Local History by Seán Beattie


Joyce Cary and Tremone Bay

061Picture shows group at Tremone Bay on the occasion of a memorial to D’Arcy McGee.

Joyce Cary was born in 1888 and died in 1957. He is ranked among the top 100 writers in the English language in a recent Sunday Times listing and drew huge audiences when he toured America in 1951. He belonged to a family that held posts of distinction in church administration, media, the colonial service and the arts. Born in Derry, he was a regular visitor to Tremone Bay and stayed with the Elkin family. The current owner of the house is James Elkin and his wife Rene. Cary has written about the golden sands of Tremone in his memoirs which are in Oxford University. James Elkin’s grandmother “laid out” Joyce Cary’s mother when she died at Falmore House. Tremone House was a country guest residence of a high standard in the late 1800s and early 1900s and the family guest book is proof of this. Few people are aware of the distinguished guests who stayed here and enjoyed the waters of Tremone, as I did myself many years ago. The Belfast essayist, Harold Munro, better known as Saki, was a regular visitor to Elkins while he resided in the coastguard station nearby, then known as Caraig Cnoc. The Bigger family – businessmen, writers and politicans – also called here. The sailing ships that crossed the bay on their way to America from Derry were owned by the Cookes and McCorkells who spent their summer holidays at Tremone and watched their ships taking thousands of emigrants to the New World. A letter I received from the writer Sholto Cooke (author of The Maiden City and the Western Ocean confirms this). The rebel Young Irelander Thomas D’Arcy McGee escaped from here in 1848 with a price on his head and later became one of the founding fathers of Canada, only to be assassinated by a Fenian for his efforts at peace-making. McGee was disguised as a priest and was given a safe house by the local Catholic curate at the behest of Bishop McGinn of Derry. The daughter of the local landlord, James Steele Nicholson, had her own private bathing pool close to the rocks in the picture above. So Tremone has its history, not to mention the ship wrecks, poteen making, horse racing, football matches, drownings, crab hunting, kelp making, plane crashes and other events.

Today it is incorrectly called TRA-MONE. Older people always pronounced it THUR-MONE  and I often wondered why. The word TUAR  is the Gaelic word for a bleach green or field and flax was grown extensively in the area. The MONE  part is from MOIN  meaning turf, so it the bleach green surrounded by the bog. It is often assumed that it  should be TRA – MONE because there is a sandy beach and the Gaelic word for a beach is TRA.

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