"I Wish I Were In Carrickfergus"


He asked if any of us remembered Bernard Shaw comparing Killiney Bay with the Bay of Naples. He thought Killiney won out. Then he went on to tell us solemnly that nothing in his experience compared with the sight of Belfast Lough, all lit up on a cold winter's night. He said he sat spellbound at a window, at Cultra on the south shore - in the Culloden Hotel to be precise - and watched and watched the lights blinking on the northern shore - pure gold, he said. And he counted, as he thought, all the places from Belfast down - Greenisland, Carrickfergus, Kilroot, and then Whitehead vanishing behind the bluff. And was that Blackhead lighthouse?

You know the song, "I wish I were in Carrickfergus"? There's an Anon verse wanting to be on the other side: "On Carrick Bank I stud, I stud/And glazed across to Holywood." You can't please everyone. Holywood is next door to Cultra.

He began with a 9.40 start from Dublin on the new Enterprise system last Saturday. Hadn't been north by rail, though often by road, for years. Intimidating long stretch of new houses as you go towards Drogheda. Good houses, not so good, and carbon copy houses ad infinitum.

The birds were a treat from Malahide on. But at Enterprise speed it's hard to make them out. From Newry to Portadown the fields are nearly all under water. A man with a gun and a dog, flocks of small whizzing birds. Could they be golden plover? Seagulls, waterhens galore. Swans here and there. Over the Bann at Portadown and still there are messy, rushfilled fields, with water, but less. Then Lambeg (the small elm??) Derriaghy (oak wood of the fields, says Joyce), and Belfast, the mouth of the Farset river.

Cultra is a fine bosky place, houses of present and past ages, well surrounded by trees and shrubs. The propellor of a lime seed floats down before your eyes. Dublin has no suburb quite like this. And there's the dinky rail station. And of course, nearby, that leading folklore park.

Coming down on Sunday, he said, the flooding was mostly gone, the Bann behaving itself, if that was the cause. Rushes in the fields to dismay the farmers. And in one area, hawthorn hedges which are pared back to their trunks and make a palisade which must be as safe as a wooden fence: more so. Mostly about four feet high. One almost six feet. Marvellous train. Marvellous country.