There is, rightly, concern for the loss of land to spec and council building. In the 30’s, in any industrial town, there was street after street of ‘two-up-two-down houses, full of people and children. – 75 to the acre, the legacy of the Industrial Revolution. In ’46 people were being housed in caravan parks and prefabs. From the 50’s the smaller, older dwellings were replaced by motorways and better housing and those not accommodated in the immediate renewal were housed on green field sites, Since the 60’s housing is mainly built at 12 to 15 to the acre and the purchase of second or holiday homes is now causing a housing shortage with the infrastructure being over stretched, and the services put under pressure. We need a rethink if our heritage for the future is not to be totally mismanaged.
Portnoo, Caravans And Caravanning The desire to get away ‘from it all’, is, I believe, in the genes, the ancient urge to find pastures new. Round all our coasts are caravan parks great, and small, hideous and acceptable. We were persuaded to try it. We started going to Portnoo at the behest of our friends, who had been going for generations. The attraction, apart from the fabulous beach, the fishing, the golf, the security of children without tight supervision, was the free atmosphere, the way everyone mucked in. The girls made friends and Portnoo was immediately established for all time for us. At night there was drinking until nearly dawn in the pubs and it was a regular thing to give a turn, play silly games and get sozzled. Willy Long and his version of Piddling Pete, was a regular request.
The fishing in the sea, the lakes and rivers was good. I would bring both sea fish and trout for others to enjoy as I hated fish even then. Years later, fishing on Doon Fort lake above Narin, the sun setting with an extraordinary sunset, I hooked a salmon trout. Holding it in my hand in that light, in those surroundings, knowing I would never be the one to eat the fish, with the sun bringing out all sorts of colour and resonances from the fishes’ scales, I wondered why the hell I was killing something so beautiful for sport, and have never fished since.
Ernie, a dentist in Belfast and an habitue of Portnoo, hated to meet his clients when he was on holiday and we had to fend him from them when we went on holiday with him. He almost hid when he spied one on the horizon. On another wet day he, his son and wife, Sophie and I, were having coffee in the hotel lounge. I was pushing a toy car across the floor to his young son who was returning it when unfortunately it became bent by hitting a chair leg.. Repairs were effected, by the son straightening the car with his teeth. Sophie immediately said, ‘It’s a good thing your father’s a dentist.’, upon which a woman, who had been sitting behind us and who had mistaken me for the boy’s father approached me and said, ‘Oh! Are you a dentist?’ Without waiting for confirmation she went into a long detailed description of her daughter’s teeth, what was wrong with them, and what her dentist should have done to the child.. At suitable intervals I smiled, I dared not explain the mistake, it would have wrecked the day for all of us. However, my bluff was called when she asked me to examine the child and I was forced to explain that the boy I was playing with was the son of a friend, unspecified, and she had made a mistake. I’m afraid she took it all very badly, but it brought home to me why so many doctors register as Mr on holiday.
Dunmore Caravans The reflection of the attitude of the average Donegal man to cash flow was when we bought a static caravan in Portnoo. Sophie and I, staying on Gillespie’s site in a two berth towing caravan; saw John, the Site owner, installing a replacement van.. Curious to know the cost of a permanent plot, I asked how much it would cost to buy a static one and have it installed. He told me and added that I should make my mind up quickly as he was opening up the field at the end of the site with a view across the golf course to the Derryveagh Mountains and Mount Errigal, All there would be between us and the view would be grazing cattle and bad golfers – irresistible. We agreed a price and the model of van we would like a few days later by telephone and when I suggested he should give me a layout of his expansion so I could chose a site his reaction was typical of the people of the area. ‘Plan?’ he asked. ‘What plan? Just you come up here John and stick your heel in the ground and I’ll have the van on it by the Twelfth of July.’
He was as good as his word. Now, because of lack of planning the ground could only be partially levelled, with the result we are higher than everyone else as well as having the very best view. We now find the journey too much for us, but the family can’t bear to miss a holiday in it.