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            Chapter 1 – My Early Life







Military Service


I joined the Royal Marines on 13 June 1939 at the age of 17 years and I was discharged on 11 July 1953 after fourteen years service, six of them as a prisoner of War in Europe. I then served in the B Specials for seventeen years from November 1953 until they were disbanded in 1970. In 1972 I joined the UDR and resigned from the Regiment in 1979 after seven years service.

Family Life

When my father left school he went straight into the baking trade and was employed in our hometown, Coleraine. He was unable to join the Army at the Coleraine recruiting offices because everybody there knew him and would have known he was under age. So a friend and himself walked all the way to Londonderry city to the army recruiting office there but even the Londonderry recruiters knew he was too young so they chased him.

Both of them came back to Coleraine for a couple of years and then started walking to the recruiting office in Omagh. They managed to hitch a couple of lifts on their journey. My father was only sixteen but he was accepted into the Royal Enniskilling Fusiliers. He qualified as a trained soldier two years before the First World War started.

My fathers unit was posted to Gallipoli in 1915 but the records of his exploits are very scant. He then went to France, was wounded and arrived back in Coleraine in 1916. He spent his time in Coleraine convalescing. As soon as he was fit for duty he returned to France and was wounded again. He convalesced in England that second time. He then rejoined his regiment and was wounded for a third time at Mon’s when part of his leg was blown off during a battle. He was finally discharged from the army in 1917 as unfit for military service.

When my father left the army he had a three severe war wounds to contend with. The worst health problem was the loss of most of his calf muscle from one of his legs.

My Fathers Work

Prior to my father becoming a policeman he worked in the bakery in Coleraine for a while. He did not enjoy his time there so he moved to Scotland and worked as a baker. When he returned to the Province again he joined the RUC for a year. Because of his war wounds he could not understand why the RUC had initially accepted him. But after the first year in the RUC he had to sit a medical board and he failed. He was discharged as a result of that medical board My father then moved the family from Coleraine to our new home in Glenstall near Ballymoney. He was a postman there until he retired near the end of WW2.

My Birth

My mother was called Annie (nee Hamilton) from Ballymoney. I was born on 12 July 1922 hence my name, William. At that time my father was a RUC constable. He was stationed in Londonderry at the time and was allowed two hours off duty to come home to Coleraine to see my mother and myself. The first man to shake hands with my father was a Roman Catholic. My father had a good reputation for being a fair man. Although he was in the Orange Order he could not bear anyone speaking against Roman Catholics. He taught us all that we were human beings first.

I had three brothers and five sisters. From the eldest my brothers were called John, then myself, Bobby and Andy. My sisters were called Nelly, Mary, the twins Sadie and Elsie and finally the youngest, Annie. We were all educated at Eden Elementary School.

My Working Life

My First Job

After I left school I worked for Boyd’s Engineering in Bendooragh. My boss was called Andy Boyd. I worked in the blacksmiths shop for eight months. One day he played a trick on me by reaching me a bit of hot iron that burned my hand. I told him that one day I would play a trick on him. Andy said, ‘You can’t play a trick on me. I’m the boss’. I assured him that I would get even.

A couple of weeks later we were staving an axle for a thresher we were in the process of making. We had the axle staved, dipped a couple of times and then left to cool over the anvil. Andy walked in and said, ‘Well, I see you got the axel done’. I told him we were ready to fit it. He reached for the axel, which was still hot and burned his hand. He looked at me and said, ‘Door! Open! Walk out and don’t come back!’

Second Job

A couple of week’s later Andy Boyd’s son Albert came to the family home and asked me to return to work. This time they wanted me to work in the paint shop at Boyd’s Engineering. I was worried that Andy Boyd would not let me back to work but his son told me that Andy had nothing to do with the paint shop.

I was working there for two days when Andy walked into the paint shop and just stood back looking at me. ‘Who brought you back?’ he asked. ‘Albert’, I replied. Andy said, ‘Ah well, there’s nothing much I can do about that. You may stay’.