There’s none of the ould characters left!

Cushendall: The two old Stevensons used to be down there below the bank. Yeah that was Stevenson’s shop. They had great scales they used to pull down, you know, to weigh. When they would have cut an ounce of tobacco, they would have throwed it on the scales. They rolled up brown paper pokes – that’s what the sweets were in. There was nothing wrapped, the loaves were just in sixes or that. You could have pulled off a loaf from the ticket. They sold everything, feeding stuff, boots, spuds, eggs and everything. Up here the grocery men came up the road, Dickson, Buzzy and everyone. They lifted the eggs round country and they had the groceries but people wouldn’t shop like that now. Where Harry’s restaurant is, there was Harry McCormick’s. He had a wee greengrocers and he would have a wee bit of fish and salt herrings. He would have had the leeks and the parsley and that loose. Like in these supermarkets all that has to be pre-packed. On the other side of the street there was another lady had a wee shop, Rose-ann O’Neill. She had her name in Irish above the door. There was a butcher’s shop there as well. Then up the street was Blaney’s sweetie shop. Then there was Murphy’s shop across the street. They sold a bit of everything. I can mind a bread bakery in it. Where McAlister’s Post Office was, there was a grocery shop and also McCollam’s round at Bridge Street, where Isabella McKay had the insurance office, beside the fish and chip shop -that was Fyfe’s paper shop. Where Donal Arthur’s hardware is – that was Mrs Stone’s. She was an ould lady and she had a wee shop in there and she sold jotters and sweeties and penny chews. She was a great historian. There was a tea-house on the corner – Kearneys. They done teas there and Pat McCambridge on the other side done teas and Hamills was a sort of café was well. The three places on the corner were all for getting something to eat. Where the car park is – that was the blacksmith’s shop. It was in along the river there and so was Henry McCormick’s house. You went down with corn to Johnny McFetridges which is now the bakery. They called him the saddler’s shop. He done a lot of whangs and leathers and things for fixing horse harness. Bobby McFetridge had a wee garage and he charged the batteries for the wirelesses. He had to pump the petrol and paraffin by hand. (Francis Quinn)

There was an ould woman, Etta Scally you called her. She wasn’t married and she had dulse in the summertime. When it was dry it was on the window sill. She had chillblains on her hands and she wore old mittens and had an old tam-o’shanter tied round her head nearly all the time. She had a shop at the top of the street and the things were covered with netting wire to keep anybody from reaching and lifting something on her. If you were hungry coming from the pictures on a Saturday night you went in and got a bun. Them currant buns were 2p then and you had one of them and a bottle of mineral or lemonade and she would tip it into a tumbler. She had a basin sitting for washing them in. Whenever the sun came round in the evening the blinkin’ cats were lying curled up in the front where she had these things out beside the dulse. On a Saturday night she always kept open until you came out of the pictures and the place was crowded. One Saturday night I was in it, a crowd of boys came in. They were from near Ballintoy and they had a long way of talking. They said “Etta, have you any dried fish?” May you heard of the dried fish. They cut a wallop of it and steeped it to take some of the salt out of it and cooked it and by Jove it was a good sort of a white fish. It was a great thing in those days. It came from Islay. I don’t know whether there is any of it about now. (John Todd)
McCurdy, he had an oil van. He had a wee horse and cart and an oil van on the back and I mind the horse stumbled and fell and I had to run into Ballycastle and tell the other brother. He had a trap and he came out. The horse wasn’t dead but the leg was broken. The brother tied the van onto the trap and took the van home. I wasn’t twelve when I went into their shop at first. It was a great grocery shop, one of they best in Ballycastle but then it wasn’t so good later. (George McCullagh)
The Ballycastle Railway

