by ehistoryadmin on October 21, 2017

Leinster Leader 11 October 69


“Be at the Bursting Doors of Doom

And, in the Dark, Deliver Us”

This inscription on the base of the of St. Barbara at the entrance to Artillery Barracks, Kildare, must have made significant reading to hundreds of Belfast refugees as they poured into Barracks just before last week-end, fleeing from the holocaust that has once again engulfed certain sections of the Northern capital and other centres of population in the Six Counties.

Here was safety and security for women and children, forced out of house and home by a horrible situation over which they have no control but the terrible tragedy of which may best be gauged by their frightened appearance and by their at times heart-rending appreciation of the fact that for a period at least they had somewhere they could sleep in peace.

To the writer it was history repeating itself. When last there was a major influx of Northern refugees to Kildare, they bore the same frightened appearance, radiated the same atmosphere of numbed shock. Mainly they were tired but above all they were scared. Very scared.

During the week a total of 284 refugees, mainly women and children and all from Belfast, arrived in Kildare. The military, with the help of members of the local Red Cross branch and organizations, did trojan work in catering for them and helping them “settle in”. Food and accommodation had to be provided, sleeping quarters arranged and, in many cases, replacement clothing found.

It wasn’t an easy task and all concerned deserve the highest of praise. But it was tough, too, on the refugees, composed mainly of mothers trying to cope and care for children of various ages. Army billets do not provide the best solutions to such problems and it was natural that after a couple of days rest the thoughts of the mothers should turn back home. The news from there, in press, radio and television was not always rosy but at least conditions did not seem to be as bad as they had been; as the week-end approached things seemed to be quieter “up North”.

Which probably explains why, before Saturday, one hundred of the refugees had left Kildare on the journey back home. Most of them went on Friday and on Sunday there were 186 still in the Barracks. They were mainly women and children (a ratio of about four children to one woman); there was only one male refugee in the Barracks at the week-end, a father who came down to see his family.

For one mother the unexpected visit to Kildare will always be memorable – she gave birth to a baby in the General Military Hospital, Curragh, on Sunday.

It wasn’t easy to talk to the refugees – and only the children were anxious to be photographed. Quite understandably, names were taboo – there are too many of the other members of the family that might pay penalty for such publicity. That is what the refugees say.

And on Sunday one got the impression that unless the situation in Belfast became worse that was reported, few of the refugees would still be in Kildare at the weekend. They were appreciative of everything that had been done for them – but they were anxious to get home.

Indeed one got the impression that they had left Belfast because they thought the situation was going to become worse and when it seemed to have quietened, they were anxious to get back. Much would depend on the developments in Belfast but the general consensus of opinion among mothers was that unless matters got much worse in Belfast they would all go home during the week.

And this seemed to be the general idea among the refugees in other centres throughout the country. On Monday, 200 refugees from Kilworth Camp Co.Cork arrived at Plunkett Barracks, Curragh Camp, where they had a meal before leaving Dublin for the Belfast train. They too, were going home.

 Refugee baby born in Athy 

A baby girl was born to Northerner, Mrs Jean Harmon at Athy Hospital, on Sunday, 28th September, the first refugee baby born in Kildare. Three weeks before the baby was born Mr. and Mrs. Harmon and their other three children were burned out of their home in Belfast and had to take refuge in Magee Barracks, Kildare.

“All thanks for the safety of both the mother and baby must go to the medical staff of Magee Barracks and of course the staff of Athy Hospital. We in the Camp wish to thank all personnel of Magee Barracks for all the things they have done for this mother and at this stage also for all the “other refugees,” stated a message from the Belfast refugees to the officer in charge of the Refugee Centre.

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