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16 October 2014
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Larne - Electricity, gas, shopping and childhood - Ignatius Reynolds.

I was an electrician. Larne was allegedly one of the first towns in Ireland to have street lighting.

Larne Street Scene

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Article submitted by Alison Kane

Ignatius Reynolds
Ignatius Reynolds

Electricity and Gas

I was an electrician. Larne was allegedly one of the first towns in Ireland to have street lighting. There used to be a big pole in front of Dan Campbells and apparently there was a big Arkwright and that was the first street lighting. The electricity was supplied by a well known business man, entrepreneur you might call him now, Billy Crawford he owned the electricity mains, it was privately owned. Believe it or not the electricity in Larne was made from generators from German U Boats.

I remember Jo Ramsey had a big pole and he went round on a bike and when he when he came to the lights he got out the pole and switched them on. All round the town he went. One switch at the bottom of Ferris Lane did up Ferris Lane. Mill Lane another switch there and one at the Mill. They called him the lamp lighter.

Gas was still used in Narrow Gauge Road. Where the Tourist Information Centre was that was the station. The owners of the gas works was a family called Ferris, they owned an awful lot of the town, the factory area was nearly the last to get the electricity because he owned the houses and he also owned the gas works so consequently they had gas before anyone else but they were the last to get electricity.

The Factory was in opposition to Larne. Because Brown, Sir William Brown, started a factory there and brought all the workers from Ballymena, and it used to get called 'Wee Ballymena'. All those houses were full of people from Ballymena. It caused a bit of friction in Larne because they moved all their workers in. And there football colours were the colours of Ballymena and they called their new team Newton Rangers. There was terrible rivalry between Larne and Newton Rangers. Newton Rangers played where the old cemetery was on the Old Glenarm Road, that's where their football ground was.

 

Shopping in Larne

Dunluce Street was a busy street. There was butchers shop, 2 chemists, 2 shoe shops, Whitesides the grocers, Liptons. The Maypole was one of a chain of shops, probaly one of the first big chains. Beautiful cakes they had. After them there was Pattons the Butchers in Dunluce Street, Ferris the clothes shops, McConnells - Bryan, Ronald and Albert three sons. That's why there's a Bryan Street, Ronald Street and Albert Street in the towns. They lived up in the Roddens. One of them was an international footballer, they were all good athletes. The family built all the houses in those streets. In Albert Street no-one wanted to take the houses because they were 8 shillings in rent and that was terrible dear. That was dear because up round Mill Street they were half a crown. There was a terrible lot empty for years. There was fellas used to play cards in different ones every night!

Quillans shop in Dunluce Street. Shannons was another shop I loved going passed, it was up market, the lovely smell of coffee. Whitesides was another main shop in the street. Carsons in Carsons Street. It wouldn't pass today. There was dried fish hanging up and bacon hanging up and butter on the counter. There was another wee street at the bottom of Agnew Street called Mary Kellys. You wouldn't get away with it now. Big blocks of butter and cheese and dates and paraffin oil. My mum used to send me for a pint of treacle in a big drum from Whitesides. Mill Street and Dunluce Street was a continuation. Cross Street to High street wasn't there, that's the new street, all traffic had to come through here.

In Mill Street there was Longmores, then the Butcher's Tate's. Jamie Johnston was the famous singer, a tenor. His family owned Longmores. The Beehive was a very select pub. The Garby's owned this, two old ladies and their niece. It was a wee dark pub, very, very exclusive. That's where all the businessmen went. It was lovely. You couldn't have spoken very loudly and certainly no ladies. They were very prim. They had a room in the back with a parrot and a cockatoo. Ramsey's were above them, the French polishers, and then Craig's was a sweets shop and the Butcher. That was a very busy street.

In the other pubs in Larne they had little cosies, little places with doors, and that's where the ladies went with their boyfriends. But they would never be seen in the pubs. They had about 10 of these in a row, like cells.

Agnew Hamilton used to ride round on a bicycle and visit different houses with a big leather suitcase full of shoes. So you could try on your shoes at the house and try on a selection. In those days men didn't shop! The shoes were brought to you.

There was only one café in the town, unlike today, it was called McCauslands. It was at the corner of circular road and barn hill, where the Simon Community is today.

There was a butcher. On a Saturday night all shops were open until 11 o'clock at night, you couldn't move on the main street for people. He used to sell off his meat and called in a 6 penny roll up. He sold it because he couldn't keep it until the Monday. People used to wait for that time to buy there meat.

Pound Street was a pretty busy street. The Co-op and Carson's, an agricultural supplier. There was Carson's Ghost supposed to have been seen with a bag of flour on his back. I used to sit in our house trembling at night, there was no wireless and no television. And all we told were ghost stories and it has made me nervous all my life! We believed these stories!

There were blacksmiths in the middle of the main street.

 

Childhood memories

There was a man used to come round to collect the rent called Dan McKenna. He was a well known character. Now-a-days you would probably call him an estate agent, he went round collecting rent because no-one owned their houses then they all rented. They would say "Here's Dan McKenna coming" and all the doors would shut! The other one was Sam Hanna, the Truant Officer, when he would come round the streets and the streets were clear! We used to call it 'mitchin' from school. There's a house belonging to the town hall which is still there, and he lived in it.

R. T Ross every year, every new child going into school, got a penny. I went last year to him and he said "What are you in for Tom?" and I said "I'm in for my penny". He gave me tuppence. He said it was inflation!.

The cinema used to give a free showing to all the youngsters, and when you came out you got a little bag with oranges and apples in it.

The Minister of the Mission Hall, he had a Sunday School trip once a year. He had more converts than anyone! When it came near the time for the trip everyone turned up on the day, Catholics and Protestants. And do you know where we went, we got the narrow gauge train and we went to Ballyboley. We looked forward to it for a year. He was a good character.

All the young people walked up and down the main street on a Saturday night. You would walk up and down and say hello to the same girls about 50 times! On a Sunday you went out along the Shore, everybody from all the churches.

When Duffy's Circus came they arrived on horses, that was the main transport then. They got all their horses shod at McManus's. They would parade their animals all around the town to make people come to the circus. They called an area the circus field by Kent Avenue.

Special thanks goes to the Larne Millennium Initiative for its help in sourcing this story.

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