Belfast Blitz service: Family of Protestant woman who was rescued from rubble thanks southern fire teams

Marion Kirkpatrick, 90, and her son Colin, 63, outside St Anne's Cathedral for the 75th memorial service for the Belfast Blitz, which Marion survived aged 15 after being rescued from rubble in which she was trapped for five hours. Pic by Ben Lowry
Marion Kirkpatrick, 90, and her son Colin, 63, outside St Anne's Cathedral for the 75th memorial service for the Belfast Blitz, which Marion survived aged 15 after being rescued from rubble in which she was trapped for five hours. Pic by Ben Lowry

A Protestant family that survived the Belfast Blitz yesterday expressed gratitude for the fire teams from south of the border that helped after the German raids.

Marion Kirkpatrick and her son Colin were speaking to the News Letter after yesterday’s 75th anniversary memorial service for the blitz at St Anne’s Cathedral.

Paul Bell, mayor of Drogheda, middle front row, beside Belfast deputy mayor Guy Spence, in front of councillors and members of the public,  at the St Annes service

Paul Bell, mayor of Drogheda, middle front row, beside Belfast deputy mayor Guy Spence, in front of councillors and members of the public, at the St Annes service

Marion, now aged 90, was rescued from the rubble of her home at the age of 15 after being trapped for five hours when a parachute mine landed on the house she was in.

Mrs Kirkpatrick was among six neighbours rescued from the ruins of Hopeton Street in the lower Shankill on Easter Tuesday 1941 after the worst of the raids.

Mrs Kirkpatrick attended yesterday’s service with the aid of a walking stick. “I found it very uplifting,” she said.

Her son Colin, now aged 63, said: “It if hadn’t been for the rescue I wouldn’t be here.”

Dean John Mann and Father Michael Sheehan in front of St Anne's yesterday with fire engines from Dundalk and Drogheda that helped Belfast in 1941

Dean John Mann and Father Michael Sheehan in front of St Anne's yesterday with fire engines from Dundalk and Drogheda that helped Belfast in 1941

Standing near to two fire engines that came up from Dundalk and Drogheda in 1941, and have now been preserved and were parked outside yesterday’s service, Mr Kirkpatrick said: “We are very grateful to the southerners who came up. Eamon de Valera was quoted as saying those are our people up there.”

Las Fallon, a Dublin firefighter, who was also at the St Anne’s event, said that he was “touched” by such sentiments.

“It is nice to think that the work of the ones who went before me is remembered and remembered fondly,” he said.

Early in his career, Mr Fallon, now 56, talked to some of the men who helped those nights in Belfast in April and May, and he is now a historian of the Dublin fire brigade.

St Annes Cathedral commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz (Photo by Kevin Scott/Presseye )

St Annes Cathedral commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz (Photo by Kevin Scott/Presseye )

“They spoke of the events with a huge sense of pride,” he said. “The men who went north were called into headquarters late at night, after a phone call from Belfast to say it was being heavily bombed, and there was an excess of volunteers to pick from.”

Mr Fallon said of yesterday’s service: “It was a very moving occasion, and I was delighted to be at it.”

During the hour-long proceedings, Mr Fallon helped a 1941 survivor, Bridget Henry, bring a candle to the altar at St Anne’s. She was one of three sisters, now living in Dublin, who survived the attacks but lost a fourth sister in them.

Among the other people to bring a candle to the altar was Brian Barton, author of last year’s history of the Belfast Blitz, which was one of the worst hit cities in the UK. In the four raids in April and May, more than 1,000 people were killed when military deaths are added to casualties.

The Sinn Fein mayor Arder Carson was among those who read a lesson at the ecumenical service, led by Dean John Mann and Father Michael Sheehan. Fr Sheehan, of St Patrick’s, Donegall St, which lost 130 parishioners in the Easter raid, gave the sermon.

UUP councillor Jeff Dudgeon, who has been involved in blitz commemorations, said: “It was a magnificent service. All communities and political parties, united in memory.”

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