Veteran recalls war time stories during coffee at Christ Church

Friday November 5th 2010

Report and pictures by John Kelly

Sylvia Eskins serves war veteran John Leishman as he shares some of his wartime stories with the Rev Paul Dundas (left) and the Rev John Pickering (right).A very special gentleman called into the Market Day coffee morning run by ladies from Christ Church Parish, Lisburn, on Tuesday November 2.

Ninety-year-old World War Two veteran John Leishman was on an outing to the city, and decided to pay a visit.

John was met by Norman McMaster and David Walker. Last May the trio all took part in a trip to the D Day Landing Beaches in Normandy. 

John, Norman and David were joined by the rector of Christ Church, the Rev Paul Dundas, and senior minister the Rev John Pickering.  Over morning coffee, John recalled that his visit to Christ Church was particularly poignant as it was in the adjoining Nicholson Memorial Hall that he slept when his regiment was billeted to Lisburn in 1940/41. 

War veteran John Leishman pictured outside the Nicholson Memorial Hall where John slept when his regiment was billeted in Lisburn in 1940/41.  Included are Maurice Leathem (Past Branch Chairman of Lisburn Royal British Legion) and Norman McMaster and David Walker.  John went on share some of his wartime stories including his escape in a small fishing boat from Dunkirk in June 1940; The Battle of El Alamein, where in October 1942 he fought with Montgomery and the 8th Army ‘desert rats’ against Rommell in the deserts of North Africa; and also his experiences at Sicily; Italy and the D Day Landings at Sword Beach, Normandy in June 1944.

Born in Falkirk, Scotland, in May 1920, John enlisted in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Sterling Castle on Sunday September 3 1939, the day that war was declared.  He was stationed at Moira (July 1940 – November 1940); Lisburn (November 1940 – May 1941) and Waringstown and Donacloney (May 1941 – 1942). 

While based in Moira his Regiment attended worship at St John’s Parish Church and it was there in July 1940 that he met Moira woman Florence Lennon, a member of the church choir.  He recalled that the first time he saw her he thought to himself ‘that girl would be a perfect wife for me!’  They were engaged in October 1940 and married in July 1941. 

After he was demobbed in May 1946, John and Florence lived in Moira. Following Florence’s death in May 2008 John moved to Dundonald and is now a member of St Mary’s Church, Ballybeen Estate. John recalled that his first thoughts that Florence would be the ‘perfect wife’ proved to be very true as they were together nearly 67 years. 

The Market Day coffee mornings at Christ Church Parish, Lisburn, take place every Tuesday from 10am until 12 noon, with all profits going towards the church renovation fund.

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