The Henly Gate

This Arch is at Prospect Road/Woodburn Road, one of the many routes that I can take on my way to Carrickfergus.  The original Prospect House was built for Alderman Henry Ellis some time before 1767 and was surrounded with ornamental grounds.  A listed building, it fell into disrepair, and in recent years was damaged by fire.   The land was cleared and modern houses were built on the site.

The portico is the only portion of the Henly Gate remaining.  It was erected in the 1920s as a 21st birthday present to Gwen Henly who was the last owner of Prospect House Estate.

During WWII Prospect House Estate was requisitioned for military use.

After the liberation of Belgium in late 1944, it was agreed that Belgium would raise 5 Infantry Brigades which were to be trained in Northern Ireland.  The 3rd Infantry Brigade ‘Rumbeke’ was posted to Northern Ireland from March 1945.  It was billeted around the northern shore of Belfast Lough.  The 2nd Battalion was located here at
Prospect House.  The Brigade trained for almost 6 months in this area before going on to take part in the occupation of Germany.

The other day I decided to stop my car and go take a closer look.  The man walking his dog in the photo above seemed to have the same idea.

A memorial was dedicated by the Borough of Carrickfergus, on 5 November 2006 commemorating the presence of the Belgian army.

This is what drew me to the Arch

The Bronze sculpture is a pair of well worn boots.

I would never be man woman enough to fill those boots!

I chatted to the young man in the photos above for quite some time and he offered to take my photo.

He was local to the area and his grandmother (now 90 years of age) had told him many tales of that time.  She had said that when the Belgians landed at the harbour in Carrickfergus they were found wandering through the streets, dazed, bedraggled and half starved.  Some had no boots, some had odd shoes and their their clothes were in tatters.  The local people dressed and fed them.

We have no conception of what life was like in WW1 or WW11.  Many a young man from Northern Ireland signed up and lied about his age – JUST TO GET A PAIR OF BOOTS!

That young man above told me he had joined the Royal Navy and served in the First Gulf War.  Why?  Simply because he could not get any other job at the time.  It makes me wonder….. how many of our young people are serving in war torn parts of the world, because they cannot find gainful employment at home on dry land?

19 thoughts on “The Henly Gate

  1. blackwatertown

    What someone else doesn’t notice, you make a whole story from.
    Thanks for the good read.
    I’ve been to Carrickfergus many times but never noticed this. Doh. Perhaps I’ve just never gone that way.
    Just wondering – did the memorial remind you of any board game?

  2. speccy

    Great story Grannymar. I knew nothing about the Belgian army being based locally.

    My grandfather joined the army at 14. Big family, no money. He was later wont to say that being in the army was a grand job, except for when there was a war on… Too many wars.
    In WW2 he served in Europe, Africa and Asia, but like so many, rarely talked of it to his family. His default childcare setting was to have us grandchildren marching round the sofa and saluting properly 🙂

  3. Baino

    A lot more than you’d think I suspect. I know of several who didn’t do too well at school but managed to enlist. Love the boots though and what a stroke of luck to run into someone who could fill you in. I still don’t know how a ‘listed’ property can be turned into a housing estate, doesnt’ that sort of make listing it in the first place rather stupid?

  4. Grannymar Post author

    blackwatertown – The simple answer is No! Board games were not my thing. I like recognisable sculpture and the simplicity of the old boots are what appealed to me.

    speccy – So many of your grandfather’s generation were the same and their parents didn’t know where they were. My hushand had the choice of going down the mines or signing up. He always said he chose the Air force, because they had softer boots!

    Baino – The property was burned to the ground, then and only then was the ground cleared and turned into a housing estate.

  5. Rummuser

    There are families in India too who can tell stories about the WWI and WWII where Indian soldiers and sailors fought. There are many memorials all over the country for British and Indian soldiers who either fought locally or overseas.

    In India, joining the armed forces in the ranks is certainly driven by unemployment and lack of opportunities in rural India. There are families where family tradition drives young people, now including women, into the armed forces. For the officer side however, there is still glamour attached to joining the armed forces but here too, one would suspect that the kind that cannot get into Management studies, or the Civil Service, choose the armed forces as a career. The same holds true for joining the state and central police forces, our Border Security Force, and other para military forces.

    You do have a knack of finding out interesting things about the mundane. It is a great trait which I wish that I could develop.

  6. blackwatertown

    It was the old boot in Monopoly that I was thinking of. That was the playing piece I chose if I had the chance.
    Interesting comment from Rummuser about Indians fighting with Britain in WW1 & WW2. There’s a classic image of a British soldier standing on the shore – looking determined – towards occupied Europe I suppose – and the caption says: All right, alone if I have to.
    (Or something like that.)
    But of course “alone” meant with the help of Indians, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, Irish, etc.

  7. Grannymar Post author

    Ramana – I like listening to people and they all have some story to tell.

    blackwatertown – Don’t forget the Gurka’s.

  8. Marianna

    What comes to mind is that in another lifetime, you could easily be a reporter covering human interest stories or have your own television show doing interviews! You are practising for it on your blog!

  9. wisewebwoman

    I love this GM, taking something small and making a lovely story out of it and the stories keep coming in the comments. I think of Newfoundlanders who signed up out of poverty in WW1 and were slaughtered and also of the many poor mountain people in the US who were slaughtered in Iraq. Cannon fodder.
    I am sure your husband had many stories to tell of his adventures.
    I had an uncle who signed up for the RAF and would come back with stories of worlds that sounded like Mars.

  10. Grannymar Post author

    WWW – I love when a post triggers memories for others. Jack did have stories, some funny and others only told in the wakeful wee small hours before dawn.

  11. Alice

    This will sound cynical I know, but it always seem to be the poor man who fights to keep his country safe. The gentry like it that way.

  12. Grannymar Post author

    Alice – The Generals seldom lead from the front, now they prefer the comfort of their armchairs! 🙁

  13. John

    I was reading all the blogs about prospect house being burnt to the ground and then the housing estate was built but just to let you know that the house still stands and the new estate has been built round it

  14. Grannymar Post author

    Welcome John to my blog. Thank you for that vital piece of information about Prospect House. I do need to pay another visit to the area and explore a little deeper.

  15. martina verstraten (lahou)

    My cousin Myriam just told me about her encounter with Ron Bischops in Antwerp last Thursday. Her father (my mother’s brother) told us many stories about his stay in Northern Ireland where he was part of the 3rd brigade. He was also member in the resistance in Belgium along with his older brother and my mother, who was a nurse during the war.We heard so many stories about their responsibilities to liberate us from the Nazi-occupation. As we grow older we have more and more respect for what they have done. I remember all the experiences of their youth. My UNcle who was in Ireland was always telling them with great and warm enthusiasm . His memories towards the Irish families were very positive.My uncles and mom have passed away. MOm only 2 months ago. I am so thankful to have had them and I used their stories and memories in school where I used to teach teenagers. It’s so important to tell them about peace , tolerance and responsibilities.
    With love! Martina

  16. Grannymar Post author

    Martina – Thank you for visiting my blog and sharing the story of you family in The 3rd Infantry Brigade ‘Rumbeke’. Any time I pass the boots I pause and think of those men it celebrates.


A penny for your thoughts...