v 7.00.00
23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024


Sonia composed these informal recollections particularly for Stephan Woollcombe, son of Peter and Slobodanka, and grandson of Geoff and Edna. They evoke an era when children and teenagers spent their free time out of doors in active pursuits, and knew nothing of mobile phones and social media. Et in Arcadia ego, thank goodness.

My sister Susan and I went to boarding school, and the summer holidays were always a special time and much looked forward to. Each year (for many years) the same families would arrive from England to stay in my parents' hotel, Ardnagashel (those families were the Hills, Huddies and Woollcombes, as Robin has already mentioned, although there were others too, of course). I remember once when I had been out in my parents' sailing boat with another family to find, on my return, that Peter and Geoff and Edna had just arrived. It was wonderful, and I felt that the summer holidays had finally begun! Peter was so capable; it was always he, because of Geoff's disability, who used to unload the car and do all the heavy lifting, etc.

Susan and I had a wonderful tree house, which our father had built for us as a surprise and handed over to us on our return from school one holidays. It even had a balcony, and one climbed up to it using spikes set into the trunk of the tree. That was where we and "the gang" would often gather, and we even used to have parties up there!

There was a graveyard (cemetery) in a corner of the grounds of Ardnagashel (it housed members of the family from whom my parents had originally made the purchase), and sometimes at night we young people would all go and visit it, feeling very brave and seeing ghosts behind every bush and tree. (You can imagine it, I'm sure; ghostly noises and jumping out at each other!)

One of our favourite things was when we children would all pile into the families' cars, plus lots of swimming gear and picnic food and drive to Barley Cove (near Mizen Head, the southernmost point of Ireland), and spend the day there. Barley Cove is a fabulous big beach, with lots of sand dunes and rocks for scrambling on, and perfect for family outings.

One year we all acted in a film, which was such fun (and I think one family probably still has the cine film of the production - sounds very grand, doesn't it?) It was about the Vikings landing in England, and being repulsed by Queen Boudicca. Three or four Vikings arrived at the beach below Ardnagashel by small rowing boat, and the defending English tribesmen roared up to the sea front in David Huddie's big Bentley - and really all I can remember is that a lot of us (Vikings and English) lay about on the beach, covered in tomato ketchup (to signify blood). An epic production! (I wish I could remember if Peter was a Viking or a tribesman - but it didn't really matter, we all had a brilliant time!)

My father had a great relationship with the local Gardai (Irish police). Hotel bars were legally meant to close at a certain time (probably 11 o'clock), but the police would always telephone my father first and warn him they were about to raid the place. So my father would close the bar, and everyone would take their drinks elsewhere. Then the police would arrive and look around and say, That's fine, Colonel Kaulback, there's no problem here. And then Dad would thank them for coming and say, Now what about a drink? - and the bar would re-open and everyone would come back in, and the police would join in, and the party would continue!!

After Robin and I were married we lived at first in Norwich (he was working for his Ph.D. at the University there), so it was from there that we drove all the way to Plymouth to stay with Geoff and Edna once, to welcome Peter and Slobadanka. She was lovely, and I talked to her a lot, but I think that is the only time I ever met her. It was on that occasion that Geoff taught me that a delicious way to eat bananas is to slice them and then sprinkle them with Angostura Bitters (that's the stuff that is added to Gin to make a Pink Gin!). I immediately went and bought some Angostura!!