'The town was on fire'

File: http://www.lifehistoriesarchive.com/Files/MMNS21.pdf

Dublin Core


'The town was on fire'


Maisie McNailly describes a trip to America and her subsequent return to a violence-ridden Belfast.


Maisie McNailly


Trinity College Dublin




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Maisie McNailly

Is Part Of

Marriage and Family


Life Story

Spatial Coverage

USA and Belfast

Temporal Coverage


Life Story Item Type Metadata


My mother and father died in 1968 just 10 days apart. Mother on a Wednesday and father on the Saturday week. I had some leave to be with my mother before she died. The following year, I decided I could take a long holiday. July, 1969, I went on my first trip to America. Again, it was organised by the church. Belfast to JFK airport. It was a very good trip out, the hostess treated us 1st class. My cousins met me at the airport. We had never met before. They held up a card with my name on it. I had my name on my dress. I was pleased to see them. Got to their car and were on our way to near Pennsylvania - a very long journey. I was able to relax and enjoy the journey. The two men in the front seats were listening to the radio. A plane was travelling to the moon. When we arrived at my cousin Jennie's home, they turned on the television. Armstrong was landing on the moon. I was made very welcome and in no time I felt at home. I met up with a lot of people who had come from Ireland or parents had. I had a wonderful time. Jennie took me to see the important places in Pennsylvania, to the places where Americas' independence was signed and other historic sites. Had a great time with Jennie and her husband. They loved going to the country. Met up with friends in big parks, had picnics, went to square dancing in the country. After the first week, I went to Washington, where my cousin James lived. He took days off work and took me to a lot of historic sites, especially the different monuments of the different Presidents. We went to the Capital Americans parliament. Visited the White House. So many places my memory fails me. Went on a beautiful drive further south. Visited some seaside cities. Had some more time with Jennie. We had been pen pals so we were best friends right away. Eventually it was time to go home. My friends left me back to JFK. Met up with some people I had made friends with. They were very worried about what we were coming home to. Everyone seemed to be very agitated. My friends told me there was trouble in Belfast. I hadn't heard any news. I said goodbye to my friends and boarded the plane. There was a completely different atmosphere on the plane than arriving. This was the 14th August 8 a.m. My brother and sister were waiting for me. Doris had driven my car. Herbert said I don't think you should take the car back. Go on the bus. There has been bombs and cars burned in Belfast. This was 8 a.m. Herbert hadn't heard the news that morning. If he had, he wouldn't have let me take the car. I said I would be alright. By the time I got near Belfast the Springfield Road gave me a shock. People were digging the pavements with picks to make stones to attack the police. Lorries were flying about filled with stones. When I got to the junction at the Falls Road, the IRA were directing the traffic dressed in black hoods as were most men. How I managed to get to the hospital I don't know. When I got to the office I must have passed out. Someone brought a cup of tea and tablets. A room was got for me in the Nurses' Home. Someone took me and put me in bed. I was very confused. I couldn't rest. When I got up it was dark. I went to a window and looked over Belfast. The town was on fire.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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