Employment

The Post Office: My mother worked in the Post Office. She was there from eight o’clock in the morning until seven o’clock at night. The mails came into the offices then. The letters were sorted and then the postman or postlady took them out round the country, you know. My mother sorted the letters for the district and it was a lady by the name of Murphy was on the post when we went to Garron Point. She walked the district from Garron Point down to Ardclinis and then she walked to the Carnlough side, to Nappan. She delivered to Galboly too. In fact the lady who done the post lived in Galboly. She walked to our place every morning and was there shortly after eight. Letters were delivered to Garron Tower, it was an hotel then. She delivered right round the townland they call Loughan and to Drumnasole – that’s where the Turnley’s lived. Then she came right down the avenue at Turnley’s and back the road again, every day, one post a day. She had a big mailbag for over her shoulder. During the war a man was on. He had a Post Office bicycle with a great big carrier on the front. (Margaret O’Boyle)
Times were hard in them days. My sister delivered telegrams for the Post Office, having to ride to the top of Glendun on a bicycle at all hours of the night. You got a shilling to the top of Glendun, night or day. If there was a telegram from Cushendall to the Lime Kilns (about three miles) you got ninepence. Sometimes there’d be a telegram for somebody in Glenravel. If it was a money telegram, you got one and sixpence but then you were supposed to claim so much off the person. It was very hard to go up there, stand with a telegram and say “Give me the money first!” Nine times out of ten when they opened it and saw what was in it they didn’t give you anything. Once they’d read it, they’d give you the thing back again. (Chris McMullan)
Seafaring

My father went to sea young in life. It was what they called ‘deep water boats’ – going away foreign, you know. The boats were much slower than they are today, taking maybe six weeks to get to where they were going. He was rarely ever home – just an odd break. I had a job to go to sea too when I was a young lad. Lady Cushendun came to my mother at that time. If she could do anything to help the boys she would. Well she could get me a job as a travelling boy on one of the Headline boats leaving Belfast for Canada – six weeks from you left until you came back again. However the Second World War broke out and that finished that! There was nothing else in this country, for men, except going to sea. Different ones lost their lives too. (Hugh McCormick)
There were two brothers, one was a lighthouse keeper and my grandfather was the younger one. His name was Arthur Hamilton and he ran away to sea when he was thirteen years of age. He came home in the wintertime and went to the Headmaster of the Boys’ School, Master Duffy (later it was Mr Doherty). They were taught seafaring you know. They learnt all that at the local school. My grandfather ended up a Master Mariner, the Commodore Captain of his fleet and was partly responsible for the Glasgow connection. (Mary Delargy)
Textiles

They used to say Glenann was a glen you could come in naked at the top and go out fully clothed at the bottom. They had tailors and shoemakers making boots and shoes. The McKeegans and the ‘Horleys’, they were the weavers. They wove sheets and all the linen cloths. They spun the wool for knitting jumpers. They used to knit those seamen’s ganzies for men and they were as good as a coat for they were that close knit they turned the water. There were dressmakers and plenty of good knitters. There was an old man used to live up there, I heard my grandad talking about him – Alan – you called him. He used to knit away at socks. That’s how he made a living. He sold them to pedlars or neighbours. They used to go to Scotland. An awful lot of them, especially the women went to Paisley. There was the mills and that. Clydebank was a very flourishing place. They had the shipbuilding and they also had the Singer Sewing Machine factory exporting to the world. The girls could work in Singers. My Aunt Annie was a dressmaker before she left home, so she went into Singers. The families were so big they depended on the first ones. When they left school at fourteen they went away and always sent their money home, to help rear the others. I can remember the letters coming from all those uncles of mine, and the dollars in them, from Canada. Even in later years, when it was past the hardship stage, there would always come dollars at Christmas. I would be looking for the postman as a child! (Annie McKillop)
I was in the technical college and was doing a commercial course. It was a three-year course. I started in September and I left in April. Any girls I was running about with were all going to work in the flax mill. I was there ten years. It’s still going to this day. They don’t do the same things we done but it ends up the same. It started off as tow and then it went through the carding room. Then it went through another room and then through the fiddlers and with every machine it kept getting finer and finer until it ended up like thread, you know. When you went in at first and seen everything working, plungers going up and down and rollers going round. It scared you, but you got used to it. At the beginning you got trained and you would have been shifted, doing different things, but then, if somebody left, it was your turn to get at the machine and you would have been at it until you left. The room that I was in wasn’t too dusty but there was places that was dusty. In the spinning room there was a lot of machine noise and there was a smell, but when you were in it for a while you got used to it. They worked in bare feet in the spinning room because the floors were wet. I imagine the spinning was the hardest and the dirtiest work. I wouldn’t fancy it. The dust was bad for your lungs. (Kathleen Gallagher)
Tailoring

