- Contributed by
- CSV Media NI
- People in story:
- Hazel Collins
- Location of story:
- Northern Ireland
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 July 2005
This story has been transcribed and published by Mark Jeffers, with permission from the author.
I was evacuated as a child in the war. I was a townie; I didn’t know anything about the country. I don’t know how it came about (the evacuation). I think it was something to do with churches and which church you belonged to. Maybe you had to come and put your name down. We were the five oldest, and then the two youngest which was my brother and my sister, they were evacuated as well but they went with a nursery school. A nursery school took them but we weren’t very long away. When I did come back I think the other four went away again somewhere, I can’t remember where they went. Being separated was awful; I did not like it at all.
To me the country was just all long grass but it wasn’t long grass, it was probably corn and they didn’t like it when we beat it down. There were five of us and we were called “The Refugees.” We ran through the long grass and one time it was an awful sunny day and we took all our clothes off. We took every stitch off us and ran. Somebody saw us at a distance and screamed because we had flattened all this down and we knew nothing about it.
First we went from Belfast to a place in Enniskillen. The lady who took us in had been an actress in her day. We didn’t want to be apart and it was hard to find places to go because no everyone wanted five youngsters. I was the oldest. She took us in until she found somewhere and I think we were taken to Portglenone. We went to a farm and I don’t really know how long we were there for but I didn’t like it one single bit. My mother had married a second time and my step-father came down and brought us all home. It was just the children who were evacuated, the parents stayed behind. I remember having the gas masks and having the wee thing over my neck. We all had gas masks and because I was the oldest in the family and all the young ones had, we called them Mickey Mouse gas masks; they had wee long noses. The government handed them out and when the war was over you had to hand them all back. I’m just sorry I didn’t hang on to a couple of them because I don’t think they would have missed them there was so many in our family.
Of course there were rations as well for food and clothes. The clothes bit didn’t annoy us so much because we were kids and you could hand things down. But when you became a teenager things still were very scarce, even when the war ended. I remember when I got married, this was after the war, and living next door to me was a soldier. Well, they were living in married quarters and she was a German girl. I remember them inviting us in for a cup of tea and I just couldn’t get over her. She was sitting with fresh cream and we could not even get it! Imagine a German getting fresh cream! I was raging because she had this fresh cream and we couldn’t even get it. I don’t know where she got it from.
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