One photograph can evoke a whole era and this is certainly the case for me with a shot that my father took in the Summer of 1967 when we were on holidays in a little seaside village called Annalong in Co. Down in Northern Ireland.
I was nine that year and it was the Summer just before Big Bro left for boarding school. It was also the last Summer that Mother got to spend time with her precious Big Bro, who was in serious physical decline from cancer.
In many ways that time we spent in Annalong was like the calm before many storms but one of the things I remember most was an outrageous thunder and lightening storm while we were there. Dad, who adored thunder and lightening, gathered us all around him in the little cottage we had rented as the lightening ripped through the night sky and the thunder crashed as if announcing the end of the world. He did his utmost to try and convince us that storms were beautiful and were yet another of nature’s ways of expressing herself.
We were living in inland Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan at that time and Annalong had been chosen very much for its proximity to the sea and the lovely Mourne Mountains. We went swimming before breakfast most days, had picnics up in the mountains and pottered around the peaceful harbour. I didn’t really care where I was so long as I was with the family and I relished every second of our time there. I loved rainy days as much as sunny ones because Mother always brought rainy day puzzle and colouring books as well as jigsaws on holidays and I had a real passion for these.
What we didn’t know in the Summer of 1967 was that the Troubles in Northern Ireland would have erupted in 1968; nor did we know that we would be moving to Drogheda in the February of 1968 and be going for walks on beaches where we could see the Mourne Mountains off in the distance or almost on top of us, if rain was on the way.
It’s only today that I have found out that the old stone building on the right of the photograph was a corn mill which operated from the early 1800s to the 1960s. It has since been opened as a heritage site.
Every time I look at Dad’s photograph, I’m brought to the songs of Percy French (1854-1920) and especially The Mountains of Mourne, which I listened to endlessly as a teenager when Don McClean recorded it: