John McCullagh March 19, 2005
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Our men folk, in those war years, were mostly in England or had joined the coastal fleet plying between Newry and England. In any case they were seldom at home. A lucky few here got employment as Air Raid Wardens, worked in the local gas-works or helped the war effort at home by labouring in one of the many army barracks dotted around the locality. 


 A very few got employment at Warrenpoint where some landing craft (used at Normandy) were constructed, or at the airfields that sprang up (Cranfield). Mention of the Gas-works brings to mind the tall tower on which the air-raid siren was mounted. This would scream out its warning whenever German bombers were deemed to be approaching the North of Ireland.

Then all the locals would hurriedly gather together their children and whatever else was precious to them and head for the hills. Still fresh in my memory is the nights that my aunts Patsy and Chrissie ran over from Chapel Street and down the steps to our house to help my mother and Maggie Rafferty (mother of the evacuees) to ‘put on’ us children. 

A troupe would quickly form climbing up Chapel Street to ‘the country’. Prams were loaded with two or three children not yet of walking age and with any other goods people could quickly lay their hands on.   We headed for the Guttery Gap which was situated about a half a mile outside of town. 

 On arrival, all the townspeople assembled under hawthorn hedges and bushes, out of sight of the night sky heavy with Hitler’s Luftwaffe and in the hope that they would not there be seen.

 Some time later – after an eternity it seemed – the all-clear would sound. Amid the wailing message of relief, all would trudge wearily home to bed. 

History relates that Hitler never did find the people of Newry. The town remained unscarred. The nearest was when bombs were dropped on Giles Quay just to our South-East across the Lough. 

 Our local ‘experts’ were to the fore again with their theories.  Those bombs were meant for Newry docks! No, asserted some more knowledgeable and respected burghers of the town: a returning German plane jettisoned its load to facilitate its quick passage to Germany. Newry was never its target.

 There was a warren of bolt-holes too within the town used as air-raid shelters. There were also, many yarns about the happenings along the way. One particular woman saved her worldly wealth in shillings in her gas-meter. This was carefully disconnected each time, and the meter and all carried under her arm into the shelter!

There was a local man worked in the bakery who seldom used the air-raid shelter. He worked on alone, heroically! Strangely though, when the others returned after the all-clear was sounded, he was not to be found! 

When he turned up for his next shift, he explained that he had been captured by Germans who also took dozens of loaves with them. Equally strangely, few of his family or friends went hungry in those years, when the rest of the town did! 

 

There were even a few cynics who alleged that when he got the bakery to himself, he removed anything that wasn’t nailed down and later sold it.

 I wouldn’t believe that of one of our own!  Would you?

 

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