Now more than ever, it’s important to remember the value of community to ensure that this isolation doesn’t become too isolating for many. As I’m sure you’re aware, due to our day off, that Friday 8 May was the anniversary of VE day, marking 75 years since peace was achieved in Europe, following World War II. Many took this as an occasion to be patriotic and celebrate with their families or communities (or just enjoy their day off school).
For example, Miss Sigston’s road held a street party with music and decorations, which was a chance for the whole neighbourhood, ranging from new residents and newborns to those as old as 93, to (safely) see one another and meet as a community. For many, it was an opportunity to acknowledge those who were alive to celebrate the actual VE day, such as Miss Sigston’s ‘little Auntie Gladys’, who remembers driving army vehicles through the streets.
On the note of community, Miss Sigston has also set up a food bank collection system on her street, in which she gathers food donations that she delivers to the Trussell Trust. In addition, she has encouraged her students to take part also, whether that be celebrating VE day by making bunting, reaching out to elderly relatives, donating to food banks or even just making a conscious effort to help others during these trying times.
Shell A pupil, Malachy Gill, conducted an interview with a neighbour who was seven years old in 1945. His younger sister took part in reading out loud Malachy’s interview in their socially distanced street party.
You can read the interview conducted by Mal Gill below:
“On VE day 1945 I was just seven years old. At the start of the war my grandfather, who was a miner, had built in our garden the most amazing air raid shelter. It was mostly underground with the outside covered in turf. This made it difficult to see from any enemy aircraft overhead. It was equipped with bunkbeds. The neighbouring families who did not have any shelters were always welcome to share. The small children did not understand the horror of the war and so to us it was just an adventure. At the same time, every house had to have black curtains. This was to stop any light showing through. If this was not adhered to the air raid wardens were soon knocking at your door.
“When I was old enough to go to primary school I had to wear a gas mask. Some children were very lucky as they were given a Mickey Mouse gas mask. I unfortunately had the ordinary type so I felt very deprived. On each school day a siren would sound and we would practice hiding beneath the desks. This was in case of any bombing.
“Almost every family grew as much food as they could and also kept chickens. The occasional egg was such a treat. Food rationing went on for many years. Everyone had a ration book which allowed them to have a little food. My best memory was to have my allocated ounce of sweet each week. I was seven years old before I had my first banana. I was not sure what to do with it but I soon found out.
“On this day, 75 years ago, we had a fabulous street party. There was a huge table erected in the road. The children sat at the table to be served by their mothers who had somehow managed to prepare the most tasty food even though there was still rationing. There was still some sadness amongst the celebrations as quite a lot of the children had lost their fathers during the long war. We all battled on, as we will with this awful virus.”