in the morning.

The pencil is chewed to the size of a cigarette butt, and time is running out…..

This is the way we bake our bread,
Bake our bread, bake our bread,
This is the way we bake our bread,
So early Friday morning.

Bingo!  I have it….

But the second one is up to me and no one else.


Now it is time to go out to the playground and play Ring a ring a rosy with all our active members:

Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Magpie 11, Noor, Padmini, Ramana, Rohit, The Silver Fox Whispers, The Student Diaries, Will and joining us this week for the very first time are Nema, Paul &Plain Joe

Thursday Special ~ APARTMENT for RENT

A businessman met a beautiful girl and agreed to spend
the night with her for $500.  They did their thing,
and, before he left, he told her that he did
not have any cash with him, but he would have his
secretary write a cheque and mail it to her, calling
the payment ‘RENT FOR APARTMENT.’

On the way to the office, he regretted what he had done,
realizing that the whole event had not been
worth the price.  So he had his secretary send a cheque for $250 and enclose the following typed note:

‘Dear Madam:
Enclosed find a cheque for $250 for rent of your
apartment .  I am not sending the amount agreed upon,
because when I rented the place, I was under the
impression that:
#1 – it had never been occupied;
#2 – there was plenty of heat; and
#3 – it was small enough to make me feel cozy and at home.
However, I found out that:
#1 – it had been previously occupied,
#2 – there wasn’t any heat, and
#3 – it was entirely too large.’

Upon receipt of the note, the girl immediately
returned the cheque for $250 with the following note:

‘Dear Sir:
#1 – I cannot understand how you could expect a
beautiful apartment to remain unoccupied indefinitely.
#2 – As for the heat, there is plenty of it, if you
know how to turn it on.
#3 – Regarding the space, the apartment is indeed of
regular size, but if you don’t have enough furniture
to fill it, please do not blame the management.
So, Please send the rent in full or we will be forced
to contact your present landlady…

Thank you Nancy for this weeks offering.