I’ve mentioned already that I rarely wore shoes during my stays at the caravan, and so it was that very often I walked the road barefoot. I’m not pretending that it was painless, it was my own silly fault when I ended up regularly with aching soles! There was of course the grass verge to try to keep to, but nettles and unknown creepy crawlies deterred me. Most of the time we were laughing and joking so much that we didn’t notice any discomfort.
There were land marks on the way to keep us interested as well. The first was the Greystone Road off to the right opposite the farm. So called because of the enormous grey stone perched on the right hand side. This road took you to Carrowdore…you remember Carrowdore, the little village that seemed to have had time pass it by! I never questioned that stone, I just accepted it’s presence, but I suppose that it was left there after the ice age . The whole of County Down is “ basket of eggs” country known as drumlins.
Different farms and other sites, which we dismissed as lesser establishments were passed as we walked. Half way along on the right was an old abandoned farm house. With our vivid imaginations and no doubt encouraged by one of the older members of the gang, we came to believe that it was haunted. So to prove our fearlessness, we would creep up the tangled path and peer in the grimey windows, until one of the gang jumped out and shouted “boo!” If at times I passed on my own, I always took a sidelong glance and hurried on as fast as I could. Well you know the old saying..”there’s more to heaven and earth than any of us realise”. The fresh air and the salty smell of the sea was ever present and even now, when that wonderful ozone once again hits my nostrils, I’m catapulted back in memories, to the sensuousness of it all.
One of the reasons that I liked the walk along the road so much, was that my relatives had their caravans on a site close to the town. They were on The Robinson’s Field with the farm on the landward side of the road but the vans tight up against the edge of the coast. Aunt Cis, my father’s sister and her husband John occupied one of the sites with their three sons and Aunt Sally and her husband Cecil, one of dad’s relatives, had another with their two daughters. Both men had built their own caravans and the legend was that they were so good at this that even the line on the screw heads were the same throughout. Sometimes the boys went out rabbiting, not to catch or kill but to bring back for a little while some little wild ones to have as pets by the caravan. Then I assume that at the end of the summer they set them free…well that’s what I want to assume! I’m not saying that dad didn’t catch rabbit for food, oh yes he did and mum was expert at turning it in to best chicken! And talking about chickens, none of these sites were the clean cemented establishments that so much of today's caravaners know, chickens, ducks and various fowl wandered at will in among to vans.
Aunt Sally had a wonderful little mantra. The farmer’s son was John and a flirt. So Sally with a wry smile would ask him to remember that she was watching out for her beautiful daughters and he should be a good boy! Hmm. That seemed to me even then like a lost cause. They were such fun the country lads, but good, no they were not!
Food once again played a big role in the wanting to stop here. Aunt Cis was renowned for her exotic sandwiches. Always the crusts discarded...a feast for the gulls. The white bread, “sliced pan” no doubt from The Ormeau Bakery, buttered with best Ulster butter. Then amazing combinations such as freshly cooked ham sliced to within an inch of it’s life and on top of that some more fine slices of pickled peaches. Where did she get such luxuries in those days of belt tightening? Best not to ask! Onions once again played the role of a new taste for me. Thin sliced beef and even thinner slices of onion rings on delicious wheaten bread. I missed Irish bread so much when I first made my way to these English shores.
But the Ballyferris gang were eager to be on the move. Eager to get to the multifarious delights of the town of Ballywalter. So I would reluctantly leave the pleasures of Aunt Cis’s food and the joys of Aunt Sally’s caustic remarks and join them. I didn’t want to be the one who missed out on the big happenings at the town.
Painting by Kenneth Webb