John’s Story

I was born in the late forties, post war, as the eldest of nine children, four boys and five girls. I have lived on the Culmore Road and in close proximity to it all my life. There is a 17 year age difference between myself and the youngest member of the family.

My mother was a native Irish speaker from the Bloody Foreland in Donegal, and my father originally came from the Ballyarnett area of Derry

My mother left home at the early age of 12 to work in large houses/farm houses in counties Donegal, Tyrone and Derry. At age 12 she was hired out to a schoolteacher’s family in Gweedore, which is also Irish speaking. While she was hired there, she had a certain amount of duties to do before she left for school in the morning, and again in the evening when she returned from school. This was a normal practice in the area and still existed when I was on holidays there in the fifties. After reaching school leaving age, she moved to another house close to Termon and spent some time working there. From there she moved to a house belonging to a family called Dunn, in the Bready area of Co Tyrone, during the war years. Mother recalled her time when working there by telling us a story of when she was returning to Bready from Lifford one dark evening on her bicycle; she was stopped by the police, who informed her that she was breaking the Blackout code. Her crime was cycling along the road with her lights on in a dark night. She was cautioned and had to appear in court in Strabane in the following months. She was fined half a crown for her crime; however the story had a happy ending, as the policeman who had initially booked her paid her fine. He explained that he was forced to take the action that he did, because of his boss. She then worked in two houses in the Derry area – Ballyarnett House and in a house in Governor Road. In addition she spent several months in the ‘Naafi’ in Derry, which was basically a canteen service for navy personnel during the war years. She was the fifth child of a family of 8, all of who left their native ‘Foreland’ in search of work. Most emigrated to Glasgow or its surrounding areas, with two, including my mother, staying in Ireland.

My father was a man of the land, as were his forefathers before him. All worked as gardeners for local landlords at Boom Hall, Ballyarnett, Troy Hall or Brook Hall, which were estates along the Culmore Road and at Ballyarnett. He was the fourth child of a family of six, all of whom found work in the locality of their home. One exception was one of his brothers, who emigrated to Paisley in Scotland. My father would have left school at 13/14 years of age and worked firstly as a milkman, then as a land steward, a gardener and a farm worker for the Gilliland family for a total period of 69 years. He retired at the ripe old age of 83. During the early years of my father’s life his family resided at a gate lodge to Troy Hall and a cottage at Ballyarnett, which was part of the McCorkell family estate. His family then went to live in the St Bridget’s Avenue area of Pennyburn when my grandfather died. My father’s family survived the Messines Park bombing by hiding under their beds when the bombs struck. Despite the fact that two pieces of masonry came through the roof, no one in his family was hurt.

One of the last ‘big houses’ where my mother worked was in Ballyarnett House, which was then in the hands of the Galbraith family. As was the norm in country areas at the time, socialising meant meeting other young people at the local crossroads. This, conveniently for my mother, was at the gate lodge to Ballyarnett House. It so happened that my mother and father met at one of these social gatherings.

They were married in St Patrick’s Church in Pennyburn in 1946. For the first two years of married life they lived in St Bridget’s Avenue, in my grandmother’s house. I was born on 8th Oct 1947 at the City and County Hospital, Northland Road.

When I was one year old we moved to a house on the Brook Hall estate known as Croppy Hill. This house was one of 4 terraced cottages situated at what is now the entrance to Griffith Park, off Colby Avenue. These houses were very basic; they did not have electricity or water, and each had only three rooms; a kitchen and two bedrooms. Water was obtained from a hand pump, which was used to pump water to animals in the nearby fields. The pump was 200 yards from the cottages, so water had to be carried to the houses in buckets. Lighting was provided using oil lamps. A range was used to provide heating and for cooking.

Because of age I have limited memories of living here, however I do know that we kept hens; and as we were in an end of terrace cottage this allowed for additional space for sheds, a hen house, etc. My sisters Nora and Mary were born during our stay here, and we lived in this house for approximately two years.

