Toome aerodrome

In Toome the main point of interest during the war was the aerodrome at the Creagh which was opened by the RAF in 1943, but was soon taken over by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). In describing the historical and geographical contexts of his earliest years, Seamus Heaney once said, ‘It is county Derry in the early 1940s.

The American bombers groan towards the aerodrome at Toomebridge, the American troops manoeuvre in the fields along the road’. For many local people there was great excitement at seeing the different types of planes and the buzz of activity associated with the airfield.

Frankie Dale remembers the building of the airfield at Toome as one of the major events of his childhood. He recalls that it occurred ‘just as I was started to look around me’, adding, ‘the sky was full of aeroplanes, this was great … I used to go down to the aerodrome and see them taking off and landing – this was magic. At the same time, he now reflects on his naiveté at the fate of many of the aircrews, commenting ‘I didn’t realise a lot of those young boys would never come back.’

The Gribbin brothers agreed that the airfield was a ‘big, big affair’. Those who found work in it were well paid – maybe £3 a week which was considerably more than most other working men received. Gerry McCann remembers the soldiers stationed here coming into his family’s shop in Toome. He also remembers that a party was hosted at the aerodrome for them. Cahal Boyd remembered going by boat to see a crashed aircraft on Church Island and finding it hanging on a tree. George Laverty also remembers the crashed aircraft on Church Island.

South Antrim Living Memories Project wishes to acknowledge the assistance of: