Family Fortunes: The savage loves his native shore and mine is Glenbrook Terrace

I had never heard the word ‘trauma’, but that’s what I felt when we moved to Mayfield

My early childhood world was Glenbrook Terrace: Victorian houses with long gardens bordered by railings, above the main road from Cork to Ringaskiddy. My brother Cyril and I used to sit on the harbour wall, feeding swans and naming out barges, dredgers and tug boats.

We even waved across the water to train passengers on their way to the liners at Cobh, not that they knew we were there apart from on one occasion. Two nuns, cousins from Springfield, were leaving for the US. They promised to wave something white as they passed the terrace, and, sure enough, we spotted a blob of white, which must have been a sheet or a tablecloth. I was three at the time.

There must have been winters in Glenbrook but I have no memory of wet or cold; only warmth, glorious coloured flowers and the cosy security of a few soft toys.

I am told I watched the blizzards of January 1947 from an upstairs window, but I remember only sunshine, happy smiling faces and mighty gladioli as tall as the front door. That’s my aunt, Nellie McIntyre in the photograph, outside the house.


I had never heard the word "trauma", but that's what I felt when we moved to Mayfield. John Betjeman wrote in London:

I missed the climb by garden walls and fences where a stick dragged in the palings, clattered to my steps. I missed the trams, the few North London trains, The frequent Underground to Kentish Town. Here in a district only served the bus . . .

Only served by bus, indeed. The No 9 from Mayfield to College Road was a poor substitute for the harbour traffic. I missed the river and was overwhelmed by concrete, dust and dirt as new houses went up all around us.

Like Colin Wilson in The Outsider, I felt then and still feel "a curious, deep longing for the water that would certainly not be satisfied by drinking it or swimming in it". To this day I am happiest when near water. The savage loves his native shore and mine is Glenbrook Terrace.

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