In this multi-part blog series:
In this Part 03, some contemporaneous people are introduced, more information on the environment provided, some previous residents named and imagined.
To understand the full beauty of a place, it is necessary to live it, to experience the seasons, approach the land from different aspects; pass the same place many time, noticing overlooked features, enjoying old favorites. We did our best in this single day and took the exploration of this Antrim County coast slow, savoring all the views we noticed as this is a once in a lifetime experience. Imagine our amazement to find Scotland so close at hand. In the past, on a fine day the trip across the North Channel, up eastern Kintyre peninsula shores to Campbeltown at the head of Campbeltown Loch, was easier than a land crossing to a closer town.
I picked Campbeltown because my great great grandfather, a sea captain, emigrated from Scotland to County Louth where my great grandmother, Anne Campbell, married John Mills. In this way Captain Campbell escaped persecution for his Roman Catholic faith.
Late in her life, Anne Mills posed for this portrait. I can tell great grandmother Mills is facing north from these clues:
— the press of the eternal east wind on her dress, against her left left and flowing away from the right.
— the sun shadow on her cheek. It was around noon. With the sun, at this latitude, in the south the shadow from her right cheekbone is darker than the left.
A few miles before Loughan Bay, at Coolranny, are informative placards describing the area. I thought the white flowering trees, or shrubs, on the slopes were Hawthorn. On revisiting my capture of the placards I learned these are a different plant named Rowan Tree, aka Mountain-ash. This wind stressed specimen is an typical example of Rowans on this coast, stunted and little more than a bush. This individual is slanted westward from a constant and stiff east wind, as with Anne Mills’ portrait. Residents, past and present, of this coast know this damp, persistent wind well. Note the lack of blossoms on the east side, blossoms that ripen to small dark red fruit called poms (also called rowans). The leaves turn red in the fall. More time, for the fruit to form and leaves to turn, was necessary for me to be certain my identification of this, as a Rowan, is correct.
On this day, Friday, June 6, 2014 I did two rounds of shooting the cottages. The first, handheld, with a Sony Alpha 700. Upon returning to the car for the Canon, Pam was talking to a friendly sheep farmer who pulled up in a large tractor pulling a tank. It turned out we parked below the turnout for his sheep enclosure built on the hill west of Torr Road. His flocks grazed the surrounding land. He and I talked, too briefly, about the hard lives of the people who lived here.
The Coolraney placard, up the road, claimed the cottages were deserted in the 19th century. I found evidence, in the 1901 Irish Census, of three Roman Catholic families, 19 men, women, children, living on Loughan Townland. In Part 02 of this series, setting the stage, Loughan is sized at 112 acres, a single photograph captures Loughan entire. These families had nowhere else to live, in Loughan, other than the cottages.
The smallest, and poorest, the poorest of the poor, family was 32 year old Mary Corbit and her two children, 10 year old Mary and Robert, 2 years. The Corbit family lived in a one room, stone walled, house with a wood or thatch roof. Unlike the other families they had no outbuildings, structures to house livestock or to support a farm operation. The house owner was Marj Delargy.
Here is a single room house among the ruins, four low walls, the east/west with intact gables, the stones collected from the hillside. The west wall higher up the slope, the floor now thick with fern.
Little Mary most certainly took care of Robert for part of the day. Did Mary, with Robert along, gather rowans, and other forage?
Mary Corbit: head of household, occupation laborer. There is a footnote to Mary’s “Marriage” entry as Married, “husband at sea.” The “C” of her census signature exactly like my mother signed her name Catherine.
Mary Corbit and her children were not listed in Loughan Townland for the 1911 Census.
….to be continued…..
Copyright 2017 Michael Stephen Wills, All Rights Reserved.