Rare Blair Mayne memorabilia unveiled at new War Years Remembered exhibition
A trunk of possessions belonging to the co-founder of the SAS has been donated to a war museum in Co Antrim.
On Saturday a special remembrance service took place to unveil the collection of Blair Mayne’s items at War Years Remembered in Ballyclare.
The exhibit was unveiled by family members while guests included DUP leader Arlene Foster and South Antrim election candidate Paul Girvan.
Historian Peter Forbes gave a talk on the significance of Blair Mayne and his artefacts.
He said: “These have been protected and cherished by the family since his passing in 1955, and have rarely been seen in public.
“The collection includes his medals, uniform, war trunk and more importantly its contents – photographs, letters and documents pertaining to his life in combat, the formation of the fledgling wartime Special Air Service and pages from the original German book that became the SAS War Diary.
“Over the next few months the letters will be studied, collated and documented to help us unlock the secrets of the beginnings of this amazing group, from not just an original, but from the man who led them through some of their hardest battles, through the North African desert, through Italy and France and in to the heart of Germany itself.”
He added: “It is the beginning of a journey to try and bring together all of Blair’s possessions and history, for generations to see, learn about and enjoy.
“Blair ranks amongst the most famous of soldiers from our wartime past, and across the world he is renowned for his courage, bravery and leadership. Being a local man, it is important that we keep his legacy alive, and in Northern Ireland.”
David McCallion, curator of the museum, said: “We are extremely honoured to have been chosen to be the benefactors and guardians of this extremely important and unique collection of artefacts all relating to the one family.
“Lieutenant Colonel Robert Blair (Paddy) Mayne DSO is one of our bravest and the highest decorated warriors to leave this isle.
“This is only the beginning of an amazing project and journey to dispel myths and to allow the public an insight into one of the most important Second World War family stories.
“The collection will be researched and collated by one of the United Kingdom’s renown authors and specialist on the subject.”
As well as co-founding the SAS, Blair Mayne went on to play rugby for both Ireland and the British Lions.
He died in his home town of Newtownards at the age of 40 in 1955.
Mr McCallion described Blair Mayne as a “soldier’s man” and said it was fitting that his possessions would be displayed alongside other warriors in the only war museum in Ireland.
He commented: “Hopefully this exhibition can put a lot of wrongs right.
“There are stories out there were people are saying he was a drunkard, a rogue, but by studying his correspondence we will get a better picture of his human side.”