On this day in 1946, the staff of the Belfast Charitable Institution began the mammoth task of bringing all the residents back from Garron Tower to Belfast. It had been necessary to evacuate in 1941 because of the attacks of the Belfast Blitz. The air strikes in April 1941 terrified and traumatised the whole of Belfast. Although the building remained unscathed in the attacks of April 1941, those in charge set about making arrangements to get the residents and the staff out of Belfast.
The 1941 Annual Report records the move;
“On the 29th April all the residents and necessary staff with furniture, bedding, food, equipment etc were safely moved in Northern Ireland Road Transport buses.
Professor Gregg Wilson very kindly arranged with the St. John’s Ambulance to transport all the bed patients in ambulances attended by a trained staff and the Committee are most grateful to this Society for the great help it afforded and to Prof Gregg Wilson for his personal care and attention in the whole matter.
The Committee also wish to compliment the Matron, Miss Howie, Captain Gray and all members of staff for the capable way in which this very difficult move was carried out and they are to be gratified to learn that the change has been of benefit to the residents from every point of view.”
Garron Tower was a quiet, isolated spot after life in the city of Belfast. Rationing also had an impact. In Belfast the relatives of the residents could have easily walked for visits, however with petrol rationed, even those with cars didn’t have enough fuel to get to Garron Tower. Matron requested additional games, gramophone records and a wireless to help the residents wile away the days.
The move to Garron Tower also had unexpected outcomes. For the first time in 170 years permission to marry was sought for two residents. 82 year old John Bloomer requested permission to marry 64 year old Frances Ash. They were married in Carnlough and had their reception at Garron Tower. After a short honeymoon in Larne, they returned to Garron Tower to live in the married quarters.
As 1945 was drawing to a close it seemed the war had finally ended. Five and a half years after leaving the House, it was returned to the Society on 31st August 1946. Some remedial work was completed to ensure the residents could return and another phenomenal planning session ensued to get all the residents, equipment, furniture and staff back to North Belfast. It was an enormous relief to all involved when on the 25th October 1946 the buses began to bring the residents back. By October 26th all the moving was completed and the residents were once again home.