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After the war was over...

I remember as a young lad of 17 visiting Wig Bay as a cadet in the ATC. We were members of the Hillsborough Wing of 817 Squadron, Lisburn. The date was the summer of 1947 and we were attending the yearly summer camp for cadets, having arrived on the Larne - Stranraer ferry.

We were billeted in Nissen huts some distance to the west of Loch Ryan's shore, I can only guess how far, as we used to march from the location of the Short Sunderland flying boats to our camp. Access to the camp was by a Tarmac Road which led about a quarter of a mile from the shore and was slightly uphill most of the way. Our huts were located to the north of this road. This hill was cheerily transversed to the enthused whistling of the cadets offering of Colonel Boogie. Words attesting to the mono-testicularity of one Adolph Hitler were sung in accompaniment.

I remember my first flight in a Sunderland, there were some Catalina's there also at this time but I never got to fly in one of these. From my ATC flying log, which I still have retained for some 70 years, I note that this occurred on July 17, 1947 The aircraft was designated No. PP161 and the flight lasted 30 minutes.

About 17 of us cadets boarded this huge craft and after take off, the RAF pilot called some of us up to the cockpit to briefly take the controls.

To gain access to the cockpit you had to climb a short ladder from the hold of the aircraft. One at a time we mounted this ladder as our names were called. When it was my turn I was half way up when the cadet at the controls, put the aircraft into a fairly steep climb and I found myself clinging to the ladder rung with at least 2 gees pulling on my fingers.

After making my way to the controls I flew level for a little while I then decided to put the aircraft into a tight turn, so I could get a good look at the loch. I put the port wing down and circled a couple of times. When I tried to come out of the turn, the Sunderland continued turning to the port and though I had the controls cranked hard right, this made no difference.

Eventually the RAF pilot took over and without any visible effort, he righted the aircraft and I was sent down the ladder again.


Re: After the war was over...

Hi Forty Coats, Your story of being at the controls reminds me of the time while in the United States Air Force and flying back from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia to McDill Air Force base in Florida I was allowed to take the controls in the co-pilos seat,as we approached Cape Canarval then a top secret missle base, the Pilot instructed me to head out to sea away from the base,I immmediatley gently put the stick to port but he said not like that "like this" and put it hard over so we made a very steep bank to the left,he of course took over to recover, I still recall the thrill of that bank.????. Mauri

Re: After the war was over...

I should have added in my comment that in 1947 I too was just seventeen and on my first ship "HMS Nigeria" stationed in Simonstown South Africa I had gone out by the troopship "Orbita"in March and during the next 18 months made cruises up both coasts of Africa and also over to the Falkland islands and down into the AntArtic where the Argentinas and Chileans were trespassing on British Scientific Bases only seems like yesterday???? Mauri

Re: After the war was over...

Mauri, in my pre-teen years, shortly after war had been declared, I found myself and the late Lord Downshire, sneaking on to some of the aircraft dispersal points in Long Kesh.

It was a thrill to us then, just to actually touch an airplane. We found that somehow or other, we could access this RAF station at a point just across the canal from Patterson’s the Collier. We must have been all of 10 years old at the time, but I still remember the high we both got from this experience. So, you see later, the ATC was a very attractive organization for both of us. We actually got to fly in one of these machines.

Then there were the additional benefits of being able to attend the weekly showing of a war movie for a mere 3d, if you donned uniform and walked all the way down to the Long Kesh.

There were other activities available to Cadets which tweaked our imaginations. Such as the purpose of that small dome shaped building that sat just east of the railway line at Newport Halt. Found out that it was an Anti-Aircraft gun training facility and as Cadets we got to use it.

The inside of the dome shaped roof was painted in white and moving Nazi aircraft were projected on to this surface. The guns sights were projected also, on to the same surface. In this way the instructor could see how you were following his instructions as to how to “ shoot down “ these attacking planes. Stukas had to fill three quarters of the gun sight before you were in effective range. I always remember that one.

Membership afforded us as young boys, many of these experiences that were unavailable to others our age.

Them were the days !


Re: After the war was over...

Fortycoats and Mauri

Great stories from both of you, a part from anything else it would take me a Month of Sundays to type stories as long as they are.

My recollection of the war was watching the U.S.Army arriving in tanks and watching those big Vehicles getting through the barricades. I got a chocolate bar from one soldier and a 50c piece from another.

I wonder now, how many of those soldiers made it back home.


Re: After the war was over...

In those days, the War Memorial was a gathering place for remembering those who did not make it and a rallying point of those who honoured their sacrifice and devotion.

Beano remembers seeing American tanks and large vehicles during this time and I remember US troops in Jeeps parked in the vicinity of the Hillsborough War Memorial. As a cheeky young kid, I recall sitting in a Jeep and accepting American chewing gum, with flavours somewhat different from the Beecham and Bubbly varieties we sometimes had access to.

As an aside, reminds me of the time when Beecham Gum was dispensed for a penny at the local GNR station. We kids found that we could “ hoke out “ more than the intended penny’s worth from the old cast iron drawer.

The Hillsborough War Memorial used to be flanked on each side by giant 21 cm. Morser German artillery pieces, relics of WW1 and as kids we used to climb out to the end of the barrels of these huge guns.

Each Remembrance Day the ATC Cadets would parade through town and take up their places for the memorial ceremony in the shadow of these trophies. Alas, these guns disappeared when they were called in for scrap metal as part of the war effort.

The LDV or Local Defence Volunteers traded in their pitchforks for .303 rifles and transformed into the more disciplined Home Guard around that time, while the womenfolk busied themselves knitting scarves and socks for the armed forces.

