National Friendship Day US
Sunday 2nd August 2020 marks National Friendship Day in the US which seeks to celebrate friendships old & new. One of our charitable purposes is to commemorate the association of the Armed Forces of the United States of America with Northern Ireland in the 1939-1945 war by maintaining the museum as a Hall of Friendship. Our oral history collection has many accounts of friendships and relationships forged at that time.
Nancy Docherty (US3) (pictured above) recalled the day her brother Joe, who worked at Langford Lodge, arrived home with two Americans; Sergeant Walter Wright of Maryland and Pete Fellalopas of California. Walter was engaged to an Australian girl he met when stationed there. He didn’t often attend dances in the American Red Cross Club on Chichester Street as he didn’t drink or smoke. When his pals went to the ARC Club, he often stayed behind and played cards with Nancy. Nancy told us about a trip to Saul when with her father she took Pete to see St Patrick’s Monument. Pete engraved his name along the bottom. When they returned home, they were told that the Military Police had been looking for Pete and that he was to come right away as they were shipping out. Nancy recalled that ‘father left Pete up to get the train to Crumlin and they left. The next week, I came in to see Walter and Pete sitting at the table. They only came over for the day from England because they never got saying goodbye right’. Both Pete and Walter survived the war and kept in touch with the family for a few years. Walter married his Australian sweetheart, Hazel, and Pete returned to work on his family’s orange farm.
The American presence in Northern Ireland also led to many romances and marriages, such as that of Sergeant Ray Beasley and Sarah Teresa O’Reilly of Ballymena, (pictured above). Their daughter Sheila Beasley Pinner recently submitted their story as a written account. Sarah’s father, William, worked for Sergeant Beasley who was foreman of a warehouse for the Quartermaster Corps of the 700th QM Depot. ‘After several attempts to introduce Sergeant Beasley to his two daughters at home, Mr. O’Reilly lucked out when my Dad finally met my Mom, Sarah Teresa, one evening. They went to the Town Hall for dinner and my Dad liked to tell a story about my Mom trying very hard to be polite and eat chicken with cutlery. My Dad said to her, “Why don’t you eat with your fingers like we do at home?” which only appalled my mother who continued to try it her way.’ They continued to date throughout the war, with Sergeant Beasley serving in England, France & Germany before returning to Ballymena to be married on August 4th 1945 (75 years ago this week). Sarah joined Ray in the US and they settled in Superior, West Virginia. Both Ray and Sarah have now sadly passed away, but they leave behind children and grandchildren who are very proud of Ray’s wartime service and have visited Northern Ireland many times to visit family.
Do you or a loved one have memories of friendships with Americans during the Second World War? Perhaps you are related to one of the local women who married an American? If you would like to share your story, please get in touch with our Oral History Coordinator at email@example.com or on 07588 634847.