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Ansons At Ardmore - 1. Holidays In Ardmore
Text: Clodagh Anson
Scanned By: Kathleen Paton
From the time we were very young the one thing my brothers and I looked forward to was our summer holidays at Ardmore. Mother used to rent Ardmore House, (now the convent) overlooking the boat cove, from Miss Walsh, who then lived at Ballyquin House. We used to come down from our home, Ballysaggartmore 27 miles away, in convoy. First the double dog cart with two cobs, the Flipper and the Roan, with mother driving, Nanny beside her with Hugo on her knee and Tony between them, and Woodie the groom in the back with me and the nursery maid. Second by the farm horse, Dolly, with a cart loaded with luggage and finally the donkey cart. Both carts were driven by farm hands. The men stayed the night and drove the horses back next day but the donkey cart remained so that Nanny could drive us for picnics.
There was terrific excitement when we first caught sight of the round tower, and the sound of the gulls the next morning was another thrill. The only worry was, would Nanny say it was warm enough to bathe.
The donkey's name was Torby and he was put out to grass below the house. He was quite expert at opening gates and doors and visitors sleeping in the lower bedrooms quite often found him standing beside their beds. In the end he had to be put in a field with a locked gate and spent most of his time standing beside it, hoping to be fed with bread and jam which he much preferred to grass. In those days there was a little road on top of the clay cliffs behind the beach and there were a number of private bathing boxes beside it. Nanny would drive us along this road to the Curragh for our picnic tea or sometimes we would scramble around the rocks and look for cowrie shells in the gravel. If we got enough we would glue them on little boxes and give them away for Christmas presents.
Father was farming at home, and only came down in the car at weekends with the chauffeur, Evenden. Sometimes we would drive in the donkey cart to the Ferry Point and go over in the ferry, at that time propelled by huge oars with two men on each. The men were very kind to us and let us sit between them and pretend to help them to row.
When we got a bit older and could swim and row, father hired a rowing boat and took us to bathe in the middle of the bay. This was most uncomfortable - very difficult to undress and dress and though quite easy to dive in from the boat, very hard to get back again. He had a little ladder made with 2 hooks but it nearly always fell off before we got in. Also there was often a basking shark cruising round which we didn't like the look of at all - though told that it was harmless - otherwise he used the boat for fishing and Tony and I rowed. Unfortunately we got blisters on our hands which turned septic. Father said to mother "your children seem to be rotten inside!". This hurt our feelings very much — after this he and the governess (Miss Dora) had to row but this was not a great success as he always forgot that he was stronger than her and pulled her round. Than he got blisters which turned septic so he gave up the rowing boat and bought a motor boat, looked after by the chauffeur.
We then took to bathing in the boat cove, at high tide, with our friends, and this didn't go down at all well, as mixed bathing was considered very fast in Ireland at that time. There was an article in the Dungarvan Observer saying "The disgusting British practice of mixed bathing is being carried on in Ardmore, corrupting the morals of the children in the nearby houses".
The next week they wrote again "In spite of our protest of last week, this disgusting practice is still carried on." When we got a bit older we bathed in the swimming pool shaped inlet at Ardmore head which was delightful and sheltered from every wind but the southeast. It always had very deep water even at the lowest spring tide but the climb down to it was rather severe and kept away most grown ups.
Every afternoon we played hockey on the beach with the Daniels the Curreys and the Pollocks but hardly ever could muster more than 6 a side and we longed to play a proper match against a real eleven. Tommy Jameson agreed to fix up a team and challenge us. Tommy's team consisted of Dorothy and Joan Musgrave, 4 Arnots from Castlemartyr and 4 whose names I've forgotten. They were all in their middle twenties and we (apart from Miss Darcy, the current governess) were from 9 to 16 years old. Pop was considered to be too old though he usually played with us. It was an Homeric struggle and at first the grown ups did terribly well — Tommy was an extra good games player and fit. Most of the others began to puff a bit after a time and in the end we utterly defeated them. Our 2 smallest boys were the most brilliant forwards and were so tiny that the big fellows could hardly see them.
Every evening we had a paperchase and mothers complained that we lost their smallest children in bogs. Luckily they always turned up again but of course covered with mud.
We loved to go prawning and had special large strong nets made, scorning the useless little nets used by other children. There seemed to be plenty of prawns but I rather over did it and an old professional prawner said " Miss Anson has killed the fathers and mothers of them all." He turned out to be quite right and after that I had a close season and caught nothing till July and if anyone else tried to, I was furious with them.
Ardmore was the most wonderful place for sea food. There were trawlers coming in all the time and men came to the door selling soles and lobsters for nothing - also salmon was very plentiful but basking sharks used to break up the nets and ruin them.
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