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The time I was in the Ay Tee Cee

Tucked away in my early memories are my eight years in the Air Training Corps. As we were based in Hillsborough, someone thought it appropriate that we should be a part of the 817 Squadron, which was based in Lisburn.

Our flight, was led by a local schoolmaster named William Kirkwood who was schoolmaster at the local Downshire school, he was there a long time, was very well respected and even taught my mother in his long tenure. His counterpart in Lisburn was Vic Halliday, who ran the Lisburn contingent.

I joined this organization in 1942, I lied about my age as the minimum age was 13 and I was a year short. However I was accepted and joined the older boys in training to become useful members of the RAF

Though it was early in the war, my ambitions must have caused some concern to my parents, who nevertheless allowed me to receive this training.

We were schooled in Aircraft Recognition, Morse Code, assembling and dismantling Sten Guns, some of us got to fly gliders at Long Kesh and there were always the Summer Camps, two week affairs in places like Bishops Court, Eglinton and even in Wig Bay, Scotland and Locking in the south of England. The most disliked activity, in my mind at least, was the weekly drill instruction, or Square Bashing, as we called it.

At the Summer Camps, we enjoyed flying with RAF crews on training missions. It never entered our minds that our aircraft may have been intercepted by German aircraft, these were the War Years after all, but we were young and invincible, nothing could ever happen to us.

I remember flying with an RAF crew on a training mission out of Bishops Court to the east coat of England somewhere near Newcastle, then to a point just south of the Forth Bridge and on to the Mull of Kintyre.

I was 12 years old but the pilot allowed me to sit in the " Drivers Seat " and after checking me out, he watched me hold the Avro Anson on course back to Bishops Court. My biggest compliment came from the Navigator, who after about 5 minutes of my taking control, told me he didn't notice any difference. My juvenile legs could scarcely reach the rudder pedals but somehow I managed to steer in the almost southernly course back to Bishops Court. It was exhilarating to put all I had read about controlling an aircraft to practise.

The worst part of sitting in the Co Pilots seat in an Anson aircraft was being bestowed the " honour " of winding up and winding down the undercarriage.
This was quite a heavy task for a young cadet pretending to be much older.

To think this was 75 years ago, I wonder if there are any 817 Squadron Cadets still around ?


Re: The time I was in the Ay Tee Cee

Hi Forty Coats, Good to hear from you. I remember a couple of guys from the Longstone area who were in 817 ATC squadron just cannot remember their names, would one be a Keary.

I too had the experience of flying an aircraft while I was serving in the United States Air Force, while stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida the Major who was my boss was also a pilot who had to have a certain number of flying hours in each month to qualify for Flight Pay.

He and other pilots with administrative jobs used to qualify by flying a twin engined small plane which I think was a "Cessana"so one time he invited myself and another guy to go along on a flight up to "Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. ON the return trip he asked me if I wanted to fly it because as he said if you can steer a ship you can fly an aircraft.

As I was in the co-pilots seat and approaching Cape Canarval it was prohibited to fly over the base so we had to go around by going out to sea, I gently put the stick over to turn out but the Major said not like that like this and pushed the stick right over so we went into a steep bank, we also dummy dive bombed the Swanny River. which was quite a thrill. Enough for now. Mauri

Re: The time I was in the Ay Tee Cee

Hello Fortycoats, good to hear from you again.

Re: The time I was in the Ay Tee Cee

Hi All,

We are presently in Boise Idaho on our way home after our summer tour of the Pacific NW which has included Canyonville OR, Reno NV, and Elko NV yesterday.

Our summer vacation was delayed due to a little problem in my aorta, which has been corrected by a placement of a stent.

At our age, we are finding travelling these distances more difficult, but we both still enjoy visiting the old haunts.


Re: The time I was in the Ay Tee Cee

Fortycoats, enjoy your holidays while you can. It's great to hear from people older than myself being positive and going out there and making the most of life.. By the way, maybe you're not older than me, but what difference does it make? As I said, great to hear from you. We're still here in Lisburn - in the slow lane!!!!

Re: The time I was in the Ay Tee Cee

Ann, I think I got you beat by a few years, when it comes to age. I'm going by the fact that your older sister, you know, that wee girl " Patsy from Clare " was a classmate of my wife Frances at the Lisburn Teck.

