This is a short EXTRA story, containing memories of SUNNYDALE, CLARE, COOKSTOWN where I grew up, and is a tribute to the 2 people who gave me life.


Memories of SUNNYDALE.  

(top photo shows Sunnydale 4-5 years after we moved in…the front door is part of the new lean to Hall, the same at the other side for rear entrance….with Grouse Dog and Dot & Dinky Cat!.....

1994 photo is when Sunnydale was at its very best!... Winter 2010 was when the “For Sale” sign was erected. Post visible on left of entrance!)

This document is meant to give you the feeling of the safe and secure environment Yvonne and I had, and how important this place was in our childhood, which formed our lives for the years ahead.

DAD/Granda and MUM/Granny were special people and I will be writing about some memories, good and sad, which I have experienced during my years there, 1951 until I left for College in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1967. It was still my home until I met Liz, married and moved to Springwell, Coleraine in 1971.

Now, since 15 February 2013 SUNNYDALE, CLARE is no longer a part of us, just a memory………

We had lived in Coltrim, Moneymore until 1951. I was 3 years and 10 months and Yvonne was 6 weeks when we moved to Clare, in May of that year.

I remember Mum, baby Yvonne and our beloved dog, a spaniel named Grouse, climbing into the "cockpit" of this lorry, owned and driven by Sam Millar, Cookstown. I travelled with Dad, sitting between his legs, behind the petrol tank of his motor bike. Not a big bike. It was a wine red colour. I felt a big boy, but I was scared! Remember that feeling so very well!

The Clare house was previously occupied by the Neill/Neale family. Finally lived in by Billy Neale. See web site:

for the background story of the house (and the Neale family, who had been the occupiers for years) which was to become our home!

My Granda Coulter owned the farm surrounding this little house and the front field (Market Garden in later years). I’ll refer to Granda C as Jimmy from now on…..He wanted to buy the property but he and William Neale (known as “Billy Nail”) were not on speaking terms. I don’t know the reason why!?

To get around this Jimmy asked my Dad to buy it on his behalf (Jimmy gave him the GBP 750, which was the asking price!). That transaction was dated 27 April 1949. On 6 September 1949 the property was then transferred to Robert James “Jimmy” Coulter.

Remember that my Granda Allen was living in the house (now cousin Virginia’s home) just across the field and had been doing so since 1939! Our aunts, Evelyn, Mary and Eileen lived there too, as did Dad/Granda, until 1947.

From 1951 until the final transfer in 1961 Mum/Dad paid Jimmy rent…don’t know how much?

On 26 June 1961 this same property was transferred to Dad.  The house was owned by Granda Jimmy Coulter….earlier info!  Before we moved in Dad had employed Tommy Thompson and Davey Wilkinson to make some improvements. Looking at to-days house….if you remove the whole section containing the bathroom, both bedrooms and the hall. What’s left was the sum total of the house before we moved in. However there were 2 extensions built, prior to us moving in. A hall, entered from the existing door which to-day leads to the hall and a window (where the cupboard/press is located). A scullery, entered from where the big kitchen window is to-day. The scullery was always very damp….just a single brick uninsulated wall and a tin roof keeping out the elements. I can remember a lot of condensation dripping from the roof and condensation on the window…..dampness personified!

In the winter this froze, so there were many beautiful frost designs on this window and even on all other windows. As I now write I can feel the damp chill of those mornings getting up for school. Where the living kitchen is to-day you would go into Mum/Dad’s room, one step down, just as to-day. Yvonne and I slept in what is to-day the little kitchen, which was accessed from Mum/Dad’s room, just behind where the set of drawers were located...knock on this section of wall and you’ll hear the boast sound!

There was no indoor toilet, so at the back, behind the old byre, next the hedge was our dry toilet. When I visited this as a small boy at night before going to bed, Mum would stand outside this toilet, shine the torch light on the opening under the door and that made me feel safe. The toilet bucket would be emptied when needed, into a hole in the garden which Dad would dig, approx once per month.

