As revealed in last week"s Impartial Reporter, General Eisenhower paid a secret war-time visit to Enniskillen in 1944.

In the visit, which is thought to have lasted no longer than 25 minutes, the prominent General inspected troops stationed in Enniskillen on the playing fields at Portora Royal School.

For 65 years, details of Eisenhower"s time in Fermanagh have been sketchy, due to the obvious restrictions on reporting such an important visit, but since last week"s article, a number of people from all over the UK have been in touch with more information.

Firstly, Robert Northridge, Vice Principal of Portora has been able to add further detail to the historic trip.

Mr. Northridge refers to the school "Notes and News" for the year 1944, which reads as follows: 'Light dawned a day or two later when the headmaster read at prayers, a letter signed personally by General Eisenhower, supreme Commander of the allied Forces in Europe, in which the General conveyed his thanks for the use of the Portora fields for his inspection of the U.S. Forces stationed in this area. Needless to say, General Eisenhower"s letter is now a treasured possession of the school, and the question of some mark commemorating the visit to be placed in the Lower Field is under consideration.' And commemorating the General"s visit is currently being well thought-out by Portora: 'We are considering the ways in which we can commemorate his visit but these things cannot be rushed.' said Mr. Northridge. 'We"ve waited 65 years to do something on it, I am sure it will be no harm in waiting a little longer.' he laughed.

Eighty-nine-year-old Ed Rowlette, who joined the teaching staff of Portora in September 1943, recalls standing on the Portora hill above the old Gloucester House and seeing Eisenhower"s armoured vehicle pass along the Derrygonnelly Road on the way to the Rugby pitches.

'I remember him passing the Portora gate and of course, it was very well protected. Everyone was forbidden from going near the pitches themselves. The Headmaster, Ian Stuart, thought he would show off his important position and went down to the back hill, dressed in his academic gown. But he was stopped by the military police and sent back with his tail between his legs. The security was tremendous; we just couldn"t get near it.' Mr. Rowlette also remembers the American troops playing baseball on the Portora playing fields.

'While Eisenhower"s visit was all well and good, there were other occasions that meant more to the school. The troops for example, used to play on the fields, and the kids would go down and learn how to play baseball with the troops. They seemed to enjoy themselves a great deal.' Ian Scales was a pupil at Portora at the time. His father Captain Henry Scales was stationed in the county during the war. Now living in Surrey, the 83 year-old remembers the visit well.

'Dad was more closely involved than he intended to be. He had set up a field exercise, not knowing that Eisenhower was coming - they were not telling people. His lads were approaching the hedge along the top when the military police stood up and confronted them with unusable guns. They were creeping towards Eisenhower and were lucky nobody got shot. Dad stood up and said; 'Look, we didn"t know. Sorry, we"ll back off.', which they duly did.' He added: 'I also believe headmaster Ian Stuart invited Eisenhower for afternoon tea, now I don"t know anything at all about it but I"m not sure if Eisenhower would have put himself at risk by doing anything outside the business of war.' Interestingly, Portora"s "Notes and News" from 1944, goes on to explain that in the course of their training, the American Army Engineers made alterations to the Portora Landscape.

'We have been introduced to that potent monster, the bulldozer, which has effected before our eyes colossal changes, both scenic and topographical. Our American friends have been grateful for unlimited opportunity to unleash and exercise their gigantic beasts: we on our part have been rewarded by the partial preparation of a cricket and Rugger Ground, which, on completion after the war, bids fair to outrival anything of the kind in Ireland.' Mr. Scales says his father was 'absolutely furious' about the troops ripping up the school"s playing fields. 'Dad was angry, I remember him saying; 'All they"ve done is pushed the topsoil over the edge, and then pushed all the subsoil and yuck over the topsoil; we"ve lost it forever. Useless. And he was right; it cost thousands to put right and the topsoil was lost.' Local historian Breege McCusker and author of Castle Archdale and Fermanagh in World War Two, is the only Blue Badge guide in the country. She says Fermanagh"s link with America was hugely important during the war.

'The link between the two countries was so vital in so many ways. Eisenhower"s visit was a big thing for Enniskillen at the time. And Necarne Castle in Irvinestown was heavily involved in the war effort in those days also. The castle was a military hospital and very few people know that. There"s no evidence that Eisenhower paid a visit to Irvinestown back in 1944 but I"m sure Major Ford met him in Enniskillen.' 'But it really is fascinating to know that Eisenhower"s visit isn"t just a distant memory any longer and the strong relations between us and America still remain.' she added.

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