Interviewee of the Month – Lily Foster
Our interviewee of the month is Lily Foster (neé Crowe) who was born in October 1924. Lily grew up in Fermanagh and lived near Castle Archdale, Lough Erne. In her account she remembered ‘the seaplanes were on the water there and it was lovely to see them at the time’.
America entered the war in 1941 and subsequently many Americans were stationed at Castle Archdale. Lily recalled ‘when I came home from school, I had to fill 700 cartons of milk and my brother would have went into the camp and they bought those cartons of milk’. While Lily was only 15 and too young to go to dances, she remembers her brother being given sweets and all the local girls talking about getting nylons and going to dances at the camp. The Crowe family ‘got the swill from the camp because we had a lot of pigs’ and in the summertime around twenty GI’s would arrive to help the family with the hay-making. They enjoyed the break from their camp and Lily’s mother cooked for them.
The Americans weren’t the only strangers in Co. Fermanagh during the war. Lily told us about many evacuees from Belfast. It was in ‘1941 after the big raid on Belfast, Easter time. There was a man, a farmer who had a big house. He took in a whole family. There was a mother, six children and four cousins. The farmer was living alone, he had never married, he taught the mother how to bake and cook on the hearth fire and the ten of them lived there for something like four years’. Lily got on very well with the children and became lifelong friends with the family. They were ‘very nice and had come from the Crumlin Road, from a wee terrace house, a wee kitchen house really… and they still love to go back to Fermanagh’.
Lily didn’t remember much celebration at the end of the war; ‘We were in the country so there were no street parties’. However, she shared with us a cherished photo of her class and the evacuees at Letterkeen School, which she thinks may have been taken on VE Day in 1945. The local paper the Impartial Reporter interviewed some of the evacuees on the day. One girl said that “In Belfast we get our milk from nice clean bottles but here they pull it out of a dirty old cow!”
With the war over, the American Army left Fermanagh and Lily’s father ended up purchasing St. Angelo House, a house and camp which the Americans had used during the war. Lily recalled that ‘there were lots of huts on the land, washbasins, toilets, things that nobody in the country had and so her dad held an auction and sold them all off!’.
Sadly Lily passed away in December 2018, however her memories have given us a wonderful insight into her childhood in County Fermanagh and the effect that the Americans and local evacuees had on her life. Do you have memories of the Second World War? Perhaps you too became friends with evacuees from Belfast or remember interacting with American servicemen? If you would like to contribute to our project please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by giving us a call on 07588 634847.