When I was at the High School, the pupils made out a poem which had something about all the letters of the alphabet. ‘"R" was the railway, the mechanical toy. That goes up to Capecastle and drops to Armoy.’ It was heavy puffing up there but when it got to Capecastle and started for Armoy it was downhill and she would have rattled along quicker. There was a first class carriage, a third class carriage and a special carriage for the school children so they weren’t annoying the usual passengers. There was an old woman and she got into the first class carriage and the station master opened the door and he says “Ma’am, are you first class?” She says “I am! Are you yourself?” There was a man come down from Ballymoney on a windy night. When he got to Ballycastle and was going out of the station, he turned back and said to the driver, “You needn’t take her out tomorrow because I’m not for Ballymoney”. I got the train out of Ballymoney one day and she wasn’t very far up when it stopped and there was a man in the carriage and he opened the window and looked out. There was a woman sitting and she says, “What’s wrong?” He says, “It’s a cow on the line”. So after a while the train started and when it was away above Armoy, it would be six mile, it stopped again and the man got up again and looked out the window again and says the woman, “What’s wrong this time?” He says, “A cow on the line.” “Oh!” she says, “another cow?” “Oh no,” says he, “”It’s still the same one.” There was a guard in Ballycastle and he was keen on a tip, a bit of money for doing an obligement. There was a man going to Belfast, now sometimes the train was in on time at Ballymoney so that he could get off it and on to the broad gauge for Belfast. He asked the guard would the train be in Ballymoney to catch the broad gauge and he replied, “Oh not often, but if you give me something I’ll see that it is.” So he gave him something of course. The guard had to go and speak to the engine driver and told him, “We want to be in time for the Belfast train.” So the driver knew what was on but he went as slow as he could and stopped and waited at all the stations until he knew that the train would be away. Whenever the train arrived in Ballymoney the man jumped out and says, “Is the Belfast train gone yet?” The driver says, “It is”. You tipped the wrong end of the train.” (William Glass)
Big Billy the Tailor

I remember a man, an ould tailor and he just went from house to house, you know, and stayed there and he tailored, and clipped up my mother’s ould black overcoat and made a nice wee pair of trousers for some of the weans out of it. Big Billy the Tailor they called him. You see, I worked at this place, this day, it would be two days before the Twelfth of July, and the wife went to Ballymena and she bought the husband a nice new suit for the Twelfth day, you see. He put the trousers on, but the trousers were about three inches long for him. She came home and she says, “What are we going to do, what are we going to do, it’s nearly the Twelfth?” He says, “I’ll tell you!” he says. He says, “Send some of the weans over for Big Billy the Tailor to come over, you know, and shorten the legs.” Big Billy the Tailor was working over there and staying just a field length away. Now Big Billy the Tailor drunk methylated spirits and he was in great order. Oh a great tailor he was, oh a great tailor, and they sent for Billy, and he come staggering across the field, you see, with a pair of big shears with him, thon length you know, big tailor shears. He come across the field, you see, and, “Oh!” he says, “I’ll soon shorten them all right.” Whatever way he left them on the table, he clipped at them and says, “Now that will be plenty!” He had one of the legs clipped off at the knee, destroyed them. (Davy George McCrory)
Willie Watt

I’ll tell you a wee story about Willie Watt, a local boy, and me. He played a big 120 bass accordian in the band with me and we played at ceilidhs and stuff, you see. And he says, “My accordion, the bellows of her is bad.” He says, “George, you wouldn’t have went up to Belfast. I’m going up to Matchetts to see if I could buy another accordion.” I says, “I’d love to go. I never was in Belfast in my life. I’d love to go to see what Belfast is like.” We went down the street and I looked, “Oh!” I says, “Willie, thonder’s a wild high building.” “He says, “Thon’s Anderson & McAuley’s.” I says to Willie, “There must be a wild lot of stairs.” “Oh not at all,” he says. “It’s a lift that’s in it.” Says I, “What’s a lift?” He says, “It’s a thing you get into and it just takes you up.” Says I, “I never seen a life in my life.” He says, “You won’t be able to say that now because, come on with me, and I’ll take you in and show you a lift, you see.” And in me and Willie went, and there was an ould iron gate and a sign up, in them days, on this ould iron gate and he pushed a whean of buttons and this ould iron gate opened into this square box. "Jump in George!" says he, and I went in, and then the gates closed and I says, “Willie what are we standing in here for?” He says, “We’re not standing, we’re going up.” I says, “That thing’s not working at all.” He says, “It is, it’s going up!” Up it went, and here, the two big doors opened, and here, when I looked out there was nothing but women walking about in their underwear, carrying frocks back and forth. This big doll comes out. She says, "Where are you for? Where do you think you’re for? What are you looking for?" I says, “I’m looking for a melodeon.” "What’s a melodeon?" I says, “An accordion.” "You’re going to get no accordions here, get down out of this!" she says, and she shut the door and put me and Willie back down again. That was my first day ever in the city. (Davy George McCrory)

Leave a Reply