When Jana Matheson, 21, from Whitehead decided to get involved with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s NI100 Community Research project, she didn’t realise what would lie ahead.
Jana became intrigued with a newspaper story about a dramatic carving of the mythical beast carved by her great-grandfather, while she was researching his service history.
The carving once lay across from the old Lodge Building at Prospect House in Carrickfergus and after uncovering an article from the early 1990s, Jana has become determined to find out more.
Leonard John Matheson was stationed at Prospect House (known then as Prospect Camp) with the Royal Berkshire Regiment during the Second World War. It was during his time here that he carved the regiment’s emblem on a stone slab.
Born in Oxford, Leonard’s family moved to Cholsey, Berkshire, when he was young.
A plumber by trade, by the time war broke out, Leonard was already in the Territorial Army, subsequently signing up to the Royal Berkshire Regiment, where he was part of the 4th Battalion.
Leonard was stationed first at Redhall, Ballycarry, where he met his future wife, Georgina Peoples, before moving to Prospect House.
When the war ended, he was demobbed in Belfast and moved to Ballycarry with his wife, went back to his plumbing trade and re-joined the Territorial Army in Larne.
After signing up to the ‘NI100 Looking Back to Look Forward’ project, Jana said:
“I chose this as my topic because it is personal to me and I am passionate about it. I am most interested in finding out as much information as I can and am hoping this will become a more well-known piece of history.”
Since discovering the newspaper clipping from 1991, which tells the story of the carving, Jana has been on a mission to discover what happened to the carved stone slab.
She has been assisted by another project volunteer and Lead the Way Tour Guide, Adrian Hack, who specialises in WWII tours of Carrickfergus.
So far, they have discovered that the 5ft slab seems to have disappeared around the time of the development of Prospect Loanen in the mid-1990s.
Was it salvaged? Perhaps someone has it in their back garden as an ornament?
If you have any information that could shed light on this fascinating piece of local history, contact Carrickfergus Museum by phoning 028 93358241 or emailing [email protected]
Throughout 2021, Council is hosting a programme of events under the NI 100 umbrella to celebrate 100 years since the formation of Northern Ireland.
These events, exhibitions and community initiatives are all aimed at showcasing and championing culture, heritage, education, history, and future prosperity throughout the Mid and East Antrim Borough. For the latest on the NI 100 celebrations in Mid and East Antrim, visit midandeastantrim.gov.uk/ni100