Childhood Memories No. 4

Wild Children

In Kilfinane we were known as wild children. And maybe we really were.

© Anita Salemink 2015. Memories No. 4 (detail) Watercolour 12.5 by 12.5 cm

© Anita Salemink 2015. Memories No. 4 (detail) Watercolour 12.5 by 12.5 cm

What should have been another summer camping trip turned into something completely different. On the first night after arriving in Ireland my parents and my aunt and uncle tried to put up a tent in gale force ten on the banks of a grey and rough lake, while we children, my sister and me, my little brother and my three cousins watched on from the car. We must have arrived late because I remember it being dark. We had camped many times but up until that point had always sought out sunny, southern spots in Italy or Spain, once we went to Yugoslavia but the temperature there proved to be too hot for us. I can’t remember if they eventually got the tent up, as sticks were constantly falling over and the wind got into the canvas a few times nearly taking it out on to the lake.

But anyway we left the lake the next day and rented an Irish cottage with white washed walls and a thatched roof in Kilfinane. I loved the door that was sawn in half with the bottom closed and the top part left open. My aunt and uncle lent our caravan and camped on the driveway of Mrs Connery’s estate. ‘Terrible weather for camping in a tent’ my father said.

I suppose we did go wild then. Mr and Mrs Connery lived on large estate, with parklands and a river running through it. My first meeting with Mrs Connery was when we were jumping on heaps of hay and burying each other in them, we even climbed a tree so we could take a leap from great heights. She drove up in her black car and left the car door open behind her, walking up to us with a serious face. We didn’t speak any English, not yet, but we got the message, we weren’t supposed to mess up the hay. But what did we ‘city kids’ –born and bred in Dutch 1960’s pastel coloured suburbs with black tarmacademed roads– know. Anyway after that we visited her in the big house many times. She had hair the colour of tea, and wore a twinset and pearls. The hems of her tweed skirts were always well below the knee and sometimes she wore green wellingtons. She had a laughing, screechy voice and let us run all-over the place. She served us scones thickly buttered with salty butter, which we pretended to eat. Back in the stables we scratched the butter off and hid the lump under the hay, ‘too salty’, and wiped our greasy fingers on our trousers. We ate the scones even though they tasted as if they contained too little sugar or too much ‘our palettes hadn’t accustomed to Irish flavours yet’.

Mrs Connery had a puppy that my cousin named Oscar, although we did ruin him. He was a sheepdog meant for helping on the farm, but after our holiday he was only good enough for a pet. Too spoiled, they said, never picked up any commands, just wagged his tail expecting to be stroked, hugged and kissed abundantly when taken out into the fields to herd cattle. They had kittens, we loved them too. You had to sneak up on them in the stables, as they were always hiding from us. And they had a calf that would suck your hand and even try to swallow it if you gave him the chance. Sometimes Mr Connery would take us on his horse-drawn cart up into the hills. We sang songs we weren’t allowed to sing at home, but nobody could understand us, so we sang at the top of our lungs. My mother had warned us not to stray too far away from the cottage because of the gipsies, –they were always in need of good dishwashers, she had said– so we jumped off the cart while it was still moving, and I ripped my trousers from mid calf all the way up to my thigh on a rusty nail sticking out. I knew my mother would kill me, the trousers were ruined, but she probably didn’t as I can’t remember. I do remember walking back bending backwards, holding the material together in an awkward way. But of course all this was before we made friends with children from the village, after that we really went wild, well that’s what we were called.

© Anita Salemink 2015. Memories No. 4 Watercolour 12.5 by 12.5 cm

© Anita Salemink 2015. Memories No. 4 Watercolour 12.5 by 12.5 cm

* This is the fourth post in Childhood Memories

The Miniatures are for sale:

Framed miniature mounted in a wooden frame: 100 euros excluding postage and packing

Boxed miniature: 75 euros excluding postage and packing

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© Anita Salemink 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Anita Salemink with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

6 thoughts on “Childhood Memories No. 4

  1. Anita Salemink Post author

    I’m glad you liked it, I wasn’t sure so didn’t mention any names. When I saw Mrs. Connery a few years ago she told me that we were known as ‘wild children’ in the village. I really don’t know why? More posts to follow soon!

  2. Theo Cillessen

    Hi Anita,
    Like Ingrid Butler I do have comparable memories of my childhood.
    I like your story it brings back memories.

  3. Mattitude

    Those times and your family are well and fondly remembered Anita. I can still recall the sound of your dad’s Oldsmobile on that misty grey morning when you guys left Kilfinane, and left your wild friends there, feeling an empty sadness at your departure that lasted a week or more.
    On the way home that morning I scratched my initials and the date on the back of a roadsign and saw it there for many years after though don’t recall the month or day but think it was early September and know for sure that it was 1974.

    Sadly ‘Jo’ passed away a few years ago but she was an amazing and vivacious character right up to the end.
    The cottages remain but are privately owned now and certainly the people and ways have changed too. No more will you hear the sounds of kids playing by the rivers or, in total innocence, their delighted shreiking as they transform the harvested hay into castles or trampolines.

    An unexpected glimpse back at a special time, thank you Anita.
    Best regards, to you, Debbie, Ingrid and Brigitte.

    Matt G )

    1. Anita Salemink Post author

      Hi Matt, so lovely to read your reply. I went back to visit Jo a few times during the years, she was such a kind and friendly person. It was always so special to be back in Kilfinane, and also to realise some things were still the same like the quietness of the land and the smell of burning peat. As a child, we stayed in the cottages twice, once we were on holidays with my aunt and uncle and cousins and later on only with my immediate family, during that time Debbie and I even went to school in Kilfinane. After we had moved to Limerick Brigette lived there for some months, but we weren’t there then. I actually had forgotten about Brigette ever being there as I haven’t seen her since they moved back to the Netherlands a couple of years later.

      Thank you for your comment, really lovely to hear from you.



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