A Cork friendship recalled 70 years on thanks to Throwback Thursday

When Noel Dillon, now aged in his eighties, reminisced in Throwback Thursday about a childhood friend in Crosshaven who emigrated to England, a remarkable connection was made that bridged 70 years, reveals JO KERRIGAN
A Cork friendship recalled 70 years on thanks to Throwback Thursday

Graball Bay, near Crosshaven, in 1947. Reader Noel Dillon remembered holidays here with a childhood friend, Rodney Cremin - and Mr Cremin’s son saw the article and got in touch from England!

OFTEN, a reader’s memories featured in our Throwback Thursday strike a chord in someone else’s mind, and they get in touch to say they remember that person from childhood. It is always a happy event when that happens.

Back then, you thought life would go on just as it was for ever and ever, and you would always be pals. But then we grew up, moved away… and suddenly it’s the far distant past and the memories are tucked far down in our psyche.

Now we have had another of those wonderful connections through Throwback Thursday.

Do you remember some lovely anecdotes of long-ago summers in Crosshaven, contributed by Noel Dillon, now in his eighties but sprightly as ever? The particular article in this instance was on November 18 last year, and we give the extract below:

Noel recalled: “Rodney Cremin, a boy about my own age, lived all year round in a white-washed cottage on the sea-front at Graball Bay, with his mother and his uncle.

“I befriended Rodney over the years during my holidays there. One day, he brought me over to the hilly field running parallel to the Graball hill, to show me a 500cc BSA motorbike that he had acquired. Whether it was mechanical failure, or whether there was no petrol in it, I do not know, but Rodney was unable to start the bike.

“This did not deter us from rushing free-wheel down the hill in the field and pushing the bike back up again to repeat the exercise, over and over. Insurance? What’s that? Something that neither I, nor possibly Rodney, knew anything about!

“Children grow up, and eventually Rodney told me that he was leaving Crosshaven, to join the RAF. He probably did, as I never saw him again.”

Well, last week this writer received an email from England, mentioning that very article and enquiring after Noel Dillon.

It came from a Michael Cremin, who said: “I am writing to you as my son, Adrian, has just forwarded this article to me to read, which I did, with a tear in my eye! I am not sure if it is of any interest, but I am Rodney Cremin’s eldest son, Michael.

“Unfortunately we lost dad in 2020, but he spoke often during his life of his childhood, and of Mr Dillon. He also told us many tales of Graball Bay, which we have visited, but not for some time now, and which I am hopeful of visiting again soon - maybe even this year.

“Dad regularly talked of John O’Driscoll’s farm - among many other tales. He did, indeed, leave Crosshaven to join the RAF, before settling in England. (But not before returning to Cork to find his childhood sweetheart!)

“I often told dad he should write a book about it! Unfortunately he didn’t, but the place never left him til his dying day.

“Should you wish to do any sort of follow-up article, I am sure the family would be happy to do so, we are immensely proud of our dad and his passion for that Crosshaven locality.”

Michael also asked if it was possible to get in touch with Noel Dillon to “close the loop” on his father’s life after those days of youth.

“They must have had a profound impact on each other to still be in each other’s minds 75-plus years on!”

Now that really is a moving request, Michael, and how could we refuse? We got in touch with Noel’s daughter, Janet (she of Cork City Ballet) immediately, and she was absolutely thrilled. She rushed off to her father’s house to give him the totally undreamed-of news.

What was his reaction, Janet? 

“I think he was astounded, to be honest! For someone who relishes writing about his past days in Crosshaven, I think he was dumbfounded at the ‘technology’ that would permit the article to be read in England, and even more dumbfounded that someone from so long ago in the past could resurrect a connection!”

Clearly a response was required, and this was duly composed by Noel and sent through the magic of email by Janet. We know Mr Dillon won’t mind if we reproduce it here:

“Dear Michael,

I was absolutely astounded to hear that anybody would ever mention the name of Rodney Cremin in my lifetime. It must be over 70 years since we knew each other. I am very sorry to hear of his death.

“The recent connection all started when Jo Kerrigan, on the Echo’s Throwback Thursday page, published a photograph of a group of boys in their swimming togs at a local indoor swimming pool (now a car park!) [Eglantine Street] in the centre of Cork city in 1951, and I wrote in, naming some of the boys and my association with one of them in Crosshaven.

“It was in this context that I mentioned my association with Rodney. Jo encourages people to submit photos and anecdotes of their memories of times long ago. It now seems that this column is picked up all over the world, as people respond and make connections with people and places that they knew of in olden times!

“In my youth, my parents would rent a bungalow for the family every July in Crosshaven. It was in this time that my friendship with Rodney evolved.

