A Carrickfergus family who provided an outstanding service record during the Second World War will be honoured on Saturday, March 19, with the unveiling of a memorial in the town.
During the war the McAtamney family were known as ‘The Fighting McAtamneys’ on account of the fact that seven members of the family were in uniform. This is probably a record for any family in Northern Ireland.
Now the family is to be honoured with a memorial plinth in the memorial gardens at Joymount.
The memorial will be unveiled by the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim and members of the family, while the Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim, David McCorkell, will also address those who gather for the historic occasion.
The event takes place at 11am on Saturday and among those present will be many descendants of the McAtamneys, including at least one who will travel from Scotland for the occasion.
All members of the family survived the war and were welcomed home with a street party hosted by their neighbours and also a civic event in the Carrickfergus Town Hall.
In the post-war period they were well-known residents of Carrick; in the 1970s Daniel was chairman of Carrick Rangers Football Club and both he and William were shopkeepers, while Thomas was employed by Carrickfergus Borough Council, Bobby and George were in the merchant marine for a time (Bobby later working at the Courtaulds factory), Peggy worked at the Carreras factory and Francis settled in Stranraer.
Following newspaper articles in the Carrick Times and the Belfast News Letter on the unique McAtamney story, the Carrickfergus Community Forum commissioned a booklet on the McAtamneys last year. This has been distributed to schools, hospitality venues, and the library and museum services and to individuals. The launch in Carrickfergus Town Hall was extremely well attended and the booklet was launched by the Mayor.
Those who served were;
Robert Samuel (Bobby) McAtamney, a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy who was a hero of Narvik, saving the life of one of his crewmates when their ship, HMS Hardy, was damaged and sank during action at Narvik in 1940
William McAtamney, a sergeant in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Francis Kirk, who served in the Royal Air Force
George McAtamney, who served with the Royal Navy
Thomas McAtamney, a stoker with the Royal Navy
Daniel McAtamney, was in the Royal Air Force Reserve and called up during the war
Margaret Garvey (nee McAtamney), who served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service and was based with the NAAFI in Enniskillen and London
The story of the ‘Fighting McAtamneys’ can be seen in the context of other wartime families who are much better known. The Fighting Sullivans were an Irish-American family of five brothers from Iowa who served together in the American Navy during the Second World War. Their story became much more prominent when it was turned into a film in 1944.
The Fighting Reillys were an Ulster-Canadian family, originally from Limavady, who had nine sons in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Second World War. Although not so well known as the Sullivans, theirs is probably a record for members of one family serving during World War 2.
The McAtamney story has its own unique elements, including that a sister also served; Margaret (Peggy) was one of the 96,000 personnel who served in the NAAFI during the war.
During and after the Second World War, the story of the family was well-known in Carrickfergus. In modern times, although their story is not so well known, the erection of a memorial in their honour will be a lasting legacy of one of Carrick’s unique wartime stories.