“May 1974 – Northern Ireland’s brush with social collapse”

Witness to history

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – I read with interest the excellent article by Donald Clarke (“May 1974 – Northern Ireland’s brush with social collapse”, People, May 11th).

The following is an ordinary and everyday story of those times.

On that month my wife and I and our small family lived just off the Ormeau Road in south Belfast, and my wife was heavily pregnant with our second child. I worked as a design engineer in a large international company in Co Antrim.

Our company drew large amount of electrical power from the grid. Having been “forced” to disconnect from the grid, we attempted to operate our site’s essential services from our own standby generating plant.

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We were “instructed” to shut down that generator also. The company suffered severe financial losses.

As one of a small number of staff from the minority population employed on the site, I was “advised” to remain at home during the emergency.

In the middle of the “strike”. at 5am in the morning my wife declared it was time. We drove to the Royal Maternity Hospital on virtually empty roads, seeing scattered barriers and hooded individuals.

With great relief we arrived to welcoming staff at the hospital, and our second child was born at about 8am.

Back home, the next few days were filled with difficulties in getting essential provisions for the new baby.

A few days later the emergency ended.

Our family survived that experience and the “Troubles” generally; many didn’t.

Our son is celebrating his 50th birthday this month. – Yours, etc,

GERRY McQUILLAN,

Saintfield,

Co Down.

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