FORMER local firefighter John Gray recalled one of the worst fires to ever hit this island at a special memorial service in Drogheda on Sunday honouring those who helped out following the Belfast Blitz during World War II.
The 90-year-old was an auxiliary fireman in Dundalk when he travelled north to help the wounded and dampen down the raging fires that engulfed Belfast after the Nazi bombings in 1941.
He rejoined some former colleagues and their families in Drogheda at the weekend to recall the events and paid tribute to the people of Belfast for the gratitude they showed both then and now.
Nearly 1,000 people were killed and 100,000 left homeless due to the terrifying air raids.
John said: “A woman came out to me as I came down some rubble and she gave me a cup of tea with a saucer.
“Her gratitude to me remains with me to this day.”
He also fondly remembered a young couple who had just had their business destroyed.
“They put a cigarette in our mouths as we finished our work, told us to take off our helmets and they threw 20 Gallagher cigarettes into them.
“In the midst of all their adversity they had the goodness to think of us.”
Crews from Dundalk joined those from Dublin, Dun Laoighaire and Drogheda to assist the fire service in the north following the bombings on Easter Tuesday April 15 1941.
Louth County Councillor Paul Bell has called for a memorial to be erected to the “silent heroes.”
Amongst those at the weekend’s ceremony was Bridie O’Byrne, whose father Patrick was part of the mission and Brian McEneaney, a current member of Dundalk Fire Service whose grandfather Bernard also travelled to Belfast to help.