IMPORTANT UPDATE

Revised route, new content, restricted group size.

As the Northern Ireland Executive announces amendments to the COVID-19 containment measures, I am continually revising the Tour to ensure Guests’ safety..

Consequently, I will be taking Guided Walking Tours of Carrickfergus, looking specifically at events here during the Second World War, on the following basis:

  • There will be no “just turn up” Tours – all places on the Tour must be booked through Eventbrite or be pre-arranged on request. Drop me an email (leadthewaytourcarrickfergus@gmail.com), give me a call/text (+44 7916780474), or send me a Facebook Message (https://www.facebook.com/leadthewaytour), and I’ll do my very best to organise a day and time that suits you.
  • Requested Tours can be delivered on most days: morning, afternoon or evening.
  • Maximum of 10 persons on each Tour.
  • Those who come on the Tour MUST adhere to appropriate Social Distancing.

PUBLIC SAFETY REMAINS PARAMOUNT

ROUTE

The Tour route will be slightly different than before, to ensure it is delivered within the official guidance in regard to outdoor spaces.

It is about 1.3 miles long, and will take just over 90 minutes to complete (a shorter version is available for children – see The Tour section)

The route is on level ground with safe crossing points.

If you want to include more exercise into your Tour, it can be extended up to 3 miles to include walking out of the Town Centre to some of the locations that I talk about. These longer Tours can be arranged on request.

CONTENT

The Tour covers the following topics:

  • Background on the Churchill Tank displayed on the Marine Highway, the North Irish Horse Regiment that used it during the Second World War, and why Carrickfergus was so important in the development of the Tank
  • Factories in Carrickfergus that made a hugely significant contribution to the War effort
  • Domestic life in the town: The Home Front
  • The special uses of the town’s Civic Buildings
  • How the Town Centre’s infrastructure changed throughout the War, particularly when the American Troops arrived
  • The Sunnylands Army Camp – from British to American to Belgian occupation
  • The formation, and onward journey, of the US Rangers
  • A new Belgian Army
  • Carrickfergus Military Prison and Detention Barracks
  • The Military Petrol Distributing Centre

I use approximately 150 photographs to help tell the story of events in Carrickfergus during the Second World War. These photos have been enlarged to A4 size, so are visible from 2 metres to maintain social distancing.

I also have a few exhibits which I bring along. However, due to their fragility, if the weather conditions are not favourable I may not be able to display these –  apologies in advance if this is the case on your Tour. 

If you have any concerns or questions, please get in touch

Adrian

New Junior Tour

Over the last few weeks, three Primary School pupils have been on my Tour.

The Second World War is on the Primary school curriculum, and these children have been enthused enough to ask their parents to book a place on the Tour. The feedback has been very positive, but I appreciate that the Standard Tour content may be too detailed and varied to take in at that age.

With that in mind, I am organising Junior Tours over the summer months more specifically aimed at content that more appropriate for pupils in Years 4-7.

NOTE: Children on the Tour must be accompanied by an Adult. If from the same household, more than one child can be accompanied by a single adult

The Tour will look at events that happened in, or impacted on, the town of Carrickfergus:

  • Factories that made items used during the war
  • The Belfast Blitz
  • Air Raid precautions, including the issuing of gas masks
  • The American Army in Carrickfergus
  • The buildings adapted or built to support the military in Carrickfergus
  • Rationing and the Home Front

This Tour Route is around a mile in length and takes just over an hour to complete. This version is specifically for Primary School pupils plus a responsible adult to accompany them.

Advice for young children (Year 3 or younger) – if I am honest, the Junior Tour may not be suitable, and the Standard one definitely isn’t. There is quite a lot of information shared on both Tours, and I am not sure that a very young child would find this sufficiently interesting. That said, I will leave it up to the main carer of such a young child to decide if they want to bring them on a Tour. In such circumstances, children of this age will be made more than welcome and I will not charge for their attendance. If in doubt, get in touch and I can offer more specific advice.

Standard and Junior Tours will be advertised on Eventbrite, but I am also very open to requests to put on a Tour on other dates and times.

Follow in Royal footsteps

While researching the content of the Tour, I came across a very interesting piece in the autobiography of one of the original United States Army Rangers. Although I have been unable to verify its accuracy, I have no reason to disbelieve it.


With that caveat, it seems that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (before she became the Queen Mother) visited the Sunnylands Army Camp in Carrickfergus on the morning of the 26th June 1942. There they met some of those men who made up the 1st Battalion U.S. Rangers.


The autobiography mentions how impressed the American soldiers were with the Royal couple – more down to earth than they had anticipated. The Queen, in particular, charmed the Rangers with her knowledgeable comments about their rifles and other military equipment.


The Royals had spent a few days in Northern Ireland specifically visiting American military sites, with this visit to Carrickfergus coming on their last day here. Although many photographs we’re taken throughout their tour, I have been unable to trace any from their short stopover in Carrickfergus. This may be due to the very high level of secrecy surrounding the new elite fighting force that had been created in Sunnylands Camp just a week earlier.


