Local man Roy Gamble receives his
prize of a short break courtesy of the NI Tourist Board,
as well as having his story published later this year.
from Alice Murray, Northern Ireland Tourist Board and
the Ulster Star's Jenny Monroe (right).
A SHORT story depicting a morning walk in
County Down by a Hillsborough writer is one of several stories,
which have been selected to appear in a book after Morton
Newspapers in association with the Northern Ireland Tourist
Board organised a travel writing competition.
Roy Gamble, 67, was chosen as the local heat
winner after judges were impressed by his a non-fictional travel
piece describing a walk in Slieve Croob near Dromara on a
Remembrance Sunday morning.
Roy's story entitled 'Sunday morning on
Slieve Croob' will be published in the 'Give Us a Break', book
to be launched later this year, along with all the other heat
"I have been writing poetry and short stories
for most of my adult life," Roy explained. "When I saw the
competition in the paper I thought I would give it a go and when
I heard that I had won the local heat I was delighted." The
Kilwarlin Park man, who is a member of a writers group in
Lisburn, commented that he decided to write about a particular
experience in Slieve Croob because it was slightly different and
not as common as some other visitor attractions in Northern
Ireland. "It may not be the most beautiful place compared to
other areas but when you get to the top there is a lovely view.
There is also a lot of history associated with the area, " Roy
As well as having his story published, Roy will be able to
select a short break courtesy of Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
Sunday morning on Slieve Croob,
By Roy Gamble
Remembrance Sunday usually sees me walking in
Hillsborough Forest Park and timing my entrance to the village
to see the Boys Brigade Bugle Band blast their way from the
Market House to the War Memorial.
This year it was different. My son, recently
returned from a tour of the jungles of Brunei and Belize,
cajoled me into driving to Dromara and trudging to the top of
There's a fine new car park with an Information
Display Board at the bottom of the long, winding road that leads
to the summit.
'Slieve Croob' it says means 'Mountain of the
Hoof', an obvious reference to the rough acreage of tough
mountain grass and assorted vegetation to help quicken the
appetites of grazing animals.
This morning it was sheep; dozens of them,
black faces and spiralled horns spilling out across the hills,
clinging sure-footed to rocky outcrops, or grazing unafraid at
the roadside as we passed.
In the distance, two Piebald ponies,
incongruous among all that wool, stood together, heads bending
and lifting, chomping on a late breakfast.
At 534 metres, Slieve Croob is hardly in the
premier league of mountains. Everest it isn't. But none the
worse for that. And anyway, who has the time or indeed the
temerity to attempt Everest of a Sunday morning with the wife's
stern rejoinder ringing in your ears: "Don't you be late for
lunch, and mind and get the papers on your way back!"
There was ice on the road as we climbed and the
tinkle of running water from streams hidden among the grass
verges where the frost hadn't penetrated, accompanied Our
Not far from the top the road turns right, then
left as it suddenly steepens. "A bit tighter here", said my son
who regularly jogs this route when he's at home.
Then we left the road and climbed the fence
and along the wet rocks and stunted grass to the cairn on the
summit. The lesser peaks of Cratleive, Slievenisky and
Slievegarron are almost touchable in the November light. Further
away, all of County Down and bits of Antrim, Tyrone and Armagh
spin out like a wheel in a series of hills, shadowy valleys and
tiny patchwork fields.
To the north-west lies the Sperrins and Lough
Neagh and due north Belfast's protective chain of Black Mountain
on one side and the Castlereagh Hills on the other, form a
broken horseshoe around the city.
Over to the East, Strangford Lough shimmers and
sweeps south to the Quoile basin and Downpatrick. And still
further south, the long narrow spit of St. John's point with its
lighthouse just visible, its toes appearing to touch the edge of
At the other end of Dundrum Bay, the Mournes
proper take over, trundling away south-west from Newcastle to
the legendary Cu-Chulainn, County of Armagh's Ring of Gullion
and the Cooley mountains of County Louth.
At the very heart of the Mournes, the peaks
of Donard and Binnian rise from their surrounding noose of mist,
looking spiritual and mysterious, like one of those photographs
you sometimes see of the Himalayas or Tibet or the Hindi Kush.
Far out, in the south east, under an attendant
line of clouds, a cluster of hills smudged the Irish Sea. "It's
the Lake District", said my son. "No, it's the Isle of Man", I
argued. We debated it for a while, taking bearings from the sun
and various landmarks; concluding that, without proper maps and
a compass, we'd have to agree to disagree. There are four large
radio masts on a ridge near the top of Slieve Croob. On the
smallest of them - a square structure with platforms and signal
dishes - eight ravens roosted and gossiped in a series of hoarse
croaks and barks.
"In ornithological terms," I said. "That
collection of birds is known as an 'Unkindness of Ravens'."
"Smart ass," said my son.
They say the Luftwaffe squadrons on their flight
path to bomb Belfast in April, 1941 came in from the East, made
their turn over the Dromara hills and flew down the Lagan Valley
to attack the docks and shipyard. I wonder what sort of a fist
the German pilots and Navigators made of their pronunciation of
the guttural Gaelic of Slieve Croob and Legananny and
Slievenaboley But that was all many years ago.
My son looked at his watch, "Eleven o'clock" he
said. And with the wind murmuring and plucking at our clothes,
and the ravens calling, we stood without speaking and watched
the sun shining and the shadows playing over all we could see,
the peaceful counties of Ulster.