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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Ballymena declares war, but life goes on

by CSV Media NI

Contributed by 
CSV Media NI
People in story: 
John Luke
Location of story: 
Ballymena, NI
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4110526
Contributed on: 
24 May 2005

This story is taken from an interview with John Luke, and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions. The interviewer was Mark Jeffers, and the transcription was by Bruce Logan.
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I was born in Ballymena, more accurately in Harryville, which although part of Ballymena has always kept its own identity, being separated from the rest of the town by the Braid River at Harryville Bridge.

I left school at age 14 and started work as a petrol pump attendant (shop assistant) in
R G McBurney’s garage which was situated at Harryville Bridge. “Algram’s” furniture store now stands on this site.

War was declared on Sunday 3rd September. I was at Sunday School and we were allowed home to hear the declaration by Neville Chamberlain at 11.15 am. There was no televison and even radios were not all that plentiful. About 15 people had gathered in our home to hear the declaration of war. Women started to cry, men were very sober as many people still had memories of the First World War which had ended only 21 years earlier. There was a general sense of fear and uncertainty as to what the future might hold.

I had to go to my work at the filling station at 1.00 pm and a worse day I can’t remember. There was thunder, lightening, heavy rain, and the streets flooded Everyone commented that it was “a bad omen.” I worked until 10.00 pm, went home and when Monday morning came I went back to work. The whole topic was the war but basically Ballymena just carried on as normal. There were plenty of stories and rumours but little else.

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Childhood and Evacuation Category
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