THERE is ‘massive support’ to have the War Years Remembered museum, including precious artefacts which belonged to SAS legend Blair Mayne, relocated to Newtownards, the founder of the collection has said.
David McCallion, who established the war museum charity, was speaking after visiting Newtownards, at the weekend where he was ‘overwhelmed’ by the desire of people to bring the collection to the town.
The War Years Remembered Museum was started in 1994 in Ballyclare and spans over 100 years of military and social history throughout Ireland. It is an invaluable educational resource and could potentially become a major tourist draw, but it has suffered greatly because of various lock-downs over the past few years.
The charity has launched a campaign for new premises so it can return to being sustainable, and has appealed for the backing of Ards and North Down Council to realise this goal.
Locally, a campaign has been gaining momentum to bring the entire collection to Lieutenant Colonel Blair Mayne’s home town of Newtownards.
“This has been driven by people in the town who know the only way Blair Mayne’s treasures will come back to Newtownards is if the whole museum is relocated here,” Mr McCallion explained.
“We would ideally like to bring it here but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be any suitable buildings”.
He said everywhere the charity has explored is too costly, and that is why he feels he needs council support.
“A site at Ards airfield where we could build premises would be ideal because of its massive World War II connection,” he continued.
Blair Mayne’s family chose to donate his belongings to War Years Remembered, Mr McCallion explained, because they wanted his possessions to be among those of other Irish soldiers.
“Blair Mayne is only part of our story,” he continued. “We have a massive collection drawn from the 32 counties of Ireland”.
He said the museum has already received positive recognition from outside Ireland and has the potential to be a big tourist attraction and an important educational and legacy resource.
“The response we had from everyone in Conway Square was fantastic where we were made very welcome,” he said. “There is massive support for having the whole collection relocated to Newtownards and people appreciate the enormous benefit it would be to the town”.
Underlining they needed to make the museum sustainable again, Mr McCallion concluded: “We need some positivity and some tangible real help”.