Every Saturday, Granddad obliged us to go on walks with him down to Gyles’ Quay, a mile’s walk from our house. We would do anything to avoid these walks, hiding in wardrobes or scooting under our beds, fervently hoping he would give up and go without us. It never worked. Inevitably we were discovered and soon we had our coats and boots on, all the while grumbling against the injustice of it all.
The Gyles’ Quay walks formed the backdrop to our childhood. Granddad would tell us about life at the turn of the century. He would regale us with stories about the Titanic and the two World Wars. Occasionally he would bump into friends he grew up with – we would while away these interludes playing with Major, a small mongrel dog who always accompanied us on these journeys. In truth, we always enjoyed these walks, especially since there was a treat of a chocolate bar for us at the end.
Today, I visited Gyles’ Quay with my 10 year old daughter. I talked to her about Granddad and Major, the old people we would meet, and how I nearly gave my Granddad a heart-attack, running in front of an oncoming train on one occasion. I was amazed how much I remembered from those years. To her, it was like a window opening into the past. It was a memorable walk for both of us.
Little has changed in the intervening thirty years. For sure, there are more houses on the opposite bank of the river. The railway no longer carries passengers between Waterford and Rosslare. Otherwise, it’s the same place. The smells, sights and sounds are as they were. The plants and the trees, the old lighthouses, Waterford Castle, the tiny fresh water spring bubbling up from the road by Halpin’s farm – all frozen in time. This is my childhood. My trip down Memory Lane.