The Home

The earliest memories of the interviewees generally concerned the childhood home. When he was three years old Leith Burgess moved with his parents to a house near Doagh of which he still has clear memories: ‘We moved to McBride’s farm at Kilbride in November 1945. I can vividly remember the thatched roof, whitewashed walls with about a foot and a half tarred around the bottom. The cassie [lane] was covered with shunners – cinders from Cogry Mill.’

Many of the interviewees were raised in houses that lacked the basic amenities that are now taken for granted, such as running water, electricity, inside toilets, and bathrooms. Annie Hill grew up in Hunterstown, Doagh. She remembers that water was supplied by a pump outside the front door and buckets were kept beside it for carrying in the water. Hot water for washing was produced by the range in the kitchen. There was no electricity in the house and lighting was provided by an oil lamp which had to be filled every day. Annie recalls using a candle to go up the stairs to bed. Many others related similar experiences. One of the Gribbin brothers remembers that he had the task of filling the lamps with oil before it got dark. Roisin McLernon recollects that one of her sisters looked after the lighting of them, both in the house and yard – ‘quite a ritual’, as she describes it. In many homes the only heat was from an open fire. Turf was burned in fires around Toome, but there were few mosses near Doagh and so here coal was used.

Generally speaking, the homes of the interviewees were not large. Several children might have slept in one bedroom. In his childhood home, Graham Andrew recalls that the three boys slept in one room, the four girls in another, with their parents in a third. Owen Gribbin talked about the ‘settle bed’ that was slept in by the younger children. There might have been five children in the bed, three sleeping one way and two another with the result that you might have woken up to find ‘somebody’s big toe sitting up at your nose’. On the other hand, though she came from a large family of eleven, Roisin McLernon points out that because there was such a gap between the oldest and youngest, the entire family never lived together at the same time.

The home in which Edmund McLarnon spent most of his childhood in Moneynick was designed by a qualified architect, his mother’s cousin, Bob Barton, who designed many houses in Belfast in the interwar years. This house, which was built 1937/8, did have an inside toilet and bathroom. There was no mains water, however, but a well in the backyard and a hand pump in the scullery. Everyone had to take their turn with the pump, especially if they had had a bath and the tank needed refilling. Later a Lister diesel pump was installed. In other homes bathing was more basic. A tin bath was used in the Andrew home. In Robert Chesney’s home the water came from a spring. He can just about remember a windmill pump being installed in 1936 which supplied both the house and farm.

The most interesting childhood home of any of the interviewees is that still lived in by Mary Ann Higgins. A listed building, it bears the name Union Lodge. In 1837, the house, which was then called Union Hall and the residence of Robert Davison, was described as follows:

The house is 2-storeys high, slated, and was commenced in 1834 and finished in 1837, and cost 1,000 pounds. It is situated near the corn mill in the townland of Ballymatuskerty, on Lord O’Neill’s estate. The above appropriate name was given to it by the proprietor Mr Davison, as it was from the benefit of the union linen Mr Davison made his money.

Soon after this, the property was acquired by a Green family with whom it remained until acquired by Mary Ann’s parents in 1925.

South Antrim Living Memories Project wishes to acknowledge the assistance of: