Category Archives: Childhood

Carrickfergus Castle and Halloween

I have mentioned before what seems to be my exceptional good luck with the weather in Ireland. Except for a whole day washout in Galway in 2017 and the ten minute squall at the Gobbins Coastal Walk this year I have always enjoyed good weather.

Today was no exception so after an excellent full Irish breakfast (in a stack) we left the Titanic Quarter, crossed the river and made our way to the railway station because today we were visiting nearby Carrickfergus (what a great Irish name that is) to see its mighty castle.

On the way we passed the Belfast Big Fish. There is a sign saying no climbing but William missed that and clambered onto its back regardless. William is good at jumping and climbing.

The train journey alongside the western shore of Belfast Lough took just about twenty minutes and we arrived at about midday in a curiously subdued (for a Saturday morning in a fair sizes market town) Carrickfergus town centre. With nothing to distract us such as a market for example we made our way directly to the harbour and the castle.

Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle, the oldest , biggest and best preserved medieval building in all of Northern Ireland built on the north shore of the Lough to manage and protect the entrance to the emerging port of Belfast and the navigable River Lagan.

It was here that King William III landed in 1690 on his way to the Battle of the Boyne, a decisive battle in the struggle for supremacy in Ireland in which William was victorious and secured Protestant domination in Ireland for over a subsequent two hundred years. Carrickfergus remains even to this day a staunch Unionist/Protestant town.

There is a statue of King Billy with his massive hat close to the harbour.

We were looking forward to visiting the castle but the door was firmly closed. I told William to go and knock and he pounded so hard that anyone inside might have imagined it was under siege. A young man emerged and told us that the castle was closed today on account of this being Halloween weekend and an unofficial public holiday. This seemed odd to me, why would you close a tourist attraction on a bank holiday when you might expect higher than normal visitor numbers.

The man said ‘come back on Monday’, I said ‘We are going home tomorrow (Sunday)’ and he helpfully suggested ‘Come back next time you are in Northern Ireland’.

I was intrigued by this but it seems that Halloween is rather important in Ireland and people here tell you that Halloween traditions were begun and influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, the beginning of Winter, the dark months, which are believed to have pagan roots. Some go further and suggest that Samhain may have been Christianized as All Hallow’s Day, along with its eve, by the early Christian Church.

Anyway, whatever, The Irish claim ownership of the Halloween tradition. Apparently they used to carve turnips and light a candle inside to represent the souls of the recently and dearly departed. Carving a woody turnip I can only imagine to be extremely hard work so the Irish must have been glad to find that when the emigrated to America that there were no turnips and pumpkins were abundant and much easier to work with.

We all know what happened next, over the years the USA hijacked the Halloween tradition and turned it into a commercial bonanza which has spread across the World. In the process the historical and cultural significance has sadly been swept away in a tsunami of tacky consumerism, much like Christmas and Easter.

We all do it…

In the UK I personally lament the fact that Halloween has completely eclipsed Bonfire Night and the ‘Penny for the Guy’ tradition but I suppose the environmentalists will applaud the fact that we no longer light thousands of polluting bonfires on November 5th.

With the castle closed and nothing to detain us longer in Carrickfergus we took the train directly back to Belfast.

Where we did some more sightseeing…

Halloween- Spooky Cloud Faces

Odd One Out – Markets

Did you spot the odd one out?

According to my stats page a lot of you flirted with this one.

Well done Sheree, Sue and Margaret and Derrick who got it right but for the wrong reason.

European markets.  This is the odd one out because it was taken in Leicester in the UK and the UK is in Europe but sadly not in the EU.  All of the others are.

I was born in Leicester in 1954 and my parents lived quite close to the city centre.  I don’t remember much about it because we left when I was six but I do rather curiously remember the Leicester Market where Mum would go shopping maybe twice a week.  I never liked the place.

On my return journey to the city a couple of weeks ago I went looking for Lineker’s fruit and vegetable pitch,  Gary Lineker is/was a famous England footballer whose family worked the Leicester market.  I asked this man where it was and he burst out laughing.  “Been gone for twenty years he said” so, hiding my embarrassment  I asked him if I could take his picture instead and he happily obliged.

A to Z of Statues – S is for Stan Laurel

There is a pub in Bishop Auckland in Durham called the Stanley Jefferson to commemorate the fact that Stanley Jefferson once lived in the town and attended the Grammar School there.

