Sunday, 24 October 2021

The Black Causeway Incident

The Location of the Incident (Image: Timothy Ferres, 1989)

Castle Ward demesne, County Down, was as idyllic in the 1970s as it is today.

A little caravan site had been established at what used to be called The Screen, a heavily wooded part of the estate beside Strangford Bay.

Black Causeway House still stands at the bay, just outside the side entrance to the estate, beside a small bridge.

This house remains part of the estate, and used to be available for rent by National Trust members and staff.

In the 1970s, the Right Hon Walter Topping QC, Recorder of Belfast, and his family took Black Causeway House for a month every summer (I recall his Ford Granada parked outside).

The National Trust's custodian of Castle Ward in the 1970s was Lieutenant-Colonel Terence P Kyd or Kydd (who retired to Black Causeway House; followed by Mrs Kyd; followed by the Macks).

Beside this house there is a side entrance, with gate pillars, to the estate; in fact, according to a Georgian map, there used to be a gate lodge, too.

Click to Enlarge

The drive from this side entrance passes through beautiful shady woodland, skirting the bay, towards the grounds of Castle Ward House.

One day, forty summers ago, my mother and I were walking along this drive, just beyond the entrance gates.

On an elevated position to our left was the caravan site warden's cottage, a modest bungalow which stood some distance from the drive.

Another drive forked upwards towards the cottage.

At that time the warden divided his duties between the caravan park and the grounds on the estate.

Incidentally, the very first warden was Ernest Swail, an old man who told us that he was Lord Bangor's last boatman.

We were strolling along the drive, and as we passed the warden's cottage we heard a loud bang.

It had come from the cottage.

I was nearest to the cottage; my mother was beside me to my right.

I instantaneously heard and felt a whoosh of air on my left cheek.

We must have been quite stunned, because we stopped immediately and looked at each other.

Thereafter I looked up at the warden's cottage on the little hill above us.

The door was closed and there was no sign of anybody.

I am absolutely convinced that the shot came from the porch of the warden's cottage.

I don't remember whether I told mother about it all; however, we simply resumed our walk.

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