Return to Retreat

MINNIE O’Hara, an original member of the Glens of Antrim Historical Society in 1965, left a goldmine of recollection relating not only to her experiences as a much-travelled schoolteacher but also acute observations on how life was lived in the Glens of Antrim long before electricity or mechanical vehicles intruded on what was a harsh yet conversely idyllic existence.

Born Mary Anne McGavock, at Dunurgan, Cushendun, on January 6, 1904, she died aged 92, on December 3, 1996. A quiet and pious lady of striking humility, there is every indication her profound understanding of life’s demands, and also an awareness of everything good, were gifts handed down by her parents, Alexander and Lizzie McGavock. She was blessed with an abiding appreciation and curiosity for the wonders of the world, and all aspects of basic living.

Minnie provides an absorbing insight to the social conditions during parts of the 19th and 20th centuries not only relating to the Glens of Antrim but also on the other side of the Atlantic where numerous members of her McGavock clan settled into the New World.

Her father, intrepid traveller Alexander John McGavock, was born in July 1858. He was also an amateur poet of interesting yet untapped potential who spent many years working in America’s mid-Western States. Minnie took note and record of her father’s adventures, sensed and respected his proud connection to the Glens – and also his close attachment to his supportive closely-knit cousins in the USA, until 1902, when at 44 years of age, he settled to married life on the home farm, at Dunurgan.

Later, she listed in detail her thoughts and interpretation of life in Cushendun, the warmth and renowned hospitality of the people who resided in what outsiders regarded an insular community; her network of relatives; her sacrifices on the way to qualifying as a schoolteacher, and then the rota of employment that took in such diverse places as Dromara, Carnlough, Cullyhanna and Portstewart.

What is truly a special period in Irish history, Minnie penned part of her unique insight as ‘Pages of My Life’. Her description of the physical demands involved during the growing and processing of flax, the utter necessity of spinning wool, and the summer expeditions of the entire family to cut turf near the famous ‘Vanishing Lake’ at Loughareema, on Carey Mountain, makes for absorbing reading.

Her narrative on the frugal lifestyle in the Glens of Antrim at the end of the 19th Century – from the aftermath of the ghastly Famine, and involving the imperative of emigration or an escape to a life at sea, provide a special catalogue of stringent survival.

The quality hardback tome is a treasure-trove of yarns, and makes times past come alive in the pages of this special recount of trials and tribulations in the face of extreme adversity. Minnie includes a wickedly witty catalogue of nicknames, and the detail in the explanations of how people somehow cheerily survived the endless grinding poverty to scratch out a living on small hill farms.

‘Return to Retreat. The Minnie O’Hara Memoirs’  is SOLD OUT but coming soon to Kindle.

 

Return To Retreat

MINNIE O’Hara, an original member of the Glens of Antrim Historical Society in 1965, left a goldmine of recollection relating not only to her experiences as a much-travelled schoolteacher but also acute observations on how life was lived in the Glens of Antrim long before... continue reading

All Saints

September 1961 marked the beginnings of a very special era in Irish amateur boxing, when Father Alex Darragh founded the Ballymena All Saints Boxing Club on the Cushendall Road.