Refugees of the pogroms

We made brief mention some little time back of the Belfast pogroms and their effects locally. I know of a few well-established Newry families who came here in that first wave of refugees from Bombay Street in 1969.

 …..  Indeed I remember the buzz around the Parochial Hall on Trevor Hill, the first stop for those unfortunate people.

I would be grateful to any one who could offer an account of that terrible period to Newry Journal. I was resident in Belfast at the time and so missed it.

In the meantime we are grateful to Santanta – a native of my favourite spot, South Armagh – for the following ……………….

‘When the pogroms started a buzz went round the villages of South Armagh.

There were terrified people just arriving with nothing more than what they stood up in.  It was mainly women and children of all ages. They had no idea what to do, where they were, what would happen or where they would go.

The locals – ever resourceful – swung into action.  They opened village halls and schools, started cooking food, found and assembled beds.  Gradually as the light faded, weary bodies began to sag towards a night’s sleep.  One of the refugees asked in despair where would they get funds to survive even temporarily.

In reply one of the villagers suggested that if they were due family allowances or Giros they could go to the post office.  I think it was Friday and so it would have been suggested for Monday.

The effect was immediate and terrifying. It was as if the speaker’s voice was a hand grenade tossed into the room. The women leaped to their feet screaming,

“You mean we are still in the North? This is not the South?”

It was dark and they did not know where they were going but they went … as they had come … in terror, not knowing where to or for what but like a skein of geese, heading South.

At least they had had some food but the beds were never slept in.

I wonder who they were.’



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