"I imagined lifting the Chaine Memorial tower and writing a story just for Jenny."
This beautifully illustrated keepsake includes:
The Bully up the Brae
The Band Stick
The Children of Latharna
A glossary of Ulster Scots, Scots & Gaelic terms
An educational guide to help with context
To place an order for your family, your school or youth group, please send me an email.
A taste of Children of Latharna.
It was time to go. Harry and Gary were on their bikes, Jenny had her roller boots slung over her shoulders and I had a rucksack with half a plain loaf and Tayto cheese and onion crisps for crisp sandwiches by the shore.
‘Let’s go then,’ I said as I led my gang through the backs of Greenland Crescent and across the GEC factory playing fields. I wondered how I was going to explain to Harry and Gary that they were about to be transformed into feathery swans. I was sure that Harry and Gary wouldn’t like the idea of being transformed into feathery swans.
The clouds were raining droplets of sun on my face.
It’s wile hard to feel droplets of sun on my face without stories birling through my mind.
‘Once upon a time,’ I began, as we reached the Recreation Road.
‘Is this some kind of fairy tale?’ It was Harry and his voice was brave and troubled.
‘Shush and listen,’ I said. ‘A long time ago, there lived a king. He was a gentle and a kind king and he loved his four children. The eldest child was called Fionnuala and she was said to be the finest cailín in the land.’
Harry and Gary were half listening as they mounted their bikes, but I looked at Jenny with her freckled face and pale skin and she was all periwinkle ears and twinkling eyes.
‘King Lir’s wife died and he married a lady called Aoife,’ I continued. ‘Aoife was his wife’s sister and she was only concerned with fame and fortune. She despised her niece and three nephews.’
Jenny stopped to attach her roller boots to her feet. ‘I’m listening,’ she said, ‘but I’m going to skate down the brae. Save the rest of the story for when we get to the bottom.’
Skate down the brae, I thought. Jenny can’t skate down the brae, I thought. The Waterloo Road sloped right down onto the coast road on a blind bend. Harry and Gary were ahead and out of sight.
What was I going to do? I’d seen Jenny on her roller boots. She was good on the flat of Greenland Grove, but one time I saw her skate down Greenland Crescent, and she took a wile tumble at number three.
There we were at the top of the Waterloo Road; me on the precipice of my reputation; Jenny on the precipice of her life, and the roller boots were moving and crunching gravel on the brae. Jenny was rolling fast. I couldn’t run fast, but I was running at a pace so swift that I could have won the school sport’s day prize for sprinting instead of coming last.
Jenny was scraiching and screaming and there was only one thing I could do. I reached out my hand and I snatched Jenny’s hand in my own. I looked around. There was no one nearby. I was holding Jenny’s hand with no three-hand-reel between us.
It’s wile hard to hold Jenny’s hand without stories birling through my mind.
I let go and prayed that Harry had not seen me holding his wee sister’s hand.
The Chaine Memorial Park is lush. From the top of the park, the purple-green outline of Scotland can be seen where the land wraps up the sky. From the middle of the park, the Townsend Thoresen can be seen cutting a triangle of white foam where the sea and sky unfold. From the bottom of the park, a white pebbly shore can be seen where the land wraps up the sea.
I sat in the copper-topped shelter in silence while Jenny changed back into her shoes, and I looked at the rippling bumps and mounds and drumlins of the park. My eyes travelled down the winding paths, beyond the the fish pond and onto the shore.
It’s wile hard to sit in silence in a copper-topped shelter without stories birling through my mind.
‘There they are!’ said Jenny. ‘They’re playing army assault courses.’
Army assault courses, I thought. Not army assault courses, I thought. I was sick, sore and tired of army assault courses.
I followed Jenny to the Billy Goats Gruff wooden play park. There they were, Harry and Gary, bounding over the wooden beams with their feet, grappling along the monkey bars with their hands and slinking underneath the Billy Goats Gruff bridge on their bellies.
There are no goats trip-trapping over wooden bridges when Harry and Gary are at the Chaine Memorial Park.
They sped away from the bridge and scrambled up the cliff. I waited by the Billy Goats Gruff bridge as Jenny trip-trapped over the wobbly wood.
‘Right, then, Billy, show us this King Lir game,’ Harry shouted from the bottom of the hill. He was clarried in clábar to the knees.
‘Well, I said,’ as I walked across the promenade to the white railing by the sea. ‘King Lir’s new wife took the four children down to a lake for a swim.’
‘Brilliant!’ shouted Harry, who had crept under the railing onto the white, pebbly shore. He was already kicking off his shoes. Gary and Jenny followed behind, and I slid under the white railing.
I removed my shoes and socks and tiptoed over the pebbles. I skipped over the limpets that were glued to the rocks. I scuttled across the sand as slimy seaweed twisted around my toes. I dipped my feet in the rock pools to test the water. The salty, cold water stung the BMX cuts on my knees.
‘It’s cowl! It’s cowl! It’s cowl!’ gasped Jenny.
‘Och, stop being such a chicken,’ said Harry.
Jenny was fleeing from the water and Harry was shouting, ‘Buck buck buck buck!'
‘I don’t care,’ said Jenny. ‘It’s cowl!
It was cowl and I was foundered, but the wind was right and breezy through my hair, and the water was right and sprightly on my skin. It was a nice feeling sitting there in the shallow water sieving the cockles and pebbles with my fingers and toes.
It’s wile hard to sieve cockles and pebbles with my fingers and toes without stories birling through my mind.