Saturday, 28 January 2017

BH Memoirs: VII

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN MATTHEW BLAKISTON-HOUSTON DL (1898-1984), OF BELTRIM CASTLE, COUNTY TYRONE, AND RODDENS, COUNTY DOWN, WAS BORN AT ORANGEFIELD HOUSE, NEAR BELFAST

HE SERVED IN THE FIRST AND SECOND WORLD WARS; WAS AIDE-DE-CAMP TO THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF AUSTRALIA, 1929-30; HIGH SHERIFF OF COUNTY DOWN, 1944; DEPUTY LIEUTENANT OF COUNTY DOWN, 1946; HIGH SHERIFF OF COUNTY TYRONE, 1954

In April, 1939, Roddens House was burnt down.

We had been carrying out some alterations and were living in one corner of the house.

A high wind was blowing off the sea and one of the front windows had been removed.

It was probably caused by a smouldering beam in the chimney.

We planned to rebuild starting on the 1st September, 1939, but Hitler had different plans.

In the meantime we lived in Roddens Farm House.

Lattice and the children remained there till after the war but built on two extra rooms.

In July, 1939, some of us Reservists were invited to do some voluntary training and I did a fortnight’s attachment to the 4th Hussars commanded by Scotty Cockburn at Tidworth.

To my amusement Bunny Head, who had been a Stockbroker in New York for the previous ten years, was my instructor!

At 9pm on the 31st August, 1939, the wireless announced that all Class “A” Reservists were to rejoin.

It was my 41st birthday.

I crossed over on the evening of the 1st September, having fixed up my affairs as best I could during the day.

I was in camp with the Eton OTC on 4 August 1914, and I remember well the cheer and songs with which we greeted the declaration of war then.

But we’d learnt what war meant since.

Waterloo Station was full of reservists rejoining their units and a sad looking lot they were.

When they actually joined and met their old comrades’ things cheered up in the canteen, but I could not help being struck by difference in atmosphere to that I just remembered a quarter of a century earlier.

During these two months I found plenty to do in connection with the buying of cows; bad reports of milk, and the rejection of 41 cows at one half yearly tubercular test.

First published in January, 2015.  Extracts by kind permission of RP Blakiston-Houston OBE JP DL

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