Memories Of Old Portavogie - a Memory of Portavogie.
Memories of the old Portavogie by Lena McVea.
I used to live facing the harbour and a newspaper item on late Robin Drysdale, former Mayor of Newtownards, brought back fond memories of him, as a young boy, sailing in a wooden fish box, through the harbour. Robin also lived at the harbour. He also built, behind where the Quays Restaurant is now, a big wooden hut from driftwood, and it had a stage, with "curtains" where his "artists", the local young teenagers, performed and sang. Oh the good old days.
Then came the Circus. I remember Robin chasing the geese around the ring when called out of the audience to perform the task.
Robin used to visit us here. He would come down in his mobile home, his pride and joy which he used when he went to Scotland to visit one of his daughters who lived there. He was a real gentleman always willing to help.
Rosalind nee Warnock Robinson and I, as children, used to fish at the big hole at the side of the harbour, it's now gone due to the last renovation of the harbour. We had cord with a fishing hook, baited with a bit of a herring, for crabs.
I remember the "Woodwork". This was a series of big wooden beams with a gap between them where you could see the sea underneath them. They had to be crossed to get down the harbour. I was scared of them at first, incase I would fall in and get washed out to sea. This fear was increased by my mum who did not want me down the harbour
Then it was up to the warren field, to a swampy hole that always had frogs and black newts in it. I remember catching a newt and taking it home to ask what it was and my mum nearly had a fit; she didn't know what it was either. That was abandoned for the bumble bees which we used to catch in empty jam jars; with hindsight it was a cruel pastime. We thought they would make honey for us. The skylarks soared high above us trilling their songs. No skylark's now. Part of the Warren field was full of bracken.
I can remember the big sand pits, they always had water in them. They were left in the warren after the sand was taken out; the "walls" were full of holes made by Sand Martins. I once saw the lovely little bird; the Kingfisher.
The beach was just yards from the warren so if we got fed up the rock pools were great for catching small fish and crabs, providing the tide was out.
The green island is about one mile from the shore. It can be reached at low tide and is aptly named because it is green all year round. I remember being taken to see the nesting birds. There were Arctic terns, curlews, and other bird's nests on the shingle. Further out was the Bird Isle. This was just a pile of stones only accessible at a spring tide.
There were very few cars around in those days and we children used to sit on the Harbour wall and write down their number if one passed.
One day we got a shock!
Coming along the Harbour Road was a pink American Cadillac; with the roof down. It had wings at the back. We stood in awe wondering if we were dreaming. The couple who owned it were a James Palmer, from Portavogie, and his wife, also from here, who had gone to America and he had made his fortune making and selling shoes. They had come home for a holiday.
Then came the carnival or as it was called "the swinging boats"
This was great entertainment for a while. There were lots of amusements but pocket money ran out fast!
Of course we can't forget the swimming, or lack of it! Very few of us could swim! We had so much fun in the tide dodging the jellyfish and looking for "ladies purses" which we now know are empty shark egg cases.
We seemed to have more sunshine then. If you wore your sandals without socks you could see where the sun had got you in-between the straps. Sometimes the shoes came off and the prefered style was the bare feet!
One winter, when I was about 7, we got very heavy rain and it flooded the field below where the new chemist is now. Then we got snow and the big pond, the rain left behind, froze solid! It was frozen for ages. A lot of fun was had on that frozen water. It was between the school and the Harbour. So when school finished the ice drew the school kids. There was a pile of school bags and tea and homeworks were forgotten about.
Oh the good old days! We didn't have what the young ones have now but I think we were healthy and happy enough. There was no crime.
These places are now gone to make way for new houses.
Can't imagine the young children now enjoying so much freedom, but in those days there were no T.V.s, Computers, phones and things the young ones have now.
I have been left Portavogie for many years but still have very fond memories of the once happy little village.
Some more memories.
I still remember when they put the sewer and water pipes in.
Remember Portavogie was the last village to emerge because it was all sand dunes. I can still remember them from Butterlump to Ratalla.There was just the Main Road from Glastry to Portaferry and Portavogie did not have proper roads until the 1940's. I can remember them putting in the sewerage and water pipes. They had them piled up at the harbour, and of course they were a magnet for us children. I was able to crawl through them they were so big.
The tar on the road melting and getting onto my feet and sandals and mum removing it with her precious Marg. or butter because everything was still on ration coupons. I got some scolding. Some of the houses were still without electricity. I always remember the primitive lighting in our house and one plug for the radio where we listened to the trawlerband so we could hear to the boats commutating with each other. Sometimes a Mr Murphy from Ballywalter, who was on the Kelly coal boats, would sing The Rose of Mooncoin.
I remember mum ironing with the iron plugged into the light socket. It's a wonder she wasn't electrocuted!
No running water then; and having to get it from the only cows tail pump over a well on the New Harbour Road, then later from a tap near the harbour.
I remember lots of office's where the Quays Restaurant is now. They were built as offices for the first time they deepened in the harbour in the mid 1950's. They fell into ruin and were knocked down. James Mahood's shipyard was beside the main quay. There was only two quays; the North Quay and the outside Quay. The tide used to leave the harbour almost dry and the boats were propped up with stays to keep them from toppling over. I used to play on the sand below the shipyard and can remember the boats propped up. Then after the herring season was over the herring nets were barked in James Mahood's barking room. The smell was everywhere, it wasn't too unpleasant. The nets were then hung over the outside harbour wall to dry. Then the white fish season started and they used different nets. The boats used to land some prawns for their own use; locals called them crawl-lobsters. Or in the local old Scottish tongue Cral- labsters. There was no market for them and they were as big as small lobsters. I can still remember the delicious aroma of them being roasted over an open fire. They were delicious! They are now a lot smaller in size because of the market opening up for them.
I remember when the passenger ship the Princess Victoria sank on 31st January 1953 off the Copeland Islands at Donaghadee. I heard about it on the bus from Ards on my way home from the hospital after breaking my arm. The sad sight of bodies washing ashore and lots of scrubbing brushes with the letter V on them in red paint.
Mr Jim Filson from Kircubbin was a pilot during the war.
I used to hear my mum talking about the times he would bring the plane in so low over the harbour; just to scare everybody. He was either going to the Ballyhalbert or more probably Kirkistown airfield.
A memory shared by on Nov 2nd, 2019.
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