From Croppy Hill we moved to the front gate lodge on the Brook Hall estate. This was another old fashioned but typical lodge, of the kind which all the estates had. Each of the estates usually had a front and back gate lodge; ours was at the front entrance. The gate lodge was 2 miles from Derry city centre, borne out by the milestone marked on the wall outside the house on the Culmore Road. There was also a well-known landmark at the main gate entrance – that of two large anchors. The lodge was much larger than our previous house and had one sitting room, a kitchen, scullery, two bedrooms, and a back yard with outhouses. Lighting was provided by the use of oil lamps. Heating and cooking was done on a ‘range’ in the kitchen. Water came from a hand pump in the back yard, and a dry toilet was also situated there. The front door of the house gave admission directly to the sitting room, and from there entry to the main living area, the kitchen. Entry to the cobbled yard was gained through the back gate. The gate lodge had splendid views over the river Foyle and surrounding areas, and we could see ships and trains come and go from the front windows of the kitchen. This was also a perfect viewpoint for watching the Lancaster airplanes training over Lough Foyle, from where they would drop flares at night that could be plainly seen from our vantage point. There was an avenue from the lodge down to the big house and this was laid out in Rhododendron bushes and well-planned aubrietia. The lodge at that time was totally surrounded by large, mature trees, with the branches of some of these trees almost touching the chimney of the house. This made it slightly uncomfortable for my mother, especially during storms or windy weather.

My family remained in this house until the death of my mother at the end of 2012.

Growing up here was a great way to learn the country way of life. Both my parents were hard working and always striving to make thing better for a growing family. In those days we always referred to the house as ‘the big house’, and the owner at that point was referred to as ‘the Commander.’ He had been a Commander in the navy during the war years. I always remember being taken to visit him in the big house. At this time the Commander was bed ridden, following a stroke, and he was looked after by my father and a housemaid. The servant’s quarters were still in place, and the house kitchen was downstairs, as was the case in all large estate country residencies.

The Brook Hall estate took in over 200 acres and covered each side of the Culmore Road from the River Foyle up to the Steelstown Road, and from Boom Hall estate to Thornhill estate. Following the Commander’s sickness, the milk farm was sold off and the only reminders of that era were the milking parlour, barns, stables and outhouses. All the land associated with Brook Hall was let out to others on a yearly basis, and was used to graze sheep and cattle; some was used to produce crops. There were 12 cottages associated with in the estate, and at a time those working on the estate would have used these. During the early fifties, however, these had been let off to local people. The walled garden was also an established part of the country estates, and this garden was on the banks of the River Foyle. The garden contained many fruit trees but was otherwise unused, except for a plot my father used for the production of vegetables and potatoes, for use in our home.

The main source of transport in those days was bicycles, and my father and mother used these extensively to get around. The Lough Swilly bus service provided transport into town, and was usually used by my mother on a Saturday. For the children it was ‘Shanks Mare’ – a term my father used to say – meaning we had to walk. Being the oldest in the family had certain advantages, and when I was able to ride a bike, which was at about 7/8 years of age, I was able to join my parents and cycle to my destination if required.

School for me started at 6 years of age, where I attended Shantallow School, on the Lenamore Road in Shantallow. My class was separate from the main school building and the conditions were generally poor by today’s standards. For my first week there, I walked from St Bridget’s Avenue, Pennyburn – my grandmother’s house – and was escorted to the school by a local lad from the St Bridget’s area. From the second week I walked from the gate lodge out to Shantallow for about 6/7 months. When St Patrick’s Pennyburn opened, I transferred there and was joined by my sister Nora, and we both walked to school each and every day, winter and summer. Early school days travelling down the Culmore Road, Greenhaw Road and Racecourse Road were very different than today. The only houses on the Culmore Road then were the large houses on one side of the road. The Greenhaw road was a narrow country lane, no houses at either side, and the Racecourse Road was slightly broader with no Belmont, Danesfort or Carnhill estates; fields were on every side. Balmoral Avenue was the only row of houses along the route to school. I remember travelling home one afternoon from school with my school friend and a field, just about where the Superfare is now, was being ploughed by a horse. When we asked the farmer what he was planting there, he replied strawberries. We waited with anticipation for these strawberries to appear, but alas it was planted with potatoes.

The family continued to grow with the addition of Sadie, Breege, Neil, Sheila, Patrick, and Kevin.

As the family got bigger my father needed to make adjustments to the gate lodge in order to accommodate the larger family and to ensure all had a place to sleep. He accomplished this by using the sitting room as an additional double bedroom at night, which could be transferred back to a sitting room during the day. He partitioned off part of the sitting room, placing a bed in the corner of the room and then using a settee bed; the added complication to this arrangement was that if anyone came to the front door after the children’s bedtime, my dad was forced to go round the back of the house to attend to them.

