So last week they celebrated ‘Battle of Britain’ day. A day in WWII when Spitfires took to the skies to thwart the mighty Luftwaffe.
On this island there was a very mixed opinion on what the war had to do with neutral Republic of Ireland. And even more so with those of us in Northern Ireland.
I wasn’t born then but I’ve read many a conflicting tale of opinion and attitude regarding whether or not the 90,000 or so Irish men, should have fought for Britain and the allies or not.
All I know is that if the Nazi air force had of won that battle, we Irish may have taken a great deal more of an interest in what happened to our nearest neighbours.
That hypothetical historical situation aside, I only know of one war story passed down through my family. My grandfather (still alive) reminisced to me one Christmas, of the time when he was a young boy in Belfast in the 1940’s. Belfast being in the UK , had factories manufacturing for the British war effort. Therefor, a legitimate target for the Nazi bombers.
He recalls an actual ‘Dogfight’ between a couple allied planes and a few German planes over the industrial harbour area of the city. Whether the facts of the story hold up or not I’m not sure but he does recall it with some conviction. So I believe him.
I live a couple of miles outside the town of Hillsborough which is where the Royal family stay when they visit these parts (Northern Ireland). You will never understand how far removed from my own upbringing the very notion of me bringing my kids to witness RAF fly-pasts in this town is.
But my kids will be brought up in a totally different environment than mine was. All they need to know right now is that their Dad used to build model Spitfires when he was a kid, and that they were lucky to get the opportunity to sit in one.
The other stories I look forward to telling them over a glass of wine some day when they are old enough to decipher all the information, contradiction, historical facts and Irish history for themselves.
For now I just hope we do a good job bringing them up to respect everyone regardless of religion or nationality, and to always acknowledge and respect the sacrifices of those Irish and British people in the past.