IT’S a long way from Gilford to the land of the Northern Lights - but former villager Margaret Drake has moved in verse from verdant County Down to the frozen wastes of Planet Earth.
The mother of six and grandmother of eight has published a book of poems - ‘From Gilford to the Aurora Borealis’ - penned from her days at the desk of Gilford’s Craigavon Primary School to the present time.
And she has dedicated it to her special teacher at the school, Mrs Vera Bowdell, who inculcated in her a respect for the written word and who - at almost 80 - is still a respected resident of the Gilford area.
Said Margaret, who has been widowed for 15 years, “I always loved writing poetry. The first one in the book is ‘Gilford As I Remember’ and the last one is ‘The Northern Lights’, a reflection on the Aurora Borealis’, which she once spotted during a visit to the Granite City. Much of it is thanks to Mrs Bowdell, and I called with her last week to give her a copy. She was delighted to see me.
“My family on my mother’s side hailed from North East Scotland, A late uncle of mine, Eddie Kirkwood, was a member of the Scottish Parliament and we kept in touch with our Scottish side.”
The opening poem recalls that ‘Gilford was founded by a military man; Magill’s Bridge that crosses the Bann..’ And it goes on to record the fact that the village was a garrison in World War Two and it eulogises shops like Crozier’s, Fox’s, McElroy’s and Moffitt’s, and continues with Irene’s sweet shops and the notorious toilets “for black were the walls as dark as a cave”.
There are no fewer than 15 verses, recording just about every famed old shop in the once-thriving village, mentioning religion and the part that the legendary mill played in Gilford, ending with the fact that there is no graveyard!
The second poem - ‘Fiddling Joe’ a Gilford character - is also 15 verses long, and another favourite is ‘The Gravedigger’, prompted by her father Melvin Drake who worked for a local undertaker and dug graves at Tullylish Parish Church where so many villagers are laid to rest.
Then Margaret moves on to another part of her life, as she later moved to Crossgar with her family, where one of her favourite poems is ‘Our Beautiful Lough’ - focusing on Strangford Lough and the beauties of the Ards Peninsula.
There are 49 poems in the book, covering subjects like The Titanic, Christmas, The Olympics, Love, Christmas in the Trenches and many more, ending with the colours and dancing of The Northern Lights.
She is preparing a second collection at the behest of an American publisher, with the emphasis on all things Irish like leprechauns and banshee!
‘From Gilford to the Aurora Borealis’ is on sale at the NISA store in Gilford and the Old Post Office in Waringstown, priced at £10.