I don’t remember my first days at Clare. However, I got to know some boys from the housing estate, the Colvin brothers and later on Raymond Millar. Orville and Ali (Samuel) Colvin were to be my friends for quite a few years, until early teens. They came to me just after I came home from hospital in 1954. I still meet Ali occasionally when I’m in Cookstown.

So much for the background, now for a few memories. These and more are detailed in this web site, at other locations!

Shortly after moving in to Clare, Mum and Dad decided to call the house SUNNYDALE! This is a name I don’t want us to forget, because this is how the house was referred to in conversations within the Allen/Coulter families!

Just 2 years after moving into Sunnydale, Mum & Dad were confronted with a polio diagnosis, in 1953 (Oct). Full details in “My Story”. I was out of Sunnydale in a Belfast hospital, Purdysburn Fever Hospital for 33 weeks, returning in May 1954.

Without Mum’s dedication and persistence I would never have recovered to the level I did. She exercise me in the mornings before school and in the evenings. 30 minutes each session. She would call me “Des, time for your exercises!” and I would lie down on a blanket in front of the fire in the living kitchen. She would then put me through the programme given by the Physio, Miss Morris! This went on until I was 13-14 years old.

I returned to school in late 1954 and life became more normal again, except for me having to go to Hospital every Monday for 6 months after hospital release, then every 2 weeks for the following 6 months, then it was once per month and by 1958 it was once every 3 months. I had to wear a full length leg calliper and a body corset until I was 11 and a foot splint at nights (until I was 15) keeping my right foot at right angles. I attended a Clinic once per year until my 16th birthday.

As a child I visited my grandparents ALLEN daily (across the field). They were kind and I was spoiled. I had been given a tricycle in 1955 so I pedalled across that field every day….giving my leg good exercise. Grouse the dog would follow me and he would play with Granda’s lovely collie, Don!

Every Sunday was special….I took the trike across the field and during the afternoon all the cousins would gather and once per month was always special as the Shirlows would visit!  Therefore the very good connection I have with these cousins to day!

Other memories: Friday evening were always a bit rough for Yvonne and me. Dad would come home late from work, around 10 pm (normal home time was 7:10 pm!) and he was a wee bit different from his normal behaviour. Mum was never happy about him having a drink with the boys after a hard weeks work (usually in the Dunleath Bar, but others were visited as well!!)….”here comes the wee week end Sammie, just look at him, bet ye he couldn’t walk a straight line…etc” I don’t think she liked him spending the money!?

Dad’s normal home time was 7:20 pm, finished at 7 and 20 minute bike ride. He then got a moped which cut this time by 10 minutes. Yvonne & I would get excited around 7 and would wrestle with each other….she was always careful not to hurt my “bad” leg….However on occasions I would get aggressive and lose my temper (had a very short fuse at this age), so poor Yvonne had to take one of the wooden chairs (probably the one that you remember, which Russ sat on?) to defend herself! Mum would keep threatening “just wait till yer father gets home!!” Nothing ever happened when he appeared through the door….just joy to see him.

Saturday morning was bath time. Mum would fill a tin bath with hot water and place it in front of the fire. Yvonne was usually first in and then me. I can remember so well that there was a music programme on the radio, from 10 o’clock and I wanted to be in the bath for the programme start!.... “Saturday Club” with Brian Matthew as presenter.

Jimmy would visit quite often and uncle Geordie would be his driver. Over the years they came with a gypsy man, called Martin Evans. They would have been drinking and the craic would hot up and then the singing would start….I can remember the gypsy always sang the song “the gypsy rover!”


"A gypsy rover came over the hill, into the valley shady; 

He whistled and he sang til the green wood rang, 

And he won the heart of a la - dy.

She left her father's castle gate, she left her own true lover; 

She left her servants and her estate

To follow her gypsy rover.




He whistled and he sang til the green woods rang

And he won the heart of a la - dy.

Her father mounted his fastest steed, 
And searched the valley all over; 
He sought his daughter at great speed
And the whistling gypsy rover.

At last he came to a mansion fine, down by the river Claydee, 
And there was music and there was wine
For the gypsy and his lady.


He is no gypsy, my father, she cried, 
But Lord of these lands all over, 
And I shall stay til my dying day
With my whistling gypsy rover.


