Monthly Archives: May 2020

Orangemen Return to Carleton Street Orange Hall 1944

Orangemen Return to Carleton Street Orange Hall 1944

Before Victory in Europe in 1945, the Orangemen and Orangewomen of Portadown could return to Carleton Street Orange Hall.  The Hall had been under military control to both the British and American Troops at different periods of time during the 2nd World War.

To mark the occasion a function was held in the Town Hall in 1944.

“The large and enthusiastic representative audience spoke volumes for the virility of the Order in the Portadown District and augurs well for its future progress here”.

 

The assembly room in the Town Hall was ‘attractively decorated’ with bunting, greenery and flowers.  This added a ‘welcome touch of warmth’.

“Everyone was in good spirits and keen to resume the good work of the order”.

Dr Dougan and the Orange Influence

In his opening address, District Master Dr George Dougan said that ‘they had a great deal for which to be thankful for.  They were grateful to get back again and it would make a great difference to the Order in the District’.

In his speech conclusion, Dr Dougan conveyed to the meeting a message of good wishes from sister Louisa Shillington, widow of the former District Master, Major David Graham Shillington.

Service

Parkmount Flute Band led the music entertainment, their conductor was Brother Albert Wilson.  Songs were performed by Brother Harold McAfee, Brother Leslie Hurst and Brother Jack Menaul.

Secretary of the Orange Hall Committee, Brother Herbert Whitten, who had been at the forefront of all negotiations with the British and American Military authorities regarding the Hall, gave an interesting survey of matters concerning the hall since its requisition by the military.

A number of speeches followed.

The Ladies

There was a short interval in the service and tea was served.  This was provided by two of the Women’s Orange Lodges, WLOL 62 and WLOL85. The District Mistress, Sister Dougan, organised the refreshments ‘with an efficiency that earned the praise of all present’.

With the interval over, Parkmount Flute Band once again took to the stage to provide musical entertainment.

Presentation

One surprise item came at the end of the evening.  Mr Callender Bullock made a presentation (on behalf of his wife) from the members of Portadown Women’s Unionist Association, to Dr George Dougan.  It was a ‘beautiful paper knife’.

The evening Concluded with the National Anthem.

 

 

Portadown Soldier’s Ordeal: Home for VE Celebrations after 5 years as a Prisoner of War

Portadown Soldier’s Ordeal: Home for VE Celebrations after 5 years as a Prisoner of War

After having spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war in the hands of the Germans, Fusilier James Hughes of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers returned home in time to experience the VE Celebrations.

Fusilier Hughes returned to his home at 13 Fowlers Entry, Portadown. He was met at Watson Street Railway Station by Mr R J Magowan, Chairman of the Urban District Council, Mr Geo McGowan, Town Clerk, and Mr R Heathwood, B.E.M.

Fusilier Hughes’ widowed Mother, Mary, and other members of his family were of course overjoyed to see him.  Some of the younger members of the family had never met him.  Some of his younger siblings had only a handful of memories of him before the war and didn’t know what he looked like.

He was described as

“looking little the worse of his long period in German war prisoner compounds”.

First Visit

One of the first visits for Fusilier Hughes on his return was to the News Office.  There he requested a public thank you to be published to the local citizens for their support of the Red Cross Prisoners of War Fund.

“these parcels reached us regularly, though the Germans had been ghoulish enough to open them and merely hand over about half of what was intended for the men to whom they were dispatched”.

Fusilier Hughes

He also acknowledged parcels sent by Mr George Hughes, 13 South Street.  Although he never personally received the packages.

The Parcels

One of the main contributors to the parcels for local men being held in German prisoner of war camps , was Portadown Women’s Orange District.  They worked alongside Portadown Women’s Unionist Association.

Sister Louisa Shillington, was one of the main organisers and a driving force behind donations for the appeal.  It was something close to her heart as she had lost her son, Tom Shillington, and nephew, Geoffrey Shillington Cather, in the First World War.  Her Husband, David Graham Shillington had sadly died in 1944 and never saw the war come to an end.

