Our ancestral home was Castle Crack in Sullatober on the northern fringes of Carrickfergus. In the Short Story page under Bedsheets and Broomsticks you will find a story based on an incident that occurred there that I heard at my grandfather’s knee. I have obviously enhanced the story but it has a basis of truth.
When I was eighteen months my mother took me to Scotland. We were in Ireland because my father, who worked in the mines in Lanarkshire, had intended to start a small holding between Carrick and Belfast but his mother took ill and like to die and he never fulfilled the dream.
I grew up in a historic village surrounded by mines and miners and it should come as no surprise that, despite enjoying writing, I decided to make a career in the industry. A fuller description of how I arrived at that decision is included in the Quo Vadis section of Light in the Tunnel in the Mining Memories page. Light started as an autobiography but I soon discovered I was being creative with the memories and ‘some of it was true’ as Mark Twain mentioned in his own autobiography.
As described in Light in a Tunnel, my father refused to allow me to go into mining unless I had been exposed to conditions ‘doon the pit’. What neither of us had expected was that it would expose me to the kind of characters described in Light in the Tunnel.
I took a degree in the way hedgehogs make love – with great difficulty – but managed to fit in six months in the great copper mines of Sudbury before passing on into the Scottish mining industry to be cut down to size by Tam Hamilton and others.
Unfortunately, the Scottish Division of the NCB was shrinking and several of us sought work abroad in Zambia. By that time I had a wife and two children, one of each sex, and after a stutter at the start, we enjoyed our life there. I’ll add those experiences to Light one of these days.
We came back to Britain and I found work in Aberdeen City among another set of characters who will no doubt find mention somewhere. One of them moved the queen – put a rope round her neck and just drove off (with Queen Victoria’s statue in Union Street).
From there we moved to South Africa and back to mining’s mad characters in the Apartheid years. Even in 1972, it was obvious that the system would fail, implode, but what would replace it was a conundrum. In any case, we saw Nelson Mandela take over and the future looked rosy and rainbow.
In the new millenium, our son, by then in England, decided he and I should build boats and my wife and I moved back to Britain. The boatyard came to nothing but one day I will tell of taking a keelboat mould sticking dangerously out at one side of a heavy trailer through Essex, round the M25 London ring road and through the lanes around Potter’s Bar. There is no need to be creative about that episode!
The boat building came about because, as a boy and a family, we had been in and around boats and sailing for many years. Carrickfergus, the Clyde coast, Zambia, the North Sea at Stonehaven, the Clyde again, the huge dams in South Africa and finally Cape Town. Our daughter and I were club champions. Our son had represented the army in SA and was deeply into wind surfing.
When the boatbuilding was laid to rest I turned to my old love, writing. I had been writing since I was a wee boy and throughout my mining career had written and had published odd bits and pieces of articles and stories and when I moved to Cape Town, I turned to freelance journalism. I was reasonably successful with both articles and stories. I wrote about sailing, naturally, model boats, the environment, travel and Granny Clarke stories. What was my best effort? The lead article in the British Airways in flight magazine. What am I most proud of? The day I gave the old sailor who had been on the cruiser that sent the Bismark to the bottom of the sea the results of my research into his past. (After pulling German sailors from the sea and seeing they were just like his friends, he refused any medals for killing them.) He told me I had put into words for him what he had been trying to tell his family for years. He called a special family meeting to read it to them. As a writer, it doesn’t get better than that.
Since we came back to Britain, as you will see from this web site, I have turned to being an author of historical fiction and village life.
There you are, that’s the author Sullatober Dalton, warts and all, more warts than anything else.