A sobering story

by Antony MacNaghten

Standing in Portballintrae and looking towards the Causeway, you will see Runkerry House, a large mansion that guards the stones. This was the house of Edward, the real giant of the Causeway and I should know as Edward was my grandfather’s grandfather.

Edward had a big family to fill his big house, including six daughters. None of them married – why would they, as marriage could hardly lead them to a better house, so all six sisters lived out their lives rattling around Runkerry, doing their best to look after the men of the Causeway.

In the shadow of Runkerry is a small fisherman’s hut. A man called Neil lived here and when he wasn’t fishing, he often enjoyed a bit too much of the Old Bushmills. Florence, one of the six sisters of Runkerry, came across Neil one day in a terrible state. Neil could barely stand and the sight of Neil in this state troubled Florence.

Florence MacNaghten

“Can you not stop your drinking Neil” said Florence in a state of concern.

“you swim across the bay and I’ll stop the drink” said Neil,

So Florence took up the challenge and she swam through the treacherous waters from Runkerry to Portballintrae. Neil was so impressed with this brave act of swimming by Florence that he was good to his word and he gave up the drink.

Over a hundred years later, this story of Florence is still told in the Port and in fact when a new boat was launched only a few years ago she was named the Lady Florence. I am not sure Florence would have appreciated the fact the Lady Florence was launched with a bottle of Old Bushmills!

Last year an annual swim was started so brave souls could repeat Florence’s brave swim from Runkerry to Portballintrae, but giving up the Old Bushmills was optional for those watching on.

Antony MacNaghten