Louisa Shillington (Nee Collen)
Image courtesy of Shillington Family records

David Graham Shillington was MP for the area and was District Master of Portadown Orange District LOL No 1 right up until his death.  He had been a company commander in the local Ulster Volunteer Force during the Home Rule Crisis and went on to become a Major in the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers during the First World War. He had also took over the family firm T A Shillington & Son (now Haldane and Fisher) after his father died suddenly when he was 16.

Enlistment

Fusilier Hughes, who in civilian life, had been employed by Mr Edward Cassells of Woodhouse Street, enlisted in 1936.

He was taken prisoner at Ypres, Belgium on 27th May 1940.  Some of the places he had been to in the course of his travels across Germany, some of them in forced marches, included Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Marienwerder and Danzig.

Dunkirk

Fusilier Hughes had been in Berlin when the Dunkirk Evacuation took place.  During his incarceration he had acquired a good understanding of the German language.

While a prisoner he was allowed one letter home per week, but since the Normandy Invasion correspondence ceased and at all times contact with German civilians was strictly  forbidden.

The bombing by the RAF and USAAF gave the Allied war prisoners cause for anxiety, as at times their camp had narrow escapes.

Experiences

Fusilier Hughes described the Germans as harsh. On one occasion he escaped from the camp and enjoyed four days of freedom.  He was caught by the Gestapo, taken to their headquarters and severely beaten.

He described the occasions of forced marches as gruelling.   The Supreme headquarters of the Allied Nations had dropped leaflets into Germany demanding more consideration to the welfare of their prisoners, but no improvement in camp conditions was noticed.

Liberation

Liberation came when the 8th American Army reached Hamburg.  The Russian Forces converged at the same time.  Another local man they set free was George McCarragher from Obins Street, Portadown.

Fusilier Hughes arrived by Lancaster at Croydon. There, liberated prisoners of war were met with crowds and fellow servicemen and women to welcome them back. James then continued to Stranraer and arrived back in Northern Ireland via Larne.

Home Thoughts

One thing that surprised Fusilier Hughes on his arrival home was the small extent of the damage by air raids.  In Germany, all the big cities he had passed through were completely flattened.

Fusilier Hughes was given 6 weeks leave with double rations which were to help towards his complete recovery from undernourishment.  He was to rejoin his unit on 28th June 1945.

His Father, the late Mr James Hughes Senior, had served in the 1st World War with The Royal Engineers and The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Portadown Streets are decorated for VE Day 1945

Portadown Streets are decorated for VE Day 1945

The Portadown people rose to the occasion of the VE Celebrations as flags and bunting were displayed throughout the town.

“There was a splash of colour on every hand.  Most prominent, as might be expected was the Union Flag and this was closely followed by that of the USA and the USSR.  Of the other flags there was a good proportion of the national emblem of Belgium, whose troops are on local soil. It was a nice gesture on the part of so many of our citizens to lay more than usual emphasis on the exhibition of the Belgian flag”.

Extra lighting

The Northern Ireland Electricity Board had increased the available restricted lighting facilities in the Main Street. This was supplemented by illumination from several of the shops, the shop owners had allowed their lights to remain burning.

Shops were also decorated for the occasion.  Those given particular mention in the records are R Corbett & Sons and A J Eakins.  They are described as ‘exquisitely decorated’.

Well known buildings

The Town Hall facade was described as a “work of art and it looked very pretty in the reflection of the floodlights when darkness fell”.  The flags of the Union and many of the Allied countries were displayed on flag poles outside.  There was also boxes of flowers in the windows.

The Regal Cinema also had a similar display of flags and at night it was ‘brightly illuminated’.

Orange Halls

There was also an attractive display of flags and bunting at Carleton Street Orange Hall.  All the other Orange Halls throughout Portadown District also rose to the occasion.

“It is impossible to detail what was done in every street to signalise the spontaneous outpouring of joy and gratitude which found an outlet everywhere  in town”.

 

Mourneview Street

Mourneview Street is given particular mention in the archives.  ‘The Air Raid Shelter was painted red, white and blue and surmounted by ‘V’ signs’.  On top a loud speaker relayed the radio programmes.  The street is described as being “profusely decorated with bunting reaching across the roadway at every possible point and Union Jacks floating from the residences”.

Three residents donned ‘German’ clothing, one impersonating Hitler and the other two his guards.  Their appearance caused much laughter for the street and a collection from the residents was donated to the local nursing society.

One resident, Mrs Doak of 22 Mounrneview Street, caused quite a stir with her famous curtains in her sitting room.  They were made from red, white and blue material.  Mrs Doak had first put them up during the 1901 celebrations at the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.  The other occasion which they had made an appearance was during the Armistice period in 1918.

The same spark which animated the Mourneview Street residents was also to be found in all the other districts of the town.

Marley Street’s Unique Decorations

The local Roman Catholic communities had their premises and residences decorated with bunting and the flags of the Allied Nations during the celebrations. In Marley Street for example, a huge Union Jack hung right across the centre of the roadway, while other decorations included a blood-stained ensign brought home from Palestine by one of the many men from the vicinity serving in H.M Forces.

St Patrick’s Hall in Thomas Street was also decorated inside and outside, while St Patrick’s Recreation Club premises in Thomas Street was also decorated.

Post Office

The telephone operators at Portadown Exchange reported ‘a big increase in the number of calls being made, even the cross-channel lines being kept more busy’.  Nevertheless, at the GPO time was found to decorate the whole building before work began.

 

The Bonfires to Celebrate VE Day 1945

The Bonfires to Celebrate VE Day 1945

Bonfires have been used for centuries to celebrate and mark historical occasions.  The VE Celebrations were no different.

Organised Bonfires were set alight at several locations in the town.  The first one was ignited in High Street.

An effigy of Hitler was the source of entertainment when it was carried through the town. The effigy was hoisted on to scaffolding by locals with the help of Servicemen, including Belgian Soldiers, who were ‘delighted with the experience’ and the introduction to the Northern Ireland Bonfire Tradition.

The large collection of boxes and timber of all descriptions made up the bonfire.  It was set on fire and the crowds cheered as the effigy went up in flames.

Main Bonfire

The main Bonfire of the evening took place in the Fair Green.  The local Boy Scouts, under the guidance and leadership of Commissioner Cyril Abraham, had built the large structure.

A large crowd of people gathered to watch. The occasion was opened  by the band of the Salvation Army.  They played the hymns ‘O God our Help in ages past’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

Dr George Dougan MP and District Master of Portadown Orange District LOL No 1 led the speeches.

“We are met here to celebrate  the greatest victory ever, this will become more apparent as we see the fruits of the success.  We are this evening honouring the Boy Scouts who have arranged this fire.  The future of this district in particular and the province in general, is in good hands when guided in any way by Boy Scouts who carry out work of great usefulness”.

Captain Ian Graham of the Royal Army Service Corps had connections with scouting in America.  In his speech he stated:

“I am greatly honoured at being asked to join the ceremony this evening. It would give American Scouts great pleasure if they knew an American Scout had been invited to the proceedings “.

Mr R J Magowan, Chairman of the Urban District Council, stated:

“Once again we see that where the Union Jack flies man is free.  Portadown has played a wonderful part in the waging of the war during the past 5 or 6 years.  Every section of service has had its share of the support of their people, the Armed Services, Shipyards, Factories, Civil Defence , Home Guard and the farms.  We all feel proud of the triumph which has been achieved and that our province is still attached to the British Empire”.

“Portadown is very proud of all of her Men and Women in H.M Services and it remains for those at home to make this a better place to which they will return”.

Speeches were also heard from Mr H Murray, President of the the British Legion and Mr W.A Mullen.

A Community Together

Mr T A Shillington, President of the Portadown and District Boy Scouts Association, placed a lighted torch to the bonfire. The Bonfire was a mass flame in a few short minutes and spread ‘light across the entire neighbourhood’.

As the fire burned the Band led the people in community singing. Mr Joshua Bell had led the proceedings with announcing those giving speeches.  He finished with the famous lines from Laurence Binyon’s poem in memory of the fallen ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’.  This was followed by ‘a short silence of respect to the gallant dead’.

