Story of heartbreak led to new memorial stone

The Mayor, Alderman John Smyth, unveiled the memorial stone, included (left to right) are Jackie and Etta Mann, Eddie Beck and Paul Girvan MP.
The Mayor, Alderman John Smyth, unveiled the memorial stone, included (left to right) are Jackie and Etta Mann, Eddie Beck and Paul Girvan MP.

The bravery and sacrifice of local people in the Korean War has been formally recognised with a new commemorative stone in Ballyclare War Memorial Park.

The memorial pays specific tribute to Ballyclare resident Corporal William John McConnell, who was killed in action during the conflict.

It was unveiled on Sunday by the Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Ald John Smyth, who said: “This memorial is a permanent reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of those who gave their lives to protect the futures of others. It is a very fitting addition to the War Memorial Park in Ballyclare and ensures the contribution of local people to this conflict will be remembered for generations to come.”

Mr Smyth detailed how, following his service in the Second World War, Corporal McConnell returned to the Ballyclare area, and was engaged to a local girl, Margaret Brennan. However, before they had a chance to marry, William was called back to service and began the six-week journey to South Korea. Whilst there, he witnessed two months of harsh fighting before being killed in action at the Battle of Chaegunghyon (Happy Valley) on 3 January 1951.

Meanwhile, back home in Ballyclare, with a broken heart, Margaret remained unmarried for the rest of her life and kept her memories of William in a special glass jar.

The addition to the War Memorial Park was supported by the council who worked with Margaret’s niece, local historian Mrs Etta Mann, as she pursued the establishment of a fitting tribute to the sacrifice of William and those from the area who served in Korea.

Guests at the ceremony included family members and Royal Ulster Rifles and British Legion figures.

In January, council agreed to spend £1,800 on the stone dedicated to the Korean War.