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.

 

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.

 

New Exhibition at Carleton Street Orange Hall

New Exhibition at Carleton Street Orange Hall

Portadown Heritage Tours are hosting the Memorials to Sacrifice Exhibition at Carleton Street Orange Hall and Heritage Centre for the month of February.

The Memorials to Sacrifice Exhibition highlights Orange Halls, throughout Northern Ireland, that were built as memorials in the aftermath of the Great War.  ‘Memorials to Sacrifice’ is the latest initiative by the Museum of Orange Heritage marking the centenary of the Armistice, and the contribution of members of the Orange Institution on the front line.

Why the Exhibition is so important to Carleton Street Orange Hall.

Carleton Street Orange Hall and Heritage Centre has its own story to tell about it’s place in the Great War and the many Orangemen of Portadown District who paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who came home again.

Carleton Street Orange Hall is home to the Ex-Servicemen’s Lodge and Preceptory of Portadown District.  The Lodge was formed in 1946 after the Second World War and the Preceptory was formed a couple of years later in 1949.  Its members were made up of First and Second World War Veterans.  This year Portadown Ex-Servicemen’s RBP 326 will celebrate its 70th Anniversary.

The reasons these Memorial halls were built after the war reflect the same meaning behind the formation of the Ex-Servicemen’s Lodge.  It was a place ex-soldiers could socialise, reminisce and have a brotherhood after the armed forces.

 

History behind the Exhibition

It is estimated upwards of 20 halls owned or primarily used by Orange Lodges were erected as memorials to Orangemen who paid the supreme sacrifice during the First World War.  Such properties remain actively used by the Institution at locations across Northern Ireland, including Randalstown, Muckamore, Tullylish, Templepatrick, Dungannon and Ballymacarrett in East Belfast.

Accompanying Booklet

There is an accompanying booklet with the exhibition which can be purchased.  The Booklet states;

“The War Memorial Orange Halls were not just erected to provide a meeting place for Lodges and Preceptories, they also provided a place where Ex-Servicemen could meet to socialise and to reminisce.  They also provided a place in which the core values of the Orange Order could be presented to members of the local community”.

The halls were often built by the brethren or by Ex-Servicemen and often had facilities-for example, washrooms, toilets, central heating, electricity- that were still absent in many residential properties.

 

Commenting on the exhibition, museum curator Jonathan Mattison said “We are delighted to launch this educational national travelling exhibition and informative booklet, which underlines the extent and contribution of Orangeism to the Great War, and its lasting legacy for local communities.

Opening Times

The exhibition will be on show in the Heritage Centre of Carleton Street Orange Hall for the month of February.  It will be open Monday-Thursday 9:15am until 4:15pm and Friday 9:15am until 1:15pm.  For visitors who can’t make it during the day, it was also be open on Tuesday and Thursday evenings 7:30pm until 8:30pm.

Everyone Welcome!

For parents and guardians, there is also a Kids activity corner available with lots of  fun activities relating to the Great War.  This will keep the kids busy allowing the parents and guardians time to enjoy the exhibition.

 

Exhibition Information provided by Museum of Orange Heritage. 

The Historical Significance of Portadown’s War Memorial

The Historical Significance of Portadown’s War Memorial

Portadown and District War Memorial was rededicated and names added on Sunday 28th September 2018.

The commemoration service saw the unveiling and rededication of the Portadown War Memorial with 101 names added.  It was unveiled by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for County Armagh The Earl of Caledon KCVO JP.  The names were researched by local Historian Richard Edgar.  This service was similar to the service that had been held in the same place by our forefathers on 13th November 1925.

Standards of the RBL

Commemoration Parade

The Band of the Royal Irish Regiment

 

Meaning of the Portadown War Memorial.

The memorial consists of a bronze statue group representing an angel alighting on the battlefield.  The angel is about a place a wreath upon the head of a wounded soldier, denoting fortitude, courage and sacrifice to his country in still trying to carry on, despite his wounds.  The base on which the the angel is mounted is composed of sandbags and a fallen gas mask, descriptive of the battlefield.

The soldier on the memorial is at the moment of his death.  As he is falling the angel of victory is placing a crown of olive leaves on his head.  This represents victory in the face of danger.  The angel will then lift his soul, and those of all the Portadown fallen heavenward. The statues stand on on a pedestal of Irish granite, upon each side of which are the bronze panels containing the names of the fallen as well as a dedication panel on the front of the memorial.

St Marks Church and Top of Town War Memorial

The unveiling of the Town War Memorial in 1925

On Friday 13th November 1925, the Portadown War Memorial was unveiled by Lieutenant-General Sir Travers Clarke in the presence of the Northern Ireland Prime Minister Sir James Craig, the Lord Primate Most Rev. Dr D’Arcy, and an enormous crowd of residents of the town and district.  During the dedication a crowd assembled in Market Street directly in front of the memorial.

Three guards of honour were formed by men from the Royal Irish Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Rifles and local ex-servicemen.  A choir under the conductorship of Mr W.F.Wood led the praise and the band of the 1st Seaforth Highlanders accompanied the choir.  There were also Girl Guides, Girls Life Brigade, Boys Brigade, Boys Life Brigade, Boy Scouts and the Orange Order.

First unveiling of town war memorial in 1925

 

Why names were not added at the time

For the younger generation to understand, what needs to be made clear is that there was no internet, TV news, radio or phones. Individuals relied on the local papers for news and appeals for names.  Literacy skills would have played big part in this, not everyone could read at this time.  The Royal British Legion point out quite clearly that no one was left off deliberately each individual had a unique story.

Names that were added

The Following 101 names from men and women of the 1st and 2nd World War were added on Sunday 28th October 2018.

  • Allen, Joesph 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, Drumannon Annaghmore
  • Andrews, John Walker 150th Field Company Royal Engineers, Garvaghy Road
  • Bell, John George 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, Eglish
  • Benson, Samuel U.S Army 9th Infantry Regiment 2nd Division, Tartaraghan
  • Berry, John 6th Royal Irish Rifles, Belfast ( Portadown Native)
  • Boyd, John 3rd Irish Guards, Coleraine (Portadown Native)
  • Black, Joesph 14th Royal Irish Rifles, Portadown
  • Black, Joesph Henry  15th Royal Irish Riflles, Belfast (Portadown Native )
  • Buller, David 11th Highland Light Infantry, Glasgow (Portadown Native)
  • Campbell, James 7th Royal Irish Rifles, Thomas Street
  • Cinnamond, Benjamin, 1st Royal Irish Rifles, Portadown
  • Collen, William Stewart, 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusillers, Edenderry
  • Commack, Edward 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, Belfast (Portadown Native)
  • Connor, John Royal Irish Fusiliers, Montague Street
  • Cooke, G Seaforth Highlanders, Portadown
  • Cooper, Alfred Henry 143rd Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery, Portadown
  • Cordner, James Wilson (M.C) 17th Royal Irish Rifles, Portadown
  • Cox, James Joesph Irish Guards, Belfast (Portadown Native, Corcrain)
  • Craig, James Royal Irish Fusillers, Portadown
  • Davidson, Thomas 8th Royal Irish Rifles, Belfast (Portadown Native)
  • Docherty, James 2nd Royal Scots, Scotland (Portadown Native)
  • Douglas, Willam John 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, William Street
  • Ensor, George Clark 7th Canadian Infantry, Ardress House
  • Fallon, Hugh 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Curran Street
  • Fitzpatrick, John 1st East Lancashire Regiment, Portadown
  • Finlay, James Millard 123rd Ordnance Depot Company US Army, Edenderry
  • Forde, Samuel James 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, Cloncarrish
  • Freeburn, David 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers, Portadown
  • Gilpin, Isaac 2nd Durham Light Infantry, Florence Court
  • Gilpin, Robert 6th Northamptonshire Regiment, Annaghmore
  • Gilmour, Robert 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Timakeel
  • Gillespie, Francis Royal Irish Regiment, Railway Street
  • Hardy, John 5th Trench Mortar Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, Portadown
  • Haughey, Patrick 9th Royal Munster Fusiliers, Portadown
  • Henderson, Thomas 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers, Portadown
  • Hill, Leonard 8th Royal Irish Rifles, Portadown
  • Hogarth, Herbert Plunket 7th Signal Company, Royal Engineers, High Street
  • Horner, David 2nd Kings Rifle Corps, Portadown
  • Hughes, Isaac 8th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Portadown
  • Irwin, William David 9th Royal Irish Rifles, Tarson, Kernan
  • Jackson, Arthur Saunderson 8th Royal Irish Rifles, Portadown
  • Johnston, William 13th Royal Irish Rifles, Drumcree
  • Kennedy, Francis William Canadian Expeditionary Force, Cloncarrish
  • Keough, R 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Portadown
  • Long, James 1st (Kings own) Royal Lancaster Regiment, Portadown
  • Magowan, Thomas 10th Cameroonians, Scottish Rifles, Eglish
  • Marley, Michael John 1st Royal Irish Rifles, West Street
  • Matchett, Robert John New Zealand Rifle Brigade, Birches
  • McCabe, Thomas 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers, Portadown
  • McCann, Mathew Austrialian Infantry, Drumcree
  • McFarland, Thomas David 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, Annaghmore
  • McGuiness, Daniel 7th royal Irish Fusiliers, Belfast (Portadown Native)
  • McKenna, Joesph Michael 7th Royal Irish Fusiliers, Bann Street
  • McKeown, Charles 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, Portadown
  • McReynolds, John Archibald 10th Royal Irish Rifles, Clonmakate
  • McVeigh, John Royal Garrison Artillery, Curran Street
  • Millar, George Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, Portadown
  • Murray, Herbert Mayne 7th Canadian Machine Gun Corps, Ballinary House
  • Nunn, Harold Edwin 1st Norfolk Regiment, Woodhouse Street
  • O’Hanlon, Samuel 1st Royal Irish Regiment, Tartaraghan
  • Patton, John 3rd Royal Irish Rifles, Portadown
  • Proctor, Archibald, Machine Gun Corps, Harford Street
  • Rea, William 73rd Canadian Infantry, Balteagh
  • Ruddell, William Alexander 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Portadown
  • Simpson, William James 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, Annaghmore
  • Spence, William 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, Portadown
  • Stevenson, Thomas John 26th Battalion Australian Infantry, Portadown
  • Stitt, Thomas1st Royal Irish Rifles, Portadown
  • Stratton, John H.M.S Natal Royal Navy, Park Road
  • Tate, Isobel Addey Serbian Relief Fund, Friends War Victims Relief Committee (attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps) High Street
  • Taylor, William (M.M.) 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, Portadown
  • Turley, Edward 2nd Royal Irish Regiment, Portadown
  • Uprichard, William 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers, Portadown
  • Walsh, James 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, Derrycoose, Annaghmore
  • Whittle, John 1st Royal Irish Rifles, Portadown
  • Willis, Alexander 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Derrycoose, Annaghmore
  • Woods, Samuel James 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, Lower Seagoe
  • Woods, Thomas 8th Royal Irish Rifles, Annaghmore
  • Wright, Robert 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, Cranagill, Annaghmore

