Wednesday, July 13

The Story of Ballyferris..Donaghadee....reviewed...April 25th 2013

Here is a chapter in the Story of Ballyferris......reviewed, pushed around a bit and rescripted until I felt more satisfied with the rhythm of the story....I hope you enjoy... even if you had already read it the first time!

It was always just a little town. Not that much going on really, yet it was Mecca in the days when we were teenagers and needed a place of excitement away from the caravan field.
To get there depended on whoever had a car and also if you were "in" on that day with those who considered themselves our leaders!
 In the early days of our life at Ballyferris, it was upon the kindness of Mr Hope,  that we were dependent. Few buses passed along that country road.
But eventually the McClellands' had their own transport.

That's dad...and a very shy..Rosemary... standing beside him. We could really pack family and friends into this car. No seat belts then....  and so four folk seated in the back with three others on their knees was not at all unusual.
But best was when the oldest one in the gang  who had managed to pass the driving test and get a car....might say, "Anyone fancy a trip into Donaghadee for some chips?" The cars were always wrecks! but that  made it so much more interesting. It might not make it there and back, you might have to walk all the way back in the dark...but it would be with the farmers' lads.
There were two main attractions, three at the most. A fish and chip shop, a pokey little amusement arcade and an ice-cream cafe.
Fish and chips were as everywhere else in those long gone days, eaten out of a newspaper. I assume that there was some greaseproof paper in between the chips and the newspaper...but I couldn't swear to it. The smell of the lard on the chips, the vinegar they were souced with and the special smell that only comes from a harbour...of sea, diesel and ozone.... never leaves you as an eternal memory. We leaned against the harbour wall eating the dripping morsels, ignoring the chill wind coming off the waters separating the mainland from the Copeland Islands.
Now.. we go down to the coast to relive these memories, and lean and dream against the harbour wall.
It's only right and proper.

  The harbour was a great draw. Harbours are.There were always ancient fishing boats moored up alongside one another. One in particular was called, "The Brothers". Some of the older members of the Ballyferris gang knew them well enough to be invited to crew with them.  That meant that somehowyou  had a kind of a tenuous link.... and so when you went out stream fishing with them, to catch mackerel, you could almost believe you were part of the crew!
Rubbish of course!   I always had to pay!
It was and still is a way for fishermen to supplement their income during the summer months.
We fished with line strewn with vicious hooks, and we caught many, many mackerel.  I longed to take some back to the caravan and have them fried in the pan, glossy with butter and tangy with lemon.......but was  informed by mum that they were the rubbish bins of the sea and she wouldn't touch them with a barge pole!
What would she say today about my  mackerel pate? "Nice dear ...but I'll have a tomato sandwich if you don't mind"!

Further along the promenade, turn left up a little narrow street, cross to the other side, and there is the icecream shop...
.., even today  "The Cabin Ice-cream Salon".

 Dad loved good ice-cream. He would stop the car anywhere if he'd heard that the product was a winner. And the Cabin was one of the best,  still is to have endured for 50 years. In fact if you pop over to this site you may be amazed at how long it has actually  been open.
 My favourite spot to sit and eat was up the steep stairs to a seat by a little window. The big decision was always whether to have a poke or a slider! A poke was what is  called a cone now, but maybe it's still called a poke in Donaghadee. A slider is of course a sandwich of ice-cream.

The oldest pub in Ireland is in Donaghadee, Grace Neill's Bar, but I didn't get to enjoy the pleasures of this old bar...I was much too young ... much too good! ...what a missed opportunity that was! The story going around was that Mr Hope had some link with the bar and that was why his younger son was called Neil...but that may have been simply the romantic babblings of some of the locals.

Watching over the town was the Moat.

Rather shabby then and broken down. Not any more... as the rest of the town has  also has been gentrified over the years. I love the new colours, well I love colour... however I adored the grey that was then the hue of the local buildings. It was a Co. Down colour, everybody recognised it and now it could be Cork or Southwold or wherever.

The gang didn't stay together for long. Life came in and changed all of that. Jobs and college and universities beckoned. And it being Northern Ireland we all went our various ways often abroad or at the very least over the water to the mainland.

But a last little gem about Donaghadee....we loved sweets  and chips of course...
... but....I loved dulse! Seaweed with a salty, tangy, mineral kind of  flavour. Deep red and  delicious. Well my opinion. Locally gathered from the rocks around the coast.
 I always keep a  bag of dulse at the back of the food cupboard, and now and then  take it out, open up the bag...and take a long dreaming smell of it,
And I'm transported back to those heady days again.


  1. I've never heard of 'Dulse'. I wonder if it's similar to Welsh lava (sp?) bread.

  2. what a brilliant story... and love the old photos. I should dig out some of the ones that we have that my brother got scanned in that recall my childhood.

  3. thankyou for the comments...well dulse is found around the coast of Co Down and probably elsewhere but I'm not sure about that. It's not used as lava bread is but can be put in stews etc. I knew it in Ireland as a child to eat from a paper bag!
    thankyou furthon ...I love old pics!!

  4. I've some happy memories of Donaghadee aswell. I've never been brave enough to eat dulce but the last time I saw it for sale I was at the Ol' Lamis fair at Ballycastle.

  5. Oh my gosh. You have just taken me on a trip down memory lane.
    I was born and raised in Donaghadee and left the town in 1968 to far off lands.
    I would love to visit again and walk to the harbour and maybe see someone I knew.
    Thank you for a lovely article
    Kathleen Katz (nee Taylor)

    1. Kathy lovely to get your comments!...I too left though not so far...NW England...but I love to go little has changed...perhaps a bit more paint here or there but the "Brothers " boat is still in the harbour and of course it's de rigeur to take a walk around the lighthouse each time you go and an icecream from the Cabin.!! such memories!!

  6. Oh my gosh. You have just taken me a trip down memory lane.
    I was raised in Donaghadee and left for faraway lands, in 1968 as a teenager.
    I have not been back and your article was wonderful reading and brought back many memories.
    Kathleen Katz (nee Taylor)


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