The Canon's trip...
From Harry Foy's Book 'Growing up in Portadown in the Thirties and Forties'
The annual trip was always to Warrenpoint and was very popular in the Thirties. It was the one chance to get to the seaside.
To qualify for the free rail and refreshment ticket, children had to attend Sunday School for sixteen Sundays during the year. So, after the last Mass on Sunday there was a rush to Marley's shop to buy a hapworth of "Tiger Nuts" or "Pink Smokers" to last you through the half hour of the Sunday School.
During the winter months, as you waited for the big day, you saved up every halfpenny, until you reach the magical sum of sixpence. Then it was off to the Canon's bank which was run by Master Donnelly in the St. Vincent rooms at the rear of the church. There was no car park in those days, just darkness with swaying, ghostly trees, so the distance between the lighted window of the bank and the church gate was always covered at speed.
Then the summer came and one Sunday you hurried home from Sunday School with your prized trip ticket in your hand. The following Friday night you joined the queue to hand to Master Donnelly your grubby, well-fingered bank book. You always knew, to a penny, what you had saved but then there was interest. You always brought your mammy's purse that day because there was sure to be holes in your pockets. During the next few weeks you dreamed of the "Big Day".
Warrenpoint- here I come!
On the night before the trip, you called with your aunts and grandparents hoping to solicit a few more pence to add to your savings. Then it was home to get ready. The big tin bath, which hung on a nail on the yard wall, was brought in and put in front of the fire. In went the kettles of hot water but you were too excited to complain. A rub down with a rough towel, into your shirt and then off to bed.
Next morning, people streamed down the town, children holding on to prams or the hand of their older brothers and sisters. The trip was such a big event that employers allowed parents to have a day off work. Everyone was heading for the station to the waiting trains. The carriages were the old box type so there was always a scramble for a window seat.
Then, to the sound of much cheering and in a cloud of steam and smoke, we were off. The train trundled through what were to us, far away places with strange sounding names - Tandragee, Jerrettspass and Goraghwood. Near the latter there was a long, dark tunnel (where the boys tried to kiss the girls). Next came Scarva where the local station master was an expert at Topiary. From the ivy on the station wall he had fashioned a man in a sitting position. Then we went through Newry on our way to Warrenpoint.
As the trains arrived at the platforms, doors were flung open and the stampede for the tea pavilion started. You handed in your refreshment ticket and collected a bag with four buns - two fancy and two plain. After the tea it was out to the point for the first glimpse of the sea.
After a whole year of waiting ............. this was IT!
At the point
On Excursion day, the "Point" was a hive of activity. Down on the shore the boats were waiting to ferry the people across to Omeath. Boatmen were shouting "This way to the Red Star Line!" In each boat there was an accordion player who got the people singing on the short sea trip. Children loved to trail their hands in the water.
Arriving at Omeath, you walked among the stalls with their tempting souvenirs, canes, hats, windmills, rocks and toys. There were also Jaunting Cars offering trips to Calvary.
Back in Warrenpoint you could travel to Rostrevor and climb up to "The Big Stone" or "Fiddler's Green" or take a dip in the pool or listen to the band in the park. In the afternoon there was a second visit to the tea pavilion and then back to the seaside to eat sweets and ice cream and have a paddle in the sea.
At eight o'clock, weary parents with tired, some crying, children made their way back to the station for the journey home. The men who had celebrated too much were wheeled to the trains on a handcart. When the train reached Portadown, the people trudged home, some sun burnt. Children held on proudly to their treasured souvenirs.
The Canon's Trip was over for another year.
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