This is a photo of my granda as a young man, hokin' prootas or gathering potatoes. He lived at Ballyrawer outside Carrowdore on the Ards Peninsula and when he married (on 10 January 1938) they later moved to Islandhill (a place Wilbert Magill calls Blacktoon) and bought a wee house there in April 1940. He died when I was just 10 and I have only very faint memories of him, and his garden that he spent so much of his time in. I can remember one day he showed me how to pull out nettles by the roots without getting stung. I love this photograph.
The wee house was (literally) a pighoose when he bought it. It had just two rooms, and in later life he bought a block-making machine. The weans then helped him to make concrete blocks, and with these he built "the far room", an extra room on the end of the house. The floor was earthen, where the weans played "pugs" with marbles and wee holes they hoked in the floor. To add a bit of grandeur, he worked for weeks to make a mosaic doorstep with a star in it. (And no, he was neither Orangeman nor Mason). Even to this day, the water tank is on the roof outside - and the roof itself is corrugated iron.
The second photograph is of his wife, my granny, Mary-Ann (Molly) Hamill. This is her as I remember her, feeding the hens at the back of their wee house. She died about 6 weeks after my granda. She'd married him when she was just 19 (he was 32) and I imagine just couldn't bear to live without him. They raised 9 weans in that wee house - a far simpler, harder life than any of our pampered, spoilt generation will ever know.
When my granda died, among his stuff was found the words of "My Ain Countrie", the old Scots language hymn (written by Mary Ann Demarest in 1861, and was one of the six recordings made by the Glasgow singing evangelist William MacEwan in 1911 - the first-ever gospel recordings in the world):
A am far frae ma hame an A’m weary aftenwhiles
For the lang’d-fer hamebringin’ and ma Faither’s welcome smiles
An A’ll ne’er be fu’ content, aye until ma een dae see
The gowden gates o’ Heaven, an’ ma ain countrie.
The earth is fleck’d w’ floo-ers, mony tinted, bricht an’ gay
The birdies warbles blithely, fer ma Faither made thaim sae
But these sichts an’ these souns wull as naethin be tae me
Whun A hear the angels singin’ in my ain countrie
A hae His guid word o promise that some glaidsome day the King
Tae His ain royal palace His banished hame will bring
Aye wi’ een an wi hairt rinnin owre we shall see
The King in aa His beautie in wor ain countrie
Ma sins they hae been mony, an’ ma sorrows hae been sair
But there they’ll niver vex me, nor be remember’d mair
Fer His bluid has made me white an His haun shall dry ma een
When He brings me hame at last tae my ain countrie
Sae little noo A ken o yon blessed bonnie place
A only ken it’s hame, whaur A shall see His face
It wad surely be eneuch, aye, fer iver mair tae be
In the glorie o’ His presence in wor ain countrie
Like a wean tae its mither, a wee birdie tae its nest
I was fain be gangin’ noo untae ma Saviours breast
Fer He gaithers in his bosom witless worthless lambs like me
An carries thaim hissel tae His ain countrie
He is faithfu’ that has promised an He’ll surely come again
He’ll keep His tryst wi’ me, at whit hoor A dinnae ken
But He bids me still tae wait, aye an ready ay tae be
Tae gang at ony moment tae wor ain countrie
Sae A’m watchin’ aye an’ singin’ o ma hamelann as A wait
Fer the sounin’ o’ His fitfa’, this side the gowden gate
God gie His grace tae aa wha listens noo tae me
That we a’ micht gang wi’ glaidness tae wor ain countrie.