As VE Day approaches, local historian Keith Beattie, is telling some of the local stories from Ballymoney area. Here Keith sets the scene in Ballymoney at that time.
During the harsh winter of 1944, there were already expectations of a German surrender. People in Ballymoney openly anticipated the Allies winning the war and questioned the restrictions which were still in place on groceries, fuel or traveling across the Irish Sea.
For some, the years of conflict had changed their perspective on life and the young relished every opportunity to enjoy themselves. As expected, the older generation resolutely upheld their traditional values and grew concerned about a moral decline in the post war society. In March 1945, Ballymoney Urban District Council were forced, against their wishes, to issue a license which allowed dancing on a Sunday. The town’s Presbyterian and Methodist congregations were appalled and warned of inevitable public disturbances every Sabbath night.
Post-war life was causing concern among servicemen. With unemployment in Northern Ireland in March reaching over 21,000, and rising, one soldier wrote to the Coleraine Chronicle expressing worries about his future:
“…we know that when we have been home for a few months our efforts will all have been forgotten (whether we are OK or on crutches). We just want to come home to some work and not false promises.”
Impending peace did not prevent an angry magistrate giving a firm warning and a £1 fine to a souvenir hunter. The young man was charged with stealing an indicator light from a RAF Wellington bomber which had crashed near Stranocum House in November 1944 (thankfully all the crew survived). The accused had found the item on the ground 100 yards from the burning plane. The crash had attracted a considerable crowd and other debris is known to have gone missing, never to be recovered.
REFUGEES BECOME RESTLESS
When the brave air crew on the Wellington avoided crashing into Stranocum House they saved many lives, not just their own. It was the home of the Ford-Hutchinson family but had been taken over by the government early in the war to be used as a hostel for refugees, firstly for children and, in September 1944, for elderly Gibraltans. By April 1945, the ageing residents were becoming impatient to return home; not even repeat visits by the Stranocum Dance Band seemed to appease them. It would be several months before they could be repatriated and Stranocum House returned to the Ford-Hutchinson family.
On Friday, V.E. celebrations in Ballymoney.