Follow in the footsteps of Royalty, as my Tour includes a visit to where Sunnylands Camp was situated and I tell the story of the activation and onward journey of the only American military unit created away from U.S. soil.

Scheduled Tours are advertised on the Eventbrite website.

Tours on other days or times can be arranged on request.

The image used was created and released by the Imperial War Museum. CAPTION: “HM King George VI and Queen Elizabeth leaving HMS BICESTER at the end of their visit to the naval base at Larne, Northern Ireland, 26 June 1942.”

Tour Dates Update

Set Tours for the next six Saturday afternoons (2pm start) have been added to the “Events” section of the Facebook Page (although you can ask me to set up a Tour for another day/time – just ask!).

A quick background to the Tour is in the video pinned to the top of the Facebook posts.

To stay within the COVID-19 countermeasures, I have to limit the number of guests on each Tour to 8. Therefore,for the time being, there is no “just turn up” option – tickets must be purchased in advance through Eventbrite.

IMPORTANT UPDATE

Revised route, new content, restricted group size.

As the Northern Ireland Executive announces amendments to the COVID-19 containment measures, I am continually revising the Tour to ensure Guests’ safety..

Consequently, I will be taking Guided Walking Tours of Carrickfergus, looking specifically at events here during the Second World War, on the following basis:

  • There will be no “just turn up” Tours – all places on the Tour must be booked through Eventbrite or be pre-arranged on request. Drop me an email (leadthewaytourcarrickfergus@gmail.com), give me a call/text (+44 7916780474), or send me a Facebook Message (https://www.facebook.com/leadthewaytour), and I’ll do my very best to organise a day and time that suits you.
  • Requested Tours can be delivered on most days: morning, afternoon or evening.
  • Maximum of 10 persons on each Tour.
  • Those who come on the Tour MUST adhere to appropriate Social Distancing.

PUBLIC SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT

ROUTE

The Tour route will be slightly different than before, to ensure it is delivered within the official guidance in regard to outdoor spaces.

It is about 1.3 miles long, and will take just over 90 minutes to complete (a shorter version is available for children – see The Tour section)

The route is on level ground with safe crossing points.

If you want to include more exercise into your Tour, it can be extended up to 3 miles to include walking out of the Town Centre to some of the locations that I talk about. These longer Tours can be arranged on request.

CONTENT

The Tour covers the following topics:

  • Background on the Churchill Tank displayed on the Marine Highway, the North Irish Horse Regiment that used it during the Second World War, and why Carrickfergus was so important in the development of the Tank
  • Factories in Carrickfergus that made a hugely significant contribution to the War effort
  • Domestic life in the town: The Home Front
  • The special uses of the town’s Civic Buildings
  • How the Town Centre’s infrastructure changed throughout the War, particularly when the American Troops arrived
  • The Sunnylands Army Camp – from British to American to Belgian occupation
  • The formation, and onward journey, of the US Rangers
  • A new Belgian Army
  • Carrickfergus Military Prison and Detention Barracks
  • The Military Petrol Distributing Centre

I use approximately 150 photographs to help tell the story of events in Carrickfergus during the Second World War. These photos have been enlarged to A4 size, so are visible from 2 metres to maintain social distancing.

I also have a few exhibits which I bring along. However, due to their fragility, if the weather conditions are not favourable I may not be able to display these –  apologies in advance if this is the case on your Tour. 

If you have any concerns or questions, please get in touch

Adrian

More than a Castle

When I suggest to someone that they should come and visit Carrickfergus, I usually get the same response.

“Oh, I hear it has a Castle.”

Well, yes it does. And a very good one at that. Almost 850 years old and in remarkable condition. It’s a real castle, too. Not an artificial “Game of Thrones” film location. Worth going on one of the free guided tours.

There’s much more to Carrickfergus than the Castle, though.

The Carrickfergus story

The museum in the Civic Centre may be compact and bijou, but there is enough there to tell the story of Carrickfergus through the ages.

If you want a really edited version of the town’s history, pop into Market Place and a handful of wall plaques display a neat timeline.

Medieval

Almost as old is Saint Nicholas Church. Obviously it has been through a few revisions over the centuries, but it remains on the same plot as the original. Internal visits are offered, though the Church is not always open. If you get the chance to see inside, you won’t be disappointed.

The defensive Town Walls are well preserved, with the majority of them still standing. There are information boards placed at strategic points around the walls. Start just to the right of the local library. The first board will set the route out for you.

Victorian

The only preserved Victorian gasworks in Ireland is just outside the town centre. More interesting than you may think. Constructed in 1855, it supplied the town with coal gas right up to 1967. Those Victorian engineers built things to last!

Second World War

During the Second World War, Carrickfergus was a veritable hive of activity. It had a tank factory, a linen works converted to make parachutes (and a few other items for the war effort), it was a base for various military units (British, American and Belgian), and a United States special operations force was created here. Little of the wartime infrastructure remains, but this is where my Tour comes in (unashamed plug). It brings the events that took place in Carrickfergus during the Second World War to life.

