I AM a close friend of the incredible Gibbs
family. Hilda and one of her sisters, Jenny (her twin's name is Janice),
were the first to welcome me to Hyde County. (That's me with the twins,
below). Since then,
whole family has unofficially adopted me, so-to-speak, and I could not feel
I hail from south-east London and
grew up primarily on Denmark Hill, which is located near to Camberwell Green
where I was born (as was the artist and poet William Blake). My father, John
Charles MacIlroy, died at the age of 85 and my mother, Doris, at age of 93.
I moved to America in the early 1970s to
marry Allan Strahl who was the head of A & R for CBS Records in New
York. Before we married we lived in Jamaica where we met. I had been there
with two other London Playboy "Bunnies" (Serena Williams and Celeste) for a
kind of extended vacation that lasted about six months. Allan and I met at
the tail end of that trip.
After Allen left CBS he opened up a
talent agency with Shep Gordon called Alive Enterprises and they managed
recording artists such as County Joe and the Fish, Alice Cooper, Ann Murray
and Luther Vandross - about 30 top recording artists and song writers. A few
years later, Allen and I were divorced.
With a broken tibia and fibula from
ski-driving, I left New York with a group of hang gliders and we went
cross-country - Denver, Arizona, California and then back to Arizona.
I then took another trip to Florida
with a girlfriend and was hired by Braniff Airlines and relocated to Dallas,
Texas. I later got into commercial real estate and the business was good to
me, so good I hit a spiritual bottom.
Up until this time you could say I
was living a fast-life. Immediately following 911, I wrote "On Alert -War
and Peacetime Preparedness Manual". I used my experience as a flight attendant and training as a
occupational therapist as the means to this book.
In fall (autumn) of 2001, I
relocated from Dallas Texas to The Outer Banks of
and got back into real estate once again. I met the Gibbs family in 2003
and my life and the meaning of my life changed for the better. The slow pace
of country life really suits me.
NOW that we have found Colin and his family, I am
putting together their family tree. A large part of what I do in real estate is
research. A broker must know their area and find missing heirs so that everyone
gets paid. It's a good thing for me that Leland Gibbs (Colin, Hilda and Shine's
father) did not leave real property.
Before 1850, most black people
here were slaves, so not everyone is part of local registers. Births, deaths,
and marriage certificates are hard to find, and those that can be found may not
contain correct names. This could be due to dialect or being listed under slave
Black churches and cemeteries are
sometimes the only places to find a lead or the Archive System Records in
Raleigh since nothing was recorded locally before 1913.
There is also a strong native American influence
here, although most intermarried or moved away. Hilda's mother has both
native American and white ancestors.
Being surrounded by water - canals,
lakes, sounds and ocean - most people travelled by boat, and the men were
loggers for northern-owned sawmills. This business was booming at the turn
of the century: men went by foot to wherever there was work. Many men were
enlisted in World War 2 and most did not return to the area. The sawmills
closed and farming and fishing took its place.
Today, Hyde county consists of
about 650,000 acres and only 5,000 to 6,000 residents. I would say the
majority of people living in Hyde County are black. We have a few Mexicans
that live here year round, but most work the summer season only. Unlike
surrounding areas, white and black folk live next door to each other.
There is not
one single stop light in the whole county - just two flashing lights.
Everyone knows everyone and everyone waves to each other driving by, or
stops for a chat.
If we did not have to pay taxes and
insurance we could live off the land. The land bears the richest peat in the
country - the soil in most parts is black. Anything and everything grows
here - if you stick it in the ground!
The canals and large ditches
provide fish, crabs and oysters. White-tail deer, black bear and red
foxes roam abundantly. Due to the size of Mattamuskeet Lake every type of
bird imaginable can be seen nesting. The Island of Ocracoke, which is part
of Hyde County, is the #1 beach in America for shelling.
Therefore, these pristine white
sand beaches attract honeymooners and vacationers from all over the world.
Deep sea fishing, surf-fishing, sailing of all types, motor-sports, surfing,
wildlife refuges, attract a different group of people throughout the year.
The Outer Banks (OBX) beaches, north and south Barrier Islands and the
Outlet Mall is just an hour away.
It's pointless to wear make-up and
high-heel shoes, since shorts and flip-flops is the preferred attire. Only
on Sundays do you see someone properly dressed. Therefore, Hyde County lives
up to its slogan: "A road less traveled".
And the front porch is the best
place to be at the end of the day.