As a child, Albert grew up with his parents and 9 brothers and sisters in the Hammer, a poor neighbourhood of Belfast. The area was characterised by poor housing conditions.
“The houses were just two up and two down, kitchen houses they called them. Today, houses in that area have driveways and gardens. For us it was just long streets. Some of the streets had up to 60 houses”.
Albert recalls a terrifying experience from 1939. He was watching a film when the community centre came under attack in the German air raids.
“The picture was over and we started going out onto the street. We were only out on the Shankill Road and the bombs started falling and the anti-aircraft guns were firing. I’m telling you I broke two or three records running from the Shankill up to where I lived. “
The next day Albert and his friends heard that Percy Street had been damaged in the air raid. Deeply concerned about friends who lived in the area, Albert and others ventured down to see the damage. “Half the houses were blown down. It was destroyed, the whole street. There were people everywhere, police cars, policemen, air raid wardens, it was crammed.”
It was to be one of the biggest ordeals in Albert’s life.
Such was the devastation of the air raids. 42 people had lost their lives. The bombs caused so much destruction that the bodies of some were barely recognisable.
“About eight bodies had taken out of the houses and they were covered by sheets. They lifted the sheets and said to the people, “do you know any of these people?” They were trying to identify people. They didn’t ask me because I was a wee boy, but, I remember them lifting the sheet and I squeezed in to see and there was a woman lying with a baby in her arms, both of them dead”.
Albert married and spent some years living at his wife’s family home before finding a four-bedroom house in a new community development area in Silverstream in the Shankill area. “It was like a hotel. When I went into that house I just looked at it and thought, God this is great. I knew I would enjoy it.”
Albert recalls his involvement with the development of the heritage project at Fernhill House Museum. After visiting the Museum, out of curiosity, he was disappointed with the lack of knowledge. Sharing the same opinions with a friend, he recalls “We ended up running the place. We got the stuff everywhere and put it in different rooms and we really made it a museum.” Albert ran exhibitions that displayed old toys, tools and photographs from previous generations that proved to be a success with the community.
Albert also talks about his writing and poetry. On the success of his book series ‘Enjoy The Craic’ Albert believes, “Not so long ago, I was in the women’s centre reading and they said to me “we could listen to you all day.” The things I write are local, that’s why it seems so good to them.”
At the age of 86 Albert is still an active member of the community.
“My only hope is that people wouldn’t have to go through what we went through, The Troubles. This peace thing, I’d like people to be friendly with each other”.