My grandfather John Adams and his brother James Meeke (Jimmy) Adams grew up in a small labourers cottage in Lisadian, near Whitecross in Co. Armagh. Jimmy lived there until his death in 1986.

I think this is the cottage, and I’ll verify with old family photos (when I can find them!).

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From visiting Jimmy with my Dad I remember that the cottage had one main room and two bedrooms, and there was no bathroom. The main room was full of Jimmy’s junk (ahem, antiques), and had an open fire where Jimmy boiled a kettle and cooked directly on the fire using a griddle.

More Letters from the Front

John Adams SnrRemembrance Sunday is a good day to write this post, inspired by Julia’s post earlier.

A few weeks ago, my brother recently received a package from the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum in Armagh, containing copies of a number of letters written to my great-grandmother, Mary Anne Adams during the Great War. My Dad had donated them to the museum in the 1980s.

We had not seen quite a few of these letters before, and they have helped us fill in some blanks in my grandfather’s experiences of the War, training in Ireland and England, fighting near the Somme in France and Ypres in Belgium, getting wounded (twice – 1916 and 1918) and even working on a farm near Rouen while recuperating from illness.

The letters tell nothing of the fighting, but do indicate what it was like for young men to be away from home for over four years, and illustrated how letters from home were a lifeline. The modern equivalents (email, text, e-blueys) are probably equally important to today’s front-line soldiers.

We’ve been able to update the site with the new letters, and also use other documentary sources to give an idea of where the events happened (reading beyond the “somewhere in France”). Read the whole story on the updated Letters from the Front website.

Bye Bye Bawn

After almost 84 years, the Adams family bid farewell to Hamilton’s Bawn today, with the completion of the sale of my Mum’s house.

My grandfather and grandmother first moved to the village in 1926, my father was born there and lived all his life there, and me and my brothers grew up in the village. My parents built a new bungalow on a greenfield site opposite my grandparent’s house in 1967, moving in in 1968, and lived there for the rest of their lives.

Building Site 1
The house as a building site in 1967

hamilton's bawn
The house in 2010

My grandfather and father were heavily involved in the local branches of the Orange, Black and Masonic orders, they were both founding members of the local Silver Band in 1947 and they had a really strong personal identity with the area.

However my brothers and I all moved away in our late teens and have lost our connection with the village on the death of both our parents. While I am really pleased that we’ve been able to sell the house to a young family and we hope that they’ll be very happy there, the sale breaks that 84-year link between our family and “The Bawn”.

There’s something about our identities that will always mean that we’re from that particular place. We’ve been shaped by it’s history, particularly during the troubled times of the 1970s and 1980s, but also by the history of our family in that small area. The view from the front of the house across to Garvagh Hill is imprinted on my brain and I’ll never ever forget that I’m from “The Bawn”.

Bee Adams 1933-2009

Bee Adams wedding

My Mum, Bee Adams, passed away on Sunday after a short stay in hospital, and her funeral is tomorrow.

Olive Beatrice (Bee) Thompson was born in Larne in 1933, youngest of five children of Mary and William Thompson. They moved to Markethill (?late 1930s/early 1940s) where William was a police sergeant at Markethill RUC station. Bee always remembered her father sounding the air raid siren on top of the police station, and how Gosford was used to house German prisoners and American GIs.

Bee finished her schooling in Ballyclare, and enrolled as a trainee teacher in Stranmillis College. She met John Adams there, and they married in July 1958 and moved to Hamilton’s Bawn. She took up a teaching post at Salter’s Grange Primary School where John also worked. Bee spent most of her teaching life in Salter’s Grange, and saw several generations of children through their primary education. She retired in 1985 after approximately 30 years.

She had four sons. Unfortunately Derek (born 1964) had Downs Syndrome and sadly died at 18 months. This was a body-blow to Bee and John, a deep sadness that she never lost.

The Troubles also dominated Bee’s life, as John was a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment in a volatile part of Northern Ireland. Although many friends and colleagues were killed, the UDR also offered new horizons and opportunities, and the chance to meet many people from outside Northern Ireland. It is difficult to imagine the stress of those years, particularly for Bee who was affected by the uncertainty of waiting, wondering and worrying.

Unfortunately John died suddenly in 1997. Bee became ill in April 2004 and spent several months in hospital and Roxborough House, Moy. With the help of Premier Care, and particularly her carers Jennifer and Caroline, she was able to continue to live independently at home for over four years.


Memories of Operation Banner

Helicopter view south armagh

I was 8 when the first soldiers arrived in Northern Ireland.

My Dad, a ‘B’ Special, had been away from home a lot just before, policing riots in Derry.

I remember the first road block they set up outside our house. I was fascinated and wanted to welcome them with a cup of tea like I’d seen on TV. I thought that was the thing to do.

I remember the road noise of Land Rovers driving down country roads. They could be heard approaching from about a mile away.

I remember going with my Dad after he joined the UDR in the early 1970s to help fill sandbags at an electricity substation near Tandragee.

I remember my Mum and Dad inviting two soldiers for Christmas dinner – I was around 11 or 12, and they brought me a leather football.

I remember waiting in my Dad’s car as he worked in army barracks – Gough, Glenanne, Drumadd.

I remember meeting older soldiers in the UDR – our postman had fought at El Alamein – a natural choice for Company Sergeant Major. WW2 was as close as we are to the Falklands conflict.

I remember checking underneath my Dad’s car for bombs each morning.

I remember his personal protection weapon in his bedside drawer.

I remember him attending countless funerals.

I remember waiting for him to come home from duty each night.

And I remember people who didn’t.

I am glad Operation Banner is over.