Stanley Who I hear you ask?  Well, Stanley Jefferson is better known to everyone as Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame.  There is a statue of him nearby on the site of a theatre that was once owned by his parents, long since gone of course.

I remember Laurel and Hardy from Saturday Morning Pictures at the Granada Cinema in Rugby where I lived as a boy.  They were my favourites then and they remain my favourites now.  Surely there has never been a finer comedy double act in entertainment history.

I have always taken some sort of patriotic pride from the fact that Stan was from England and was the comedy genious of the pairing.

True story… a few years ago I took my Mum to the cinema to see the Film ‘Stan and Ollie’ and as we left I asked if she had enjoyed it, ‘oh yes’ she said ‘I didn’t know that they were still making films’.  She was 85 years old and I was quite unable to offer an explanation that would have made sense to her.

There is a city in New Zealand called Auckland and a county in New South Wales in Australia.  They were both named in honour of George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland (1784-1849) who held the title but never visited the town (or New Zealand or Australia).

Read The Full Story Here…

 

Chains, Ropes and Anchors

These pictures were all taken in the fishing harbour in the village of Mevagissey in Cornwall.  Except  for one that was taken on the Greek island of Corfu.  Can anyone guess the odd one out?

 

A Door in Skipsea Three Ways

A to Z of Statues – G is for George Mainwaring

The statue of George Mainwaring (the actor Arthur Lowe) can be found in the Norfolk town of Thetford.

Arthur Lowe was one of the stars of the TV comedy Dad’s Army. It is set during the Second World War and is a story about the British Home Guard which was a amateur defence force army made up of local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service either because of age (hence the name “Dad’s Army”) or by being in professions exempt from conscription. Their job was to defend Britain against a German invasion force of Panzer Tanks and battalions of crack Wehrmacht troops. This was most unlikely and is the real basis of the whole series of programmes.

The show called the fictional town they defended Walmington-on-Sea which was said to be on the south coast of England but it was actually filmed in Thetford in East Anglia.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Memory Post – Danger, Railways and Canals

In my occasional series of memory posts I link to my second (now discontinued) blog “Age of Innocence” .  In this two part post I look at growing up and playing dangerously…

Play places didn’t get more dangerous than the London to Birmingham railway line  It was relatively easy to get up on the tracks and put half pennies on the line for the trains to squash and expand to the size of a penny in the optimistic hope that this would double the value of the coin and shopkeepers wouldn’t notice.  (This never worked by the way).

This was rather like in 1969 trying to tile the edges off of a half crown coin to double its value to make one of the new 50 pence pieces.  (This didn’t work either).

Read The Full Story Here…

International Laundry Day

How many of you knew that today is International Laundry Day? I certainly didn’t.

In the mid-1800s a man called Emmett Lee Dickinson established April 15th as National Laundry Day. Dickinson had invented the laundry basket on wheels and wherever he went he urged others to join his crusade for national cleanliness.

I remember laundry day when I was a boy. Monday was traditionally washing day but in the days before automatic washing machines this meant hand washing and firing up a gas boiler and two or three loads of washing to manage. No spin drier either so wet clothes had to be put through the mangle to get rid of the excess water and then without tumble driers, hung out on the line to dry. Getting clothes dry was fairly straightforward on fine days but was a real problem if it was raining or in the winter when linen and clothes were hung around the house and in front of the open fire in a race against time to get them aired.

I have been looking for a good story about laundry and I have chosen this one…

During the troubles in Northern Ireland the British Army needed to determine who was making the bombs and where they were being manufactured. One military advisor recommended that they operate a laundry.

The plan was simple. The laundry would send out “colour-coded” special discount tickets: “get two loads for the price of one.” The color-coding was matched to specific streets and when someone brought in their laundry it was easy to determine the general location.

While the laundry was being washed an additional cycle was added. Every item was sent through a process that was disguised as just another piece of laundry equipment that checked for bomb-making residue.

Within a few weeks multiple positives of bomb residue had shown up. To narrow their target list, the laundry simply sent out more specific numbered coupons to all houses in the suspected area and before long they had a list of addresses. The army swooped down on the homes and arrested the suspects and confiscated numerous assembled bombs, weapons and bomb making ingredients

On This Day – An Atlantic Storm in Cornwall

I am hoping that later this year I will be able to on annual holiday with my grandchildren.  In 2019  we went to Cornwall to the fishing village of Mevagissy and made our arrival amidst a mighty Atlantic Storm…

Read The Full Story Here…