Listening to the interviewees it would seem that a visit to the dentist was as dreaded an experience seventy years ago as it is now. There were, however, fewer opportunities to visit a dentist and basic dental treatment was often carried out by the local doctor.

Mary Ann Higgins laughs now when she thinks back to her early dental experiences: ‘Dr McCaughey would have pulled the teeth for you … pulled them many a time. … I remember going there until I got two or three out and then he said, “Oh, you should go to the dentist, they might fill that for you”. After that we started going to the dentist.’

Cahal Boyd also remembered having his teeth pulled by the local doctor and noted that he was 15 or 16 when he went to a dentist for the first time. Sheila Herdman recalls that dental services in Whitehead in her early childhood were provided by Dr Barney Dickson who had studied both medicine and dentistry. Sheila still vividly remembers one particular dental experience: ‘When I was seven years of age, for some reason or another, all the enamel came off my first teeth. And I was laid out in King’s Road on our dining room table. Dr Martin gave me the anaesthetic and Dr Dickson pulled out the teeth and I woke up in the front room in King’s Road minus seven teeth.’

Brian McKenna’s father Arthur qualified as a dentist in Belfast and came to Whitehead to set up a practice in the mid 1930s People would have come to his father’s dental practice from Islandmagee, Ballycarry and round to Carrickfergus. When he set up his practice in Whitehead Arthur worked two days a week in Carrickfergus – this went on for about 20 years – because Whitehead’s population was then much smaller. Sunday morning could be busy for him with holidaymakers turning up at his door who had broken or lost their dentures the night before or were suffering with toothache.
South Antrim Living Memories Project wishes to acknowledge the assistance of: