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In 2019 Newry and Mourne Museum was donated an interesting collection of documents and photographs. These have now been catalogued and provide a valuable insight into local family links and service in the two world wars.

Photograph of quarry workers at the Croreagh/Crow Hill Granite Quarry, c.1914. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Photograph of quarry workers at the Croreagh/Crow Hill Granite Quarry, c.1914. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

A significant amount of this material charts the nursing career of Patricia (Norah) Mahood, and the wartime service of her father, Tom Mahood, who fought in the First World War. Other material relates to their relatives in the Newry and Rathfriland area, mainly the McCullough family of Croreagh. This includes indentures, leases, mortgages, as well as documentation relating to land and property arising from the Irish Land Act (1925) and the Land Purchase Commission, Northern Ireland. 

Patricia Mahood’s grandfather was John Morrison and by the time of the 1911 Census the family, four girls and two boys, were living at Lissize, Rathfriland. There is a small amount of material relating to this family including a Masonic certificate belonging to John Morrison. The sons travelled back and forth to America and Canada, prospecting and working on the railways, including Robert Morrison who enlisted in the Canadian Infantry in November 1914. 

Detail from a wages book (13th November 1915 – 2nd September 1916) for quarry workers at Croreagh / Crow Hill quarry. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Detail from a wages book (13th November 1915 – 2nd September 1916) for quarry workers at Croreagh / Crow Hill quarry. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

One of the daughters, Maggie Morrison, married William McCullough and the Collection includes material relating to a granite quarry the McCullough family owned at Croreagh and their small farm at Crow Hill House. The quarry is reputed to have provided granite sets for the tram lines in Belfast. Maggie’s daughter, Peggy (who married Robert Noble of Canal Street, Newry) reminisced how she cycled to the police barracks in Mayobridge to get a permit for dynamite to blast the stone in the quarry. 

Another daughter Nora Morrison married Tom Mahood, who worked in a bank in Rathfriland, in 1917. With the outbreak of the First World War, Tom enlisted with the 10th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in Belfast in September 1914 and served until 1919. The Collection contains a significant number of postcards sent between Nora and Tom from Nora’s home at ‘Springfield’, Rathfriland and Tom’s stations at Donard Lodge Camp, Newcastle Camp and later, ‘Worldsend Camp’, Ballykinler, county Down. 

Tom Mahood in uniform with Nora Mahood (nee Morrison). Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Tom Mahood in uniform with Nora Mahood (nee Morrison). Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Years later, probably around 1939, Tom wrote his wartime memories in an exercise book which was also donated the Museum. The memoirs are an insightful record and include details of his medical in Belfast and drilling and training exercises at Ballykinler Camp, near Newcastle. He outlined how he assembled in Sandy Row, Belfast, prior to moving to the camping ground in the demesne at Newcastle, where he described October 1914 as very wet with mud oozing through the floor boards of their tent. Soon after they marched to Ballykinler military camp which at that time was being enlarged to accommodate battalions. 

In his memoirs, Tom says ‘It is not my intention to go into events that happened in the War…’, but he does record a few interesting incidents. One of these took place early in May 1917, at a place called Locre (Loker) in Belgium, where battalions of the Ulster (36th Division) played against battalions of the Irish (16th Division), in two football matches. While there was worry of a German attack, Tom goes on to record, ‘But, to stop a match which was being clearly fought before a sporting audience between the two opposing factions in Ireland in a spirit of friendliness which seems to be unattainable at home; why that would have been just as serious.’ 

Tom also relates that he took trench fever in August 1917, and was hospitalised at Wimereux in France before being sent to a convalescent hospital in Wells, Somerset.  After a period of leave he then reported for duty at Dundalk barracks, and shortly before Christmas was once more in France. 

By the end of October 1918, the war was over for Tom. He contracted what he termed ‘the black flu’ (Spanish Flu) in London and it was three months before he got home. His last entry relates to escorting soldiers back to Portobello Barracks in Dublin for demobbing.

Tom Mahood, left hand side, pictured with comrades at WW1 Commemorations which took place in France from 4-7 August 1939.  Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Tom Mahood, left, pictured with comrades at WW1 Commemorations which took place in France from 4-7 August 1939. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Tom and Nora’s daughter, Patricia, was born in 1922, and Tom continued working in a bank in Portaferry. He received an MBE in 1949 and an OBE in 1958 for his services with the British Legion. He retired with his wife to Newcastle and died in 1960.

Next week we will look at Patricia Mahood’s nursing career, including her time with the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps looking after former prisoners of war in India from 1945 - 1948. 

Newry and Mourne Museum re-opens 7 October. For further details tel. 0330 137 4422.

By: Noreen Cunningham

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