The contemporary view of Ardoyne is cleaner and has more nice cars, but the long blocks of terrace houses look the same.
© Copyright Dean Molyneaux and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
I woke each day in the blue room on the north end of the house, on what the Irish referred to as the first floor. As an American, this translated to the second story, since I climbed one flight of stairs to get there. In the back corner was a cold coal hearth. I don’t think I lighted the hearth all year long. It was dirty and drafty, contributing to a constant chill in the room. Moreover, beneath its scorched bricks was the hidey-hole for the house cash box. But through my window I could look out over neighboring rooftops to the heights of those vacant mountains north of the city and the outline of the Iron Age hill fort atop Napoleon’s Nose. It was a reminder that however bad things got in Ardoyne, the world beyond considered other things equally important.
I had inherited this room from the former house master. Now I held the secret of the cash box. Apart from me, the only other one who knew where we kept the Glencree money was Len, the American volunteer who had beaten me to Belfast.
He had taken a small room at the top of all the stairs, one that lacked a door, but was so high up it seemed inaccessible from below. Beside my room was the bathroom, equipped with the longest clawfoot tub I’d ever seen. It was cold as an iceberg in that room, too, and with the tales that the neighbors told, about the old woman who had died in that tub, taking a bath became a heroic exercise. I knew that if the bathroom was haunted, the old woman’s ghost would have no difficulty in passing through the wall into my bedroom. Never noticed a thing. Continue reading
Posted in Belfast, Conflicts, Education, Garden, Hiking, History, Ireland, Iron Age, Northern Ireland, Peace and Reconciliation, Travel, Volunteers
Tagged Ardoyne, Belfast, Catholics, Culture, Education, Europe, Family, Games, Hill Fort, History, IRA, Ireland, Iron Age, Napoleon's Nose, Paramilitaries, Protestants, Shankill, Volunteers, Youth Clubs
Robin Walz took this photograph of the Kremlin. He asked me to pose. I had to hold up my right hand to shade the camera lens from the brilliant sun.
In 1978 I went through a number of Winter to Spring cycles. After six weeks in snowy southwestern France, the weather had just started to turn balmy when it was time to leave. We boarded a train to Paris, switched to another one that drove straight across Germany without stopping, delivering us to Warsaw on Easter weekend.
Our next train was a local, packed with rustic crowds returning from Easter celebrations in the capital. Not only was it impossible to find a seat in a compartment, but the aisles themselves were crammed Continue reading
Posted in Bridges, Education, History, Railroads, Transportation, Travel
Tagged Culture, Customs, Easter, Education, Europe, France, Germany, History, Kremlin, Latvia, Paranoia, Paris, Passport control, Photography, Poland, Railroads, Robin Walz, Soviet Union, Vilnius, Warsaw, Winter
A logging crew from Angermanland poses before the camera of an unknown but expert photographer.
They strike a pose in front of a cluster of tiny log huts, horses collared and chained to sleds for dragging logs out of the woods. One man slings an ax over his shoulder, another reclines on the ground, peering at the camera between the legs of his companions. Although they try to look heroic, there are those amongst them who can’t cover their smirks and laughter. Two teenagers prove their maturity by puffing on pipes. These are workers. The only shirt that boasts a collar out of the whole bunch belongs to a dandy with an upturned mustache and a watch on a heavy strap tucked into the breast pocket of his striped shirt. He also sports new suspenders.
It’s the man in front, with a fixed steely glare, who stands out. He clutches a rifle in the hand that doesn’t hold a braided leash. His open coat drapes over a six-button vest with a watch on a chain tucked into its pocket, reminiscent of Wild Bill Hickok. Continue reading
Posted in Education, Family History, Genealogy and Family History, History, Immigration, Sweden
Tagged America, Angermanland, Anna Frolen, Camp, Chimneys, Darius Kinsey, Education, Europe, Family, Family History, Frank Frolen, Glaciers, History, Horse Logging, Horses, Hunting, Hunting Dogs, Immigration, Log Cabins, Logging, Matthew Brady, Millstone, Nilsson., Nora Parish, Norberg, Norway, Photography, Puget Sound, Riverton, Seattle, Sundsvall, Sweden, War, Washington State, Wild Bill Hickok
Oblivious to the true history of the site, my Whitworth College tour mates and I clambered through preserved battle lines at Babi Yar.
