If walls could talk……….
Walls do talk but do we make the time to listen to the many stories they hold?
Walls harbour shared histories, memories and loved lives. Walls absorb people’s laughter and tears. Walls are like picture frames for a host of domestic scenes. Walls breathe belonging….
Unearthing such vanished histories, lost voices and forgotten narratives is what much of Irish Landmark’s work is about. We love to coax time-neglected buildings back to life, and encourage them to rise again. Stone-by-stone, brick-by-brick, memories weave, cement and merge themselves back into the soul of these heritage buildings. Once family homes, these buildings share some glimmers of the wonderful people who once lived within.
It is a joy for Irish Landmark to hear from people who remember a significant property from their childhood, like recent special guest Elizabeth Wharry.
Elizabeth returned to our Drum Gatelodge property in Bushmills, Co. Antrim for her 84th birthday this Summer. She was accompanied by her daughter Janice, and grand daughters, Hannah and Rachel. Walking through the restored rooms, Elizabeth recalls vivid childhood memories from visits with her grandmother Eliza (Lizzie) Taggart. Drum Gatelodge is the place her grandmother Lizzie called home for sixty years from 1898 -1958. In those distant days, Lizzie, was a farm labourer, employed to look after the geese, ducks and hens on the Ballylough estate. She maintained her farm labourer role and reared her three children after her husband Robert Taggart died in 1913.
Elizabeth’s return for her 84th birthday celebration beautifully encapsulates the power of place. Rescued buildings protect national, local and personal histories. Over her birthday weekend, three generations of Elizabeth’s family gathered in Drum Gatelodge, affectionately referred to as ‘the little round tower’. They did this to honour her, their family lineage, and meaningfully mark the ‘little round tower’ with their historic associations.
So often the tastes, smells and rituals of baking and eating together are evocative memories associated with grandmothers. When Elizabeth Wharry returned to Drum Gatelodge for her 84th birthday celebration, the experience was no different. Stepping back into her grandmother’s ‘little round tower’, Elizabeth was immediately transported back: the sounds, the smells and happy memories of her rural childhood. Oh, that remembered piece of Lizzie’s warm fresh soda bread and home-made rhubarb jam! Her deliciously airy pancakes….those crumbly warm scones.
Much slips from our hands as we age. There’s nothing more meaningful that to be able to go back in time, to places where memories were sweetly anchored, and deeply savoured. Baking was at the heart of Lizzie’s home. Although Drum Gatelodge is now catered with modern appliances, Elizabeth can still trace the shadows of Lizzie’s workspace. She can almost smell the peat burning, and “see” her grandmother swinging the crook over the flames, setting the griddle. Lizzie’s meticulous eye monitored the fire’s temperature, no support from heat dials or timers, culinary instinct alone, the sole guiding force for griddle perfect potato cakes. Elizabeth can still “see” her grandmother kneading the tactile dough slowly, mindfully. Smell that wonderful bread, brown flour and folded-in egg!! – everything made from scratch in those days. Afterwards, Lizzie swirls hen meal around the bowl, mopping up the last pinch of dough. A “handful share” is thrown over the half-leaf door for the hens. Everything has its purpose. Nothing wasted. Thrift paramount. A goose wing, brushed up the surplus flour. She “sees” her grandmother outside Drum cottage, back bent over the small tin bath, laboriously hand washing her clothes. Then the newly cleaned clothes are draped over evergreen hedges to drip and drain. The hedges are the only available resting place for them to dry. Washing lines not yet in vogue.
Another memory, a crash and a smash. Elizabeth has accidentally broke her grandmother’s favourite china cup. Blue patterned pieces lie in smithereens. Her grandmother sits down, delft wreckage looked at, not quickly brushed up and she sheds tears for the loss. Lizzie’s reaction encapsulates a time where everyday utensils were in short supply. Such items were priceless but because they were precious, not easily replaced. This is a position that Lizzie’s granddaughter Elizabeth fully appreciates. ‘Things were harder to come across in these days and a broken cup could ruin the week’.
Memories turn to stories about the challenges of childbirth without a doctor. Elizabeth recalls the vital role her grandmother played in the community. A forgotten tale. Now remembered. One cold night, the Gothic styled window of the little round tower is rattled with an unexpected knock. A local woman struggles in childbirth. A ‘man person’ awaits in a carriage to escort Lizzie to assist. As lay mid-wife, Lizzie understands that the family in need can’t afford the doctors call out fee. Coat over nightdress, off she goes, at a moment’s notice. Thanks to Lizzie’s skill and guidance, a safe birth ensues. A legacy of everyday caregiving, not rendered special. Lizzie deems it mere practical assistance. Yet, her actions contribute to life saving outcomes, support local families, and offer mercy response. A final image. Lizzie sits by the golden light of fire, knitting needles for company. Natures light diminishes but ember flicker offers last rays of luminescence. It will be pitch black before the lamp is lit. Thrift revokes comfort in all facets of life. Lizzie works on the stitch, the patterns and the craft. In time, architects weave the design, the plan and the drawing. Dusk descends but Lizzie casts on.
Have you an Irish Landmark personal connection to share?
Have you a story to share about your family connection to an Irish Landmark Trust property? Have you a personal history, experience or genealogy research that we could help you craft into a narrative? We are always happy to hear from people who hold a personal connection with our properties, or who have an interesting story to tell.
Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be delighted to follow up with you directly.