Memories of people who called to our house during my young years are still very vivid. We had Johnny the ‘cow man’ (Johnny Meenan), who called on a regular basis. He attended the cows which grazed in the fields around our house. He travelled out on the bus from Derry and when he was finished his checks he called into our house for a cup of tea. My mother didn’t think unkindly about him, but he chewed tobacco and the resulting spittle didn’t always quite go into the fire – she was often left with some cleaning to do when he departed. For our part we enjoyed his company, as he regularly told stories and had us in stitches as we listed to pre wartime stories of his life .We had two ‘bread men’, each of whom called twice per week: Johnny English and Willie Lynch. Willie told my mother once that he delivered more bread to our family than to the rest of the Culmore Road put together. This indeed was a measure of a growing family. What I remember was that the bread was delivered steaming hot, and this along with our homemade jam was delicious. In addition to the milkman, who called daily, the All Cash stores man collected my mum’s grocery list each Wednesday for delivery on a Friday afternoon. Another visitor was Willie Donnelly, a former work mate of my father. He would come in on a winter evening and would sit until bedtime. He was another man who made the entire family laugh. He could tell the most unbelievable stories, but he told them in such a way that that it was actually like a one-man comedy show in our living room. Every Sunday we had an Aunt visit, and as children we always looked forward to Aunt Bridget’s visit as she always had goodies for us. She would also have with her two or three of our cousins, and we all had a great time in the playground that was the Brook Hall estate. All of the local members of my father’s family also visited on a regular basis. On my mother’s side, as most of her siblings were living in Scotland, we had the experience every summer of having visits from our Scottish cousins, uncles and aunts, as they travelled from the Bloody Foreland and from the ‘Scotch Boat’, as we called it. This was the Lairds Loch, which travelled between Derry and Glasgow. Usually when the ‘Scotties’ left to get the boat we would walk down to the shore and wave goodbye, as the boat passed our vantage point on the Foyle embankment.

Uncle Patrick, my father’s brother, when he returned from Paisley in Scotland, would always visit both ourselves and the grounds of Brook Hall, as he was a keen gardener. On one such visit he and my father went out while Hurricane Debbie was at its height in September 1961. The Brook Hall estate, full of trees and shrubs, had many fallers during this terrible storm. We had a large beech tree, which fell against our house, doing little damage but scaring the life out of my mother. Of course, on the plus side, my father gained a fuel supply for many years after. At this time I got my first experience of physical work, when I was asked to accompany my father to cut some firewood from these trees with the use of a cross cut – no chain saws for us. He would often say to me that I would get heated twice by doing this – once when cutting the tree, and then when using the wood for fuel for the fire. Of course at the age of 8, I fell for it every time.

As we grew up, as well as time for exploring the estate, we all had our duties to do to help run the household. One of my most ardent tasks was to scuffle the stones that surrounded the house and partway down the Avenue. All of this was gravel, laid out by my father. Over the weeks, weeds and grass would grow up through the gravel, which had to be removed manually with the use of a spade or hoe and then raked. All of us also helped with younger members of the family as they came along. Another task, which was usually undertaken by my mother, was to watch the hens when they were let out in the morning. This was a necessity, as Mr Fox had a habit of removing a hen or two, especially early in the morning. One morning when she was outside watching, a fox appeared and lifted a chicken right in front of her, despite her shouts at the animal. From this point on the fox was public enemy number one. The government obviously thought so too, as there was a bounty given for every fox caught. My father would have taken a number of foxes over the years, and I would have the job of taking them up to the police barracks at Duncreggan Road. The foxes were taken into the barracks and a policeman would remove the tongues from the carcasses. My father allowed me to keep the money from this, and I classed this as my first pay. Pocket money was not a given in our house – it had to be earned. I remember when there was a bakery strike and no bread was available locally – I was tasked each day after school to go to Muff on my bicycle to purchase bread at Grant’s store in Muff. The nearest shop to our house was in Bogstown, a small settlement at the site of today’s Steelstown Church. We reached this shop by going up a lane beside Daisy Hill Cottages and across a field. This, of course, was a small shop within the house itself, and had very basic groceries and confectionaries. The next nearest shop was at Garden City, and this shop remains in position today.

My first job outside of Brook Hall estate was in the neighbouring estate of Boom Hall. I had heard that there was a job picking gooseberries down at McDivitts; I joined some other local boys and commenced work at the start of my school summer holidays. The task here was to get a container or box, go into their garden, and pick as many gooseberries as you could. The garden was a walled garden, which had all the usual fruit – apples, pears, plums – and the greenhouse contained grapes of which I have never tasted better before or since. The return for this difficult task was one shilling for one stone of gooseberries; this would only have lasted for a week or two at the most. I was to return to this estate later on, in my early teens.

