Larne to me means summer holidays, although we must have been there at least once in Spring as I have a vivid memory of the lilac tree in the back garden. I decided very early in life that when I grew up I would have a lilac and a rocking chair as Granny had: it took me over forty years, but I managed it in the end!
Arrival was always exciting, with Granny waiting to greet us after the long car journey from Gulladuff. There were always loganberries and ice-cream for tea on the first evening: our first job was to go up to Bonugli's for the ice-cream, something of course which with no electricity we never had at home. Granny was a marvellous cook, and mealtimes were always a treat - several of my 'party-piece' recipes were originally hers, and are often commented on by guests who have not met them before. I believe that Beth has her recipe book - perhaps she will circulate it some time?
What do I remember? Playing and bathing on the beach by the Chaine Memorial - a couple of years ago I was amazed to see how small that patch of sand is: it seemed enormous to a child. On special occasions we went to 'the bathing boxes' when our parents bathed, but that was never so much fun. The water, being deeper, was always cold, and one seemed to be out of the sun. I wonder why we were never taught to swim? One odd memory is that on the way down to the beach we passed a dark house with no curtains, which Beth told me belonged to 'a professor'. Being older than the others, I did not want to admit that I did not know what a professor was, and some fairy tale association must have linked the word with wizards and ogres. We always passed that house with bated breath, and it was with considerable amusement to both of us that I later found its gentle elderly owner teaching me Anglo-Saxon at University. Alas, I have forgotten his name: I have forgotten the Anglo-Saxon too!
The special treat of every summer was a picnic to Islandmagee. All the children - there were seven of us by the end - and several aunts packed up a picnic and went across by motor-boat. Packed was the word - an enormous tea, two kettles, two primus stoves (and I suppose the water too) and several rugs were stowed aboard. Our first task was to collect stones to build a platform for the stoves, and then it was off to play or bathe while the kettles boiled. The great treat on this occasion was sandwiches: I think this was the only time we ever had them, and for years I thought they were so called because one ate them sitting on the sand!
Another special memory was the evening sing-songs. Sunday evenings were for hymn-singing, often with friends brought back from church. Was it Uncle Hugh who sang 'The Old Rugged Cross' and 'The Holy City'? Certainly 'The Lost Chord' recalls Aunt Rose. (These Sunday evenings are in fact the reason we were ever there at all, since it was through being invited to them when she first came to Larne as a stranger that my mother met my father.)
There must have been weekday ones too when we sang the old Irish songs like 'I'll take you home again, Kathleen', 'I'm sitting on the stile, Mary' - both calculated to bring tears to the eyes! - 'I'm forever blowing bubbles' and for some reason I can still hear Uncle Hugh singing 'It's six miles from Bangor to Donaghadee'! All these were sung to the old organ in the sitting room, sometimes with Granda playing his violin.
Another occasional treat - I can remember it only once - was a trip to the Glens of Antrim. Was there a little hut from which one could look at a waterfall through different coloured panes of glass, or was it one of Aunt Rose's contrivances that enabled one to see the water red and green and yellow? Talking of coloured glass, what hours of pleasure we got from a large kaleidoscope. I tried for years to get a similar one for Moyra's children, and later her grandchildren, but without success.
I can just remember going up to Drumalis [see the interesting report from the BBC program Your Place an Mine about Drumalis] to see Granny Clements, and Molly Carmichael who lived with her then, although I have no memory of her as a person. A couple of years ago Moyra and I were in Larne and going to call on Beth. we pulled in to a gateway to consult a map, and found ourselves parked by the gate lodge of Drumalis, Granny Clements' old home.
It cannot always have been sunny, although in retrospect it seems to have been, as there were whole days spent reading, which would never have been allowed if the weather had allowed us to get out. I also remember Trying to write a book one summer, and the serious interest that Aunt Rose showed in my story and how it developed. I don't think it ever had an end - I expect the sun came out. I can remember spending one whole day reading a Victorian Sunday School prize called 'Misunderstood, crying my eyes out on the slippery black leather sofa in the front room. I can still quote whole sentences from it! There were also the first comics I had ever come across, sent weekly from Australia. Being something of a bookworm, it worried me that I could never understand them!
Gardenmore church features largely in my memories too. It was a long walk for young legs on a Sunday morning, but I think my love for the church began there. In Gulladuff we went to a bare, whitewashed 'meeting house' with no organ or choir, where only psalms and paraphrases were sung. Gardenmore was a revelation to me with its music, colour and lovely wooden pews, and I loved it. (So did my mother, who chose to be married there instead of from her own home. Well into her eighties she watched a 'Songs of Praise' programme form there on television - with Ivan's son Stephen playing the organ - and wrote to tell me how much happiness it had brought her to see it again.) I was so pleased that with the help of Beth and Ivan (and Stephen) we were able to arrange to have her funeral service there.
We did not always stay in Curran Street. At least once we stayed with Aunt Minnie - perhaps when the Detroit uncle was visiting, and there was a plethora of guests. We also stayed with Aunt Rose when Moyra was born, and although I was not quite four then, I can still remember that lovely house overlooking the sea. I also remember one evening when Daddy and Uncle Hugh took me out fishing with them, and my efforts not to show how terrified I was when the fish (mackerel, I expect) started leaping about in the bottom of the boat. In 1933 we stayed with Aunt Molly in Bay Road. That was when Jackie was born, and is my only less than happy memory of Lame. I had to go to the Olderfleet School for several weeks, and hated every minute of it!
The uncles do not loom very large in my memories, nor does Aunt Lily, though in my teens I was closer to her than any of the others. I suppose they were at work during the day, and our early bedtime as children prevented us from seeing much of them in the evening. Possible the same applies to Granda, whom I visualize sitting silently in the corner with his pipe and a paper, or playing a violin, or standing at the front door watching the passers-by, but rarely speaking. Perhaps with five talkative daughters he did not get many chances! Perhaps Ivan can remember him better.
Who else do I remember? Aunt Minnie and Uncle Brice [Mulholland?], Molly and Muriel, Billy Carmichael... It was only when working on this history that I finally sorted out the confusion of names in that household. Aunt Minnie had re-married, and was Mrs Mulholland; her children were Carmichael, but Muriel, who also called her 'mummy', was Peterson. Muriel was in fact her granddaughter. Her mother had gone to the USA and had married there. When she returned on a visit with her young baby, Muriel caught scarlet, fever and was not able to travel when the time came for them to go back. Her mother had to leave her, planning to come back for her later, but shortly after she was widowed, and Muriel remained in Larne. Of non-family friends there were annual visits to tea with the Orrs, and with the Halls - the only place where I can remember having to be on my best behaviour, where there was a daughter called Eileen with whom I was expected to make friends, but who to me was grown up. There was also someone called Wesley Simpson who drove a taxi, though why I should remember him I cannot imagine. Perhaps he drove the family on their visits to Gulladuff: there are numerous old family photographs taken there with unidentifiable men in them. Perhaps one of them is Wesley Simpson.
The abiding memory of Larne, though, is Granny herself, loving, welcoming always smelling of lavendar water which she had in little wicker-covered bottles. I wish she had lived long enough for me to know her better, and for more of her grandchildren to know her at all. A glance at some of her photographs will show what a lovely person she was. Granda lived less than a year after her, according to Aunt Minnie, with whom he lived in those months.