Barracks Curfew: final

The relief that my mum must have felt hearing that item of information regarding David’s whereabouts was evident to me by the fact that her vice-like grip on my hand relaxed a little.

I felt happier myself with this news and was feeling more like having a good look around me. Still keeping hold of my mother’s hand I turned my head to look up along Barrack Street.

My heart missed a beat. Did I see the shadowy form of people moving about up there at the top of that street?  Was it the Police? Was it the dreaded B-Specials?

I wasn’t sure. ‘I wish they would hurry up and get Davie so as we could all go home,’ was my only thought.

There was a lot of movement on the far side of the barricade. The lad at the top appeared to be pulling something – or someone – up the back of the structure.  After a final bit of grunting and heaving the youth eventually pulled back a section of corrugated sheeting, exposing a small space between two large wooden beams.  Through this aperture appeared the grinning face of my big brother.

Not a bit of remorse did he show for all the bother that he put us through, not a worry in the world did he appear to have, he just peered at us from that hole in the barricade just like a rabbit gazing out from its burrow. 

My mother reached up and caught him by the collar and proceeded to pull him through the hole.  I presume one of the other lads was pushing from the other side at the same time because my brother exited out through that aperture pretty sharply.

Down the outside face of that barricade slid David with my mum gripping him tightly by his collar and at the same time not letting go off my hand.

With a curt ‘thank you’ to the two helpful youths my mother pulled David to his feet and without another word proceeded back up Cochran Road towards home with both of us in tow.

I was glad that I was holding my mothers left hand because that put me on the outside and furthest away from that frightening old hospital building.  Davy could keep the scary inside-lane.

That old building was always out of bounds for the local children because of its dangerous state of repair, but that only added to the mystique of that place and made it a favourite playground for us in daylight, but in the dark, at night, that was something else.

 I think my Mother was that anxious to get us home that she remained silent for the entire journey.  But one thing was for sure and that was, that Davie, my big brother, was going to get some rollicking when we would eventually get home.

Thinking back now it is abundantly clear to me that, that evening must have been the nadir of my poor mother’s week.

Within a few short months of the events mentioned in the above narrative, that grand old lady, my Great Aunt Kate, would sorrowfully pass away.

As for that crumbling relic, the old hospital building in Linenhall Square, its fate was sealed.

For one day shortly after Aunt Kate’s death I was on my way home from school, as I turned the corner of Barrack Street into Cochran Road there they were!  The demolition contractors fully equipped with trucks, crane and wrecking ball, all busily engaged in the demolition of that old hospital building.

For a child this was exciting to watch.  The demolition workmen pulled that old building down by the simple expediency of running a steel hawser in through one window and out through another, the hawser was then hitched on to the back of an old ex-army truck, which then proceeded to pull the whole crumbling edifice down.

Great exciting stuff for a youngster to behold, but I was a little sad to see that old place go. After all, it was our playground.  Having said that, after the job was finished we were left an enormous pile of rubble and stones, which soon became our new playground. 

I bet there was a lot of ghostly and ghoulish spirits rendered homeless that day.


 ……………….    end  ………………………

PS by Editor

I recall the same curfew and hanging out of the top bedroom window of my granny’s house at 43 Monaghan Street, observing the police and a few emergency workers pass by on the blackened street below – the only people allowed out after curfew.

It was a terrifying experience for a ten-year-old. Was the whole world coming to an end? I wondered.

A favourite tactic of the IRA then was to bomb electricity transformers. Once (indeed more than once) it was the local one on the site of the present Southern Regional College. For minutes at a time (or so it seemed) the sky was filled with multi-coloured flashes, then all went dark.

I couldn’t get the Republicans’ logic then in penalising their own people.

I never could after either, when the Troubles flared up anew, that time for thirty long years.

Anyway this present outburst of mine has been spurred by a piece from the local paper fifty years ago.

‘Annalong and Kilkeel were ‘blacked out’ on Saturday night following a bomb explosion in the main transformer of the NIEB’s network at Newcastle.

When the explosion occurred at Donard Park shortly after 11 pm the power in Newry failed for some seconds.’

…… Close Shave 1……………………

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