The wider family

Some of those interviewed had fond memories of their grandparents. Bessie Quinn had been raised by her maternal grandparents at Gillistown. This was because her father had died when she was young and her mother had brought Bessie and her two sisters back to the home place. Bessie remembers her grandmother as a great cook from whom she learned recipes.

Greta Milliken’s Grandfather Wilson was from near Straid and in his later years moved to a cottage on her father’s farm at Ballyeaston. She remembers that he had a pony and trap and a ride in it was a real treat. Greta recalls that it was his wish was that his white pony should be allowed to graze in the moss after he died until its own death; this wish was granted.

Frankie Dale spent a good deal of time with his grandfather, John Dale, when he was young. John was from the townland of Tullylinkisay, near Castledawson, and had served in the Grenadier Guards in the late 1870s – one of his duties was guarding Buckingham, Palace – before returning home. In 1880 he moved to Bridge House, Toome, with his wife Annie Arrell who was from Ballydermot, near Bellaghy. For a time John Dale drew sand to the railway before moving on to carting grass seed.

Frankie Dale talks about his grandfather

He drew grass seed from the market yard to the railway. Farms all grew grass seed and then it was graded down in the market yard. And he was drawing it from the market yard and putting it into the wagons. He was 80 at this time and he was handling 2-hundredweight bags of grass seed – quite a man. Of course I was flying about everywhere – I wanted to see the trains.

Frankie Dale also speaks fondly of his great-uncle, Edward Dale, noting that he ‘went far, he was the jewel in our crown’. Edward was a schools’ inspector. He was a very clever man who had somehow ‘wangled his way into Trinity without going to the Rainey’. He was also a fluent Gaelic speaker. Frankie remembers how he loved to see him coming to visit them.

A fair number of the families had known personal tragedies and many of those interviewed did not reach adulthood without losing at least one of their parents. For example, Edmund O’Donnell’s father died when he was very young leaving his mother to maintain the farm. Roisin McLernon was only seven when her father passed away. The early deaths of siblings was also mentioned by a number of the interviewees. One of Annie Hill’s brothers died when he was only seven. The three sisters of the Gribbin brothers all died young – one at the age of 25, a second aged 5 years, and a third on the same day that she was born. Matt Quinn’s brother Peter drowned in Lough Neagh at the age of 25 while out fishing with their father in November 1948; not long before this his mother had died.

A number of those interviewed referred to the participation of family members in the First World War. James McAdam’s father served with the 36th Ulster Division. He was wounded on three occasions, but survived the Somme in 1916. James recalls that his father rarely talked about the war. Three of Billy Robson’s uncles, brothers of his father, served in the war and all of them survived, though one, William, who was in the Black Watch, spent a number of years in a prisoner of war camp. Not so fortunate was Leith Burgess’ uncle George who was killed on 21 March 1918. He had been a sergeant in the Royal Irish Rifles. Leith has visited the memorial at Pozieres on a number of occasions. Two of P. J. O’Donnell’s uncles fought in First World War. One survived, but another, who had served through the war, died when he was accidentally shot by a fellow soldier who was cleaning his rifle not long before the conflict ended.

Many of the interviewees had family members who had moved away from the area, some to another part of Ireland or across the Irish Sea to Britain, while others emigrated to another part of the world. Bessie Quinn had an uncle who had tried unsuccessfully to buy a ticket for the Titanic; later he successfully made it to America. Edmund O’Donnell’s uncle, Henry Keenan, emigrated to Christ Church, New Zealand, and worked on a farm, later returning to Ireland. Frankie Dale’s father had emigrated to Australia, but because of a disease of the eyes he returned home.

Derek Lorimer’s uncle John emigrated to Canada and eventually ended up in Alberta. He received land from the Canadian government – an initial 180 acres, followed by another 180 acres. John Cushinan had an uncle, Edward Kelly, in Pittsburgh who worked on the streetcars after he returned from serving in the American army in the First World War. John had resolved to go to America when he 18 or 20, but his mother begged him not to go in his father’s lifetime and so he did not go. In an interesting instance of reverse migration, Frankie Dale’s maternal grandmother, had been born in America.

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