A puzzling postcard – and how the ghosts of generations walk the streets of my home town.
From a travel point of view this year has been pretty varied. I spent the first three months of the year finishing up a contract in Japan, then went to visit my friend near the Cambodian border in Isaan, Thailand. From there I flew to Nepal and was caught up in the earthquake in Kathmandu and subsequently evacuated back to the UK. In June I visited Morocco and Spain, and in July I went to Denmark and Sweden. This month I’ll be going back to Asia for a while, flying first to Sri Lanka then onwards from there.
Using Northern Ireland as a base over the last few weeks has allowed me to catch up with some people and also spend some time in my home town of Bangor. The older I get, the more I appreciate the history of the place – an interest which has grown over the last few years. Truth be told, when I was 22 I couldn’t wait to get out of here. But now at 34 I reckon I’m at an age that I can appreciate stuff a bit more, and my travels around the world have definitely given me a different outlook on the place I am from.
The familiar unfamiliar
One thing I like about my home town is that some old photos still exist showing what it was like at the turn of the century. Bangor was a popular seaside destination and so it’s only natural that some photos should exist of the popular tourist spots. But what’s surprising is that there are also old postcards and photos depicting the seemingly uninteresting streets of my neighbourhood. Those who live in Bangor West will surely recognise these two places: Manse/Bryansburn Road and Dufferin Avenue.
As you can see, I thought it’d be nice to try and replicate the photos to show how they look today. There’s something eerie about looking at old photos of very recognisable places. It’s the same place, and yet it’s not. You know the place in the picture so well, but the people featured in them are most likely no longer with us. Like every town in every country on earth, the streets of Bangor are filled with the ghosts of generations – with my own town seeing both Viking warriors and women wearing Victorian garb roaming its streets. Generation, after generation, after generation. When these people die, only the streets remain.
A puzzling postcard
About five years ago I bought some old postcards of Bangor because I knew the places featured so well. The earliest was postmarked 1913 – the year before World War 1 – and written from 23 Dufferin Avenue which is just down the road from my house.
The others are postmarked July 1948 and October 1949 with King George VI stamps. The fact that one of these postcards was written over 100 years ago in Bangor, sent to Belfast, read by someone, discarded and now sits in my house back in Bangor is a bit mad to think about – especially since I only live about two minutes’ walk from where it was originally written. Also, two of these postcards were written to people with the same surname of Millen, yet written 35 years apart. Is this the same family? Coincidence? What’s going on? Do you recognise the names or addresses featured in any of the postcards?
This is history in its simplest form of course – daily life that continues on and on throughout generations – but I like the idea of something that is 100 years old still going on a journey which isn’t quite finished.
Speaking of journeys that haven’t finished, I’m heading back to Asia next week for a month or two – Sri Lanka first then most likely onwards to some remoter parts of Indonesia and Borneo. To subscribers to this site who signed up to read about Asia, I hope you haven’t minded these few posts about Northern Ireland. And to those of you who are from N.I. and reading this, maybe you’ll continue reading my stuff from the tropics. Wherever you are, safe travels. Justin.