“Rodney lived, as you know, with his mother and her brother (Mr McCarthy, as far as I remember) in that quaint cottage with a beautiful view on the sea front. Living conditions must have been fairly primitive as the cottage was so isolated, but they all seemed to be very happy there.

“Rodney was about my own age so we socialised together every July. We played soccer on the beach ‘down by the Pipes’ - barefooted, of course - and then went for a communal swim together with the girls who had been sunbathing nearby.

“Rodney and I had our eye on two girls but we were both too young to engage in any meaningful relationship with them. We just admired them and saluted and smiled at them when they passed!

“At night-time, we would go to the merries and spend our meagre pennies on maybe a ride on the chairplanes, or a bag of chips in the chipper, or a soda drink, and of course watch the girls go by.

“Later on. we would all walk home together to our respective houses as if by prior arrangement, and meet again on the beach the following morning to repeat the exercise.

“It was great to hear from you, Michael. I wish you and your family good health, and God’s blessing.

Kindest regards

Noel Dillon.”

Well, if that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, nothing will! Echoes of the past, hands reaching out over the years to make contact.

Rest assured that we will keep you posted on developments in this lovely story. Perhaps Michael will meet Noel down by Graball Bay this summer? Let us know if that is likely, either of you, and we will be there to record the event!

Crowds await the official opening and blessing of the Church of the Resurrection in Spangle Hill by Archbishop of Boston Richard Cushing on August 27, 1958. A reader today recalls growing up there.
Crowds await the official opening and blessing of the Church of the Resurrection in Spangle Hill by Archbishop of Boston Richard Cushing on August 27, 1958. A reader today recalls growing up there.

And now some great memories of childhood games around Spangle Hill and Fitz’s Boreen, from Tom Jones.

“First and foremost, though, on Tim Morley’s recollections of C.B.S. Sullivans Quay School. My experience/history of Blarney Street C.B.S. was from January, 1956, to the summer of ’64. I was never aware that there was a financial fee of ten pounds per year or other monetary tithe, or obligation, attached to our primary schooling.”

Well, primary education in many schools was free at that time, Tom, but when it got to secondary stage, the Brothers would ask for a contribution from wage earners if that was possible, since they did have to educate a great many poorer children who couldn’t pay anything. So perhaps it is the difference between junior and senior schooling here.

Again, says Tom, while he agrees that rugby was not generally played in their schools, he remembers that at Blarney Street soccer was certainly played on the concrete schoolyard.

“It wasn’t forbidden, nor frowned upon, although the organized/supervised game by the Brothers was basketball. The basketball team was called Iona: this could have been because of a connection to Iona, a private Catholic college in New Rochelle, Westchester County, N.Y., adjacent to N.Y.C. But it is more likely to have been because of St Colmcille, patron saint of the Blarney Street school, referencing his chosen exile on the Scottish island of Iona.”

In Donal Crowley’s reminisces of Blackpool, not only does Tom recall every game mentioned, but every place mentioned too, including the spring well on Water Lane.

“It was near the top of the hill, and if memory serves me correctly, there was a plaque on the wall of a house at the bottom of the hill in honour of someone.

“How about the plot of ground behind there, where we sported and played, or in the centre enclave of the famous Quarry Lane, not forgetting what we called ‘The Galtees’, alongside the Blackpool National School, nor ‘Up the Bank’, which ran in parallel with the main street of Blackpool, which was called Thomas Davis Street back then. ‘The Bank’ ran from the Convent on Assumption Road to Gouldings Glen at that time.”

Tom also remembers well the ‘ Rag Man ‘ on his entrance to the terraces of Spangle Hill, with his loud call to one and all ‘Toys For Rags’. (You do wonder how many children rushed out with anything they could lay their hands on, so as to get a toy, whether it was an important household item or not!)

Tom remembers Alice too. “Part of her collection route incorporated Spangle Hill and Farranree, and it was said that her poor old donkey knew the route as well as she did!”

There is a point, however, which Mr Jones wishes to make clear. “At Fitz’s Boreen we went ‘bagging’ for thorneens, not fishing. This bagging was done with a piece of burlap sack placed under the reeds like a sieve or net then lifted out of the water to see what your catch might be.

“Also out there in Fitz’s, fado, fado, one’s ability to jump across streams became almost like an Olympic competition for the kids of Spangle Hill of my era.

For it was there you gained your accolade: ‘I wouldn’t dowtcha boy.’ That is, if you had accomplished the feat. If not, and you fell into the stream, you were awarded the consolation prize of ‘Fair play to ya boy, you tried.’

Fitz’s was also the location for soccer games, which were played with sods or rocks substituted for goalposts. The same sods were used to dam parts of the stream in summer, to create a swimming pond.

Oh, the happy days of youth! Thanks, Tom!

Send us your own memories! Email jokerrigan1@gmail.com or leave a comment on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/echolivecork

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