Victory in Europe: VE Day celebrations in Laurelvale, Co. Armagh

Residents of the Co. Armagh village gathered on the local sports fields to observe VE Day celebrations in Laurelvale, which involved sports and fancy dress.

The village of Laurelvale, Co. Armagh celebrated Victory in Europe Day or VE Day in a somewhat unusual fashion. On the afternoon of Wednesday 9th May 1945, local residents turned out to the village football pitches for a day of fun.

To begin proceedings, Reverend RG Fry of Ahorey Presbyterian Church, deputising for the otherwise engaged Reverend AN Parkinson of Mullavilly, conducted a short religious service.

Mr. David Adair, Mr. William Adair, and Mr. Lindsay Wilson organised the day, which was hosted by Mr. W Dunbar and Mr. and Mrs. Hollingberry. The Hollingberry’s led a day of sporting activities for locals including a host of athletic challenges.

Of course, you will want to know the runners and winners!

Sports Day Successes

In the 50-yard flat race for ages 4-6, Isabella Boyce took first place with Pauline Taylor and Irish Blair close behind. The 6-10-year-olds ran 100 yards with the victory going to Fred Gibson followed by Walter Thompson and Bobby Irwin. 200 yards was the distance covered by Len Milligan, Albert Taylor, and Billy Preston who came home in order in the 10-12-year-olds category. The 12-14-year-old covered the same distance with the first 3 comprising Jim Collen, Cecil Watton, and William Campbell. This was a day of some serious sports and Cecil Watson narrowly defeated Tom Deane in the high jump. William Campbell won the long jump.

More novelty races such as the 100-yard three-legged race saw Jean Vennard and Eileen Bell finish ahead of Albert Taylor and Billy Preston. The ever-popular sack race – referred to as the bag race in 1945 – saw three races run. The first outing saw Desmond Wilson, Len Milligan, and James Patterson in the top 3 positions. Albert Taylor, Evelyn McGeown, and Eric Black took top places in the second race. The third saw Dinah Hollingberry, Jean Preston, and Alan Patterson secure the top spots.

Another staple of the school sports day is the egg and spoon race. In the 5-7-year-olds group, Walter Thompson, Dinah Hollingberry, and Shirley Strain finished ahead of the others. Jean Preston, Dorothy Collen, and Violet Taylor lead the way in the 8-14-year-olds. Woolsey Pearson and James Collen secured victories in the wheelbarrow races.

Bonfire in Laurelvale

As night fell on the village of Laurelvale, Co. Armagh, 2 pipers led a procession in fancy dress through the village. Mrs. Menaul and Mrs. Pryor judged the fancy dress contest. First prize went to Miss Pauline Taylor for her “Lest We Forget” costume while Diane Hollingberry was a runner up as “Rule Britannia”. The third prize was shared between Miss Pat Bunting, Miss Joy Collins, Miss Elsie Taylor, Miss Emma Wilson, Miss Rita Bell, and Miss Vera Bunting.

Among the parade was an effigy of Hitler. The parade climaxed with a ceremonial bonfire on which the Fuehrer was burned. Just to make sure though, the effigy was first publicly condemned, hung on a tree next to the football pitches, lowered and beaten up before being carried to the nearby bonfire.

The effigy much like the war in Europe had met its end and the residents of Laurelvale continued their Victory in Europe celebrations late into the night.