Homes in County Fermanagh Promised to WWI Heroes

In County Fermanagh, on Cleenish Island, one dozen homes were pledged to be put aside for use by men who showed a brave, heroic willingness to sacrifice themselves in the First World War. These abodes were erected on Upper Lough Erne, and were meant as something akin to transitional housing for the war heroes, many of whom were expected to have trouble adjusting to normal life. These County Fermanagh residences each promised thirty to forty acres of land.

In many ways, these residences were more of a burden than a gift. Not only were they expected to use the land given to them for subsistence, but they could not easily gain access to the mainland of County Fermanagh. Those stuck on Cleenish Island could not, therefore, easily purchase petrol or other necessities, and there was nothing to be said of casual shopping centers. There was even less to be said of utilities such as electricity. It is not surprising that many of the homes wound up being abandoned completely.

Many of these residences still stand, though the majority of them are in utter disrepair. The decision to give such unfavorable homes to war heroes is so baffling that the Heritage Lottery Fund has begun investigating the County Fermanagh incident with the help of a very large grant. The land itself is certainly not unattractive, so they are hoping to uncover some positive experiences by interviewing soldiers as well as some negative ones, the BBC News reports.

They are nearly positive that they will be able to learn more about the negative side of living on Cleenish Island, as the lodging fees were exorbitant for those expected to live there. The separation from the rest of County Fermanagh by water did not help, and a bridge did not come into play for many years (by which time a number of the veterans had already abandoned their homes). Only one man, Johnny Balfour, decided to stay, and his family still lives on Cleenish to this day.

The Balfours were among the few who found the island on County Fermanagh to be a wonderful place to live. The children enjoyed their small expanse of land on which to play, and Johnny Balfour was not put off like some by the isolated nature of the island. Cleenish Island may be one of the most isolated locations on County Fermanagh, but it once provided a home to numerous soldiers, and the Heritage Lottery Fund is eager to learn more about them.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE