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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.