THE precious artefacts and memorabilia of Newtownards World War II hero Blair Mayne are returning home with the relocation of the War Years Remembered Museum to the town.

And according to the man behind the museum, the international flavour of the collection will bring visitors to the borough from around the world to learn about how their national soldiers played a part in the defence of the UK while stationed in Northern Ireland.

Following limited access because of the Covid pandemic, the War Years Remembered Museum struggled and faced eviction from its premises in Ballyclare.

Ards and North Down became the focus for the new home and after several failed attempts the charity has found suitable accommodation on the Crawfordsburn Road, Newtownards.

David McCallion, who formed the collection in the 1990s, explained it is centred around Irish soldiers, and Blair Mayne is a big part of that.

“We are very proud and honoured to be able to get the Blair Mayne collection on display in Newtownards,” he said.

“It has been very hard for us to find premises and last year we were put in a terrible position as we were let down because we formed part of a property chain the other parts of which fell through”.

They then came across the Crawfordsburn Road property, the owner of which has been ‘very helpful’ to the charity. As the site is smaller than the one currently housing the collection, they will have to be selective about what is put on display.

“It will be quality, not quantity,” Mr McCallion said.

Along with the Blair Mayne memorabilia, the collection includes some extremely rare artefacts pertaining to the Home Rule crisis, the Great War, the Second World War and the home front. “There are a lot of one offs,” Mr McCallion explained.

Also included in the collection are items relating to the stationing of American GIs in Northern Ireland during the Second World War, civilians who arrived in the Province from Gibraltar, the stationing of Polish airmen in Ballyhalbert, and the five divisions of Belgian soldiers who reformed here.

“We have a shared history of all these nationalities who passed through here and who were touched by the people of Northern Ireland and their hospitality,” Mr McCallion said.

The collection, he continued, will draw people from all over the world to the borough, and added it will complement the Somme Museum on the Bangor Road.

The charity is calling on volunteers to help them get the premises on the Crawfordsburn Road ready for opening, including tradespeople as part of a general workforce.

“Once we reopen we will be looking for volunteers to staff and run the museum,” Mr McCallion said. “The help and support of the local community has been outstanding”.

Newtownards alderman Stephen McIlveen is delighted that War Years Remembered has secured a new home in the town. He said an enormous amount of work has gone into fundraising and trying to secure a location.

“When it became apparent that the collection needed a new home there was a real enthusiasm for it to be relocated in the borough,” Mr McIlveen said. “The fact that so many Blair Mayne artefacts form part of this collection makes it feel like a homecoming.”

He concluded: “I have little doubt that War Years Remembered will prove to be a huge attraction for the town and will be well supported”.

If anyone would like to help get the premises at unit 22D Crawfordsburn Road opened, then drop into the complex or email