This gypsy family came to Tyresson (Coulterland!) every year and helped on the farm!

Granny Coulter was good woman, but had a very hard life in Tyresson….never got any money from Jimmy and had to earn her own by breeding chickens, turkeys, geese and selling eggs! 

Mum visited her frequently and she came to us every Friday evening. She walked to town (maybe uncle Geordie would sometimes give her a lift …he was unmarried at this stage). Yvonne and me always looked forward to her visits. She would walk to Sunnydale and sometimes she would then get a lift to Tyresson. We would always get a Mars bar. She was a stylish dresser and loved different colours. Mum was something similar….

More details about Granny C in the Coulter section

I loved the Easter period. I would build a “wee” house in the then garden area. Dad would help…..this house never had a roof! Just 4 walls. We would light a fire in the middle of the floor and boil eggs. I would smell very heavily of smoke and a lot of muck on my feet in the evening.

On another occasion when I was building I stumbled and fell. I was carrying a board and there were a few rusty nails sticking out. Fell on one of the nails which penetrated my upper lip (scar still visible). Mum cycled the whole way to Fisher’s factory where Dad worked and brought him home. Meanwhile I had to lay in the garden waiting for Dad. How long I don’t know, must have been at least 30 minutes…..somehow they got the board/nail pulled out and I was taken to the doctor for an injection.

Mum also kept hens, about 20, a goose called Sally and a gander, 2 cats, Dot & Dinky, several dogs….all these when I was young boy!  Grouse was the first dag. He came to us just after I was born and lived with us for about 14 years. Rex, another….a stray, dropped in one day in the early 1960’s. Granny decided to keep him, feeling sorry for him. He was so thin and uncared for. He just lived a few years, but I remember him with great affection. He was a mixed  breed, alsation crossed with collie. Other dogs came….many of them you will remember!!

My interest for building was even more evident when a new friend Evan Connolly (Festival Park, across the road) and I decide to build a tree house, at the bottom of the field, in a tree next to Doris’s land. I was told distinctly by Mum/Dad that I should never climb trees, simply because by falling and fracturing my “bad” leg I would have to have the leg amputated, because there wasn’t sufficient healing in the existing bone. But I did climb trees on my own around the house when they were otherwise occupied! Anyhow Evan and I discreetly moved boards and nails to the bottom of this fine, huge sycamore tree.

After a few days we had completed it….floor and 3 low sided walls and the green vegetation from the tree acted as a roof. We simply used a rope to hoist the material. We would then go to this “hideout” every day after school. No one knew about it and it was our very own secret!!

One Saturday around dinner time (1pm) I could hear Mum calling me. Then Dad’s shrill mouth whistle sounded and I knew it was time to move….but we stayed on a few more minutes when suddenly I heard a voice from the bottom of the tree…”what are you doing up there?” It was a very angry Dad. We climbed down carefully. Evan ran home, I walked home with Dad, he being so very cross that I had disobeyed them about climbing. The following week we had to take down the house tree and it was the end of a fun period.

The above memories were when I was in the 9-13 age period.

Isn’t it strange….Evan went through school, university and became a fully qualified Architect and I did Building Technology studies in Coleraine and became qualified Architectural Technician, working with Architects in Coleraine and later Swed-Hus etc!

In February 1958 Dad bought a TV for the first time….before that we as a family would listen to the radio….music, quiz’s, and sport. I wasn’t interested in football, but Dad listened a lot to car and motorcycle racing. The famous former F1 commentator Murray Walker was racing bikes and his father Graham Walker was a commentator…… Remember listening to the Floyd Patterson/Ingemar Johansson fights (2).

My Granny (Violet) would take Yvonne and me to Evelyn & Sandy’s on Saturday evenings to watch their TV….the years 1956-58. Anyhow our first TV was installed and the first item of news that evening was about the Munich air crash when many Man Utd players, officials and journalists were killed and others severely injured. My interest for football was kindled and the rest is history!  “HEJA MAN U!!”

