|This is part of an interview conducted by St. John’s PS, Carnlough. The children spoke to a resident of Straidkilly, Mr McGavock.
Was Straidkilly like a village?
No, not really, it hadn’t got any shops, just dwellings and farm buildings.
Did more people live there than in Carnlough?
No. There was only about 30 to 40 people living in Straidkilly when I was a child.
What type of childhood did you have?
Not great. I played with neighbours’ children, helped on the farm feeding hens and pigs, helped with the hay and potato dropping and gathering.
What was Straidkilly like when you were a child?
The houses were originally in poor condition but were repaired when the owners had the money to do so.
Where did you get your water?
From the well down below our house. It had to be carried in buckets.
Well at Straidkilly
Do you know anything about a piece of ground being shared by everyone?
Yes, a piece of ground round the houses was owned by everyone. It was called The Commons.
What was this used for?
House owners with animals would have grazed it with a horse.
Have you seen many changes in Straidkilly over the years?
Yes a lot of people moved out. Electricity and water were put into the houses.
What was school like? What subjects did you study?
I didn’t like school. The only subjects I can remember doing are Reading, Writing
Harphall School, built 1872
Who were your teachers (in Harphall PS)?
Miss A Rea and Mr McKinley. They both lived in the locality. They walked to school. Miss Rea’s brother is alive and one of Mr McKinley’s three sons is alive.
Did you wear a uniform?
No we just wore our ordinary clothes.
How were you disciplined?
We were slapped with the cane and kept in after school if we were very bad.
What size was the school?
2 classrooms with an outside toilet.
How many were in each class?
I can’t remember exactly but I think there were about 40 in the master’s room and maybe 30 in Miss Rea’s room.
What was the layout of the classroom?
The desks were in rows. Two children sat at each desk and the books were kept in below the lid of the desk. Every desk had an inkwell.
Were boys and girls separated?
Yes the girls went to Harphall Girls’ School which was attached. They had separate playtimes.
What did you get to eat at school?
Only what you brought with you, home-made soda and jam. We got nothing to drink.
Did you have to bring peat for the fire?
We brought coal or peat each day. Only one child out of the family had to bring it.
Would you have gone for school trips?
No, there was no such thing as school trips.
Were you school holidays as long as ours?
About the same length. Our summer holiday was shorter (than yours) because we got a week at Hallowe’en for gathering potatoes.
What did you do when you left school?
Started work as a casual labourer to neighbouring farmers, eg. Charlie Magill of Tully, Glenarm. I went to sea at the age of 20 and spent 25 years at sea. Then I went to work in Feystown as a shepherd. I am retired now about 10 years
What did people eat when you were young?
Porridge, homemade bread, potatoes, very little meat, occasionally a fry.
Did you grow any of your own food?
Yes we grew out own potatoes and kept hens for eggs. The surplus eggs were sold. We kept a cow for milk and made our own butter.
What would have been a treat?
Occasionally a plate of custard or rice. There was very little fruit.