Tour Dates Update

2022 Schedule Tours

After the last 2 years, it’s more obvious than ever that nothing is certain. That being accepted, I’ve just uploaded details of my proposed scheduled Tours, on most Saturday mornings, from March through to end of September.

Dates and booking details here: EVENTBRITE

These scheduled Tours start at 10.30, and take between two and two-and-a-half hours to complete the two-mile route. (Route may be a little longer, or shorter depending on weather and any enforced detours).

A couple of Saturdays are not included, as I plan something a bit different for those. More information closer to the dates.

If you, or a group of you, would prefer a Tour on a different date, or of a different distance or duration, please get in touch. I’ll do my very best to fit something in for you.

Any comments, or questions, let me know.

Latest News

The Yanks Are Coming!

During 2022, I plan to share a few posts on my Facebook Page about what was happening in Northern Ireland 80 years ago, specifically in relation to the arrival of the US military.

#OTD1942

By way of background:

Plans had been developed as early as April 1941 for the United States of America to send troops to the UK, should the USA enter the Second World War.

In June of that year, 350 civilian workers from G.A. Fuller-Merritt Chapman Corporation (an American firm) arrived in Northern Ireland to begin building naval bases at Londonderry (Base No.1) for the refueling and repair of destroyers and submarines, and Lough Erne for PBY Catalina flying boats.

in July, members of the Special Observer Group made a first visit to Northern Ireland, looking at existing infrastructure and making recommendations about potential sites for US military sites. The Group submitted its first report in September, recommending that a depot be established at Langford Lodge to carry out maintenance repairs for American aircraft.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, and the subsequent declaration of war on the USA by Germany a few days later, brought America into the war.

On 17 Dec, Major General James E. Chaney submitted a report on his review of the situation following American entry into the war, and specifically referenced a plan to send 33,421 American troops to Northern Ireland.

This cohort of troops will be designated by the codename MAGNET Force.

The friendly “invasion” of Northern Ireland is imminent!

Follow the Tour’s Facebook Page for regular updates on the 80th anniversary of key events.

Image: Washington County Free Library Photo WCRH018. Part of the General Russell P Hartle Collection. American troops from 34th Infantry Division en route to Northern Ireland on board the British troop ship HMTS Strathaid. Photo taken in February 1942. Copyright United States Signal Corps.

Tour content update

Well, Hello 2022!

As 2021 draws to a close, I would like to wish you all a Happy & Prosperous New Year.

Despite you-know-what, I had a pretty special year for my Tours. Despite not running any just-turn-up Tours (I decided the safest option was to ask all Tours to be pre-booked in advance) I still took more tours than I expected. There were a few notable ones too: the remarkable folk from the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen Association (BLESMA); the participants from the Men United project in Belfast; and those who joined me on the couple of Tours (in the pouring rain!) as part of the NI100 commemoration. Thank you to all who joined me.

Thanks

A special shout-out to the Northern Ireland Lottery Heritage Fund for their support this year. Their grant, as part of the COVID recovery project, helped me purchase more WW2-era memorabilia, upgrade my website and ensure my Tours were COVID safe.

Finally, I can’t miss out the fantastic help offered by Mid & East Antrim Council. In particular, the Tourism, Business Development and Museum ladies (they know who they are!). Their enthusiasm for what they do, and their regular check-ins to make sure I was getting every available help and encouragement, was invaluable during the pandemic.

Looking Ahead

I’m now looking forward to 2022. It will mark eighty years since the friendly “invasion” from across the Atlantic. The official arrival of military personnel from the United States changed the culture of Northern Ireland – music, food, fashion, and romance! I plan to organise a few special activities during the year to highlight the impact our American visitors had on the town.

This anniversary, however, does not mean I’ll be neglecting the core elements of my Tour. You will still find out about Air Raid Precautions; Rationing; the reconfiguration of Factories to make parachutes, tanks, life-jackets, uniforms and more; changes to the town’s infrastructure; the establishment of Army Camps; the creation of a Military Prison; the role of women volunteers; the local consequences of the Belfast Blitz; and, of course, the formation and onward journey of the US Rangers.

New Stuff

If you have any suggestions about topics you would like included in future Tours, or any comments in general, I’d be delighted to read them.

As well as Guided Walking Tours, I can also deliver talks to Groups, and set up a display of my WW2-era memorabilia. These talks can be adapted to suit your requirements, so the earlier you get in touch with me to discuss options the better.

Keeping in Touch

I’ll provide updates on events and activites throughout the year on the Tour’s Facebook page. I know Facebook has its own way of deciding what to put into your News Feed, so the only way to make sure you find out about what’s happening with my Tour is to make this page one of your favourites. This link may help you do that: https://m.facebook.com/help/371675846332829

So, onward to 2022, whatever that may bring.

Latest News, Tour content update, Tour Dates Update

We are back!

A relaxation of the COVID restrictions means I can re-start Walking Tours around Carrickfergus from 24 May 2021. Finally, the Teddy Bear (yet to be named) can come out of his suitcase!

