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Belfast Blitz survivor Esther recalls night she saved her family from bomb-hit home

By Cate McCurry

A woman whose home crumbled around her during the Belfast Blitz has spoken of the moment she helped save her family from the wreckage.

Esther Fyffe was just eight years old when her home in north Belfast, which she shared with her mother and younger brother, was bombed.

More than a thousand people were killed in Belfast when three air raids on the city were carried out by the Luftwaffe in 1941.

The 83-year-old vividly recalled how her mother made desperate attempts to protect her family from the bombs and incendiary devices which rained down on the city for hours.

As part of the ongoing tributes to mark the 75th anniversary of the Blitz, Mrs Fyffe spoke of the events that unfolded that dark day and how she lived through the horror of her home in Hardcourt Drive collapsing around her.

"We went to bed quite early. We were conscious of the sirens and planes flying over us and then my mother realised she had better get us out of bed.

"We were asleep at the time but I remember coming down the stairs and they were shaking. I think my mother was listening to the wireless and listening in particular as to what they were advising us to do. They were advising everyone to go under the stairs which might be the safest place to be. We did that but because there was no light under our stairs my brother Roy panicked, he was only four and my mother had to bring us out.

"My mother then brought the table out as that was another thing they were telling us to do. So we all sat under the table and she had Roy on her knees and she was reading to us to keep us as calm as possible."

Mrs Fyffe described how a short time later the house started to shake and then suddenly collapsed while they were still inside.

She added: "I managed myself to get out and I shouted for my mum, "come on, come on, mummy" and she said to me 'you shout for help', and she was buried under rubble and Roy was buried too.

"She didn't know where he was but she could hear the wee cry and she was telling me to shout for help which I did."

She said a man arrived to help. "I don't know whether he was an air raid warden but he had a helmet on and I said 'help me mummy'.

"He came in and managed to get my mum out but she only had half her dress on because the other half was left under the rubble. As the warden kept shouting 'come on, come on' she said she wouldn't leave without her son.

"He shouted 'mum don't leave me'. He was very frightened. I can still hear his voice." After the family was rescued they moved to Drumquin in Co Tyrone.

A number of penny coins Mrs Fyffe had been saving were pulled from the wreckage and these are the only objects from their home which survived the bombing.

She added: "It was all our pennies from our money boxes. Everything we got we put in our money boxes to save up."

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