10 May Bucket & Spade

The above picture was taken from a diabetes charity card seen in a charity shop a few years ago. I have recently been sorting stuff and there it was.

At the time I identified with the picture on the cover bringing back childhood hopes and determination.

As a child our family stayed every September at my mum’s family home in South Donegal, Ireland. My school friends would Holiday in bracing Blackpool with it’s donkey rides on the beach & fun fairs.

Even though the seaside was at least 15 miles from our holiday home and we had no transport I still took the essential bucket and spade determined to share a similar experience to that of my friends.

The holiday began with a fascinating overnight sea crossing from Heysham, Lancashire to Belfast. The boat train from Chorley, Lancashire passed the spectacular illuminations of the seaside town of Morecambe. The journey was such an adventure for me. My dad used to take me to watch ‘the bags coming down’. The bags were mail bags hooked up on a hoist from the shore and placed on deck. My recollection of the ‘gangway’ was a wooden type of bridge with rails between the dock and the boat. The sea was visible underneath. From then on I wandered around our lounge freely seeking adventure. One year my father purchased a cabin ‘berth’ but to my parent’s dismay I would not sleep. I preferred the open, exciting lounge upstairs to this confined space downstairs.

when these sea journeys became ‘choppy’ I was told we were passing the Isle of Man.

In the morning land was in sight and my dad used to say ‘she’s going up the lough, not long now’. I could feel the excitement mounting as we approached Belfast. We then disembarked across the same gangway Dad usually led the way carrying two large suitcases. Mum always told of me aged 3 years letting go of mum’s hand in the scuffle of the crowd but eventually we were united. Apparently mum noticed the blue coat I was wearing.

Our journey to mum’s village Pettigo on the border between Co Donegal in Republic of Ireland and Co Fermanagh entailed a train journey from G.N.R station to Omaha via Portadown. From Omaha. The countryside from then on was awesome and the ride on the Lough Derg (pilgrimage destination outside Pettigo) bus was exciting as we anticipated seeing our relatives & friends. My first journey was aged 6 weeks in 1955 and at that time the train from Belfast went direct to a town east of Pettigo stopping at Pettigo on the way.

we did visit the seaside a few times but it was not like Blackpool and I much preferred donning my wellingtons to walk in ‘the mountain’ (bogland) with my father or uncle. At the time I came across the card my aged uncle was in hospital recovering from a broken leg so his walking days were over.  I felt a great sense of loss. The bucket and spade remained on the top of my aunt’s cabinet for as long as I can remember. In later years it was used to hold clothes pegs.

Those days will never return but I like to think I can recreate them in different settings, hill walking and visiting various seaside resorts. My particular fascination for Blackpool continues although I am told parts of it are quite raunchy now. Will I ever learn?




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