Unique exhibition to showcase personal effects of Co Down war hero Blair Mayne
A collection of never-before-seen possessions belonging to Co Down-born war hero Blair Mayne will open to the public at a special exhibition tomorrow.
As a founding member of the Special Air Service (SAS), the Lieutenant Colonel from Newtownards collected a wide array of medals, letters and uniforms during his years fighting in the Second World War.
After sitting in an attic since his death in 1955, his war trunk was generously donated to Ballyclare's War Years Remembered Museum, allowing the public to get a personal look at his life and the person behind the tales of the maverick solider.
The exhibition launch will take place at 2pm tomorrow at the museum and will be open to the public on a permanent basis.
David McCallion, curator of the museum, explained that Mayne's family chose the venue as the former Ireland and Lions rugby star was a soldiers' man and "would want to be with other soldiers".
"His family are over the Moon that it will now be on display and it took a lot of years for them to make a decision on where it was going," he said.
"This is the only war museum we have here in Ireland and he would be amongst other warriors. There's so many items here relating to local heroes."
Among the items that have been locked away in Mayne's battle trunk are letters, medals and his uniform.
Mr McCallion hopes that some of the myths and legends surrounding Mayne can be expelled through this private peek at his life.
"What's more important to me is the human side of the man because we all know that people have said he was a drunkard and a rogue and all that carry on, but they are the stories that are genuinely out there," he added.
"This exhibition will hopefully put a lot of wrongs right."
Describing the letters Mayne wrote to his mother during the war, Mr McCallion said it showed that there was a human side to the legend.
"One of the letters he wrote to his mother mentions his sister Francie getting promoted and his brother Douglas, who was serving in Canada with the RAF," he continued.
"As Blair was so high up on Hitler's list, if they had captured his brother in Europe they would have used that against him.
"He wrote: 'I hope daddy is well'. That just shows you he was human."
Other items include the first ever SAS operation form from 'Operation Squatter'. "People have had access to them to write books on Blair Mayne over the years but they have never been in the public domain," he added.