My father was a tailor, a first class tailor. He had a business in High Street, Cushendall. He was a good tailor and his father before him. He worked in London and Belfast. At that time the Bank Buildings was a great place in Belfast and he was a tailor there for years. Ah, he sent suits all over the world. He said he sent them to Australia and America. (Chris Mc Mullan)
Tourism

My granduncle Henry McNeill was reared just about a mile up the glen here. He started all the tours in them days. They had a lot of hotels – McNeill’s Ltd. They were in Larne, on the main street. Oh, he was a great man, Henry McNeill. My father, John, and them had to go in on big days like Easter Monday. They had a big broom that took maybe twenty people, aye, maybe twenty or thirty and it took them round the coast and then they maybe went to Cushendall and changed the horses there if they were tired. In the spring of the year, my father went away round to Sligo and the West of Ireland to buy horses and put them on the railway and they came back to Larne by rail. It took a lot of hay and corn and stuff for the horses. They gathered up a lot through the country and had to draw it in horses and carts in them times. In the winter, if you wanted a wee trap to go somewhere you could go in and he’d give you a horse and trap for the day, at so much. (Alex O’Boyle)
I worked in the ‘Laragh Lodge’ after I left school, serving food. (S. Gribben)
Miss Bradley’s Hotels

My mother’s sister, my aunt, had an hotel in Portstewart, ‘The Montague.’ Then she moved to Cushendall after that, and I went to help her. There was an hotel where ‘The Fold’ is now. We had two hotels in Cushendall, at a time. We had one down Shore Street as well. Oh, it was good! There was ones coming and staying in the hotel, and there was running water and different things. I just helped here and there, helped with the dishes, helped to serve tables and various things. That was the first time I was in Cushendall and I loved it. I met my husband in Cushendall. We had a shop when I got married, so I had the shop, the restaurant and the children. Aye, there was a downstairs and upstairs. There was a juke-box in the shop and that was popular. We had ice-cream and a few tables. There were Scottish visitors then. We were very friendly with a crowd that came into the shop for ice-cream and to play the juke-box. The man would come every so often and change the records, and you put so much in the machine to play one. Now when the songs come on, I know them all, “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Danny Boy” and all. (Sally Hamill)
Photography

Before I left school, I used to go in the summertime to a photographer, a man called Shorthouse. Out the back he had a darkroom and I worked there developing prints. In the darkroom in the summertime it wasn’t very pleasant. There was five or six that were printing, one developer and fixer. Outside the prints were washed and dried. He photographed tourists at Glenariffe Glen. That was their first stop. They came down and stopped at the end of the bridge in Cushendall and he photographed them there. Then they went on to Portrush or the Giant’s Causeway and during the time they were there, he took those negatives and they were developed and printed and he was able to go down and sell them at the Causeway. He also photographed them at the Causeway. Depending on whether the tour was Walsh’s, Devenny’s or Maxwell’s, they all had different headquarters, he was able to send on the ones he photographed at the Causeway. You did so many and they were numbered on cards and wherever he went the crowd gathered. He reached them the card. They looked – “See there’s one with me in it, number 875,” or whatever and then they were all in numbered bags and he took out that photograph. (Chris McMullan)
My eldest brother, he was into films. Slides was a great hobby of mine. I took a Cushendun Procession one time and the priest made me take it to the school and show it. There was a load of ones came to the school. It was night time. I saw myself on the screen because I had another fellow working the machine. You could see them coming walking up, and the priest saying mass and all. (George McCullagh)
Cushendall Cinema

