Childhood days at Ferris Bay recalled

Violet McCrone celebrating her 100th birthday with family and friends. inlcuding Carrick resident David Fullerton. INCT 44-199-GR
Violet McCrone celebrating her 100th birthday with family and friends. inlcuding Carrick resident David Fullerton. INCT 44-199-GR

A Larne-born centenarian has been taken on an unexpected trip down memory lane as part of her milestone birthday celebrations.

Violet McCrone (nee Butler), who now lives in Bangor, returned to East Antrim to celebrate her 100th birthday in the company of friends and neighbours.

Carrick resident and former badminton colleague David Fullerton and his cousin Hilary Anderson organised the party for Violet at Brewers Fayre.

Having earlier received at home the traditional congratulatory card from the Queen, Violet, who was born on October 27, 1914, was thrilled to be joined by familiar faces as she tucked into her favourite dish, the Ulster Fry.

Family connections in Australia had kindly organised to have a display of flowers on the table at the maritime area venue. An engraved salver bearing the important details, a toast, cake and rendition of Happy Birthday were further treats.

However, the real surprise lay in store when, following the lunch-time celebrations, Violet was transported to Islandmagee, where she lived until the age of 18 at Ferris Point lighthouse.

David was a club colleague of Violet when they played badminton at St Cedma’s Church of Ireland, Larne, about 70 years ago. After he married and moved to Carrick they lost track.

However, a number of years back he established communication with relatives in Australia who had been over to St Cedma’s looking at church records, and during the course of this correspondence also learned that Violet was living in the seaside town in North Down. They re-established their friendship and on recent years a small party has celebrated Violet’s birthday with lunch in Islandmagee.

David takes up the story of her response as they were travelling towards the coast: “She did not know at that stage where we were going. When she saw the cat’s-eyes, for some reason, she said: ‘I think we may be going to Islandmagee’.”

The party drove on down to the lighthouse, which is normally off limits to the public, David added, and the occupant came out.

“I told him ‘there’s a lady in the car who is 100 years old who was brought up here’. He told us to come in and he and Violet talked the place down for two hours. She was fantastic. He was absolutely fabulous.”

During the visit, Violet was shown a painting of what the lighthouse was like in her day and a book about lighthouses, which contained her father’s name William Butler.

There was also the opportunity to reminisce about those who had manned the Maidens and carefree days on the bay on a boat.

David continued: “She was talking about when she grew up a bit her father bought her a wee dinghy. They used to keep it down in the bay and she used to be able to go out in the wee boat. And there was a man who lived near by who had a son and he had a boat, so they two of them had boats there when they were children.”

David concluded that Violet’s day – her 100th birthday – “was made”.