Growing Up In Gilnahirk - a Memory of Belfast.

My family moved from Leeds, Yorks to Gilnahirk when I was 11 months old - my parents had a house built in Gilnahirk Walk and we moved in when I was two. I and my two sisters had an idyllic childhood, we had so many places to play. There was 'the tennis courts' or rather the wasteland around the courts (which belonged to the Presbyterian church) that included occasional ponds with frogspawn - we could get in from the back corner of our garden. Then there was 'down the lane' (with its secret parallel path) which ran from the Walk to the Gilnahirk Road, past the old mill and the stone built old mill house. This path was once the old mill race. Part way down were 'the big trees' where we spent many an hour and where the community would have a bonfire on Halloween (even after the fireworks were banned - but we still had our lanterns made from a scraped out turnip). Slightly further down and off to the left (just past the Little's fuschia bush) was Gilnahirk Park and beyond that a long-abandoned field with huge bramble bushes where we could make dens. One of the gardens that backed onto the field was home to Belinda the goat - a retired army mascot who loved to chew on my (many) woolly hats which I was forced to wear as I often had ear aches.
Then there was 'down the river' which was a stream that ran along the bottom of our garden (and was once diverted to run the mill wheel) at the bottom of a very steep bank. We could get lost in here for hours and would often pretend that we didn't hear the call from our mum to come in for a meal. When we were bored with that, we could always play 'houses' with the Smiths who lived a couple of doors away - walking dolls in prams from one garage to the other, using sand and water to make 'coffee', the neighbour's white pebbles on their driveway made good potatoes and dead Buddleia flowers were cornflakes. We left rose petals in water in jam jars to make perfume and buried an old rug under the swing my dad made us - my older sisters named the rug Queen Mary - but I have no idea why. Being the youngest I was the last to use the swing and I remember bits of red Queen Mary turned up regularly as I hit my feet on the ground. We played skipping with a rope across the road, tied to a lamppost, French skipping with elastic bands between gateposts, and were constantly knocking on the doors of our friend's home to ask if they were coming out to play.
The field that backed onto Gilnahirk Park is now Gilbourne Court, the big trees have long gone to be replaced by a bungalow as was the old mill house and more recently the ruins of the old mill itself have been cleared and built on. The tennis courts too have been built on, but the wee lane is still there - thanks to the efforts of local residents or it too would have been eaten up by new houses. My mum and dad still live in the house were I grew up and 'down the river' is still a magical land at the bottom of their garden - although it has heard few children's voices in recent years (too dangerous for the grandkids to play there) - apart from those drifting across from the primary school.


A memory shared by Isobel Buck on Dec 11th, 2013.
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