Report by Sandra Millsopp
Members of Bangor Historical went on their autumn outing on 20 October 2018 to the Antrim area. The first stop was at Pogue’s Entry where we were given a guided tour by Bill McBride, heritage officer for Antrim Council. Pogue’s Entry is a narrow, cobbled lane in Antrim, lined with five cottages. It is famous as the home of Alexander Irvine, the author of My Lady of the Chimney Corner. In this book he recalls the Antrim of his youth, and in particular his home life with his mother as the Lady. She was Annie, a Roman Catholic school teacher, while his father was an illiterate Protestant shoemaker.
Despite his mother being a schoolteacher, Alexander grew up illiterate. He became a great naturalist, visiting the shores of Lough Neagh and this influenced his decision to become a committed Christian. In his youth he had various jobs, including that of stable boy. At 18 he went to Scotland to join his brothers and worked in the mines.
Then he joined the navy as a marine. He was bullied because he could not read or write and this made him determined to change. He went to the gymnasium on board ship and became a boxing champion. He became a steward in the officers’ mess and by noting things he heard, taught himself to read and write. He then bought himself out and went to Oxford briefly.
He soon travelled to the United States of America, living in the rough neighbourhood of the Bowery. After his marriage broke up he went to the mid-west to preach. He became ill after a rescue attempt from a fire and married his nurse. He returned to New York and attended Yale University. His fame grew and he became the friend of famous men such as President Teddy Roosevelt. He was a writer, evangelist and socialist. He campaigned against the exploitation of immigrant workers from Europe.
His most famous work was My Lady of the Chimney Corner which is still in print today over 60 years after his death in 1941. He had returned regularly to Ireland and after his death he was cremated and his ashes were buried in All Saints Churchyard in his parents’ grave.
In one of the cottages we viewed a display about his life. Then we visited the Irvine home next door to see the actual chimney corner where his mother sat beside the open fire. In another of the cottages Mr McBride demonstrated the processes involved in paper making.
Our final stop was at Antrim Castle Gardens where we had lunch at Clotworthy House. There was time afterwards to view the gardens, go to the shop or see the exhibitions.