Things were changing on the Brook Hall estate also. The Commander had died, and after a period of inactivity the inheritor of the estate got married and moved into the big house. At this point the new Landlord, being young and enthusiastic, started to farm the land. He made use of the available outhouses to breed pigs, raised hens for the production of eggs, and cows to graze the fields. The walled garden was also brought back into useful production for strawberries and raspberries, and vegetables for the big house. I would have helped my father with various tasks on the farm and garden. Throughout the year I would have helped collect and clean eggs for sale, and during the summer months I would be involved in the picking of fruit, which was sent into one of the fruit shops in Bishop Street in Derry. My father always had to visit the farm on a nightly basis, and I used to accompany him as he did his rounds.

My mother, meanwhile, was also to be employed part time, cleaning the big house, and would be asked to help out on social occasions. She also worked on a part time basis in one or two houses in the immediate Culmore Road area; this was of course in addition to having to look after the needs of nine children.

In following my father’s gardening tradition, I had a small plot of ground at the back of the lodge where I experimented with growing peas, lettuce and spuds – items that were pinched from my father’s supply. I also received nasturtium seed from my grandmother, and these I planted against a wall at the side of the house. During very dry weather in the summertime our water supply dried up, and we had to carry water from a tap that was situated in the Orangeman’s field, now the site of the Foyle Hospice. The tap was about 200yds from our house and had been set up to facilitate the demonstrations that were held in the field every four years. As in our early years at Croppy Hill, the water had to be carried by bucket into the house.

One summer after picking Gooseberries at the McDivitt house at Boom Hall, I was asked to help out with some work in the walled garden. This was at the invitation of Patrick McDivitt, who seemed to be the only one who took an interest in the garden and grounds. Patrick was one of four people who resided in the big house at Boom Hall. The others were named Michael, Annette, and Marcella .The family had two other large houses; one at Fahan in Co Donegal, and one at Downhill, Co Derry. They also owned a factory in William Street in Derry, which produced socks. During my time associated with the family this business had ceased, and all the redundant machinery was stored in the old stable yard associated with the Boom Hall house. Their other business was a drapery business which was in Duke Street in the Waterside. This business was still in existence in the 1950s, and Patrick and Michael worked in this business then. Annette was a teacher at Thornhill girl’s school. I would have described the McDivitts as slightly eccentric, but a very honest and kind family. All of the four that I knew had not married. Patrick completed most of the work in the garden and in the grounds around the house. His outside work included cutting grass with a scythe, and pruning roses and grapevines in the greenhouse. My task was to accompany Patrick; he would do most of the physical work and I simply was there as a companion and to do light duties. Patrick was slightly hard of hearing and would always ask me to tell him if the family car horn sounded so that he could go for his dinner. This was the communication method between the others at the house and Patrick when he was working in the garden. Patrick also liked to smoke, and during these intervals he would tell me a little of the history of the house. The Boom Hall house was taken over by the Wrens during the 2nd World War, and they had to use one of their other houses. The Boom Hall estate, again, had two approaches from the Culmore Road, and each had a lodge. The back lodge and avenue were generally unused during my time. Patrick explained that during the war the approach to the house from the front lodge, a tree-lined avenue, was used extensively to store ammunition. The trees by the avenue formed a natural camouflage. In the springtime, Patrick would also attempt to prune the vines in the greenhouse, but there was such a large greenhouse that he never quite got to grips with it. When doing this he also took the time to explain how this should be done to myself. Across from Boom Hall, on the other side of the River Foyle, Patrick explained that there was a battery emplacement, which was for the defence of the shipyard during the war. This was referred to locally as the “battery plantin’”. At the age of 12/13 I was asked if I could do some minor tasks in the house itself. The front door of this house was actually on the second floor, and the lower quarters, which were unused at this time, were originally where the servants lived and contained the kitchens, etc. The interior was grand in nature, and was in good condition. The grounds outside of the house, however, were neglected, with bushes, grass, and weeds growing. I remember a set of stones placed in a semi-circle on the ground opposite the front of the house. Patrick told me these had come from the Giants Causeway. I used a bicycle to travel via the back lodge avenue to get to the McDivitts, and during the winter time this could be quite daunting and eerie, as the road was surrounded with large trees which completely covered it in places.

My job was to bring coal up from downstairs for the fires, and either light the boiler or clean it out. There were two large boilers in place in the house, probably since the war years, but only one was used during my time. Coke had to be taken in from storage and left close to the boiler. Kindling was gathered from around the house and used for lighting the fire. I would carry out these tasks 3 times per week.

