Evacuees

I didn’t know what the evacuees were and I remember saying to my sister, “Are they some type of foreigners?” Oh, she laughed. It’s a word I’d never met. So, I can remember that, and I also can remember the War being declared. I think it was announced in the Chapel. I would have been about seven then. When the evacuees came, the wee children that were evacuated out of Belfast, they brought games with them, you know. They knew all those skipping songs and everything. It was great. We didn’t. They just didn’t seem to approve of children playing, in the country. I remember that there were the Mitchells, the Canavans and the Lawlors. Mrs Murphy, you know, Ita’s mother, she had 10 or 12 evacuees. She had Joe Mitchell and Helen, Helena and Mary and then they’d another boy. That was the Canavans. And she’d Annie Lawlor and Kevin and a small one, Sally. She’d a big crowd and she looked after them well. She was a very good woman, Mrs Murphy. They still would come back to see her, but the Mitchells went away to New Zealand, They were here a couple of years ago and they called there. Mrs Murphy’s dead, but they called at the house. They were a good influence, most of them really, you know, they were a benefit, I would say. They were very nice families that were living over there, with Mrs Murphy. Well the parents used to come periodically to visit them. The Mitchells were from Elizabeth Street, off the Grosvenor Road. Now where the Canavans came from, I can’t remember. Helen Canavan came back and worked for Mrs Murphy, Mrs Murphy used to do ‘Bed and Breakfast’ or ‘Full Board’. This was in the ’50s, the early ’50s of course. And there’s one of the Canavans now round in Portrush or Portstewart, round the coast there somewhere. My mother, she’d seven of her own. The woman came around to see if she could take any. My mother said, “I have seven.” She’d no room. There was a lady in Cushendall had quite a few. We used to know them. They were the McCanns. It’s funny how I met up with one of them in Belfast, at some stage, you know, that had been here. She said, “Cushendall, I was in Cushendall when I was an evacuee” and I said, “Where were you staying?” Then she said, “I was staying with Mrs McAteer.” They all came to Glenann School, and Glenann School, you see, was always very popular with people because children from Cushendall would come out to Glenann; and there were a crowd of evacuees came out one morning. I remember, we were coming down the steps, and Master Donaghy had closed the door, and he said, “Take your bags and go back where you came from, because I’ve got no room.” You see the school was only one room. We were all taught in the one room and it was full to overflowing. People come to it from, well now they come in cars, but they used to walk from Tully. (Patsy McKay)
Some never left

The first night the evacuees arrived they were up in the Parochial Hall, not the new Parochial Hall, but above the school up here on the right-hand side, up there. And the man who was in charge of them was G.B. Newe. I think he was decorated for his work. They went round all the different houses and asked what facilities you had, and put two in here; three, four or five in there. Then they got them all settled then, in the schools They came in there and they got milk and they got butter, and stuff like that there, in the morning. They were there a long, long time. The people just kept coming in. Sometimes there was maybe two or three, and then maybe two or three of the relatives came after a time, you know. It built up until there were evacuees in nearly every house. Some of the houses, the big houses, were let out to them on their own. The Golf House there, it’s a big, big house and they just put them in there. There must have been 15 or 20 of them in it. They were glad to get in anywhere, you know. Oh God, there were some of them stayed years. Some of them never left. (Chris McMullan)

Commandeering Accommodation

There was evacuees around the country, there was some, a few but not very many. We got notice they would stay at the farm I bought. There was a house on it and there was evacuees come to some cottages over there, and they wanted to know if we would let them the house, but the billeting officer got to know about the house, so they came and rented the house from us. And there was a family of seven in it first, the name of Todd. Good children they were and they run about here. Well, then they left and there was another two families come. They weren’t the same type. Then the billeting officer, paid the rent for maybe two years, and there was nobody in the house, in case there was a blitz in Belfast and then they would have filled it. (William Glass)
A question of identity-“That’s no woman could do that!”

Do you see the time you were talking on about the evacuees. There was an ould lady and she was really a lady. She did not like men. She lived all by herself and she wore a nice big hat and oh she kept herself beautiful, lovely. She lived all by herself and at the time of the war, this night the knock come to the door, and she went to the door, there was a lovely big lady standing at the door and the lady says to her, “Could I stay with you tonight?” “Aye, but,” she says, “who are you?” She says, “I’m an evacuee out of Belfast and I’ve nowhere to sleep. “It would be great if I could get in.” “Oh,” Lizzie says, “You know, I never liked to turn anybody away from my door. I think it a pity of anybody turned out of their house, but you know, you couldn’t stay with me.” She says, “Why could I not?” and Lizzie says, “I have only this wee totie house. I ‘ve only one wee ould wooden bed.” Your woman says, “That would be okay.” “Right enough it’s a double bed, but,” Lizzie says, “there’s worse than that.” She says, “What could be worse?” Lizzie says, ”I’ve no toilet. I’ve nothing but a chamber pot in below my bed.” “That’s quite all right,” she says. “I was reared with that, I know all about it. All I want is a roof above my head.” “Well,” Lizzie says, “that’s all right! Come on in.” In she went, and stayed that night, and they had their breakfast the next morning. Lizzie hadn’t too much money, so the next morning at their breakfast she says, “Could I stay tonight?” “Aye, but you know,” Lizzie says,” I’m on rations. I couldn’t stand to keep you.” “Oh that’s quite all right,” she says,” I’ve enough coupons to do the two of us.” Then she stayed the next night and then you see it come to the time when they had to wash. So Lizzie you see, Lizzie she says that it’d be quite all right to wash and dry their clothes together. So they washed their clothes together and dried the clothes together and used the one chamber pot and Lizzie got to like her wild well and her and Lizzie got on well together. She was with Lizzie three weeks wasn’t she? Lizzie was a crafty one, and at the end of the three weeks Lizzie saw things about her, you see, that she thought was strange to a woman. Lizzie says to herself, “Ah, this is a odd one. You see there’s something wrong here. I’ll keep my eye on her closer.” So this morning she got up and they got their breakfast and oh she kept Lizzie in plenty of food, and all, and one lovely spring morning she got her handbag and her camera, and all. She went away every day and come back up every night. Lizzie followed her out to the road and she went up the road a bit more to a barbed wire fence and she went to a post in the barbed wire fence and set her hand on top of the post and she stepped on one of the stands of barbed wire and she just went over it and Lizzie says, “That’s no woman could do that.” That night Lizzie had the police hid in the corner waiting on her coming in, and when she come in, they let on they were in to talk to Lizzie about something, and it turned out she was a man. Aye and they lifted her and took her away, spying for the Germans or something. (Davy George McCrory)

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