Shell whistled over Carrick as Victor prepared for school
Shell whistled over Carrick as Victor prepared for school

VICTOR MCCracken, from the North Road, was born in Belfast nearly 70 years ago, his parents brought him to live in Carrickfergus when he was one day old.

Victor was reared by his his grandparents in Unity Street and attended the Back Lane School.

His Grandfather was William Purvis, a Policeman who joined the force in 1895 and was posted to Dublin, Cork and other places before eventually being posted to Carrickfergus.

Victor remembers a carnival being held where Central Primary School is now and how the traction engine went up and down the street.

He later went to Woodburn to live and this not only meant a change of address but also a change of school for he left the one in the Back Lane to go to the Model. The last year of his school days was spent at Woodburn School.

Victor remembers that during the Second world War a land mine wiped out his parents old house in Belfast and completely demolished three others, killing 30 people at the street the back. He thinks it was Hogarth Street and this was the second air raid on Belfast.

Victor said that the war was a big thing for people of his age. He lived in a bungalow just opposite the Prospect Army Camp (incidentally, the Prospect camp is not in the record book of Northern Ireland, but Sunnylands Camp is)

Prospect House inn “Buildings of County Antrim” 1996

One day Victor looked out and there was nothing but fields, but within a couple of weeks, the whole area was covered by Nissen huts. He said the Army did a magnificent job in setting up the camp so quickly.

Each hut had a stove and there were buckets of coal outside each one. The Royal Berkshire Regiment was first to arrive. The Americans came in 1941 or 1942.

A man called O’Darby started the Rangers and he had his men running the roads in simit. When people and other soldiers saw them, they thought they were bad boys But when they started to run in full kit they realised that they were a special force.

The Belgian soldiers were next to come to Prospect Camp.

Victor recalled that white and African American soldiers fought amongst themselves. Some of the Carrick ladies went the rescue of the black soldiers and took to their white adversaries with brushes. Mrs, McAlister and Mrs Quinn, who lived in Ellis Street, broke up many fights in this way.

Victor said there were German aircraft flying overhead nearly every day with smoke pouring out of them – not because they had been hit, but because they had been assembled so quickly that many of their engines blew up.

He said one aircraft went over Woodburn about 20 feet above the ground and eventually it bounced in two fields, the wheels coming to rest in a ditch near the Beltoy Road. The marks of the belly flopper was in the fields for years.

Victor and his mates cycled over to the scene of the crash, only to find Detective Sergeant Ernie Tatten and Constable Nairn had got there first and of course, the lawmen told them to go home.

He also remembers the tank factory where the new Royal Mail building is now. The tank parts arrived in big boxes to be assembled in the factory. Jimmy Morrow drove the tank up and down the Woodburn Road every day on their test runs and one day he mounted the bank opposite Prospect graveyard and rolled the tank over, thankful no one was hurt.

Victor recalled that about sailed up Belfast Lough without giving the recognised signal and a shell was fired. It was 8. 50 am just minutes before he was due to leave for school. The shell whistled over Carrick and landed at the back of Henleys big house at Prospect.

The next day, or the day after, all the windows were opened at Woodburn School at 11:00 am While the bomb disposal men detonated the unexploded shell.

Around the same time Spitfire flew past, the pilot was killed when the plane crashed at Duncrue.

No-one was killed when B17 Flying Fortress crashed. Victor said there were 17 young men in the plane, they didn’t look any older than 17 years of age.

He said planes were overhead every day, taking photographs, because there was a defence of only seven anti-aircraft guns.

Victor said Prospect Army Camp is not in the record books which reminds me of Gods book, the Book of Life. The Bible says “Whosoever is not found in the Book of Life, will be cast into Hell the lake of fire.”

My friend, accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your saviour and God will write your name in the Book of Life.

Victor and his sister Gloria

Credit – This article is a reprint of a article originally wrote in the Carrickfergus Advertiser –