Join me on a walk around my hometown to uncover the story of Carrickfergus as it was during the Second World War. We’ll visit some of the locations that were important during this period to understand what it was like to live through this most momentous period of the 20th Century.

All Tours include extensive contemporary photographs and artifacts, as well as a few specially commissioned reproductions. Through these, you will experience how the people, buildings, and infrastructure of Carrickfergus responded to the outbreak of the Second World War.

Tour Options

The Tour has a few Route permutations, from 1.2 to 2.5 miles.

The Public Tour is the shorter version, taking about 90 minutes to complete. Public Tours are advertised through Eventbrite.

Private Tours are available on request: please get in touch with your requirements and I’ll do my best to organise a Tour for you. Private Tours can be tailored to meet your specific requirements and interests. The Route and content can be adapted, and visits to additional locations included (subject to their opening hours).

Prices

Adults (aged 16 and over): £8

Juniors (Under 16): £5

Any Questions?

Ultimately, I want you to have a great experience on my Tour. Feel free to contact me to find out more, talk through what you would like included on your Tour and even make suggestions. Private Tours can be as bespoke as you want.

If you have any queries about the Tour, please do get in touch.

Phone/Text: 07916 780474

Email: leadthewaytourcarrickfergus@gmail.com

Tour content update, Tour Dates Update

April Re-Start

Fingers crossed, brighter times are ahead.

I’m now one of the growing minority (soon to be the majority) of people who have had the COVID vaccine. I’m hoping this will be a significant step towards a return to normality – or as close to that as possible.

From my Guided Walking Tour’s perspective, I’ve put in a shed-load of effort during the lockdown to make sure I can begin meeting new Guests, and sharing the story of my hometown as it was during the Second World War.

Busy bee, busy me

Anyone who knows me will have often heard me say “every day is a school day”, and I’ve been true to my word. I’ve completed online classes in Customer Care, Social Media for Business and am part-way through a Tour Guiding course.

I’ve also had a lot of support from Mid & East Antrim Borough Council through their Storify my Business and Digital Boost programmes, regular check-ins from their Tourism folk and timely emailed updates.

Thanks to some financial support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, I’ve been able to track down and purchase some exhibits to show Tour Guests; invest in some audio equipment so that Guests can maintain Social Distancing and still hear me; bought licences from National Museums NI for a few wartime photos which I will be able to share on my website and social media channels; and upgraded my website (though I’m still tinkering with it, so it will change a bit over the next few weeks).

Starting Soon….

Bottom line is that I hope to be in a position to re-start Tours in April, subject to appropriate guidance. Safe to say I’m excited about the possibility of recommencing Tours.

The best way to keep informed about my Tours is to either check in with my website now and again, or follow my Facebook Page.

Additionally, I’ve looked at the content of my Tour, and the exhibits I now have, and think there is enough there to be able to offer presentations to groups (once we are allowed to meet like that again). I’ll update you on this possibility through my website and Facebook Page.

Finally, if you have any comments, questions or suggestions about my Tour, please let me know. I want to keep improving!

Looking forward to meeting new Guests and showing off my hometown.

Adrian

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GIFT VOUCHERS AVAILABLE NOW!

Looking for something different to give to a loved one or friend at Christmas?

I’m offering Gift Vouchers for Private Guided Walking Tours of Carrickfergus, which can be used during 2021.

My Second World War themed Guided Walking Tour is the only one of its type in Northern Ireland. It looks at how one small town in Northern Ireland adapted to wartime conditions.

BACK IN TIME

We all have ancestors who experienced the impact of the Second World War on their lives. My Tour takes you back to that historic period through the eyes of those folk who lived, worked or were stationed in Carrickfergus between 1939 and 1945.

On the Tour you will discover how factories changed production to meet the needs of the War Effort; local people lived with rationing, air raid precautions and the blackout; overseas troops based themselves in and around the town in preparation for entering battlefields on North African and European soil; buildings were re-purposed to become military prisons, stores and accommodation; and how some of the remnants of that time are hidden in plain sight!

GIFT VOUCHER

If you know someone who might enjoy coming on a Private Guided Walking Tour, why not get them a Gift Voucher?

Priced at just £7, it can be used to book a Tour during 2021.

If the Voucher holder wants to bring along additional guests, they can be added at the time of booking for just £7 per person (usually £8).

The Voucher holder can contact me anytime during 2021 to arrange a suitable day and time for their Private Tour.

ORDERING A VOUCHER

To order a Gift Voucher, drop me an email at leadthewaytourcarrickfergus@gmail.com with your name and postal address, and I’ll reply with payment details.

UK postage & packaging is included in the price.

Order your Voucher by 17 December 2020, to allow sufficient time for postal delivery.

If you live in a BT38 postcode area I can deliver a Voucher personally right up to 23 December 2020 and accept cash on delivery.

If you have any queries about the Voucher or the Tour, please get in touch using the email address above.

Adrian (your personal guide)

Tour content update, Tour Dates Update

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.

Tour content update

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.”

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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.

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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.