- Contributed by
- The Clelands of Belfast
- People in story:
- Jim Cleland
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 May 2005
I was born in Belfast on 27 December 1935 and, in 1939, I was an evacuee just outside Castlewellan, County Down, Northern Ireland. However despite our family home being just yards from a munitions factory in Belfast, my mother, Ena Cleland, did not like being an evacuee and so we only spent a year in the country. When I was 5, my family and I returned to Belfast and I was enrolled at St Gall’s Public Elementary School.
I enjoyed my time at St Gall’s and have many memories of the De La Salle Brothers. Of all the teachers, the best was Brother Malachy who could speak 9 languages! The only lay teacher was Hector McDonald, a great artist and music teacher. His early inspiration led me to later take up a part-time job with Gracey and Long, Artists and Lithographers — before eventually going to work with my father as a baker and cake decorator.
World War II also gave me many memories. Sirens! When the sirens went off, my brothers Jack and Percy, my sister Frances and I dived under a large wooden table in the house! I also remember the time a bomb destroyed four houses in Iris Street — the bomb was destined for Mackie’s Foundry on the Springfield Road.
My father, Percy Cleland, a baker by trade in Bernard Hughes Bakery on the Springfield Road, was an ARP Warden. He once escorted dozens of families from Iris Drive and Springfield Avenue, Fort Street and Forfar Street — taking them to safety, underneath a bridge at the bottom of Gorfin Street. I also remember when an air raid shelter in Percy Street was bombed and a large number of people were killed. I still recall my father telling us about the horror of taking their bodies to be laid out for identification to the Swimming Baths on the Falls Road.
Although my time in County Down was short — little did I know that my future wife, Joyce Cleland (nee Crawford), was only a few miles away, having also been evacuated to that area from her home in the docks area of Belfast.
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