Family reunites at holiday home made from old Ford crates

“It is a place we all love coming back to. It has unbelievable memories for us.”

Family reunites at holiday home made from old Ford crates

Those were the words of Michael Buckley, as he and his siblings gathered outside a bungalow called St Gerards in Graball Bay, Crosshaven, one recent fine spring day.

He was only six weeks old when his family began to enjoy their summer holidays here, and recently turned 60.

The holiday home was originally built out of Ford boxes in 1955 by their father Joseph Buckley, of Barrett’s Terrace, Gurranabraher.

His mother had left him £100 in her will and he used it to buy the crates, which were popular at the time. They were salvaged from the Ford factory on the Marina, after they had been used to ship motor parts over from Dagenham. Solid and enduring, the boxes became a phenomenon around Cork and were used as dog kennels, dancing platforms and pigeon lofts.

One of the most popular uses for the crates was as holiday homes dotted along the Cork coast, in resorts like Crosshaven, Myrtleville and Fountainstown.

And that is what Joseph Buckley did with his in 1955.

This city boy erected a holiday home in scenic Crosshaven which would be used by future generations of his family to this very day. He built the house section by section at his home and took it to Crosshaven.

As his daughter Dolores O’Keeffe said: “Out of £100, the joy that he gave us all was worth millions.”

Dolores remembers bringing baby Michael to the beach from the house in his Moses basket — and today, Joseph’s great-grandchildren still call it home.

Sixty years on, four of the six siblings gathered at the house to share memories with me — Dolores, Michael, Anne Barrett and John Buckley — the latter of whom happened to be visiting from the US.

One of the first things John always wants to do when he lands back on Irish soil is to visit the holiday home in Crosshaven, which holds so many memories.

Joseph and Maura Buckley had six children in total — the two missing were the late Alex, and Mar McCullagh, who was abroad at the time.

I could see the joy on the faces of the siblings as they recalled the happy days of their youth in Crosshaven.

Michael said he always remembers sitting on the wall, watching people go by “thinking how lucky I was to be here”. Ann recalled how her mother used to bring a primus to the beach every Friday, to cook rice.

“We had great times down there,” she said. “We used tractor tyres as tubes in the sea, and were always falling out of them.

“We had knitted togs that we used to be stitching every time we came out of the salt water, it was fabulous.”

John, the eldest, recalls being corralled by his dad into helping with the upkeep of St Gerards, which had three bedrooms and a tiny kitchen.

He remembers travelling from the city to Crosshaven on the back of his father’s motorcycle in April or May, spending a day there, getting the place ready for the family, who would spend the entire summer there, before returning to the city in time for school in autumn.

“My memories would be of Camden Fort Meagher, I loved to see the flag up there, it was a sign there would be mass. We loved to go fishing off the rocks, we used to sell soft shell crabs to a guy for fishing. We all learned how to swim there.”

The family also went down to the beach with me, looking at the rock where they all used to line up and take their turns diving into the sea. They would even go for a dip at seven or eight o clock at night in their youth, depending on the tide.

We also took a stroll down to the the exact spot on the beach where they would all sit as a family.

While the seaside was a regular haunt, a highlight of the week for the youngsters was a trip to the Merries. Here, Michael recalled hearing the songs of the Sixties. The women would take the children to the funfair, and the men would go to the pub.

John said: “At 10 o’clock, the pubs would empty out and we’d get chips (at Chip Murphys) and we’d all walk home.”

They would walk with trepidation around Popham’s Corner, as there were always haunted stories being told of the site!

John said another lovely memory was the days when it rained and they played a card game called ‘gobs’ and looked out the windows, counting the cars going up and down the road.

“Then, when the rain stopped, we’d get on our Macintoshes and our mother would say ‘Let’s get out of here’,” said John.

Anne added that their mum, Maura, often brought them down to the beach with their wellies, in their raincoats, and even took umbrellas with them — it was a case of enjoying the outdoors, whatever the weather.

All the family still hold Graball Bay in their hearts and visit it regularly.

Even though he is on the other side of the Atlantic, John too holds the place dear to his heart: “The sense of place… I live in America and the attraction of the sea is extraordinary for me.

“When I am away in America, every weekend I need to go to the sea.”

And when he’s back home in Ireland, it’s the first place he wants to go back to — the place where it all began, St Gerards.

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