Interview with George

This is an interview with George who lived in Ballycastle, Cushendun and Cushendall and has seen many changes throughout the decades:

George: I was born in Ballymoney, but I don’t remember living in Ballymoney. My mother took me to Ballycastle when I was three year old, that’s how it started. I came over to Cushendun, I worked in Cushendall, Cushendun. As I was saying, my father and mother lived in Ballycastle and my father was an old drinking character, and then he took one time and then he died and then my mother brought the rest of us into the Workhouse, in the next couple of years she died away too and we were all boarded out then to the farmers. My father, the doctor told him he was going soon and he knew he was going soon. I think it was his lungs that took my father in the end. My mother, she went into the infirmary first and the doctor put her in the fever hospital. She died in the fever hospital, there were three or four in the ward with her, all died of consumption. My mother, she had a really big funeral.
Interviewer: Did horses pull the hearse?

George: Oh aye, I saw the horses and I saw… it was one with a motor took my mother, and my father, he was carried, he was buried in Ballycastle, both buried in Ballycastle. My mother had no learning at all, my mother couldn’t read nor write. I was boarded out since I was fourteen and I had to stay with a farmer in Armoy for a year and I left then and I went to work on a farm in Carey, a man and a woman, and they were alright.
Interviewer: Did you leave your brothers and sisters then?

George: At that time nearly all brothers and sisters dead, I think there was one brother and one sister living. I had two sisters died shortly afterwards. My father died first, my two sisters died and my mother died, all inside a couple of years.

Interviewer: What type of work did you do on the farms?

George: Oh it was just ordinary farm work. Everyone had to, it wouldn’t do to cut it, had to be all pulled out by the root, lint, I had several big bags of them, it was the talk of the whole country, and the oul bags that they had, you had to carry them on up and put a match to them.
Interviewer: What was the Workhouse like?

George: The Workhouse was alright, in fact we were far better in it and we got to school, and when I was with my father and mother I never got to school at all. I used to go down to the Golf Links and carry golf, I used to go in there and sit from morning till night till I got a turn.
Interviewer: Did you have to work in the Workhouse?

George: Gardening.
Interviewer: Where did you sleep?

George: Up in the attics, there were five or six of us in the attics, boys. I got my food there and I got regularly to school and the school mistress was terrible good, she was, she was very severe on the boys, but she was terrible good to you. I grew greatly into algebra. I was even teaching the others in the class.
Interviewer: What did you wear to school?

George: Ach, any oul rags we could get our hands on.
Interviewer: Did you have shoes?

George: Aye, sometimes we’d wear shoes, barefeet was very common and there was a nurse in the hospital and she made me sit down and she put stockings and shoes on me.
Interviewer: What did you write with?

George: Oh I had a pen, I used to draw sketches with a box of pencils, everyone of them a different colour. I had a book called ‘The Rainbow’, he’d tell you a story week and on the front page there were these wee monkey things.
Interviewer: Was it a reading book?

George: No, it was a picture book, and there were jokes and riddles in it. And ‘Tiger Tim’s Weekly’, that was one of my favourites.
Interviewer: Was it a comic?

George: Oh aye, a comic.
Interviewer: What were the hiring fairs like?

George: What you’d see was a crowd of people and, in maybe one corner some cattle and a cart-load of pigs. At the Diamond in Ballycastle.
Interviewer: How many times a year were they on?

George: Spring-time, spring-time the ground had to be ploughed and sowing corn and all.
Interviewer: Were there dances?

George: There used to be ones, there were big dance halls, and in the neighbours’ houses, what we called ceilidhs. Sometimes a fiddle and an accordion started a dance. I used to go to the dances too in Cushendall. My favourite place was over at Glenariffe, near Glenariffe Chapel.
Interviewer: Do you remember the 1914 War?

George: Oh yes, I remember when the War started, I was in Ballycastle. I was born in 1906. Ach well, everything was scarce, bread, tea and sugar, rationing, and when you went to the shop they hadn’t got it.
Interviewer: What was it like in the 1920s?

George: Times were hard then. In Ballycastle there was a terrible lot of robberies.
Interviewer: You lived in Cushendun then?

George: Oh, Cushendun, one of them big houses, far, far too big for me ,three or four big rooms in it, and then I come into Cushendall, come to a smaller house. It was too expensive, I worked for a wee while about the big hotel, the Bay in Cushendun.
Interviewer: What did you do there?

George: Well, the floor and everything was in a terrible state, mats, and I cleaned them all up.
Interviewer: Do you remember the Bay Hotel when it was a café?

George: Yes, the Bay Café, that’s right, that’s what it was called at that time. Men there have boats, people come down in the summer-time, Andy, he was a fisherman, he caught fish. There were two people out in the boats, the only time I was helping pull up the nets. I seen him pulling up the nets and the big fish in it, throw it into the boat.
Interviewer: Did you like working outside?

George: It was all outside work. Inside work, now say for instance a mill there, all the dust, it wouldn’t do for me to get into that, my lungs. I had to stay outside, that’s the doctor’s orders.
Interviewer: Do you remember making a film in Cushendun?

George: Oh aye, it was showed in Cushendall. Oh, that was a great habit of mine, slides. My eldest brother, he was into the films. I took a procession one time, priest and a procession and the priest made me take it to the school one time and show it. There was a load of ones came to the school, it was at night-time. I saw myself on the screen because I had another fella working the machine. The priest walking from the chapel up to the high altar in the woods, and you see them walking up and the priest saying Mass and all. Aye, and I had a camera in the house, then I got a lend of one off my cousin for taking motion pictures. Those films were very expensive, and then you had to send them away to get them finished, and then when they came back they were great, you could see yourself on the screen. I took a procession one time, procession, priests and all, I took them all, I saw them all going past.
Interviewer: Do you remember the 1939 War?

George: Aye, that’s the one I remember most, I only kinda mind the end of the First World War. Oh, aye, I remember, I remember that alright. I was in Ballycastle at that time. War was declared, two brothers of mine joined up.
Interviewer: Do you remember evacuees?

George: Oh yes, sure, Ballycastle, Cushendall were crowded with them. There were ones staying close to me, aye, and they were telling me all about Belfast. I mind that rationing, sometimes you’d get it and sometimes you wouldn’t, flour was rationed, people had to make their own, that oaten meal bread was very common, flour was… you only got a certain amount of flour.
Interviewer: Do you remember slide cars for the turf?

George: We didn’t use them, it wasn’t a good thing, there were too many of us, you see, well, then you maybe come to fix them again and the ones on the bottom were rotten. The wheelbarrow’s the best.

Interviewer: When did you get the motorbike?

George: Oh, I was sixteen or seventeen. It was a great wee machine, and away up round Armoy, people that I knew coming to see me and my motorbike. A full load of petrol would take you ever so far, a wee light motorbike, them big heavy motorbikes, they’d drink the petrol.
Interviewer: Do you remember the Picture House in Cushendall?

George: Oh aye, sure I worked in it for a couple of years, I used to conduct people into their seats, and for that I got in free, that was why I done it.
Interviewer: Who was your favourite actor?

George: Oh, George Formby, Denis Smiley, he was another, he was a singer. Ones singing comic songs.

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