Mrs Wann owned the Picture House. It opened in 1936 or 1937. I showed the first picture as projectionist. It was ‘My Song for You’. Indeed I enjoyed working there. There are few old pictures I haven’t seen. It was open seven nights a week. It was the only place in Northern Ireland had a Sunday licence. There was a picture on a Monday and a Tuesday, then Wednesday and Friday had the same picture, Thursday and Saturday and Friday and Sunday. There was also a matinee on a Saturday afternoon, so there was eight showings a week. You got to a pitch where, when the picture started, you knew how it was going to finish. You watched pictures day in and day out and then you had to get them ready, you see. You had to check them before they went through. If repair was needed, you repaired them. Everything went up, the price of transport and what you paid for the films. It was on a percentage basis, with a guarantee. If you went over the guarantee, you took a percentage and if the percentage was lower, they took the guarantee – complicated! At one time it was the only amusement. It was wonderful too – snow storms or anything else, they still turned out to the picture. Then TV’s and videos came in. It closed around 1977 or 1978. (Chris McMullan)
Oh aye sure I worked in it – I used to conduct people into their seats and for that I got in free. That was why I done it. (George McCullagh)
Gardening

My father didn’t belong to here. He came from Derry direction. He was a gardener by trade and worked in the hotel gardens at Garron Tower. The gardens were lovely at that time. (Margaret O’Boyle)
Well after I left school, I used to go down to Miss Ada McNeill’s garden – that was part of Lord Cushendun’s estate – and work in the garden from four o’clock to six in the evening, just doing odd jobs. I would be about 14 or 15. Miss Ada was a very fine woman. (Hugh McCormick)
The Roadworker or ‘Surface Man’

I just left school and was hired to work for ten shillings a week. I stopped the farming business and done the road work. That was on the main road from Cushendall to Cushendun. The hardest work was the roadworks. You got half an hour for your lunch. Well, you got a wee break of twenty minutes in between six and one o’clock when you got your lunch. I worked there from the scutching mill closed for the summer. I also helped Willie Graham in the quarry. It was a blackstone quarry for road works. (Charlie McAlister)
QUARRYING

Ballycastle

Kiln Brae wasn’t working my time but apparently there was a lot of limestone taken out and exported to Glasgow and the same thing happened in Ballintoy. Just wee small stones. Cobble stones for streets, well that was quarried in Ballintoy and it was sent through here across to Glasgow. (James Clarke)
Capecastle

There’s two kilns here. When a boatload of coal came in, there was about 14 wagons, maybe 200 tons came into Capecastle Station and they carted up the hill with horses and then they burned the lime. When they had the kilns going, they got the fire lit and they put in a layer of lime and a layer of coal. They counted the barrowfuls, so many barrowfuls of coal and so many of lime. One caught onto the other and burned it and then at the bottom they took out the lime. They kept filling it up, even if they had to come on a Sunday and put a ‘course’ on it, as they talked about, because it would have been burned right through before Monday morning. Now the kiln is all filled up, I suppose in case somebody would fall into it. The men weren’t too good at keeping count of the barrowfuls of coal and lime so they set out a wee stone for every barrowful. I knew them all well. When I came out of school I used to go and sit in the wee house with them. You were all smoke afterwards. (William Glass)
Murlough

There must have been quarries for limestone. That’s the kiln up there. This particular part of the farm is all limestone. You’ll notice the good green grass. Limestone would bring that grass up green. The kilns of course would have belonged to the landlord. They wouldn’t have belonged to the tenants. There is another lime quarry, quite a deep one. (Frances Duncan)
Glencloy

I remember one man, who we knew well, being killed in the quarry. They put dynamite in every evening at a certain time and blew it up to make the stones loose. I always heard them saying it was a wee stone, the size of your hand, that come down and hit him on the head and he was killed. (Anna May Wharry)
Fishing

We used to fish from here. There were two or three boats here and two or three at Murlough, fishing boats. They hauled them up the shingle on logs, just pull the keel along and move back the logs, tree trunks you know, move them up to the front and pull another bit. The net would have belonged to two or three families. They all had shares in it. Now the net was a draft net. It was a long net and somebody in a boat had the middle part of the net in hand, and they shouted instructions to each of the crew to pull their net, and they pulled it sort of across and over, so that the two ends sort of crossed, and they pulled it ashore with the fish in it. They would have big drafts of fish there. At the net port there is sand lying out in the sea there but in a spring storm the sand would be washed ashore and it makes a sandy beach and that’s where they drew the net. I can remember one particular year and they had cartloads of fish. (Frances Duncan)
Trades

