Interview with Mary from Torrcorr

Mary talks about her life and growing up. We are outside Mary’s old family home and then the small, local school.
Interviewer: What do you call this townland then?
Mary: This is Torrcorr And it’s where my, what would I say, generations probably have belonged to me were brought up here. My father was born here and he was the 13th in a family of 14 and the land goes right down to the sea very steeply as you can see there and you know they wouldn’t have had all that much acreage to live on but anyhow and they probably lived off the sea in those days too. They always grew potatoes.
Interviewer: Could you do much with that type of farm?
Mary: Not a lot, not a lot because it was very difficult to cultivate it even in the old days. Of course they had horses and all in the old days. Tractors, even the tractor is dangerous on that sort of, such steep working really, very, very steep. You could go over on it very easy although my brother now used to come up here. It’s my cousin Pat that lives in Cushendun still owns this here and my brother used to come up. Pat is very old now. He’s in his 95th year and he would still come up here when my brother was alive. He came up with a tractor to help now and again if he wanted something and he would have gone right down. They made a new road right down to the sea. There are two little ports down there.
Interviewer: Right. Do they have a name?
Mary: Oh I don’t … they probably have but I don’t know it. It might be on a map now. There’s a boat coming up. The farmers you see did a lot of fishing as well in those days and you had rights to put your boat in a certain place and all if you had a farm and then these little ports were made obviously for people coming in with fish.
Interviewer: Is there a house or anything?
Mary: No not down there no but there’s a wee house here.
Interviewer: Is there?
Mary: Yes. What’s left of it. So many of our … so many coming from different parts of the world to find their roots and they would have been taking bricks and all whenever they came. But they just can’t believe that there was a big family brought up here. The dwelling, the fact that they had to seek out a livelihood. And I suppose they were happy in their own way. It was a different way of life altogether. Now that would have been part of the dwelling house there.
Interviewer: Would it?
Mary: Though that would have been maybe improved and built on later but it would have been part of it at one time likely. The foundation and that would have been part of it. You can sort of see the old wall. You can see the old wall there now a bit.
Interviewer: Oh yes.
Mary: That would be part of the old building. This is the main part of the old house and you will see another beyond it there. It would have been about that length you know. It was fairly and there’s quite a nice fireplace round the other way. Wait until I see if this gate is open. You have an idea how that house was at one time.
Interviewer: Three rooms?
Mary: Yes. Yeah and there would have been a wee outhouse as well. You know they used to keep the animals always at the end of the house and the reason for that was for heat.
Interviewer: Oh yeah.
Mary: You know it’s for heat. It was their type of central heating. The animals kept the place warm as well. You see you could tell there had been an outhouse as well.
Interviewer: Oh yes.
Mary: Of some kind for the pigs and they would always had a cow you see for the milk for the family
Interviewer: Really.
Mary: Yeah and then they would have made their own butter and used the milk for baking. That was how they lived. They were very self-sufficient actually.
Interviewer: Do you think it would be sheltered at this side?
Mary: Yes. Not too bad at all. And do you see all those old stones there, nearly every one of the relations that came hoked out a bit of something to take with them.
Interviewer: Is that just a wall?
Mary: It might be a wall or again it could have been maybe an outhouse of some kind, maybe even a hen house. You know they would have kept hens too.
Interviewer: Yeah.
Mary: For the eggs and all. They always managed to get enough food anyhow.
Interviewer: I can hear water running.
Mary: Yeah. Oh aye there’s a spring, there’s springs round here everywhere. That Glens of Antrim water comes from here. It’s just, the thing is over across the road there.
Interviewer: So what was this, was this just the top of a wall built at the front of the house.
Mary: Yeah that was just at the front of the house. Probably it helped to keep the wind off it a bit.
Interviewer: Yeah.
Mary: And the wall there it helped to keep the animals out as well.
Interviewer: Did your father ever, I suppose did he talk much about it?
Mary: He did. He had a happy enough childhood only that he lost his father and mother within a very short time. His father, the mother died, I think she died having a baby actually but you know that wasn’t even talked about then and he was the youngest you see, he was quite young and his mother died and 10 days later one of the others that was at home was looking after the house, looking after the children and the father didn’t come in for his tea. They had the tea ready and he didn’t come in and he would usually be you know be round the farm and you could have called him or he would have come in but he didn’t appear and they went looking for him and they went away down the road here towards the Church and the others who would have been related where they lived down at the bottom and somebody stopped and asked them if they’d seen my grandfather and they said yes they saw him coming up and going up by the Church. They went up and he was lying dead on her grave and she’d only been 10 days dead.
Interviewer: How did he die?
Mary: Just heartbroken, it just a broken heart. His heart just gave up. But if you just think about it he was left with 14 children and he probably didn’t know what he was going to do and his wife died. It must have been tough on him too.
Interviewer: He must really have missed her as well.
Mary: Yeah and probably the shock of her dying and everything was just too much for him and he must have known that he wasn’t feeling well and he walked down and that was it.
Interviewer: Oh dear.
Mary: It’s on the grave stone. You’ll see it when you go down when they both died and there’s only 10 days between them. Life was tough enough.
Interviewer: I know.
Mary: This is here a long time and it’s still in the family this you know. It goes back hundreds of years.
Interviewer: Let’s have a wee look inside. Can you manage okay?
Mary: Yeah, oh yeah. They were good solid wall considering the way they were. You know there would have been no cement as such in those days.
Interviewer: Would they have had glass windows?
