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Christmas greetings from Egypt: a Lisburn story

Corken Christmas Card - photo

Corken card side 2 - photo

Christmas card from Egypt, Royal Army Ordnance Corps, c. 1940s (ILCLM, W.S. Corken Papers, Folder 2, Box 1)

Most Christmas cards you receive will likely have an image commonly associated with the festive season – the nativity, Santa, a snowman, and so on. What is Lisburn’s connection to this exotic-looking Christmas card? The recipient was Major William Sinclair Corken, who was born at Lisburn’s Market Square in 1899. He joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) and was based in Cairo, Egypt, during the Second World War. The Christmas card dates from that period, the 1940s, and was sent from a fellow officer in the RAOC called ‘Willie’. It features the RAOC’s coat of arms, a Christmas and New Year greeting, and the iconic Egyptian sculpture, the Great Sphinx of Giza. Christmas in Egypt probably felt very different from what Corken was used to growing up, but there was no doubt a sense of familiarity, such as the sharing of cards.

Corken would eventually return to his native Lisburn where he developed a keen interest in local history. This Christmas card, along with his photographs, letters, and notebooks, form the W.S. Corken Papers that are in the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum’s collection. The card and other items from the papers were included in our 2023 exhibition, Ancient Egypt: Lisburn stories, which ran alongside the British Museum’s touring exhibition, Egyptian hieroglyphs: unlock the mystery.

The Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum thank you for your support in 2023, and in the spirit of the this card, we extend our ‘hearty Christmas greetings and best wishes for your health and happiness throughout the coming year’.

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