How It’s New York:
How It’s Irish:
IRISH AUTHOR DISCOVERS JEWISH HISTORY IN NORTHERN IRELAND
While researching her latest novel, The Linen Queen, (Center Street, 2011), Irish-American author, Patricia Falvey, discovered a little-known piece of Jewish history. A kinderfarm for Jewish refugee children existed during World War II in the town of Millisle, in the author’s home county of Down, Northern Ireland.
Falvey was following the story thread for one of her main characters, Joel Solomon, a Jewish-American officer stationed in Northern Ireland during WWII. She began by researching the Jewish community in Belfast during the period and discovered that a number of community leaders had come together and bought a farm in Millisle known as the Magill Farm. An old flax farm, they turned it into a place to house Jewish refugee children through the kindertransport program. The farm was self sufficient, and the children learned to grow crops and tend livestock. They also attended the local school. The children, who came predominantly from Germany and Austria, and mostly aged between four and fifteen, were housed in the old farmhouse and later in buildings designed by German engineer Mundheim. The buildings even included a small synagogue. Accounts by former Millisle refugees note that many Jewish US servicemen visited the farm on Sabbaths and Jewish holidays and brought treats for the children.
Intrigued, Falvey paid a visit to Millisle where she met one of the Magill sons and toured the farm. Unfortunately the unique buildings have been torn down because, as Magill explained, he could not raise the money for insurance. Falvey also visited the Millisle Primary School where the Jewish children had been educated alongside the Irish children. The current principal of the school, Mrs. Linda Patterson, gave Falvey a DVD called “A Kinder Place, A Different World” which the school had produced reenacting the period. In front of the school is a sculpture representing the Star of David, and a plaque commemorating the victims of The Holocaust. Mrs Patterson said that visitors from all over the world have attended commemoration ceremonies in Millisle. Some of the surviving child refugees still reside near Millisle, while others are scattered across the globe.
For a clip of Ms. Falvey discussing Millisle on a Chicago Cable Channel, visit her website: www.patriciafalveybooks.com.
Copyright 2012 New York Irish Arts