Mary: Yeah. At a later date they would have but when it was actually built first I imagine there would have been very little windows because they used to get taxed on their windows. There was window tax and if you had windows and was getting too much daylight you were taxed on it. It was terrible really when you think of it.
Interviewer: Paying for daylight.
Mary: Yeah. Of course the landlords owned and you paid a rent. Nobody round here owned their land or their living for years, for years and years.
Interviewer: Right.
Mary: They paid for years and years. They must have paid ten times over.
Interviewer: It just seems so isolated.
Mary: Yeah but of course there were houses down, there were houses down there.
Interviewer: Were there?
Mary: Yes there were houses like all about and they all got on very well together, like a lot of them maybe would have been related but very often in those days when they got married they went to live beside, you know they took their wife or their bride to live beside them and they would still have helped on the farm.
Interviewer: Oh yeah. It’s not like now when you move far away.
Mary: No it’s different altogether then. Well some of them would never have been to Ballycastle. Some of them might even never have been to Cushendun that would have lived up round here.
Interviewer: Really.
Mary: You know years and years ago.
Interviewer: I suppose they had no reason to. Do you think those waters out there are dangerous?
Mary: Oh yes there is a lot of currents there.
Interviewer: Is there?
Mary: Torr Head is one of the most dangerous places in the UK. The stretch of water from here to Rathlin is one of the most dangerous.
Interviewer: Is it?
Mary: Yeah. There was a lot of tragedies actually round here. There is a booklet written about the shipwrecks isn’t there? Yeah.
Interviewer: So what do you call this townland then?
Mary: This is the Burns, they call it the Burns and there are two, what you know they call a river a burn here. It’s a Scottish name really but they are very Scottish a lot of the words in this place so that’s …  That used to be a teacher’s house. My aunt taught there and lived there. She came here to teach from Galway and she used to live there and I used to come over and stay with her sometimes and she then married my uncle. She used to give me cocoa and I didn’t like cocoa but whenever you were young then you didn’t talk back or you didn’t refuse anything. You just took it and swallowed it and said nothing and I hated cocoa and I still don’t like it.
Interviewer: Do you not?
Mary: No.
Interviewer: The children wouldn’t do that nowadays.
Mary: No they don’t, they don’t but you just wouldn’t have done that you know but she was a great teacher. She was quite nice with the children. She was very good to me and that was the school she taught in there and my parents, you know my father and them all and my aunts and all they would have all been at that school and I used to go to it for a month every year. Now you would wonder why I was going for a month. We lived down in you see Carey in Ballycastle and I would have gone to school in Ballycastle but the school here was open a month later. They didn’t get their holidays for a month later so when I came up to my, what was my grandmothers then, I was sent over here for a month. Not really with my education so much at heart but because the teachers were paid according to the number of children on the rolls. So just the extra, well my two brothers would have been with me, those three extra on the rolls I suppose helped my aunt you see for that month because the pay wouldn’t be much in those days.
Interviewer: No.
Mary: So and I suppose it got me out of the way.
Interviewer: I know.
Mary: But I loved it because there was a whole crowd of us at that school. There was about 40 in it in those days and you know it closed a while back there when there was only, I think the last day there were six pupils or something at it but there quite a few whenever I went to school. They didn’t mind walking you see. There was no school transport but they walked and it was lovely. I used to love walking with all the ones from this other side you know and we had great fun. It took us ages to get home mind you in the evenings.
Interviewer: You walked from here back to ….
Mary: I suppose about four miles but it was great.
Interviewer: That’s from, that’s right from you were very young?
Mary: Oh aye up to I would have been about 11, you know from young up to 11.
Interviewer: Would you not preferred to have more holidays than go to more school?
Mary: Well it was a kind of a holiday me coming. It was just a change, different people and all and you know great fun really. It was a nice wee school. Oh aye there’s some of them still around here that sat beside me in school. John and his two brothers they were at school in my time. There is still a few of them left. And I was out in the garden one day and they stopped and they were talking to me and I said to him "are you Ballycastle?" and he says "no I’m actually Carey" and he was telling me who he was and I says “I don’t know very many people in Carey now”. I says “I used to” but I says “there’s an awful lot of them dead”. He says “there might be one or two of them living you know. Just one or two of them”. He thought I was a walking miracle I think. I’m still alive. Do you know what the young people are like, the young people think you’re old.
Interviewer: So will we go in and have a look here? Do you see that bit?
Mary: Yes that would be part of the old wall I would think. Yes they just repair it you know.
Interviewer: This is the wee school.
Mary: Now this school, it was very small. There wasn’t a separate classroom. We were all in together all the children. It must have been difficult for a teacher when you think about it.
Interviewer: I know.
Mary: The back row would have been the older ones, the highest class and the very front one was the new children at the front. Yeah. It well it would have been difficult and yet they were very good teaching you know for this place such a small population here they turned out a lot of professional people.
Interviewer: I know.
Mary: An awful lot of them. I mean even in our own family many a time I wondered how they did it. Like both my grandmother’s side of the house and my grandfather’s side of the house, they had doctors and priests and vets and nuns, you name it they had professional people.
Interviewer: For such a small community.
Mary: For such a small place and how they could afford it. I mean they had to pay for everything then.
Interviewer: I know.
Mary: Pay for everything. I often wonder about it you know, I don’t know how they managed but they were very good people. They had very strong faith and it seemed to carry them through. It wasn’t a gate like that when I was a school. It was just more or less like the one over there only there wasn’t a turnstile on it when I used to come and there wasn’t a toilet outside either when I came.
Interviewer: Was there not?
Mary: No there wasn’t. We just went away down the burn here. Well there would have been a dry toilet at one time.

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