A brick in a wall etched for posterity

Every summer for the past fifteen years of my life, I’ve been fortunate to spend at least a week in the beautiful County Down seaside village of Killough. It remains one of our unspoilt treasures, with its picture perfect Castle Street, pier walk and bay views. Van Morrison and Terry George are amongst those who have captured the allure of Killough and Coney Island in song and on screen.

For years I have enjoyed the scenic walk along the coastal road out of the village and towards the landmark St John’s Point lighthouse.

In August, whilst out for an early morning stroll, I came across what I took to be an old World War 2 pill box (machine gun nest) overlooking the Irish Sea at Killough just above the old coast guard building.

There were American soldiers stationed throughout Northern Ireland during World War 2 and I guess they would have manned these, as well as probably building them. This particular one had a number of bricks in which soldiers obviously tried to engrave their names for posterity. Alas, only a few have survived the harsh coastal weather conditions and the some 70 intervening years well enough to be legible today.

There is one brick in which these details have been inscribed so effectively to stand the test of time: Don Frederickson, Granite Falls, Minnesota.

I was intrigued by this.

The benefits of modern technology allowed me to google his name and before completing the return leg of the walk I was able to conclude that Don & his son had passed away, but his wife Carolyn was still alive.

I gathered from a quick internet search that Granite Falls was a small community so I contacted the Granite Falls American Legion (Facebook proving its worth at last.)

Long story short, the Commander of the Legion in Granite Falls, Dorian Gatchell, and his wife, Melanie Gabbert Gatchell (the Facebook page administrator) were delighted that I’d made contact and proceeded to frame a picture of the brick, presenting it formally to Don’s widow during the week with the local press in attendance.

Just a little good news story to lift the gloom….. 😉


  • David Crookes

    Great story, Chris, thanks.

  • Well done, Chris; I’m sure your contribution was much appreciated. Facebook and the internet in general are fabulous resources. Here’s a reaction I got when I reduced a Canadian lady to tears a few months ago:

    I wanted to thank you again so very much for all your kindness while we were in Ireland and for your perseverance and in-depth research into my family heritage. It means so much to me and I will never forget what you were able to give to me! You truly touched my heart Nevin. Thank you!

    She knew her Henry Morrow came from Ireland in the 1840s but the needle in the haystack turned out to be a copy she had of an 1851 Quebec census. It listed the wives’ maiden names and I found an 1846 wedding in Ringsend Presbyterian Church of Henry’s brother and the Morrow’s lived in the townland of Gorran in the parish of Aghadowey. Within twenty hours of meeting me she had her photo taken on Gorran Bridge!

    I’m surprised our department of tourism doesn’t pay more attention to the potential of gentourism, not just for one-off visits but also repeat visits.

  • Charles_Gould

    Thank you for an uplifting story.

  • sherdy

    Maybe ‘roots’ could well be a route to investment into a fledgling industry by was of a forward look into our past.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Nice one, Chris. Well done.

  • BluesJazz

    There are several pillboxes in that coastal area, including 1 on Tyrella Beach. Mostly due to the nearby Army camp at Ballykinler. It was the base for a US Armoured Division during ww2 as well as a training camp. Until recently certain areas of Murlough Bay were cordoned off due to unexploded mines and mortars.

    Still an issue:

    The history of Ballykinler Camp (Worlds End) is a fascinating one.

  • fordprefect

    Brilliant story. I love going down to that neck of the woods, Killough, Ardglass and Ballyhornan. Like you, I hope it stays that way, untouched and wild.

  • BluesJazz

    RAF Bishopscourt still has its buildings (largely) intact. The Radar station is gone but the runway and some ex MoD housing still in some use. Was a motorcycle racing track.
    St John’s lighthouse is worth a visit-if you can find it.

    Go in Winter and you can see why Ballykinlar was called ‘Worlds End’ .
    Killough unfortunately suffers anti social behavior problems.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Nice story, Chris, and fair play for contacting his homeplace. As a WWII enthusiast, I might pay Killough a visit next time I’m up north.

  • Mick Fealty

    You should RoC. We had our very first proper holiday (ie, not just staying with relatives) at Ballyhornan in 1965. From our last visit there two years ago, it hasn’t changed much.

    It’s a great story Chris and one which shows just how quickly we can make what would twenty years ago have been implausibly complex connections almost in the space of one walk.

    These days small compassions go a very long way, and quickly.

  • between the bridges

    Credit when and were it’s due, a piece by CD i find hard to fault, a touching and humanist story. Just wondering if the brick read John Smith London, would there still be a story…

  • Drumlins Rock

    Well done Chris, I think it is good to keep up ties no matter how thin they might be, remember it probably was his first time out of the states, or even his state!
    Locally we have traced the family of a USAF pilot who was killed in a crash about mile away from here, but not sure if any contact has been made, hopefully someday we will mount a small memorial nearby.
    Killough and that area is a hidden gem, you almost feel guilty going there and disturbing anything!

  • “Locally we have traced the family of a USAF pilot who was killed in a crash about mile away from here”

    Drumlins Rock, a ninety year old friend of mine was close to the scene of a fatal crash at the Giants Causeway; when she went to the field she saw one dead pilot and one with no hope of survival. Some relatives of the dead airmen have travelled from New Zealand and Australia to see the crash site, visit the graves and talk to those who met their relatives all those years ago.

  • derrydave

    Lol – ya gotta love betweenthebridges – ‘..a piece by CD that I find hard to fault…’ ………..but I’ll give it a go anyway 🙂

    Agree though that it’s a lovely story and welcome change of pace for Slugger ! Now let’s get back to our low level culture war 🙂