Do you remember the ‘Pill-Boxes’ on Monaghan Street during The War?
Or the Air-Raid Shelters?
The Pill-Boxes were so-called because they resembled pill boxes of the time in shape and (lack of) size! They were massive 8 foot high cubes of concrete with three pipes – at shoulder height – running through, pointing up, down and across the street, from which a soldier could look-out and snipe at approaching German soldiers during the ‘Invasion’.
Shure, if Hitler had known the extent of our preparations, he’d have trembled in his Nazi boots! Come to think of it, maybe he did, and that’s what put him off!!
They resembled nothing so much as the look-out posts at every army barracks (they still have conscription!) in every town and city of modern Turkey. And one cannot help but notice that the only citizens who feel intimidated are their own: and that, perhaps, was – and is – the purpose!
So where on Monaghan Street were they?
One was outside Bellinis (of now!): the other at the Dead Pad (Lower Catherine Street).
And the Air-Raid Shelters?
Well, perhaps you can fill me in on this (figuratively speaking, of course!).
These were much bigger affairs, designed to shelter the citizenry during German bombing raids. The nearest we came to that was the Belfast Blitz (and one incident of returning bombers ditching their load over Carlingford Lough).
There were two Air-Raid Shelters in Linenhall Square. One was by the old Hospital there and the other at the Erskine Street Barrack gates facing Dickie Rodgers’ house. Mind you, Dickie wasn’t there at the time. He was a serving soldier. Indeed he was one of the few to return from Arnhem. But of that, later.
Indeed there was a third in the vicinity – at the bottom of O’Rourke’s Hill, down there at the bottom where the McGurgans lived. They had lighters on the Canal.
AND another one on the Middle Bank, across the Canal from the Barracks. And now that I think of it, ANOTHER one at Erskine Place (down by the carpet warehouse of today).
Each one was of slightly different design but on average they would hold about 60 citizens. They were very basic – without lighting or running water – an emergency bolt-hole only.
The children of Linenhall Square awoke one morning to find the place alive with vehicles, tanks, guns and soldiers. It started to snow, adding to the fun! The soldiers allowed the children to play among them, climbing up on tanks.
The mobile playground was there for two whole days. On the third morning when everyone awoke, the place was deserted. Overnight, every single one of them had left – and there had been hundreds of them.
There was a local Twelfth cancelled during The War – a most unusual occurrence, but it was said that the Orangemen feared the publicity that would ensue from so many able-bodied men prancing at home while their comrades – Protestant and Catholic – fought fascism abroad.