A holiday in Donegal
Bertram & I had our bicycles and we rode the 10 Irish miles over to Buncrana. which proved to be 13 miles away. Our road followed the railway along a long strath or valley. We enquired the way of the stationmaster of a lonely wayside halt. He told us to keep straight on and:-
"Arrah ye'll find it aisier riding on the footpath, an faith ye'll be alright for its the policeman himself that is supping with me at this minute"We followed this excellent advice till we came to a spot where the roads forked. We asked the way again and were told to go left up a steep hill. We went some way up the hill and, looking back, saw the youths who had directed us shaking with laughter. We soon put two and two together. We said to ourselves:-
"This is a land of contradictions, we are in Ireland".so we went right and got there.
We stayed at the Hotel. There was plenty of golf, splendid bathing, and country drives in jaunting cars. Though it happened fifty years ago it is still a vivid memory - that evening when three or four of us took a car drive up the coast of Lough Swilly. The road ran inland, going straight over ups and downs of the foothills. We came to the top of a very steep hill which descended to the bottom of the valley, and rose to a similar height on the far side - a 'V' in fact, with a straight bit at the bottom. As we appeared at the top of our hill, another outside car, as a jaunting car is called hove in sight on the opposite crest. "Huroo!", cried our Jarvie, and he whipped up the old hack that drew us, and we galloped madly down the steep slope. Exactly similar tactics were applied by our viz-a-viz. It was apparently a race to see who should reach the bottom first. In the dead centre of the straight the two vehicles effected a violent contact. No lives were lost; but the outside boards on which your feet rested were neatly shaved off. The rural Jarvies paused for a minute to explain to each other their inmost thoughts, and we proceeded on our jaunt.
After a mile or two of innocent peaceful progress, we came to a
white-painted gate leading into a carriage drive. Our Jarvie got down and
opened it, and then took us round the curving avenue to a wide gravelled
space in front of a very pretty white country mansion. Gracefully grouped
around a tea table near the front door was a large family party enjoying
the air. The house stood on a commanding position with a fine prospect of
Lough Swilly and the bold mountains of Donegal. We were all desperately
shy and dumbfounded and were only recalled to consciousness by our irrepressible Jehu :-
"Sure, 'tis a fine view ye'll be seeing".With that, he turned the car round, and took us back the way we had come!
The Navy visited the Lough. Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg came ashore and invited the public to view the Fleet. A Middy in command of a naval cutter offered his services to ferry us over. Some of us were of the large party who accepted his invitation. It was blowing strong from the North West. As soon as the cutter, with its huge lug sail had nosed its way from under the lee of the old stone pier, the gale struck the sail a terrific slam. Our Middy had possibly neglected to let go the sheet, and the boat slewed round, wallowed in the waves, and presently ran aground about twenty yards from the stony beach. We all got out into the water, waded ashore, and went back to the hotel to change into something dry.
In those days, no motor cars or autobuses sullied the peace of the country roads. Father, Mother, May & I, with a party of friends who were staying in the hotel, went for a simply delightful two-day tour through the highlands of Donegal. We crossed by the ferry to Rathmullen. There the party took a waggonette, and drove all day long through the hilly wooded romantic country, with sweet vistas of Mulroy Bay, to Carrigart and Rosapenna on the North West coast. I rode my bicycle in company with an Edinburgh barrister, Laurence Napier. We had to sleep in the billiard room at the Irish Countess's hotel. It was fine golf on the isthmus between two wild arms of tne sea.
Next day we took two ferries across various tentacles of the octopus shaped Mulroy Bay amid the wildest scenery. One of the ferries was in charge of a beautiful dark young colleen, with a mass of curly hair flowing over her shoulders. She bade me take an oar saying:-
"Thee and I can pull them to glory be!"Landing on the farther shore the drive was resumed, and we went to Portsalon at the mouth of Lough Swilly for more golf; thence we took the steam ferry back to Fahan for Buncrana. With us on that excursion were Mr & Mrs Smith of Edinburgh - he about the fattest man imaginable, and so witty and humourous that he was an universal favourite.
With Mr Napier I took a long wild bicycle ride to the North, along a treeless moorland road to the little town of Carndonagh, not far from Malin Head, the most Northerly point of Ireland. The place was crowded for the horse fair. We had lunch or midday dinner at the rather comfortless and ugly inn. They gave us a pudding made of carrigean moss, that is, a kind of seaweed. It was almost indistinguishable from cornflour, and one ate jam with it. Everyone was very sociable and talkative at the Fair. We came across one typical horsey Irish groom who averred that he had never been to a worse one. Then he mentioned the occasion of a fair at another town which he had attended with one pound in his pocket. There, by buying a horse and selling it, and repeating the process ad lib., he said:-
"I went home leading seven on a string."
I hope the family fared better going home. I was going to stay in Edinburgh, so I went by a tiny coasting steamer from Londonderry to Greenock. It was the worst journey I ever remember. Every one of the passengers was ill, and so were the cattle which I could see down in the hold, as clinging on with both hands and feet I lay down on my berth, which was open to the deck ...