Strangford history is explored in journal

Strangford history is explored in journal

12 July 2011 - by CIARA COLHOUN

TALES of Inverbrena’s rich history have been retold through an annual journal published by a local community group.

Memories from Inverbrena is a collection of memories and stories from the Strangford area and this year’s edition includes a series of personally recounted tales including those of the war evacuees who attended Stella Maris School in Strangford in 1941, the story of Sam Swail and his imaginative characters Raw Head and Bloody Bones and details of a recent Sharvin family reunion.

Joan Ritchie tells the story of this family reunion, which took place in May, when hundreds of relatives from around the world gathered for a family dinner in the Cuan.

She explains the idea for the reunion was born over a glass of wine with her uncle Jack, who is great-grandson of family heads Jack and Margaret Anne Sharvin, who moved into the Square, now known as the Cuan, towards the end of the 19th century.

The Sharvin family has a database of 1,200 descendants of Jack and Margaret Anne, many of whom descended upon Strangford in May to mark what would have been the couple’s 151st wedding anniversary.

“For my uncle Jack and me the most essential part of a family reunion is that all generations get together,” she said.

“The oldest person in attendance was a lady called Maureen Sharvin, aged 93, who is a grand-daughter-in-law of Jack and Margaret.

“There were people in their 80s and 70s, down to Rory Kane, who was six weeks-old and a fourth great grandchild of Jack and Margaret.

“One of the strangest things about having so many relatives in one place is seeing the resemblance between us and the traits that have come down through the years.

“To be a member of such a close, huge family is both wonderful and unique; I feel privileged to be part of it.”

Also in the book is the story of local character Sam Swail, told by Eamon McMullan.

Described as a “rugged, weather-beaten man of the sea”, Eamon remembers Sam, who lived until the 1930s, as a legendary man who oversaw the daily happenings at the slip, while chewing on tobacco and sharpening his Barber pen knife, which he called “the best bloody steel that ever came out of Sheffield.”

Locals recall a gold earring he wore in his right ear, which he insisted would be used to pay for his funeral. When local people predicted he would live to be 1,000, they recalled him answering “Well! When I’m 300 shoot me.”

Above all, Sam was remembered as a storyteller who regaled local children with his often gory stories, one of which is retold in the magazine.

Memories from Inverbrenna also tells a tale of living history through the story of local sign-writer Percy Artherton.

Percy, who is in his 80s, is one of the few craftsmen who continues to handpaint signs, most recently that of The Spinnaker and Strangford’s new Strawberry Fields crafts and plant shop.

Told by his daughter Jennifer O’Reilly, The Art of the Sign-Writer: Percy Artherton, is the story of a man whose artistic talent was discovered by a school inspector who gave Percy two pencils in recognition of his skill.

Percy’s first solo project was on Henry’s Tea Shop at Scotch Street in Downpatrick, while two of his hand-painted signs, that of the Arkle Bar and Collins Bar in Downpatrick remain.

“Some of the most interesting work was done for the fishing boats in Ardglass, Portavogie and Kilkeel,” Jennifer says.

“The fishermen were very proud of their boats and took great delights in the masterful work Percy did.

“These beautiful name scrolls were pure works of art as indeed are the lifebelts he has painted, some quite recently.

“Some of these lifebelts are places in the local seaside churches.”

Memories from Inverbrena is now on sale at Kevin Og’s Shop in Strangford.

The Inverbrena group meets on the third Friday of every month at Inverbrena Hall in Strangford at 8pm.

Anyone who would like to come along to reminisce or who would like to contribute to the next journal is asked to come to a meeting or to