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Exhibition recounts the GI 'invasion' of Ulster

By Noel McAdam

Published 12/08/2015

American troops outside Brownlow House
American troops outside Brownlow House
American troops in Lurgan during the Second World War
Brownlow House in Lurgan

Oversexed, overpaid and over here... and the story of American soldiers in Northern Ireland is not over yet.

A major first-of-its-kind exhibition opens this weekend in Lurgan at the former war headquarters of the US Army.

The permanent display will be located in the basement of Brownlow House, where some original Second World War graffiti can still be seen.

Visitors will also be able to meet with a virtual GI in his Nissen hut and hear about the culture clashes the US "invasion" brought about.

There are tales of dances and love stories with locals and the opportunity to learn about where the US troops came from and why they were based here.

Exhibition curator Sam McCleary said: "Brownlow House was the headquarters of the American forces. They were also based on the Lough Road at Kircassock House in Dromore and there was a military hospital at Waringsfield, as you come into Moira.

"It's even rumoured that Al Jolson came to sing for the troops."

Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council Darryn Causby said: "I know a lot of research has gone into Brownlow HQ and I am delighted that this will be a permanent fixture.

"With a variety of information panels, videos, artifacts, interactive activities, dressing up for kids and much more, this exhibition will be of wonderful interest and education to young and old alike."

More than 120,000 GIs were billeted in Northern Ireland after the United States entered the war in 1941.

Among them was General Dwight D Eisenhower, although he only stayed for one night, it seems.

"Lough Neagh and its environs saw a great deal of activity during this period with many American and British bases and airfields dotted around the place," Mr McCleary said.

"Many secret operations were planned at Brownlow House before moving on to the European theatre of operations and playing an active role in Africa and later on in Normandy on D-Day."

Brownlow HQ will be officially opened on Saturday by new US Consul General Daniel Lawton, who will be accompanied by two very special guests - a WWII veteran who served with the US troops and one with the RAF.

Entry is free and for opening hours and additional information contact 077 0872 7454.

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