I started Cookstown High School in Sept 1958. Dad/Mum paid fees for this education until I was 13. That was a very big cost on their limited resources. They wanted the best for me, believing that perhaps I would have difficulty in coping with a manual physical job in my working life. I then passed a “review” examination, which gave 3 extra years of free education…..unfortunately I didn’t succeed academically as I didn’t work at school nor at home with the homework. This is a regret I have, but the fact is that I received a good education which became more obvious in later life.

In 1961 Sunnydale came into Dad’s ownership and it was to undergo a massive renovation and build programme. I was very interested in building and had lots of questions when the architect and Dad were discussing the project. Having a bathroom and inside flush toilet was to be luxury never before experienced. I followed this work on a daily basis and got to know the workmen as friends. Everywhere was dirty with building material everywhere…..but in the end the job was completed. Yvonne and I had our own rooms…I in the “back” room which is the small kitchen and Yvonne had the “front” room, the step down from the living kitchen. Mum/Dad had the new bedroom. Central heating was not installed at this stage, so the new house was cold…..but bedrooms were heated before going to bed by electric fire bars. Heating was not installed until the 1980’s.

Around this time Dad was promoted in Fishers to Chief Engineer and had a phone put in….86762694. The first in Clare!  Joyce Cahoon would come and ask to use it occasionally. She had a boyfriend called Albert Warwick!! She later became Joyce Warwick…..

I left school with no formal qualifications but with a lot of experiences. I got work…details in “My Story”.

In 1967 I announced to Mum and Dad that I was going to Bible College in Edinburgh! Mum was totally against this and Dad supported me as best he could in a very discreet way. This caused a lot of friction in the home and Mum would go to bed when she felt stressed about this and a few other problems she had. A day or two before I left she told me never to come back and that I wasn’t welcome home again. I left under this cloud….had to deal with this, deal with the split from home, deal with a new life style and new people, deal with little or no money, deal with how Dad and Yvonne would cope with Mum’s depressive state etc.

I simply had to focus on my new life. I wrote home regularly and got letters by return from Dad and then after a few weeks Mum wrote….just a normal letter, giving local news etc. The tone in her letters had mellowed, so I decided at half term to come home for a long week end….without saying anything.

At the beginning of November 1967 I had “scraped up” (Leslie Fraser was very good to me and I got the occasional fiver from him, which I saved to fulfill this plan!) enough money to bring me to Larne Harbour and my old friend Sidney Bradley picked me up and left me at the end of our lane. I walked down and rang the door bell. Dad came…….shock shock!! Shouted at Mum “come and see who it is…!!” Mum came….even more shock, tears came. She was so glad to see me and I her…don’t remember any hugs though!

This was the beginning of a new relationship with Mum. She saw that I was coping with my new life and she became very supportive in the years that followed…..and as I understood from Dad, their life at home became easier.

I remember too the first day I brought Elizabeth O’Brien to visit Sunnydale…1969 This was a new experience for Mum and Dad, entertaining a potential daughter in law. This was the first girlfriend I had invited home…..’cause I knew this was THE ONE!!

Liz became their second daughter!

Mum’s love of animals and nature is something special I associate with Sunnydale…..with all the bird’s nests, the dogs, cats, taking care of injured wild birds.  Dad’s dedication to his parents, my Granny & Granda and the love he had for his family. Thankfully this dna has followed on…….

Finally those trips we made every summer to Sunnydale, for many years, starting in 1974. The fun that Granda generated for you boys, all the things he planned and did, with Granny looking on as a very interested spectator and laughing in her own special way. The trips to Portrush, putting up the wind shield at Barry’s strand, lying on the sand, fully clothed, just making sure you guys were having fun…… and there was also those dreaded long trips to Newcastle!!!

The coins in the wall at Ballyronan Marina etc etc.

Precious memories… they they will always fill my soul!

Other stories are found in the different sections of “My Story, Monymore to Karlskoga”

These memories I owe to my dear Mum and Dad whom I thank from the bottom of my heart for being such good parents, grandparents, great grandparents, (and Granny a great great grandparent!) for doing so much for Liz, me and the boys in Sunnydale, Clare, and now the inheritance they left us, week 09, 2013

Use it wisely and in fond rememberance of Granny & Granda!

Des // 2013 03 01

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