NI war museum which offered unique experience forced to close

A popular war museum in Co Antrim has been forced to close, but the curator of the vast collection has not given up hope of resurrecting it elsewhere.

By Graeme Cousins
Monday, 5th July 2021, 4:36 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 8:18 am
The War Years Remembered museum in Ballyclare
The War Years Remembered museum in Ballyclare

The War Years Remembered museum officially opened in Ballyclare in 2016 though David McCallion’s pet project which went on to become a registered charity started life in 1994.

He said he was absolutely gutted when he learnt his lease was to be terminated at Dennison Industrial Estate.

He said it was a combination of Covid restrictions and Brexit that meant the museum wasn’t generating sufficient funds and the sort of space he occupied was more profitable for use as bulk storage.

David McCallion at his War Years Remembered museum in Ballyclare

David commented: “It’s hard, but we have to be thankful with what we’ve achieved so far and look to the future.

“It is very daunting. The premises we’ve been looking at we just can’t afford as a charity. Some properties have doubled in price since last year.”

The museum is home to an enormous collection of World War memorabilia including some big items like a radar trailer, an Irish Army armoured car and a Morris Quad gun tractor – the only D-Day vehicle in Ireland.

As well as housing artefacts belonging to the legendary Blair Mayne, David has also has put in place several authentic backdrops such as a trench system upon which to exhibit.

A Blitz display at the War Years Remembered museum in Ballyclare

He said: “I’ve no idea where collection will go. It is vast. Everything will have to be properly packed and stored away until we find a suitable location to reopen again.”
He added: “It’s hitting the volunteers hard. They’re breaking down emotionally, even the public are breaking down on us. That’s the hard part of it.

“I can’t face reading all the comments we’ve been left just yet. People can’t believe we’re closing.

“We were able to raise nearly £28,000 through the Footsteps for Heroes campaign. That’s amazing to achieve that.

I can’t thank people enough for their support, but during Covid we found it very tough to generate funds.

Some of the vehicles at the War Years Remembered museum in Ballyclare

“If there was enough support, enough pressure put on, the Executive could step in and find us premises and we’d pay the running costs. At the end of the day we’re a charity who are offering a unique experience.

“We’re not in competition with anyone. All we’re trying to do is be better than we were yesterday.”

The museum will close on July 10, but one exception will be made: “We still have a dementia group booked in on July 16, so I’ll be taking them round. It would break my hard to cancel them. The reminiscence work we do here is very, very important to us.”

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