Memories of Joe O’Loughlin.
I think it was in the early 1990’s that when I came down to open up the Petrol Station at Main Street, Belleek and discovered that one of the petrol pumps had been damaged. On examining it I found that it had been shot at. I phoned the R.U.C. barracks and reported what had happened. I said that I did not want any publicity about the incident. I took it that a soldier had been sitting in the open porch and may be fed up and bored he had put a shot into the petrol pump. Or it is possible that the discharge of his gun was accidental. Any how the end result was that after the damage was examined by the police, they agreed that the necessary parts and repairs would be made to the pump. Lucky enough it was the top mechanical part of the pump that was damaged and not the lower section where the petrol might have caught fire.
Another incident that I was involved in was on a Sunday afternoon when going down to the garage for something I saw a substantial quantity of bullets lying near the village water pump and drinking trough. It seems that a soldier had lain down beside it and the bullets fell from his pouch. I phoned the Barracks and told the RUC what I had seen and said that I would keep an eye on the ammunition until someone came for it. Naturally they had to treat the matter with caution in case it was a set up for an ambush. I explained that nobody else had seen it and there would be no publicity. In a short time the ammunition was recovered and all was well.
For a period of fifteen years from the early 1970’s I was the Officer in charge of the local Fire Brigade. During that time the troubles were at their peak and we had many incident to deal with including the local hotel being bombed, cars set on fire and incendiary devices placed at the premises of local businesses. Luckily we came through it all without any serious mishaps to the men or machines.
Where I now live on a small farm outside the village, there is a unique situation, the farm is part in Co. Fermanagh and part in Co. Donegal. It was owned by my grandfather who came to it in the late 1880’s long before there was a political border. One of the last major incidents that occurred in the area took place in about 1995. The military from Belleek were sent on patrol from west to east through fields and along the lane leading to our house. This route was parallel to the border and they would have been sitting ducks for a sniper on the hills. I asked them one day “ What kind of stupid officers sent them this way?” Then most officers are stupid anyhow. About three hundred yards east of our house there was an old shed in a clump of bushes that they passed by. An ideal location for a booby trap or ambush. One morning a boy was given a message to hand into the priest saying that here was land mine