In the Spring of 1978 the Whitworth College study tour of the Soviet Union made the last major stop on our visit, at Kiev. As usual, our group was posted to a tourist hotel, provided with buses and a suave trained tour guide, and directed to all the major tourist sites in the area. Having spent the summer before reading some chronicles of ancient Russia in which the origins of the empire of the Rus were placed at Kiev, this was one of the places I most looked forward to seeing.
From the bluffs above the river outside the walls of the medieval Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery I looked down on ragged forests that I was sure concealed the remains of the Viking camps that became Kiev’s first royal halls. But the tour guide had a schedule to keep and he herded us all inside the church hall. It was somewhat disconcerting to find Ukrainian peasants inside the church, gamely trying to worship while the guide led us from icon to icon, pointing out the hollow jars buried inside the heavy columns with their mouths exposed to provide reverberation. As I stood gape-mouthed and amazed at the intricate details of the church an old woman in a head scarf and a brown apron shifted past me, muttering the warning, “Ne smeyatsia!” She had mistaken my appreciation of the building for mockery of the worshipers. Continue reading
Posted in Art, Atrocities, Conflicts, Death, Education, Germany, History, Illustration, Immigration, Jews, Nazis, Spies, Travel, World War II
Tagged America, Art, Babi Yar, Catacombs, Education, Europe, Execution, Family History, Genocide, Herimitage Art Museum, History, Holocaust, Immigration, Jews, Kiev, Leningrad, Los Angeles, Monasteries, Nazis, Seattle, Second World War, Siberia, Soviet Union, Study, Travel, Vikings, Whitworth College, World War II
From the Iron Age hill fort above Belfast the camera had difficulty capturing the city because of the smoke and fog generated by coal heating, industry and exhaust. This photograph was taken on one of the excursions with children from both sides of the divide in 1981.
In a previous post I mentioned the photograph I am posting today, which I rediscovered as I organized our storage cupboards. The climb to Napoleon’s Nose was a startling contrast to the neighborhoods the children grew up in. From their streets the children could see this hilltop towering above the city, but few had ever ventured this far before. The trail to the top led through meadows of bluebells, past ruined cottages and onto steep slopes of heather. It was only when you got above the smoke that you even realized how filthy the air in Belfast really was.
Posted in Archaeology, Belfast, Education, Hiking, Ireland, Iron Age, Northern Ireland, Peace and Reconciliation, Travel
Tagged Belfast, Education, Europe, Ireland, Iron Age
That summer of 1981 I became familiar with urban poverty. By far, most of the families I encountered in Ardoyne relied on a government check, the Dole, to get by. How they managed to make the money stretch to pay their rent and what they called their rates (utilities) and taxes, I couldn’t imagine. Not to mention the money they spent on food, often at a chippie, which is what a fish and chip van was called. Sometimes they’d buy a curry from the truck that sat near the shops, but other times hunger drove them to serve their children “chip buddies.” This consisted of two slices of buttered white bread with French fried potatoes laid between them. Carbohydrate delight. Of course there always seemed enough money to pay for pints at the Shamrock and other social clubs.
I knew a woman from the college I’d attended in Spokane who had married a man from Belfast, and at one point that summer I contacted her for a friendly visit. She took me on a walking tour downtown and introduced me to her brother-in-law, who shared the opposite side of their huge semi-detached house on some private acreage to the south of the city. John was a bachelor, trained as a geologist, and comfortably situated after years of oil work in the Middle East. He was delighted to meet Sally’s college friends (I discovered that one of my dorm brothers had previously visited him), and he invited me to come to his house for dinner sometime when I wanted a break from the inner city.