Frances is enduring her own problems, which she is taking in stride and these include frequent daily drops for her eyes and medications for her other ailments.

I, on the other hand, am a full 4 years older, and it shows !

I now find that my arms get tired holding on to the steering wheel on a long trip and my fingers seem to get cramped from the same activity. I don't know if it is the effect of the local forest fires, that have left a smoke haze over Western Canada and most of the NW USA but my eyes sting after a long day's drive. Saturday's haul was some 821 km, I'm about ready to admit that this is too long a haul at my age, but not quite.

As they used to say, " Keep on keeping On " or in my case " Keep on Truckin' "

Another thing about old age is that I am always comparing prices to the Old Days. We used to buy gasoline, that's petrol Ann, for 26 cents an Imperial gallon in 1958, but today we've seen it over 3 bucks for the smaller US gallon.

We usually book our motel accommodation on the Internet in advance of our trips, but we did not book our final night's stay in the Seattle area, big mistake !

We stopped at several Holiday Inn Expresses and a Best Western as we approached Seattle on Saturday, only to be told " Sorry, we are all sold out " At this point I was getting worried , thinking we might have to sleep in the car, so I got on the Internet at a Mac Donald's and found a Holiday Inn Express in Everett which had one room available for a mere $ 175 US for the night. I said we would take it. Frances bargained with the guy on the desk when we checked in and he graciously lowered the price to $169 US, AND threw in 2 bottles of water, SUCH A DEAL ! With taxes added the bill came to almost two hundred bucks, not at all like the 8 dollar rooms we booked in Santa Monica in the early sixties.


Re: The time I was in the Ay Tee Cee

Fortycoats, I enjoyed that travelogue, very interesting. I was almost there with you and Frances. I admire your stamina and determination in not giving in to age. Great attitude to life.

Petrol prices here are £5.50 sterling (about 7 US dollars) per imperial gallon.

Concerning Santa Monica, we have a very popular radio presenter, Stephen Nolan, and Santa Monica is his favourite place. He holidays there a few times a year and says he would like to retire there. Must be nice all right. I'm glad I have a good imagination because I'm sure I'll never see it but I'm there already in my mind's eye. Keep on posting.

Re: The time I was in the Ay Tee Cee

Fortycoa5s ,

Good to hear fr I'm you again. I do admire the Canadian & American way of not giving in to old age. Francis & you are positive thinkers to travel all that distance without a worry about yourselves.

Could,nt imagine Joe or I going anywhere now on our own,always in a family group. Not to mention driving.!

Of course the roads over there are straight so be easier to negoiate,but still someone else driving us is The usual now.

We are old fogies in Ireland. Good luck to you both for your forward thinking.


Re: The time I was in the Ay Tee Cee

Pat, While the major highways are mostly straight not so some of the back roads, I remember some years ago while on vacation I was driving from Los Angles to San Francisco on the coastal highway which really hugs the Pacific Ocean but has so many bends that while driving its impossible to enjoy the scenery.

One of those trips that arriving in San Francisco airport I gave a huge sigh of relief??. Mauri

Re: The time I was in the Ay Tee Cee


Glad to hear you have that old Underwood, Remington, Imperial or whatever you are slaving on these days, working again.

Was wondering if you ever heard the song, " Step it out Mary " ? I am a fan of Celtic Thunder or perhaps Ex-Celtic Thunder members Byrne and Kelly, and Nicole Hudson on their recent Australian and US tour.

Ryan Kelly has a very adoptive voice and sings a variety of Irish songs on U-Tube as well as the American " Where the streets have no names " One of these is " Step it out Mary ". It's all about a young Irish beauty who lived in the town of Kilgory who was sought after by this rich guy who offered her, through her father, riches beyond compare and a grand mansion with servants, and all !

However the young lass says she is in love with a soldier and has promised him her hand. The father still insists she will marry this rich guy on Sunday.

However, she and her lover were found drowned, like dead, in a nearby river, before Sunday.

Being nosy, I have searched STREETS looking for Kilgory and have come up with one in Co. Clare, the only thing wrong is that it is a lake. Ever heard of this place Pat.