I’m not exactly sure who was first in the small field to the right of the lane. I suspect that the Cathcarts were already there when we arrived in 1951. Apart from the mum and dad there were three children though I don’t ever remember much about the parents. Except to say that I always had the feeling that the adults in this field were extremely sophisticated. Derek was at least in his early twenties, Brian a few years younger and Jill was around my age. Their caravan was closest to the beach and was a commercial one. If not already , then soon afterwards, Derek had his own caravan. Of which more later. The McKees were next to them and their site was up against the hedge that ran along the edge of the lane. Now this family lived near us in South Belfast. In fact, I went to the same primary school as the four daughters. June was the eldest, about the same age as Derek, then Paddy [Patricia], Carole and Val. June eventually also had her own little van. Of this, I was in great awe, as that meant that she was very grown up!
I have already mentioned the Pollock abode. It wasn’t a caravan as such, but an amazing reuse of a workman's trailer. The outside was painted forest green and the wheels were black. Three or four wooden steps led up to the front door. Like many caravans, including our own, this was a barn door. The top could be left open to let in more light and air, while keeping the bottom closed to give the family privacy .
Inside was divided into two areas. To the left were the sleeping quarters, once again split into two small thin rooms. Each of the rooms had bunk beds fitted on to the wooden walls rather like the alcove beds of Irish cottages, or those I’ve seen in Breton homes.On the right of the door was the kitchen area and opposite it some comfortable chairs. And at the far end was the dining table raised up on a plinth which meant you had to go up a step to get to it. Oh how exotic was that.
I have a vivid memory of being there when I was about fifteen and watching Mrs. Pollock frying a mound of onions in a large cast iron pan. The smell was wonderful and she stirred them around until they turned golden brown and glossy. But I think that apart from some potatoes, that was dinner. Now I had never had a meal like that. There was always bacon or lamb chop or even chicken with the potatoes and in a very odd way that I could never share with mum, I longed for something as exotic as fried onions! Silly child!
Mr. Pollock had very strong views about table manners, which, although we were not allowed to be rude at home, seemed to me to take a lot of the joy out of eating.
Outside the van and up against the hedge was an elaborate sun trap. Until I meet Vicky I had no idea that it was very desirable to get a good overall tan in the summer. This contraption was basically a large piece of wood placed at an angle of fortyfive degrees facing due south. At the bottom was a strip of wood attached so that your feet could have a resting place to stop them sliding off. They also had a white painted board to reflect the suns rays, in order for them not to miss a single one. They were also the first people I ever saw, to hold their arms above their heads at times as they sunbathed to make sure that the tan was really even! Needless to say, by late summer each year, Mr. And Mrs. Pollock were as brown as berries and as the years went on I would even go so far as to say rather leathery!
Now there may have been other occupants in that field but these are the ones that influenced me for better or for worse. Then again, some may reply that I was the influence and I like to think that I may have had a little of that at times in this idyll called Ballyferris.