Interviewee of the Month – October 2020
Every month we highlight one of our interviewees and their wartime memories. Eileen Pollock was born in 1925 and was interviewed in September 2018.
Eileen was 16 during the Belfast Blitz and recalled vividly the Easter Tuesday raid of 1941. Eileen stayed with her family in their house off the Old Lodge Road, ‘we were all sitting, and the bombs were coming down. My father, he was in the First World War and he was saying “This is terrible, you can do nothing”, we were just sitting waiting’. ‘My sister at 17 and I thought we would go under the stairs and then such a bang came and the back door shook and you never seen two sisters jumping out of a place as quick in all your life and we went back to sit with everyone else. Anyway, next thing an incendiary device landed on the window ledge and my sister “Oh the house is on fire! The house is on fire!”, but our neighbour’s three sons were out on the street knocking them off window ledges and putting them out and that.’ Thankfully, all Eileen’s family were fine, and the house was luckily undamaged. On the same night Eileen recalled that a local building occupied by soldiers was hit and destroyed, as was Percy Street Shelter just a few streets away off the Shankill Road.
When Eileen was 17 she married her boyfriend Thomas, who had joined up and was serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles. She remembered that because of the war there wasn’t any fuss or reception, saying ‘it wasn’t hard because there was nothing to organise, you just went to the church and you got married and that was it… I just wore a coat and a thing that my sister had bought me for her wedding the previous July’. Then in May 1943 Eileen received a telegram (pictured) informing her that her husband had been seriously injured. ‘He was training to go to Burma and a grenade blew up… his left leg was paralysed, shrapnel in the head and all that’. When the telegram arrived Eileen was staying with her sister ‘on the Donegall Road and my mother brought it over, then the Red Cross paid our way, his mother and I to go over and see him on the Isle of Wight… we were about ten days on the Isle of Wight and then he was moved to a head injury hospital in Oxford’. It was September before Eileen’s husband was invalided out of the army. Eileen recalled, ‘September 16th, out of the army and you know the great pension he got was £2 7s 6d… that was what you had to live on for a full year… but he was great, very independent he was’. Thankfully Thomas managed to get a job working for the switchboard despite his injuries.
Yet times were very tough for her family and Eileen recalled that ‘money was very very tight’, particularly with wartime rationing. They survived on ‘mostly soup… vegetable soup, stew or hash as we called it, corned beef hash… with your tea you only got two ounces so you boiled the tea up in the morning and you didn’t rinse the teapot and at dinner time you’d have put an extra thing of tea leaves in, you kept it going all day… I mean we all struggled through, but everyone helped each other then’. That community spirit was evident in the VE day street parties at the end of the war, Eileen remembered ‘they had the big tables outside and all the children were all round and everything, it was always more for the kids… anyway you went and got a cup of tea you enjoyed… you had music playing and that, then they would have had a wee singsong’.
Do you like Eileen remember the Easter Tuesday raid on Belfast? Or perhaps you can remember the VE Day street parties and celebrations where you lived? Please get in touch with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can give us a call on 07588634847.