When I left school I would have been 18 years of age or so I went to serve my time as a carpenter you see, at Drumcrow, between Aughagash and Carnalbanagh. Oh carts and wheels and all that stuff. I stayed there in that place for 27 years and made carts and wheelbarrows and stuff like that. I made a big lot of stuff that’s up in the Museum in Cultra. (Davy George McCrory)
At fourteen, when I left school, I went down to be a joiner and I stayed at it six months. I was riding a bike about eight or nine miles to my work and back again. For that, I got ten old shillings for six days. Then one day I just told the man I wasn’t coming back because I had to work along with men and I was supposed to do the same workload as them. (Lawrence McHenry)
There was a carpenter’s shop down below us there, a country carpenter’s where they made carts, barrows and coffins and everything. Sometimes my father would go down if the men were working late at, say a coffin that had to be finished and he said many a night he held a candle to them putting on the tape on the coffin. They set a plank across two benches and got in the middle so that they could get round it to put the tape on. (William Glass)
I had a brother and he served his time for a plasterer with Charlie McKinty. They built nine labourers’ cottages on Rathlin Island. He had to be in Ballycastle for eight o’clock on a Monday morning to get the boat to Rathlin and the money was ten shillings a week. (Alex O’Boyle)
My father used to make frames, you see, like for holy pictures. He got corks out of bottles – there used to be corks in bottles instead of the way they are now. He nicked them and split them and cut them to size. Night after night I used to sit and nick these for him. He would work hard. Aye, that was the winter nights. (Johnny Adair)
My father was a cooper. It was a big trade at one time but it died out. Every farmhouse was churning away and all that wood was from the very best of oak. (James Clarke)
The Ballycastle Coal Mines

‘Goldnamuck’ was being worked up to the 1920’s and during the General Strike of 1926. Some guys actually came from Scotland and worked there. ‘The White Mine’ was being worked up to the 1950s off and on. At ‘Portnaloop’ there was a mine being worked, again about the 1920’s. It’s very hard to explain because they closed one year and reopened the next for a matter of months and closed again because they were being flooded and had landslides and what have you. ‘Hickey’s Dock’ was opened as recent as 1917 and as it suffered from flooding, it closed again within two years. There was a man died there about 1919. There was this rumble in the roof of the mine and he poked it with the crowbar and the roof just caved in. Some guys came from Glenravel to work. Most of them lived up Carey in small houses there and there. Various companies would have taken out a lease, you know, usually short term. They shipped out from various little piers. The North Start Dyke, it was an actual pier and Collier Bay, all different periods of time and then once Ballycastle Harbour was built by Hugh Boyd around 1740, that was the main harbour. It’s amazing the piers aren’t marked on the map with the exception of ‘Iron Stage’. There were dozens of mines over the years. At Murlough there’s at least five mines. The first mention of coal works is in Randal McDonnell’s Will, 1629. Again the Salt Works were mentioned at the same time and sandstone quarries were also operated along with the coal mines. There’s plenty of coal reserves left but much is under sea level. That was part of the problem in the first place. Of course Ballycastle coal is reckoned to be the same coal as the Magheranish coal in Kintyre. They also had saltpans, so the history of both areas is very similar and no doubt the same people crossed back and forth, possibly as one mine closed they had to move on somewhere else. (Danny Morgan)
The coal mines were big work at the beginning of the century. Later on in the war years, there was a big shortage of coal and if you could get coal, well you were on the pig’s back! I remember at school it was mentioned that the mines had started, so myself and two friends started off, after we got out of school, and headed away round the shore to see where the mines were and if they were working. They were separating the coal from the dust – getting really good coal. A few of us went in and I looked up at the roof. They had it propped up with supports and I thought, “Gosh, if that thing comes in on us no one will ever know where we went.” There was ones there lying on their back just poking away at coal with a pick. In the last war they were working in the ‘White Mine’, the first one you meet when you are going round the shore. Myself and two companions would go round there three nights a week. We were down the mine at two o’clock in the morning. Mick McAuley was the night man and he would say, “You’re early yet!” Oh we had some great yarns. (James Clarke)
There was a man from over the Glens, James Delargy, who worked the mine for a few years when I was at Ballylucan school and he took coal from the ‘Arch Mine’. He had a wee old lorry and we used to get a lift home from school with him. (Frances Duncan)
The Carnlough Chemical Company

Pre-War they had a big industry, I think it was iodine they used to make. There was a wagon thing on the line. The full wagons going down took the empty ones up. A lot of people worked at it. The turf was took down on wagons to the boats. There was an old peat workhouse. Apparently it was a German firm had it and in the 1914 war they had to leave and fold it up. (Anna May Wharry).