BRIAN McCALDEN takes a short break in the famed McGrory’s Hotel in Culdaff, County Donegal…

BACK in the mid-1960s, heavily industrialised Belfast was busy, smoky, polluted and noisy, with green spaces limited mainly to the more affluent suburban areas.

It was no wonder then that the (much) younger me took to the McGrenahans’ isolated farmhouse like a duck to water.

Cattle grazed nearby, the family’s sheep were frequently hassled by the farm collie – when off duty from his professional role – herding them for the farmer.

The family’s youngest son, Colm was the sole child to stay on the farm as his siblings has all gone to England or the USA for work. He was a fantastic playmate and guide to the wonders of rural life, even with his bad leg, a consequence of polio.

A nearby river teamed with fish and the village of Culdaff, just a mile or so from the house in the townland of Kilmaroo, was a revelation in itself.

A village ‘square’ – actually a diamond-shape – was its hub, with a few shops, two pubs, and an old style spirit grocer laid out around it. The biggest attraction though was the fabulous Culdaff beach which was just through the village, and of course the local tidal harbour, where small fishing boats landed their catch, and I caught my first ever fish!

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