Personal Stories

Julie Coombes Kiernan’s Story

It was May 1941; I was seven years old and just about to make my first Holy Communion. My mammy brought me to Summerhill not far from where we lived. She had a docket for a certain shop. This docket she would pay back by weekly installments but would only allow one to us it in a particular shop.

It must have been very near my communion day because the shop was sold out of white dresses. The sales lady showed mam some little blue dresses. They had a print of little pink flowers. I still remember my mammy saying she had hoped to get me a white dress, but the sales lady was telling her the blue dress was pretty on me and went with the blue coat.

I was disappointed but like all children of that time we had not say. We just did as we were told. The Second World War was on but I was only vaguely aware of bombings in England. The name Hitler was often mentioned. Being one of a family soon to be nine children, our lives were occupied by hearing talk from our parents about making ends meet. Bread and potatoes were our stable diet. Oh how I disliked the taste and colour of bread during the war.

The night before my big day, I must have slept very heavy because when I woke up I was in my mam and dads bed. There seemed to be a lot of excitement happening as my mammy told me the Germans had bombed the North Strand which was only a street away from Killarney Street, where we lived. She was delighted I hadn’t woken up as all our windows were broken from the blast. She had taken us all into her bed.

Looking back now she must have felt at that time if we were to die we would all die together. Still life went on as usual and I went to the church of Our Lady of Lourdes. Some of the girls wore black sashes over their white Communion dresses. I was the only one with a blue dress. The day after my First Holy Communion my granddad Coombes brought me by the hand to the top of the street, he lifted me up to look across the barricades at the Five Lamps and the rubble of all the houses and shops. I was too young to realise the terrible loss of life.

Julie Coombes Kiernan