Them were indeed the days, 40

Re: After the war was over...

Forty Coats & Beano, I often as a kid went out to Long Kesh to watch the planes landing and taking off,some times on a bike other times just walking and if I had the money take the train back from Newport Halt to Lisburn.

By the way Forty Coats did you by any chance know Jim Heany whose Dad had the pub on Main Street Hillsborough he was a friend of mine though we lost touch when I left to go in the Royal Navy. I did hear from him some years ago in the USA as he was and probably still is living there,I can't remember though how I made contact with him.

Beano, Those tanks didn't always make it through the barricades,I know the one on the Longstone was often the scene of accidents,just like the tank that hit Orr's the chemists shop and killed Samuel Orr. Mauri

Re: After the war was over...

Yes Mauri, I did know a Jim Heenan, who’s father owned the pub, now called The Hillside. It was located on the right side of Main Street as you ascend the hill, right beside Butcher Walker’s.

Jim was one of the first seniors I befriended when I started attending Hillsborough PES, he had an older sister who’s name escapes me.


Re: After the war was over...

Mauri, if you go to “ Heenan’s Pub Hillsborough “ in your browser, and then click on Pub History, this will give you a very detailed history of the Pub, from way back.

You will find that Jim’s sister, Hazel, eventually took over the Pub after Jim left for the USA in the fifties.


Re: After the war was over...

FortyCoats, Never did meet Jim's sister,?? Another Hillsborough girl I knew was Helen Crothers who was at the Cental with me also Molly Woods though she lived closer to Dromore. Am having trouble locating that website you gave me but will keep trying. Mauri

Re: After the war was over...

Not to worry Mauri, I have copied and pasted the following writing from the site:

The Hillside Bar is situated on the steep hill that is Main Street in Hillsborough, Co.Down, just outside Lisburn.  Of course that is where the name of the bar comes from. Nice and simple, it's on the side of a hill!  Indeed the hill often proved very dangerous to early vehicles and there are stories of lorries crashing backwards into the front of the pub and blocking entry for days at a time!  Growing up through school, many of my friends were and still are from Hillsborough, so it is a pub I love to visit, not least because it serves a better selection of beer than most local pubs with regular guest ales and beers from the Hilden Brewery.

Following on from my Old Pubs of Lisburn blog, I am continuing to visit some local pubs with interesting histories and managed to visit two pubs last weekend (Coburns (aka Laganview Arms) in Dromara is to follow shortly).  I had arranged my visit to the Hillside by speaking with Jackie Knowles on Twitter.  Jackie has moved to Northern Ireland from the US and has a very interesting family history with the Hillside.  She now works behind the bar and was incredibly friendly and helpful in organising my visit, giving me plenty of history and making sure the fires were on!

The pub has been called The Hillside all throughout its history having been established in 1752, making it Hillsborough's oldest pub.  There are drawings of the pub in the 1770s which show it marked as "The Hillside".  

Until 1863 the ownership of the pub is unclear, but it is clear that it was primarily opened to serve to farmers and village men.  Situated on the middle of the hill of Main Street, The Hillside was less traveled by farmers from the Dromara Rd side of Hillsborough who would simply stop at the Plough at the top of Main St. Additionally the local men at the bottom of the hill found the Marquess of Downshire (now known as The Parson's Nose) to be more convenient.

In 1826, the Hillsborough Distillery opened along the river that flowed from what is now Hillsborough Lake down through Culcavy (it became known as the Whiskey river and almost certainly flowed through the glen that gave Hillsborough its original name (Cromlyn - crooked glen) before Lord Hill renamed the village it in the 1600s.)

Following on from the distillery, HIllsborough also had its own brewery which opened around 1856.  It was situated opposite St Malachy's parish church and was said to have similar architecture to the church, it must have been an impressive brewery!

Whiskey from the distillery and stout from the brewery were served in the Hillside.  The current workers at the Hillside explained that there underground tunnels between the distillery and Main St (to where the car park is next to St Malachy's) which transported whiskey for sale in the pub.

The stout from the brewery would've been delivered in barrels and bottled in the back houses in McClune's Court by the pub itself (where the beer garden now is).

In 1863, the ownership of the pub becomes clearer when it was bought by Richard Heenan, who was a shopkeeper before becoming landlord of the Hillside.  It would stay in the Heenan family for almost 100 years and despite being officially called The Hillside, most regulars would simply refer to the pub as 'Heenan's'.

When Richard died in 1900, the pub passed to his wife Mary-Jane Heenan, as their first son Jimmy was too young to run the pub. 

Jimmy Heenan on the left of the photo above took over from his mother Mary-Jane and then passed on the pub to his son James Armstrong Heenan.  James Armstrong Heenan left to live in America in the 1950s, leaving the pub to his sister Hazel.

Answering your question:

I remember Helen well, a good looking blonde and as she travelled on the same train as the roughnecks from WHS she had to suffer the indignity of being manhandled up and on to the luggage rack a few times. This was “ All in good fun “ at least that’s what the boys thought.


Re: After the war was over...

Forty Coats, That was really interesting,I think I only saw Jim's parents once the only time I was in the pub.

I remember seeing Helen home from a social in Dromore I think it was, when I was on embarkcation leave prior to joining my first ship in South Africa and we did correspond for a short while,but it was another year and a half before I was home again and as they say "Time marches on"???.

I also walked home to Lisburn that night and didn't have a key to get into my Grandparents house so went over the backwall and attempted to open the scullery window which made such a noise woke them up and my Grandad came down carrying an Army club, this was about 4am in the morning. "Oh to be young again" ????? Mauri