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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Joyce Cleland's Wartime Memories

by The Clelands of Belfast

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The Clelands of Belfast
People in story: 
Joyce Cleland
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Contributed on: 
07 May 2005

I was born in 27 October 1936 in the docks area of Belfast. During the war, I was evacuated to an isolated country area just outside Ballinahinch, County Down. When I was five, I started school At Magherahamill Primary School with my friend Mary McIlwaine. Although I am a Catholic, I attended this Protestant school because there was no local Catholic school. I enjoyed this school and made many friends there. I also benefited from getting home early on occasions because I didn’t have to stay for religion classes. The only downside was that the Parish Priest once visited my mother, Jane Crawford, to tell her that we would be excommunicated if she didn’t send my brother Alex, my cousin Paddy and I to a Catholic school!

Occasionally, we returned to Belfast for short visits and there were usually bombings because our family home was in the docks area, which was a prime target for bombers. For safety, we were taken to St Paul’s Church and Hall on the Falls Road.

I remember the rationing and how hard it was to get the full range of food we all now take for granted. However, because of their work at the docks, my granda, Paddy Murray, and uncles (Sammy, Andy, Billy and Paddy Murray) were often given apples, oranges, bananas and plums because of crate breakages and spillages. So we were really spoiled compared to other wartime children.

When my granny, Annie Murray, visited us in Ballinahinch she got chickens and fresh eggs and country butter — all the things she couldn’t get in Belfast. She brought us fruit and sweets — the things you could get at the docks but not in the country! When the American boats came in, we even got chewing gum and chocolate — we had the best of both worlds — city and country!

When I was 9, I returned to North Thomas Street, Belfast, re-united with my family of dockers and boatmen. My husband Jim Cleland, funnily enough had been evacuated to the same part of County Down during the war.

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