I have previously written that the Belle Isle people travelled to the west coast of Ireland each year, from 1950 onwards, to holiday at Captain Hermon’s house at Mullaghmore in County Sligo, Southern Ireland.
Since the partition of Ireland, the north was becoming prosperous and changes could be seen everywhere.
But, at that time, the south was set in the past: Ireland was now divided into Northern Ireland and the newly established Irish Free State.
Barriers and customs posts were set up at the border.
In the south, road signs were changed into Gaelic, the countryside began to look subtly unfamiliar.
The west coast of Ireland, in the 1950s, was a world where time had stood still.
Dry stone walls divided small fields; white-washed, thatched cottages were commonplace.
The southern towns were old-fashioned and picturesque, cars were rarely to be seen.
There was no television service and few homes had electricity.
The rural south of Ireland had hardly changed in a hundred years. Most of the people led simple, uncomplicated lives.
A common sight, on the narrow roads, was donkeys and carts, carrying creels of turf.
It was a world of immense charm and innocence.
This may seem strange, given the history of Ireland; but it was essentially true.
Captain Richard Outram Hermon, of Necarne Castle (Dick Hermon, to those around him) bought his house near Lord Mountbatten’s castle, Classiebawn, which had belonged to Edwina Mountbatten's family.
Captain Hermon chose Mullaghmore, because of his friendship with Lord Mountbatten.
They were both keen sportsmen, and shot and fished together.
A friendship developed between Lord Mountbatten and the rest of the Belle Isle household; he was sometimes their guest for dinner.
Lord Mountbatten’s contribution was handwritten on Classiebawn headed notepaper.
My father had called for some reason on one of the Sundays when we were at Mullaghmore.
They were very fond of fresh mackerel at Mullaghmore.
It was held that mackerel had to be eaten when they were freshly caught, because they were scavengers and it was unwise to keep them!
Another way of cooking them was by coating them in oats and then baking them in the oven.
Miss McDougal, the old cook at Belle Isle, was fond of using oats in cooking; it must have been her Scottish upbringing.
On Sundays, lunch was always a happy occasion at Mullaghmore: Everyone would sit down and dine in view of the sea through the large plate glass windows.
Sometimes lunch was served by a butler, as far-fetched as that sounds!
Captain Hermon continued to employ Tom after he abandoned Necarne Castle, and retained Tom’s services till the day he died.
Tom took on many roles in later years but he was always Richard Hermon’s loyal servant.
and she had worked for Captain Hermon in the castle at Necarne in the past.
I remember nosing about in the kitchen at Mullaghmore while she was there and she was very kind to me.
In any event, Miss McDougal never had leave from Belle Isle to cook at the holiday house.
Just as well or she would have had a blue fit!
The trips to Mullaghmore on the coast continued for some years, as Audrey (right) and I were growing up.
In 1964 I left Ireland, like countless thousands of young Irish men before me, to work in England.
I was seventeen, a lanky, awkward and sallow youth.
Gigi made polite conversation, how did I enjoy England? Had I made friends? Would I come back to Ireland?
She looked at me closely and, smiling at me, took my hand, “I have known you since you were born Julian, you must not let England spoil you, you know, do not lose touch with Ireland and your mother, you must always come back.”
I remember this clearly, it was one of those moments.
I recall looking closely at Gigi and registered how old she had become.
Her hair was still chestnut in colour, but her eyes were yellow and tired.
She was 87 years old. 1965 became 1966.
“It’s for you Jules,” I left what I was doing and went to the phone, it was my mother.
She told me quietly that Gigi had died peacefully in her sleep the evening before, on New Year’s Day, 1966.
In 2008, in summer Audrey and I returned to Mullaghmore with Audrey’s husband, Jack, and her daughters Caroline and Jackie.
I was sixty years old and Audrey was fifty five.
We walked round the harbour and had something to eat in what had been Peter’s public house, all those years ago.
It was a different world. Mr Hermon’s house was still there on the hill; it belonged to someone else now.
We drove up to the gates and sat for a minute or two in silence, remembering.
Our father would be teasing her; they played a little game, time and time again. “Audie, two!”
“Come on Juna!” she would shout excitedly, as she ran to the beach.
All those who laughed and danced and walked on the sand and paddled in the sea, with the wind in their faces, have gone.
Esmond and Pearl, Nicholas Porter and Richard Hermon, Vida Leigh and Gigi and Tiggy - and Audrey.
She died on 22nd January, 2009.