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- Belfast Central Library
- People in story:
- Florence Friar Kelsey
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- Contributed on:
- 12 December 2005
Florence Friar Kelsey
It had been a tiring day cycling around the roads of Ballynahinch. I remember well free-wheeling down the three mile hill past Carryduff and Purdysburn. The sun was leaving the sky and I had to be home before dark at 10 o’clock as I had to be up the next morning in the Co-Operative. I was reprimanded by my mother when I got home. My father was just going out on night duty.
I had a lovely three days Cargycroy with my Aunt and had fairly enjoyed the break away from my work and family. I remember my mother telling me to get up shortly after we went to bed that Easter Tuesday Night. We lived on Alexander Park Avenue just right beside the D.E.M.S, which had been formerly a school and overnight it became a hospital. Our family got into the coal-hole under the stairs. When five children and my mother crammed in there was no room for me. Well, I ended up under the sturdy wooden kitchen table. I heard the siren and my mother kept impressing on that it was our guns that were making the noise. She sent me to the back door to check where this thunderous explosion had just occurred. I shall never forget the sight I saw, Sailors carrying bodies over their shoulders around to Esther Street, and the opening to the D.E.M.S. building.
The aeroplanes seemed to come over in waves and my mother kept saying they were ours. I will never forget the flashes of light that I saw at the bottom of the kitchen wall, and I knew then, being the eldest child, that what Johnny Houston said had come true. Johnny Houston, of Parkment Street, had prophesied many times that the Germans would come here. He was considered a ‘know it all,’ but he had been in the Royal Navy, and always got the ‘Reyonds View,’ a paper read by lots of ex-servicemen in pre-war days. He fascinated us children with his voyages around the world.
I remember seeing a parachute coming down, but I did not know until later in my life that it was a mine coming down. I lost school friends, and only in later years, realised how near death we were that night. My father had been on duty all night and arrived later the next day, very happy that we had been spared. We could not live in our house as it had been wrecked. Around Gainsborough Drive, beside us, was completely flattened, with awful casualties. We went to the country that next day and my mother wished we had stayed in Clogher. We felt very safe at Lessans, Saintfield, but were horrified the night of May 4th when there was another raid. That night fire-bombs were dropped on the shipyards and Shorts. We saw the red glow in the sky and were glad we had shared our refuge with our two families of neighbours in Alexander Park Avenue.
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