Food and Drink

Of course, it you are going to spend a day or two in the town, you will need fed and watered. Did you know there are more sit-in places to catch a light snack or meal within a half-mile radius of the Castle than there are letters in the alphabet?

Getting here couldn’t be easier

If travelling by public transport, the train station is only a few hundred yards from the town centre and the bus drops you off even closer.
There are plenty of car parks dotted around, with the Harbour one (only 150 yards on the Belfast side of the Castle) the most convenient – and it’s free.

And there’s more….

If you are prepared to venture a little further, the Andrew Jackson Centre and the US Rangers Museum are jointly located about a mile towards Larne.

So, yes, do come and visit Carrickfergus.

Marvel at our beautiful Castle, but don’t miss out on the rest of the town’s offerings.

Top Tip: please check the opening times of these attractions before you travel. They vary a bit, and some may require advance notice of your intention to visit. Click on the attractions that are in bold to take you to an appropriate website.

YouTube Channel

As well as reading a small mountain of books and innumerable pages on the internet while researching content for the tour, I have come across quite a few interesting and useful videos on YouTube.

I thought I would put these together in a collection, so here’s a link to my YouTube Channel: Lead The Way Tour YouTube Channel

The Channel has only 1 video specific to the Tour, at the minute, but if you visit the associated playlist there’s a lot there of interest. Please feel free to subscribe to the Channel to view any more videos I add to it.

If I had to recommend a particular video on the playlist to start you off, it would be A Letter from Ulster (1942).

Enjoy the nostalgia.

Always looking for more…..

If you come across any more videos that you think could be added to that playlist, please contact me with the details.

Happy New Year

A new year and a new decade begins.

From a Second World War perspective, 2020 brings us the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V.E.) Day on the 8th May and Victory over Japan (V.J.) Day on August the 15th (though the United States of America commemorate V.J. Day on the 2nd of September).

V.E. Day is on a Friday, and I’m delighted that the Government has moved the May Bank Holiday to this date this year.

I am in the planning stages for a variation of my standard Walking Tours to take place over the V..E Day weekend, and I hope to soon be able to share details of a special extended Tour on V.E. Day itself.

Standard Tours are available throughout the winter months on request – just get in touch.

In the meantime, I wish you the very best for a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Request for information

With the Tour now in mini-hibernation for the winter (though willing to be woken up on request), I am continuing with research on events in Carrickfergus during the Second World War.

As well as using published material in books, magazines, websites and newspapers of the time, I would like to hear personal stories from those who lived in the town during this period.

Sadly, many of those citizens are no longer with us. However, I am sure many of their personal stories have been handed down the generations.

If you, or people you know, have any recollections of what it was like to live and/or work in Carrickfergus during the Second World War, please get in touch with me.

For example, from my own family I have discovered that:

  • my dad studied at the Tech on High Street, before getting a job helping with horse-drawn bread deliveries;
  • my grandmother used to watch the American soldiers parading down Lancasterian Street from her first floor landing window (she used to live in what is now a charity shop opposite the Fire Station);
  • my grandfather got a suspended prison sentence for his part in the theft of petrol from the Army store at Kinnegar barracks, where he was working (not the sort of story I hoped to find!);
  • my father-in-law was in the local Home Guard; and
  • my mother-in-law worked in Barn Mills (I recently found a photo of her there, taken in 1943)

Perhaps this request for stories is a good excuse for the younger generations to sit down and chat with their elders about this period in time.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, please get in touch to let me know if you have anything you think may be of interest – stories, photos, memorabilia etc.

I can arrange to meet up, if necessary, to record these stories or take copies/photos of any useful items. Or if you are happy to email me the stuff, that’s great.

The best way to get in touch, initially, is by emailing me at: leadthewaytourcarrickfergus@gmail.com

I will follow up any offers of information over the winter months. I may not do this immediately after you email me, so don’t worry if you don’t hear back from me straight away.

Winter Tour Arrangements

During the winter period, there are a few changes to how you can join me for a Guided Walking Tour around Carrickfergus.

Scheduled Saturday morning Tours, offered on a “just turn up” basis, will stop after 26 October 2019 and re-start on 29 February 2020.

During this period, Walking Tours will continue to be available on request.

I know that weather conditions may have an impact on your decision to consider a Tour. I don’t mind getting wrapped up to tackle the elements, but it’s not everyone’s idea of fun. For that reason, I am more than prepared to consider requests for a Tour at short notice, so you can factor in the weather forecast. I will do my very best to fit something in for you.

To help with your planning, here are a few useful hints and tips:

  • To get the most from a Tour, it’s best it takes place during daylight hours.
  • I can include a supported visit to the US Rangers Museum where a Tour fits in with their opening times of Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 – 15:00.
  • My contact details are here: Contact Me
  • Here’s a link to the BBC Weather Forecast: BBC Weather

More details about the Tour, including how to get here and other things you may want to do while in Carrickfergus, are available here: Lead The Way Tour Website

Please note, I will definitely be unavailable for Tours from 21 November through to 9 December.