Cousin’s sister Mary suggested we meet and walk around the dams at Upperlands.
I haven’t been there for years and was completely disorientated. This is where we spent most of our holidays when in NI, though as a teenager I would stay with more cousins in Co Tyrone.
The dams are being used now to produce electricity for local use; that hydro-electric power I remember learning about in geography O level. This was the map of my childhood summers, but so much has changed.
Back in the day, Upperlands was dominated by Clarks Linen factory.
Clarks remains, but in much more modest accommodation, and owned by a Welsh firm called Evans.
When I was a child the Clarks were still there. I am hoping to get some insight into my photos at some point when I catch up with my friend who I didn’t see on Saturday due to her laryngitis. She is a Clark and immensely proud of her family’s achievements.
At one point I glimpsed the chimneys of the house where she used to live.
Her father planted the trees to give them privacy. I’d say they worked pretty well. So far as I know, there are no Clarks left in Upperlands. Wallace Clark organised a small museum in the original beetling mill, but so far as I know, it’s closed now.
My uncle’s house, has also changed beyond recognition, and has been largely, maybe completely, rebuilt. I remember it as a simple single storey place where we all crammed in. I’ll fish out a photo of how it was. My aunt was a generous and accommodating woman to welcome us as she did.
It looks pretty snazzy now.
But it was these sights that really made me catch my breath.
Fortunately, the rest of our walk was more scenic, and of course we were swapping memories and admiring the swans.
Nature is embracing the machinery.
The colours all around the water were stunning.
We walked along the road which used to seem so long to my small legs when we went down to the village sweet shop and back. This biggest treat was two ounces of Riley’s Chocolate Toffee Rolls. My friend and I used to put on acrobatic shows in the hayloft on the gym set that hung there. In this way, we raised money for the PDSA from a small audience who were cajoled to attend and sit on hay bales covered in sacking. In the ‘interval’ we sold sweets at vastly inflated prices, so trips to the village centre were necessary from time to time to replenish our stocks. One year our shows were halted when the bales piled up behind us tumbled down in an unrehearsed dramatic event. My aunt, maybe inwardly grateful for an excuse not to have to attend any more shows, decreed it was not safe and we had to find other ways to amuse ourselves. The hayloft was a brilliant place to play. Given NI’s rainfall, you could be inside a lot of the time. The hayloft allowed us to be out but sheltered.
This time the rain held off. The greens of the fields and distant landscape were soft under the clouds.
The dereliction of the factory offices was sad, and the new owners of Carnabane have fenced off the dams below their garden so we couldn’t walk along there. I’d have liked to see Foxes Well, one of the only places I remember actually seeing a fox in the country, but I’m glad Mary suggested it and that we went.