Museum Needs Help to Solve Ballykinlar Mysteries
Can you help unravel the mysteries behind some of the artefacts uncovered in the Ballykinlar History Hut project?
With the support of the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), the project has been exploring the lives of people who occupied the timber Armstrong huts between 1914 and 1950. Around 100 people have been participating in the project with the help of Queen’s University Belfast’s (QUB) Living Legacies team, who organised visits, conducted research and interviews, and digitised important documents and photographs among many other activities.
Some key mysteries still have to be solved by the team, and perhaps you may have the answers? When one of the huts at Ballykinlar was dismantled in 2012, many artefacts were found beneath it, including a First World War dog tag belonging to a R Daidson. Do you recognise his name, and can you tell us anything about him?
About 4000 men of the 36th (Ulster) Division were trained at the Camp from late 1914 to mid-1915, and many lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme and in other campaigns. In 1917 there were 4000 wounded soldiers at the Camp. Although we have a photograph of some of the nurses at the camp in 1919, we don’t know their names – can you help?
The team is also looking for artefacts made, or owned, by some of the 2000 internees held at the Camp from all over Ireland during the Irish War of Independence from December 1920 to December 1921. For example, what happened to the violins donated to them by the Red Cross and used by Martin Walton’s violin orchestra? Or the camera smuggled into the Camp inside a cake? A special field looking out over the Mournes was used for Gaelic football games, and the team would like to know more about these. Two autograph books have already been acquired, and a chess set used by the internees has recently come to light, that was used in competitions.
No records appear to shed light on the identity of the mothers and children described as Maltese refugees, photographed in the Camp in the Second World War. Valetta was one of the worst hit cities in the Mediterranean, so perhaps some Maltese families were evacuated here, as were many Gibraltarians to places like Clough, Cargagh and Crossgar. Perhaps some of these youngsters stayed here, and you might know something about them? We would also like to hear about other Second World War stories.
We have already found the family of Chicago-born William Wolfe of the US 5th Infantry, who was stationed at Ballykinlar before D-Day and lost one of his dog tags at the Camp – to be found again in 1996. In contrast, we know only the first name, Julian, of a German prisoner-of-war, who was still at the Camp in 1947, and made many friends there. We would like to be able to identify him and trace his story. Last year, 98-year-old George Newberry visited the museum to tell us about his time at Ballykinlar from 1945 to 1947 with the Royal Scottish Borders Regiment. During this time, he was involved in the construction of the famous football pitches at the camp. He recalls a large gate with a half-moon sign for ‘World’s End Camp’ at the entrance, but we have no photographs of this, and would like to have more information if anybody remembers the sign – or what happened to it.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Charlie Casey said, “The research going into this project is producing some fascinating results and I encourage people with a connection to Ballykinlar Camp to offer their information to Down County Museum. This information will help to recreate an authentic interior of the camp from 100 years ago and tell the stories of the diverse range of occupants who lived in these iconic huts, built at the site which became known as ‘World’s End Camp’.
“Ballykinlar Camp is now the centre of attention due to the Decade of Centenaries and Second World War commemorations. The team would like to hear of any leads that could help identify these people and artefacts which could be photographed to help tell the stories of the occupants of the Ballykinlar huts during such a significant period in local and world history.
“We would like to thank all those who have contributed to the project so far and I am looking forward to seeing the completed Ballykinlar History Hut at the Museum next year.”
The recreated Ballykinlar History Hut will open in the courtyard of the Museum in Spring 2020. QUB and Museum staff are working on research and digitisation for the project, as well as an online Matterport resource for the hut, and you can find out more about progress on the Facebook page - @BallykinlarHistoryHut. Please contact Down County Museum on 028 4461 5218 with any information.
Match-funding for this project has been provided by The Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department for Rural and Community Development in Ireland.