During the summer evenings, my time was spent fishing on the Foyle, a sport that my uncle Jack introduced me to. He would take me on his motorbike to Inch Island where we would fish for trout. This introduction was enough to get me ‘hooked’ on this sport, and in the evenings I would join 2/3 others on the ‘White Wall’ down below our house, and fish on the Foyle. The White Wall was maintained by the harbour commission, and was used to mark the edge of the channel. I can vividly remember the number of salmon jumping out of the water after insects. Needless to say, I never did manage to catch a large fish – only a few small fluke and trout. However, the fisherman’s tales that I heard from the senior men there was always a drawing point to go fishing on the good summer evenings. I had an interest in nature, and would always observe the wildlife on the estate, from the birds that nested in the bushes and trees, to the insects and newts that were always visible on the pond in the walled garden, and even the occasional glimpse of a fox or badger or red squirrel on the grounds of the estate. In late summer I would see the fruit from the trees in the garden; an added incentive for visiting the walled garden. I had acquired a dog when I was about 8 years of age, whose name was Spot. He was a black mongrel dog with a white spot on his chest, hence the name. Spot was my constant companion as I played and worked, and generally was at my side whenever I was on the estate grounds. This dog lived until I was in my working years.

Holiday time for the family during my younger years was spent in the Bloody Foreland, Co Donegal, my mother’s homeland. We travelled by Swilly bus to Falcarragh, and from there transferred to another bus which took us to our destination. Of course we all looked forward to this, as we would get a chance to catch up with our Scottish cousins. At other times during the year, my father was allowed to borrow a car from the Gilliland family, and we would generally then go on day trips to visit my aunt who lived outside Strabane, or go to visit my grandmother at the Bloody Foreland. Again, this was a great novelty for a family that did not have a car.

Wintertime activity during my young years, especially during the dark nights, was fairly restricted. With no electricity in the house, night times were generally spent around the kitchen, which had the only source of light. Once school homework was completed, we had to amuse ourselves by reading, doing jigsaws or other sit-down play activities. Each night my Father would recite the rosary, and we all had to participate in this. In addition, when we were big enough to walk to church we attended the October devotions in Pennyburn, a distance of one mile from our house.

Times when it snowed were exiting for me, as I was able to sledge on the Culmore Road. At that time the traffic was light enough that this could be done safely, without any problems. We acquired a sledge from a nearby neighbour, which had broad wooden runners that enabled us to use it on the fields. On snowy nights when the moon was out there was enough light to enable us to stay out until bedtime. In addition to this, the avenue that ran down on a slope towards the big house could rapidly be transformed into a slide, with the addition of some water. This, for us, lightened up the long winter nights. Other activities for me included nighttime visits to the big house farm. My father would have to attend to something on the farm, and I would accompany him on his evening trips.

On some weekend Sunday afternoons I and two of my sisters were allowed to go to my aunt’s house at Balmoral Avenue to watch television. She had a TV, and thus electricity. In those days this was a real novelty for us, and we all looked forward to it.

Aged 11, I transferred from Pennyburn School to the Londonderry Technical College on the Strand Road, which was approximately 2 miles from our gate lodge home. I travelled there and back on a bicycle, which was still the cheapest mode of transport for us. Working hours at the college were quite long, from nine o’clock until half past four. At this time, sporting activities were limited to football in Brooke Park after school. When the William Street baths opened, we were allowed one session at the baths per week. Through this I learned to swim, and thus this too was added as one of the hobbies that I could participate in during my free time.

As I approached 12 /13 years of age the farm on the estate had moved on to growing crops of barley on their farm. This was a new phase for me as I quite quickly learned to drive a tractor and was able to help out more on the farm. I was allowed to plough the ground and get it ready to plant the crops. This of course to me was a lot better than studying or doing school work. It got even better when the farm got two tractors and for a time had only one driver, my father. All this was done out of school hrs, however I really enjoyed driving at an early age. Mum always encouraged me not to follow my father in his job as it meant working every day winter and summer and during inclement weather, however as a schoolboy I was involved as much as I could on the farm and garden. As long as tractors were involved I was always involved. Much of the Gilliland land which I worked on has transferred from farming to housing estates. These include no Griffith Park, Brookhill, Colby ave, Drommond Park, O Donovan/Papworth Ave and Rockfield. Indeed I now live on ground where I once helped cultivate for crops.

