Bangor by the Sea - Tenx9 Story 10 August 2018

"Bangor by the Sea" delivered to Tenx9 Open House Festival Bangor Event on Friday 10 August 2018.

As someone born and bred in Bangor the beach and our bay is something I have many memories of.

Whether it’s the closing down sale at Barry’s Amusements and my sister holding onto the Panda ride with grim death after mistakenly being told by our Uncle Alan she could have it, or watching people jump from the Pier in the summer sun whilst tins of Tennents were drank and music belted out from new fangled technology known as Ghetto Blasters which required an inordinate amount of D size batteries, enough perhaps to power a scooter nowadays!

Granny Peggy with my Sister Nadine
Bangor Bay is a place where I have many great memories.

Sailing around the bay on one of Lairds Boats was a pleasure I only enjoyed once, heading to visit Jenny Watts cave without lifejackets, of course, and returning empty handed without any of the treasure that apparently lies at the end of the cave.

Swimming in Pickie Pool was not something I ever had the fortune, or misfortune, to experience unlike others with only one close shave after my grandfather decided to take me to Pickie after finding out the heated pool at Bangor Castle Leisure Centre was closed.

The sense of elation I felt after discovering Pickie was also closed for the evening is still something I can recall!

Pickie has now been demolished to make way for the Council’s grand seafront development plan with the appearance of a marina, playpark, mini train and a fountain, which often spurts bubbles with a little help of some washing up liquid. 

Bangor bay is now characterised by these developments plus the vacant site and on-going saga of Queen’s Parade, started when I was young and perhaps, hopefully, maybe, completed when I turn old and grey.

Before these grand plans were executed Bangor had a beach.

Dirty, polluted and very small, it was our beach where memories were made, sandcastles built and then washed away as the tide came and went.

Many flocked to Bangor Bay by train, bus and automobile, preferring it to the more upmarket posher alternatives of Ballyholme, Crawfordsburn and Helen’s Bay.

As an excited three year old you can imagine my excitement when I learnt from my Granny Peggy that I too was going to get the visit the beach one Wednesday morning. “Pack your bucket and spade son, I’m taking you to the beach” announced Granny Peggy.

Armed and ready for action, out we went headed to Bangor Town Centre.

But first we had to catch a bus. As a self-confessed bus and train fanatic, this added extra excitement to the day, with a big blue Ulsterbus to be our tried and trusted way to travel. Up she pulled on the Skipperstone Road, an Ulsterbus Bristol no less with plastic seats and ashtrays behind the seats, she might not have been as comfortable as the Goldliners we ride on today but she was a fine reliable machine. On we climbed. No fair payable for me, I was just three. Full fare for granny. A whopping 20p or something like that.

As we arrived into Bangor Bus Station, the crowds then flocked past Lennon’s Fruit and Veg and towards Main Street. The beach was not, however to be our first stop but instead it was Bangor Market. Extending for what I thought was miles around a maze of stalls, everything was on offer, from the promise of double yoked eggs to leather jackets and clothes pegs.

Granny Peggy got what she needed and off we went, next to the Bank. Allied Irish Bank, where my mum worked, it did Deposits and Withdrawals in a very different sense back in 1979. Depositing your purchases from the Market whilst you then shopped around the rest of Bangor was a service many of my Mum’s family and friends availed of and on this occasion was no different, except we were now going to only one place, the beach!

Granny Dilys and Mum on bench at Queen's Parade
Bangor with beach on the other side
Off we toddled to Bangor Beach, Granny looking forward to a relaxing half an hour and me ready to dig to Australia. With the beach almost empty, Granny Peggy took up her spot and let me play whilst some raunchy Mills and Boon novel was enjoyed.

With the dirty river from Ward Park exiting right beside us and cigarette butts often found in the sand -  children these days would run a mile but I was happy as Larry.

My construction techniques developed as I played, with buckets of water fetched to fill the holes I dug, all whilst Granny Peggy flicked through the pages on her novel, gripped by the love story unfolding perhaps between a rich oil magnate and a loving woman, I didn’t know the storyline but it was clear she was enjoying it.

Then, for some reason, unknown still to this day, I thought I’d bring the fun of sand and water closer to Granny in a way she never thought possible.

To freshen her up on a warm day may have been my intention but as I filled the bucket with misty water from Bangor Bay, I knew where it was destined. Up I trotted along the beach, confident and bold. A loving grandson. The one you always wanted. Here he came, with only one plan for the bucket of water. Over it went, right on top of granny.

Soaked to the skin, a loud shrill cry was heard and a face of anger and disappointment was immediately seen. What had I done wrong? I was only playing.  Oh dear. 

Before I could say anything, the bucket, spade and a very moist Mills and Boon book were gathered up and off I was marched, back to the Bank, ready to face my Mother. As we left the beach, I did however manage to gather up some sand. You couldn’t go home without anything surely!

Walking into the bank branch, still dripping from her drenching, Granny Peggy told Mum what had happened and that, as I approached, she knew I was about to do something very very naughty.

Chastised and told that my Father would be having a word with me, the words that once put the fear of God into any young child, we were now homeward bound with groceries collected, granny gradually drying off and sand in my bucket.

Arriving at Bangor Station, Granny quickly looked at the timetable for the bus home to Whitehill. “Ten minutes to spare son, we can take a seat in the waiting room”.

In we went and down we sat in what I will always remember to be a square room with benches around the side and a permanent cloud of smoke as cigarettes were inhaled and conversations exchanged.

No sooner had we sat down did the bus pulled up, another big Blue Bristol.

On we got and off we went, with sand, memories and the song lyrics made real for me but perhaps not Granny,

“Wasn’t it a lovely day the day we went to Bangor”.