Like many towns and villages across Northern Ireland, Cullybackey, Co. Antrim was ready to celebrate Victory in Europe Day or VE Day before Prime Minister Winston Churchill made his announcement on 8th May 1945. The previous day saw decorations go up on homes and public buildings in the village.
At the Hillmount Works, there was fierce competition between various departments when it came to showing off their decorations. Most displays were homemade and featured flags of the Allied nations, photos of military leaders and the Royal family, buntings, and streamers.
Almost every house was well decorated with streamers and flags throughout the village. Some used fairy lights to help illuminate Cullybackey after nightfall. The Presbyterian Manse, in particular, looked spectacular, floodlit high above the village.
The night of 8th May 1945 saw a beacon lit at Reid’s Hill. Generations of locals have celebrated momentous moments there. A large procession of residents followed the Cullybackey Pipe Band from the centre of the village to O’Neill’s Corner. There, they were greeted with the sight of Major SG Haughton on a white horse. After taking the salute, he led the parade to the historic mound.
There, the band played several tunes fitting of the occasion, and the Major lit the fire, burning an effigy of Hitler much to the delight of the large crowd. Young and old alike spent the night dancing and celebrating Victory in Europe as the flames burned into the following morning.