My dinner with John was one of the most unusual events of that year, an evening of surprises. Continue reading
Posted in Art, Belfast, Conflicts, Education, Garden, Gardening, Geology, History, Horses, Ireland, Middle East, Movies, Northern Ireland, Travel
Tagged Agatha Christie, Ardoyne, Aristocrats, Art, Art History, Belfast, Betting, Brandy, Carpets, Cigar, Cliffs of Moher, College, Culture, Education, Europe, Family History, Food, Foreigners, Franz Hals, Geology, Germans, Government, History, Horse Racing, Investment, Ireland, Limerick, Loneliness, Manor House, Middle East, Mystery, Northern Ireland, Oil, Old Masters, Painting, Portrait, Poverty, Republic of Ireland, Servants, Spokane, Television, The Dole, Touring, Turkish Carpet, Volunteers, Watercolor, Wheatfield Gardens, William Payne
A British Army patrol on the streets of South Belfast in 1981. Patrols that visited Ardoyne typically showed up in armored vehicles, wearing protective gear. This photograph courtesy Jeanne Boleyn, who released it to the public domain through Wikipedia.
(Continued from Wheatfield Gardens)
The morning after my arrival in Belfast, my predecessor Ryan took me for a get-acquainted stroll through my new neighborhood. The two of us were from totally different backgrounds. He was an affable city boy from Philadelphia, while I was a somewhat naive and laconic westerner who had only a couple of years experience living in Seattle. Perhaps he sensed that I would need to be shown the ropes, introduced to key people who would take me under their wings to keep me safe and make me useful.
There had already been one surprise awaiting me at Wheatfield Gardens: it turned out I was to share responsibility for running the house with another American volunteer, Len. He was much like Ryan, charming and friendly, and he seemed like he already knew his way around the area although he had only arrived a week or two before. I was a little jealous. While I had taken months to arrange my term as a volunteer, sending letters, making phone calls and doing interviews, Len had simply showed up in Belfast and been given a job!
The three of us left the Glencree house together on that bright morning, waving at the only neighbors who cared to mix with us, the Scotts next door. The street was lined with brick garden walls with little iron gates on pavements that led to semi-detached brick houses. The houses looked like they’d all been built from the same plans, and there was very little individuality to any of them. It seemed odd that all this urban landscape was crammed together so tightly around us and yet a short distance away the green slopes of vacant mountainsides soared above the city. Ryan saw me looking and took the time to point out Napoleon’s Nose, a peak with an Iron Age hill fort on it, within walking distance from my new home. He couldn’t have given me a greater blessing. Later on, when things seemed particularly bleak, I did like I did back home, but instead of climbing Saddle Mountain, I scaled Napoleon’s Nose.
We hadn’t gotten to the end of the street before Ryan stopped us and us listen. There had been a constant sound in the background of our conversation, and he pointed out the helicopter stationed over the west end of the city. During the year I spent in Belfast, the British army kept up an almost constant aerial patrol of the Catholic communities of West Belfast. Sometimes the copters hovered over Ardoyne instead. Continue reading
Posted in Archaeology, Belfast, Education, History, Illustration, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Travel
Tagged Alliance Avenue, Ardoyne, Belfast, Bobby Sands, British Army, Catholics, Derry, Education, Europe, Family, Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, Graffiti, History, Hunger Strike, IRA, Ireland, Iron Age, King William II, Legends, Long Kesh Prison, Napoleon's Nose, Oliver Cromwell, Paramilitaries, Peace, Peace Walls, Philadelphia, Police, Politics, Presbyterians, Protestants, Provisional IRA, Red Hand of Ulster, Saddle Mountain, Saracens, Seattle, Shankill Butchers, Shankill Road, Smoking, The Troubles, UDA, Ulster, Unionists, United Kingdom, UVLF, Volunteers, Wheatfield Gardens
(Continued from To Belfast)
The ferry to Ireland passed through a couple of light rain showers, but by the time it approached Larne the sun was glistening on the Irish Sea. Green hills rolled into the distance beyond the town: oil tanks and smokestacks, docks with freighters and yachts tied up at them, parking lots with cars and trucks and buses pausing in their duties. Shipping containers ranged along the shoreline. My train waited at the landing and I gathered my belongings, dragged my suitcase on its tiny wheels, my backpack stuffed to overflowing strapped to my back, my shabby concertina box clutched under my arms. I jostled down the ramp towards the station, leaving the sleek ferryboat behind.
