An intriguing volume of history on our doorstep

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THIS handsome volume, The Journal of Coleraine Historical Society, with its striking cover taken from a watercolour of Portrush, painted in 1822, represents a worthy successor to all those that have gone before, serving to chronicle the activities of the Society over the last year and to document with much acumen and detail the history of the greater Triangle area.

The editor, Jennifer Cunningham, has again managed to weave together a wide variety of interesting topics within the compass of the twenty-one articles that the book contains, plus the usual crop of book reviews and smaller items.

About a quarter of the contents are concerned with reminiscences of school experiences, which range from the 1940’s to the 1960’s.

The names of the authors will doubtless be familiar to most members of the Society, some of whom may well have sat on the same forms and laboured at the same school tasks and homework exercises as our faithful chroniclers.

As is customary in such reminiscences, it is the unusual, not to say scurrilous event which is recalled in vivid detail by those recounting the days of their youth.

Two examples, among several others, may serve to set the tone. The first item, taken from the tales out of school which made this reviewer chuckle, was Robert Anderson’s account (p.19) of his days at the ‘Technical School’ and, in particular, of the cruel – or deserved? - trick which his class played on their flamboyant science teacher by unscrewing all the bolts in the desk nearest the door, so that it collapsed with a great crash when he entered with his accustomed gusto.

Those who were always good children at school will be relieved to learn that the class all got their due reward of detention for their pains.

In another example, everyone who knows Jim Cameron, that stalwart of the Society, well will not be surprised to learn that he it was who was chosen during his time at The Irish Society’s Boys’ School to act as an ‘enforcer’ by his teacher in helping another boy to apprehend a cocky truant lad by the name of Doherty.

The dauntless duo set out on a leisurely stroll through Coleraine Town and with the aid of a passing farmer, who assisted proceedings with his suitably applied drover’s stick, the miscreant was quickly returned – like Tom the Piper’s son in the old song – to the waiting and doubtless vengeful teacher, alas, poor Doherty! This tale is so worth reading, I hope I haven’t spoiled it for anyone.

Diana Kirkpatrick even got to visit the tomb of Sir John Moore in Corunna during a memorable school trip cruise and she liked the school dinners even if the minced steak was very watery and tasteless. I think we all know what she means. The above are just tasters, you must read the full stories for yourself.

The necessities of brevity make it impossible to describe the many other articles about Coleraine and district that grace this intriguing volume, which also contains many very interesting historic photographs, not least of Cameron’s once fine grocery shop at Millburn, which has now, sadly, fallen on hard times.

All in all, this offering from a very active Historical Society, whose contributors clearly have a very wide range of knowledge about a very wide range of interests, is well worth picking up and copies may be obtained from the Society’s Publications Secretary, Diana Kirkpatrick: (www.colerainehistoricalsociety.co.uk or in local bookshops.