At 16 years of age I did my junior cert at the Tech and as the summer approached I was encouraged to apply for a summer job at Monarch electric at Blighs Lane. After interview I was offered a job which required me to start on the Monday following my school finish date on the Friday. First impressions of work were not good. On my first day I was asked to stand on a concrete floor and use a hand press to rivet two pieces of a record player together. At the end of the day my legs were sore from standing in the one place all day long and my right arm felt like it was ready to fall off with swinging the hand press all day long. Shortly after this I was moved into quality control, this was not as repetitive as the previous job and was more interesting. At the end of the summer I had a decision to make, either to go back to school to complete my senior cert or keep working. At the end I remained at work. When I look at a 16 year old person now, I realise just how young I was when I started work. My ambition as a young child and prompted by my mother was to serve my time at some trade and to this end I was given day release from Monarch Electric to go back to the Strand tech. So here I was having left school at 16 back again at school one day per week at an engineering course. I found this course difficult as most of my classmates were more qualified and the course was suited to their knowledge more than mine. Thus after this year of day release my choice was 3 evening per week back at the tech. Due to the number of instances of talk of redundancies and lay offs I chose to leave Monarch Electric to work in a garage. Although this was in pursuit of serving my time as a mechanic I was persuaded to go into the stores as a store man. So I started to work in K Mc Laughlin motors for the princely sum of £3 per week. After deductions I took home 2 pounds, 11 shillings. Although I was earning less here I was more happy than in my previous job. I was able to supplement my wages by working for a local farmer at Sandbank in Ballyarnet. This farmer had previously got to know my family through him taking fields from the Brookhall estate. His farm was owned by Robert Wylie and he was helped by his brother Willie John. Both were employed by Ulsterbus and managed the farm during their time off. It was a small farm which had a mixture of Sheep, Cattle and poultry. Crops grown were usually potatoes and turnips. They had a tractor to help their efforts but they maintained one horse for specific tasks. When I initially went over there to help I would be asked to harness up the horse to help clean out the byres and deposit the manure in the potato drills. The main task of the horse was to close up the drills when the potatoes had been planted. This job was undertaken by Willie John and he seemed to be the expert when working with horses. As the brothers gained confidence in my ability to drive tractors I was allowed to undertake tractor work activities on the farm. I remember an instance of taking a flock of sheep from the farm down to Culmore with the help of three young boys who had volunteered to help me. As we passed a field along the Racecourse on the way to Culmore some of the sheep went into a field which contained very long grass. These were driven out to join the main flock again and we continued on our way. Once we reached our destination a headcount revealed that 20 sheep were missing. These had gone into the field with the long grass and had been hidden from the view of the boys who were originally sent in to retrieve the sheep on the original journey. The movement of Cattle and sheep via the roads was a common sight in those days, It was not unusual for sheep to be moved from Sappagh (close to the Rock bar) to Culmore via Muff and customs pens at the border and then up the Culmore.

Aged 16 and working I was now at an age when I could obtain a motorbike driving licence so it was something that fell naturally to me. My father bought a small motorbike from a friend of his and although I was the only one who could ride it, the family now had its first motorised means of transport. Also at this age I persuaded Mr David Gilliland to allow me to apply for a tractor licence and hence I was now allowed to drive tractors on the road, the only stipulation was that I did not pass the city boundary when driving a tractor. Both tests were passed first time. At aged 17 I completed my car driving test after 6 driving lessons. Now I was ready for action on all fronts. Passing the car test also allowed me to do additional tasks in my garage job also I was tasked to drive new cars from Belfast to Derry. This involved travelling to Belfast by train and then returning with new cars. Occasionally this also involved driving to Dublin and returning with new left hand drive cars for the Americans at the U.S. base in the city. These cars were imported Tax free with left hand drive which meant that as well as getting the car cheaper they could have their cars to take home to the U.S. when they finished their tour here.

When I was aged 17 my youngest brother Kevin was born making the family numbers add up to 11 including my parents. The Gate Lodge which had, despite its limitations and deficiencies, and with the modifications made by my father had served us well since we moved in there. However as the family were growing up living space was becoming more critical. It was around this time that plans were drawn up to add additional bedrooms to the house. In advance of these plans being drawn up we received a new source of water for the house, that being a mains supply. This was basically a water supply into the scullery of the house, but this addition meant that we had a supply inside the house all the year round. The plans were put into place during 1969 with the addition of five bedrooms, thus the old part of the house now contained a new kitchen a sitting room, bathroom. The scullery was knocked down. With the new building came electricity and thus we were ultra modern.