As we sit in the sunny upper lounge overlooking Ballyholme Bay on a beautiful Autumn morning, Miriam enjoys reminiscing over her 94 years of life so far …
Miriam was born on 3 February 1922 in Belmont Lodge, Ferrybank, Waterford and is the youngest of four siblings (and admits that, being so much younger than her two sisters and brother, she was ‘spoiled rotten’!)
Miriam’s father, William Hill, owned a local shop and a Salt Mill and, to this day, Miriam can visualise it all ‘like it was yesterday’. The family lived on a farm and Miriam has many fond memories of playing in the surrounding fields and swimming in the local lake, surrounded by all sorts of animals. As you can see from the attached photo, Miriam is still a great animal lover and enjoys cuddles with Kingsland’s new guinea pigs ‘Gingernut and Jaffa Cake’.
Having moved up North in the 1930s, Miriam remembers attending Pickie School in Bangor for a short while before starting as a boarder at Friends School, Lisburn. Miriam has fond memories from this school but always mentions about it having been a Quaker School which was based on silent worship – and Miriam wasn’t so keen on that factor, especially as she likes to chat!!!!
After leaving school Miriam went to study Domestic Economy at Alexander College Dublin and lived with her Aunt for the duration of the three year course. Following her graduation, Miriam was employed back in Bangor as a Nanny to look after the three children of a local Doctor and his wife and she has many fond memories of taking the children for walks and playing in the local parks. Miriam continued in this role until meeting her future husband, Derek, who was a teacher of Mechanical Engineering at Belfast Technical College.
Miriam and Derek were married at Ballyholme Presbyterian Church and raised three beautiful children: David (who now lives in London), Brenda (who lives in Bangor) and Lesley (who lives in Saintfield). They enjoyed many happy family holidays together over the years, usually camping in two tents. One particular holiday that Miriam vividly remembers was a coach holiday where they visited Lands End. Miriam asked the driver if it was possible to physically touch the very end of the land and she remembers running across fields to get right to the tip of Lands End, whilst everyone whooped and cheered back on the bus as they watched her skip across the grass … I haven’t seen Miriam laugh so much as she did whilst retelling this particular story!!
Sadly, her husband, Derek, passed away at an early age following a stroke and Miriam remained on her own for many years until coming to live at Kingsland. Whilst on her own, Miriam had always been a keen gardener and spent many hours tending her plants and flowers, and often opened her garden to the public to raise funds for the Church. Also, as a great Bridge player, she was never lost for company with her Bridge friends who all met regularly for fun and laughter.
Miriam is delighted that (in her own words) she is “able to end her days overlooking Ballyholme Bay, with a view of her marital home which brings back so many, many happy memories”. As I leave Miriam sitting at the window of the upper lounge, where the sun is still shining, I see a very happy and content lady, knitting away, who can see out her twilight years with so many memories literally stretched out in front of her over Ballyholme Bay.
A wonderful lady that I have the privilege of spending time with every day.