I had not long turned six, when my mother bought a rather large chair. It had an arm around three sides and my mother said it was for my grandmother, when she arrived from Harpley in England. She had had a stroke and was an invalid; she needed to have support when sitting down or getting up. Of course I understood nothing of her medical condition.
Nor did I understand what was happening soon after, when my mother was taken away. I could remember the previous time when she was taken away for many months. I was distressed and hid for a long time behind a bedroom door. I don’t remember what happened after.
Of course my mother was not ill; she was about to give birth to my little brother, but nobody explained that to me. In that era children were well hidden from ‘the facts of life’, at least I certainly was.
My grandparents were Norfolk, through and through. As far as I have been able to trace their ancestors, to at least the 1600s, they all were born, married and died in Norfolk.
My grandfather was a classical musician and my grandmother was a primary school teacher, one of the first in her area. They were not long retired, when my father settled in Ireland after WW2 and started his poultry farm. When my brother eventually came along in 1953, my grandparents decided to relocate to Portrush, to be closer to their son; my father was an only child, as was also my mother.
At that time, across the road from our farm, there was a large house available for rent. It was owned by Joe Collins and the house was at the end of the lane past the Collins farm. It was to that house my grandparents moved.
The house was known as Ard Rua. In the Irish language, Ard meaning high and Rua meaning red. The house is timber-framed, based on a Swedish design, and was at one time owned by a member of the Stormont parliament. It was perhaps he who originally built it.
Behind the house, on the northern side, there was a Nissen hut. I suspect that the house was sequestered by the military during WW2. My grandfather used to raise chickens in that hut.
To the right of the entrance to the house was a long veranda in which my grandfather grew geraniums and similar flowers. It was south-facing and perfect for raising house plants.
On entering the house there was a reception area with comfortable chairs and a fireplace. To the left was a large dining room, to the right a drawing room, straight ahead were the stairs and in the rear left, the kitchen, that led to the scullery and the toilet.
Under the stairs was my paradise. It was there that my grandparents kept the games that had survived my father’s youth.
From the landing on the staircase, one could see far north across Portrush and the Skerries, the small islands off the coast. It was my grandfather who introduced me to ‘the white horses‘. On a stormy day, the North Atlantic was a stampede.
On the upper floor there were five bedrooms. In one of the bedrooms I discovered a violin, with a few strings still intact and a bow. I never did know that my grandfather used to play the violin.
But my grandmother never slept upstairs. Her recurrent strokes left her an invalid and she was bed-ridden downstairs in the drawing room. My grandfather’s piano was in her room. I would like to believe that he used to play for her. In the dining room was his organ. He played several hours every day.
There was a garage to the right of the house and there my grandfather kept his car, a Sunbeam Talbot, with licence plate of DYZ 638. I can’t remember my telephone number from yesterday, but I can remember my grandfather’s car registration from 1953! It was Tommy Tinkler who drove the car over from Norfolk and serviced it until both my grandfather and the car passed on.
My grandmother died of one stroke too many in 1958. My father built an extension to our house and soon after my grandfather moved in. Ard Rua was again available to rent.
Recently, I received a mail from a lady, who lived for a time in Ard Rua in 1962, as a child. She had stumbled upon the name in one of my articles. Sometimes it’s a very small world.
Of course, in my time, the telecoms tower did not exist, nor the houses in the background. There were only the gorse bushes in which I used to hide and act out the adventure stories that I used to read.
I don’t know what ever happened to the chair; my grandparents and my parents have long passed on, but my vivid memories are still with me.
And Ard Rua still stands in all its pink glory