As I left the ramp, though, two men stepped out of the crowds toward me. One, bulky in a down coat, red-haired and grinning; the other was a black-coated priest smoking a cigarette. “Are you Mark Danielson?” the man in the coat asked.
This encounter bewildered me at the time. I wasn’t expecting to be met at the ferry, and I had taken an earlier train than the one I had planned to be on. Even now, years later, I wonder how they knew I would arrive on that ferry. Was it by chance, or had they somehow been informed? It was the first of many mysterious events that took place that year in Ireland.
I would come to know these men reasonably well over the next few days. The man with hair the Irish called “ginger” was Ryan, an American volunteer who had been running the Glencree House at 14 Wheatfield Gardens in Belfast. It was my understanding that I would be taking over his position. The priest, Father Kevin, was the Glencree representative. I would never see him without a cigarette in his mouth. I should mention right here that I’m using pseudonyms, not just to protect the identity of those I worked with, but because it was thirty years ago and I don’t always have the most accurate memory!
Father Kevin set about putting me at ease. He asked about my hometown, my family. “Do you have any Irish in yeh?” Well, no. Most of my family were German or Scandinavian. “Ah, sure, they’re all the same North Sea bastards.” I had been adopted as an Irishman pro tempore. Continue reading
Posted in Art, Belfast, Concertina or Squeezebox, Illustration, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Travel
Tagged Ardoyne, Belfast, Belfast Lough, Black Taxis, Bobby Sands, British Army, British Navy, Carrickfergus, Catholics, Crumlin Road, Culture, DeLorean, Education, Europe, Ferry, Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, Harland & Wolff, Hill Fort, Holy Cross, IRA, Ireland, Irish Sea, Iron Age, John Paul Jones, Larne, Long Kesh Prison, Murals, Napoleon's Nose, Nature, Paramilitaries, Protestants, River Lagan, RMS Titanic. RMS Olympic, Shankill Road, Short Strand, Smithfield Market, Summer Scheme, The Falls, Ulster Constabulary, Ulster Volunteer Force, UVF, Volunteers
In 1985 I combined the Mount Saint Helens eruption with a self portrait playing my English Concertina to create a postcard image I called Concertina Blowout.
I arrived in Glasgow by train late in the day, bound for Belfast where I was expected. I remember thinking that this could be the last peaceful day I would have in a long time, the last day when I could do what I liked, go wherever I might choose, without consideration of any dangerous political ramifications. The scene outside my rainy window matched my mood. Desolation. The train clattered through filthy industrial parks, littered fields, broken down Victorian factory buildings and shabby streets.
It was 1981, and outside Belfast, in Long Kesh Prison Bobby Sands was approaching his sixtieth day on hunger strike. If he were to die there would undoubtedly be fire and shootings, bombs and riots in the streets of Belfast. I’d done enough research to understand The Troubles in Northern Ireland from a dissociated, rather academic viewpoint. It looked like I would soon have firsthand experience of the realities of the IRA struggle against the Thatcher government.
It was easy to be gloomy in Glasgow, after having spent a month prowling the more upscale streets of Edinburgh. Between stints with a wire brush, cleaning gutters and painting for my hosts, I had earnestly searched the tourist precincts and alleyways for my dream instrument, an English concertina. It was a search doomed to failure. I came to recognize that even if I were to find Continue reading
Posted in Art, Concertina or Squeezebox, Education, Fiddle, Folk, History, Illustration, Ireland, Media, Music, Scotland, Tin Whistle, Violin
Tagged Belfast, Bobby Sands, Buchanan Street Station, Celtic Music, Culture, Eastern Washington, Edinburgh, Education, English Concertina, Europe, Fiona Ritchie, Friendship, Glasgow, History, IRA, Ireland, Long Kesh Prison, Margaret Thatcher, Mount Saint Helens, Northern Ireland, Scotland, The Battlefield Band, The Chieftains, The Thistle and The Shamrock, The Troubles, Travel, United Kingdom, Youth Hostel