HARPSWELL

T wenty-five years ago, Northern Ireland was a difficult place to be, and a difficult place to be from.

“We weren’t always welcome in England, even though we were subjects,” Averil Bowman said. “It was the troubles, you see.”

Yes, “the troubles:” the ethnic, religious and nationalist conflict that occasionally spilled out of Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland, England and mainland Europe.

Terence Bowman, Averil’s husband, was a newspaper editor in Northern Ireland during the conflict. He served as editor of the Mourne Observer in Newcastle, County Down, for 24 years, from 1976 to 2011.

A YOUNG Averil and Terence Bowman on their first trip to Maine, above, in 1988 and, below, with CJ Cecil in Cecil’s “Waterview Room” on Bailey Island.

A YOUNG Averil and Terence Bowman on their first trip to Maine, above, in 1988 and, below, with CJ Cecil in Cecil’s “Waterview Room” on Bailey Island.

“Sometimes, we just had to get away from it all,” he said.

So almost on a whim, they took a package tour to see New England’s foliage in the fall of 1988.

They were hooked. Since then, almost every year, they’ve come back, sometimes twice a year, spring and fall.

The first thing they discovered is that no one in Maine cared about the conflict in Northern Ireland.

“We made good friends,” he said.

Good friends like CJ Cecil, of Bailey Island.

In 1997, they were scheduled to go to Bar Harbor for a week, but Terence was too tired. So they called their friend, Willie, with whom they’d been staying in Ogunquit, and asked her opinion about where they should stop to rest.

“You’re near Harpswell,” she said. “Go out to Bailey Island.”

She gave them the name of a seasonal motel on the island, but when they arrived, the hotel could only offer them one night. Instead, they recommended that they go across the street, where Cecil rented a room in his home to visitors — a room with a view of the harbor and the cribstone bridge.

Known as the Waterview Room, it’s available for rent to guests, but generally through word of mouth.

“It was like a tonic,” Terence said. “We were able to relax, walk along the road, drive down to Land’s End. It was like being in heaven.”

Cecil and the Bowmans became fast friends. Since then, they come up to visit him when they’re in New England.

Cecil’s never been to see them, though.

“I’m just a homebody,” he said.

They aren’t looking for excitement, though. “We like walking, stopping in and visiting our favorite restaurants, catching up with old friends,” Averil Bowman said. “We do similar things every time, but somehow we find something very different every time we visit.”

At one of their visits, they met former President George H.W. Bush in Kennebunkport. “We saw him, and I told Averil, ‘He’s going to have to pass right by us if we stand just there,’” he said with a laugh. “And so we positioned ourselves, and first, the men talking into their wrists came by, then Mr. Bush, and I stuck my hand out and told him who I was and where I was from. It was just after the peace had been worked out with Mr. Mitchell. Mr. Bush shook my hand and said, ‘I hope it works out well for you folks.’”

“He seemed like just an ordinary man,” Averil said. “He was still impressive, though.”

They’ve often come for Thanksgiving, but their longtime friend in Ogunquit had passed away recently, and so they decided to come earlier in the fall.

“We just feel at ease here,” Terence said. “It’s very similar to home, with none of the stresses. We enjoy familiarity. And we can recharge our batteries here.”

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