2nd World War

  • Bell, George Wilfred  S.S Thornliebank (Glasgow) Merchant Navy, Portadown
  • Benson, John George Pioneer Corps, Portadown
  • Burke, Aubrey 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles, Portadown
  • Cole, Norman Royal Navy H.M.S Renown, Ballinagone
  • Gibson, James 12th Battery, 3 Searchlight Regiment Royal Artillery, Portadown
  • Hamill, James S.S Ville d’Arlon Merchant Navy, Portadown
  • Hazlett, Samuel Alexander Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Canada ( Native of Portadown)
  • Hewitt, Robert Ernest British Expeditionary Force, Lisniskey
  • Hutchinson, William Robert Toronto Scottish Regiment , Tarson
  • Kane, Samuel 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, Tarson
  • Kane, Vincent 8 Battery 4 Light A.A. Regiment, Park Road
  • Lutton, William John Kirkpatrick H.M.S Illustrious, Royal Navy, Montague Street
  • McCullough, David, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, West Street
  • McDonald, Peter Frank 195 Squadron Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Portadown
  • McFadden, James 1st Parachute Regiment, Army Air Corps, Grange Portadown
  • McKnight, Frederick 5th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, Kernan
  • Morrison, John Pioneer Corps, Twinem Terrace, Knockmena
  • Pidgeon, Samuel 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Portadown
  • Robinson, Thomas Royal Air Force (Auxiliary Air Force), Selshion
  • Summerville, William Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Union Street
  • Topping Jocelyn, Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, Portadown
  • Whittle, James S.S Ville de Namur (Belgium), Canadian Merchant Navy, Selshion

Wreaths led on the day

Edward Saunderson and Town War Memorial

 

References  – “Portadown Heroes: A tribute to the men Commemorated on Portadown War Memorial” By James S Kane

“Portadown and District War Memorial Commemoration and Celebration Service” Booklet produced by ABC Council, Armed forces Covenant and RBL. 

 

Sister Irene Wright

Sister Irene Wright

There are a total of 321 Portadown men on the towns war memorial who paid the supreme sacrifice in the 1st World War.  The plaque honouring the dead of the 2nd World War bears the names of 66 men and one woman who died in the 1939-45 conflict.

The woman who died in the 2nd World War was Sister Irene Wright, who served in the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Services. Irene lived in Park Road, and was educated at Portadown Technical School where she played hockey for the school team. Irene was the daughter of Ernest and Eliza Jane Wright.

At the outbreak of the war she volunteered for the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing service and was sent to Singapore.  Sister Irene Wright was embarked on HMS Kuala, an auxiliary anti-submarine vessel, and it left Singapore on 13th February 1942.

The next morning Japanese aircraft sank Kuala off Pompong Island, 90 miles south of Singapore.  Although there were survivors, Sister Irene Wright was not one of them.  She was lost at sea, and is commemorated on the Singapore memorial.

Irene’s cousin Eva was also a trained nurse and was stationed in London during the Battle of Britain and The Blitz.  Her brother William was a draughtsman at Harland and Wolff Shipyard, Belfast before emigrating to Canada.

Ernest Wright, Irene’s father, served in the 1914-1918 war and was employed in the family bakery at West Street, Portadown.

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World War 2 Air Raid Shelter

World War 2 Air Raid Shelter

The Bann Bridge air raid shelter was discovered in 2005 during the widening and strengthening of the bridge over the river.  It is believed to be one of the last remaining intact Second World War air raid shelters in Northern Ireland.  The unearthing of the air raid shelter coincided with the 60th anniversary of victory in Europe day (VE) on 8th May 2005.  It was decided to cover over the structure to preserve it for future generations of Portadown.

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