The Lords prayer was recited by the Rev H W Plunkett.  The crowd sang the hymn ‘Abide with me’ and the National Anthem concluded the event.

Symbolic

The burning of the effigy of Hitler was described as:

“symbolic of the ending of the Nazi tyranny of mind and soul, and the lighting of the four torches symbolised the four freedoms and the rekindling of a new home of freedom, brotherhood and peace for mankind”.

Other Bonfires

Bonfires were set alight in several other locations in the town.  Some of those recorded in our archives are John Street, South Street and Meadow Lane. The Bonfires were described as a ‘magnificent event’.

Especially for the young children who experienced them for the first time.  The normality of Bonfires being built and set alight in July to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne had not happened for the duration of the 2nd World War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenes of unbound enthusiasm as Portadown Celebrates VE Day 1945

Scenes of unbound enthusiasm as Portadown Celebrates VE Day 1945

In 1945, the victory celebrations in Portadown were estimated to be far above those of any provincial town in Northern Ireland.

The VE Celebrations in the town lasted an entire week.  Each night throughout the week, large crowds gathered throughout the streets for games and dancing.

Saturday Celebrations with the Bands

During the day, from the roof of the air raid shelter on the Main Street, near St Marks Parish Church, Edgarstown Accordion Band played music for the crowds to dance to.  At the junction of High Street, Portadown Pipe Band played music for some ‘old time traditional dancing’.

On the Saturday evening, there was ‘open air entertainment’, in which Derrykeevin Pipe Band and Battlehill Pipe Band participated.

The ‘Bewitching Hour’

Just before the clock of St Marks Church chimed midnight, the large crowds gathered, sang the hymns ‘Abide with me’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.  This was concluded with the National Anthem.

It was recorded, that during this particular period of rejoicing and celebrating, not a single unpleasant incident took place to ruin the harmony which was evident throughout the town and the community. This was something that the town took much pride in.

Sunday’s observance in the Churches

On the Sunday there was a United Thanksgiving service for the youth.

Morning Church services in the Protestant Churches were well attended. In the afternoon, more than 800 boys and girls, representing every youth organisation in the town including the Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps, paraded to the ‘United service of Thanksgiving’ in Edenderry Presbyterian Church.

“The varied uniforms seen on parade made a colourful picture as the lengthy parade made its way along the main streets to the church”.

Weather Interruptions

As is normal with the unpredictable weather in Northern Ireland, the rain arrived which was not expected. The ‘United service of Thanksgiving’ was originally planned to take place as an open air service at Shamrock Park.  Edenderry Presbyterian church offered to host the service instead.

The following bands took part:

  • St Marks Old Boys
  • Thomas Street Old Boys
  • Salvation Army Silver Band
  • Seagoe Church Lads Brigade
  • Portadown Pipe Band

An estimated 1,200 managed to find a seat in the church and the many who had to remain outside had the service relayed to them by a loud speaker van. The service was led by the younger ministers of the town.  The first part was taken by the Rev Cecil Owens of Edenderry Methodist Church, the lesson was read by Rev D Bothwell of St Marks Parish Church and the act of remembrance was taken by the Rev H W Plunkett of Thomas Street Methodist Church.

The address was was given by the Rev P W Gowing, Senior Curate of St Marks, who spoke of the joy with which ‘they had received the news of the victory of the Allied Forces, yet many mourned the loss of loved ones who had sacrificed their lives for us’.

” Those people must never be forgotten.  The young boys and girls  gathered together today are the men and women of the future, from which great things are expected, and I know they will not let us down.  They have to try and make for a better world because that was why their men had died in battle”.

The Last Post and Reveille during the Act of Remembrance were sounded by the buglers from Seagoe Church Lads Brigade.

Evening Service

There was a Thanksgiving Service in Portadown Baptist Meeting House on the evening of VE Day. At the close of the service the King’s speech was relayed after which the congregation united in singing the National Anthem.

Historic Flag Flown at Drumcree

As part of the VE Celebrations, a Union Jack with a history was flown from a window in Drumcree Rectory.  The Flag is the one which the rector Rev F J Halahan carried with him when serving as a Chaplin in the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in the Great War.