Forgotten Female War Workers – Pollock Dock Naval Canteen

Forgotten Female War Workers

In 1939, the Ulster Branch of the Missions to Seamen decided to provide a canteen to meet the needs of the men from British and allied naval ships docked in Belfast Harbour. The canteen was housed in premises at Pollock Dock owned by the Harbour Commissioners. The premises had formerly been part of the offices of Workman Clark. The Pollock Dock Naval Canteen, which included a spacious concert hall and facilities for games such as darts and billiards, was formally opened on 1st January 1940 by Rear Admiral Richard Matthew King DSO, Flag Officer in Charge for Belfast. The staff at the canteen were all volunteers, who gave their time as a form of war service.

Just after 11pm on 29th February 1940, Captain Frederick FitzCurrie Trench, a volunteer worker at the club, bade goodnight to five female volunteers who had been on duty since 5:30. He saw them climb into an Austin 10 cabriolet car and heard the engine starting before he went back into the club to finish tidying up and to secure the premises. It was the last time that the women were seen alive. When the women failed to turn up at their respective homes, the alert was raised, and a search was instigated by Captain Trench. The following morning, the police noticed traces of oil on the water and a diver was called in to investigate. James Trainor from Fortingale Street located the car with its radiator embedded in the silt at the bottom of the dock and the vehicle was removed with the assistance of a crane. It seems that, as the car was being driven off in the blackout with minimum lights on the vehicle, the driver took a wrong turn and the car plunged into twenty feet of water in the dock. There were four bodies clasped together inside the car but the body of the fifth lady could not be located. The missing body was recovered on 3rd April, approximately fifty yards from where the car had entered the dock. The owner/driver of the car is not recorded in any of the newspaper articles relating to the incident or the Coroner’s Enquiry.

Mr E R Stephens, Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the Missions to Seamen, received messages of sympathy from the Duke of Abercorn, Sir Crawford McCullagh (Lord Mayor of Belfast), and Lord Craigavon. The latter said, “I have been deeply shocked to learn of the most distressing accident involving the death of five ladies, who, with such patriotism and self-sacrifice, had ministered to the comforts of our brave sailors at the Pollock Dock Canteen. They lost their lives while serving their country and their names will be held in honoured remembrance by us all.”

A Coroner’s Enquiry was held by Doctor Herbert Perry Lowe, City of Belfast Coroner, on 6th March 1940 and the solicitor acting for the Glass family was critical on the lighting restrictions. Mr George Leitch said, “Northern Ireland was miles away from the seat of hostilities, the lighting restrictions were stricter here than in cities and towns thirty miles from the Western Front. This tragedy should impress on the authorities the necessity for some alleviation in the lighting restrictions.” Doctor Lowe said, “of all the tragedies associated with the black-out he did not think they had one more tragic than this one.”

Captain Trench, who had served with the Army Service Corps and the Tank Corps in the Great War, volunteered at the canteen five afternoons and two or three evening a week. When on duty, he was in charge of the club and the other volunteers.

The five fatalities all lived in the Malone area of Belfast, four are buried in Belfast City Cemetery and one is buried in Dundonald Cemetery.

Mary Gorman Stafford was born on 11th May 1877 at St Stephen’s Green in Dublin to Reverend William Gorman, a Methodist Minister, and Mary Smallman Sibthorpe. The Reverend William Gorman ministered in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Belfast and has been described as “the prince of Irish Methodist preachers”. Mary Gorman married Frederick Stafford on 1st March 1898 at Balmoral Methodist Church (which was also known as Osborne Park Methodist Church), and they were members of the congregation for the rest of their lives. Frederick Stafford died on chronic nephritis on 29th June 1937 at the Rosapenna Hotel in Carrigart, Donegal. Like her husband, Mary Stafford was on the Board of Directors of J J Stafford & Sons, wholesale boot and shoe factors, of Union Street in Belfast and she also did voluntary work for the Voluntary Aid Detachment at the South Belfast Hospital Supply Depot. Mary Stafford as living at 1 Bladon Drive when she died at the age of 62 and is buried in the Stafford family plot in the Glenalina Extension of Belfast City Cemetery on 4th March. Her funeral was attended by the Reverend J E C Lawlor, Chaplain of Belfast Port, and Rear Admiral King. Mary Stafford left effects amounting to £4,117 eleven shillings and eightpence (approximately £245,261 in current terms) to her second son, Malcolm Ashman Stafford (Company Director) of Shrewsbury Drive in Belfast.

Frances Alexander McCammon was born on 12th August 1895 at Belmont Road in Strandtown to Richard Whytstock Leslie, a Medical Doctor, and Rosa Scott Alexander. Frances Leslie married John McCammon, a soldier, on 14th August 1919 in Belmont Presbyterian Church. John McCammon was a Manager with John Shaw Brown & Sons (Damask Linen and Handkerchief Manufacturers) of the Ulster Works on Dublin Road and Marcus Ward Street. Frances McCammon was a founder member of the Women’s League of Health and Beauty in Belfast. The family home was at 103 Osborne Park when Frances died at the age of 44. She is buried in Belfast City Cemetery and was survived by her husband and her daughter, June.

Mary Kathleen Jefferson was born on 18th July 1895 at Salisbury Avenue in North Belfast to John Cunningham McClung, a Linen Salesman, and Agnes Martha Currie. She took an active part in canteen work during the Great War and was later Honorary Secretary of the Duncairn-Clifton Women’s Unionist Association. Mary McClung married Frederic Jefferson on 25th August 1927 at Belfast Registrar’s Office and was living at 20 Bristow Park when she died at the age of 44. She was buried in the McClung plot in Belfast City Cemetery on 5th April 1940. The Right Reverend Doctor James Haire, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Reverend J E C Lawlor, Missions to Seamen, and the Reverend Alexander Lyle Harrison, Fortwilliam Park Presbyterian Church, officiated at the funeral. The Earl of Kilmorey and Rear Admiral King represented the Royal Navy. Mary Jefferson was a member of Fortwilliam Park Presbyterian Church and the Reverend Harrison said that he had made an appeal for books and magazines for the club on the Sunday before the tragedy and was to have handed them to Mrs Jefferson on 1st March. He said he felt that the five ladies were all victims of the war.

Winifred Jameson Glass was born on 14th June 1899 in Cooktown to Reverend Thomas Glass, Minister of First Cookstown Presbyterian Church, and Emily Wilson. Winifred Glass grew up in Australia as her father had accepted a call from a congregation in Melbourne. Following his death, she returned to Northern Ireland with her mother and was living at 53 Malone Road when she died at the age of 40 and was buried in Dundonald Cemetery on 4th March. She was an excellent golfer, being a member of Malone Golf Club.

Emily Margaret Davison was born on 31st August 1904 at Eia House on the Antrim Road to John Smith Morrow, a Medical Doctor, and Mary Mathers McLaughlin. Her maternal grandfather was William Henry McLaughlin, the founder of McLaughlin & Harvey, a construction company. The Morrow family was living at Malone Park when Emily Margaret married Alexander Davison on 12th September 1928 at Malone Presbyterian Church. Alexander Davison was the Managing Director of the Grove Weaving Company and Chairman of the Irish Power Loom Manufacturers Association. Emily Margaret Davison was on the Board of Governors of Ashley House School and was an active member of the Royal Maternity Hospital’s “Gleaners Committee”, which had been formed in August 1933 to further the interests of the hospital. The family home was at 15 Harberton Drive when Emily Davison died at the age of 35 and she was buried in the McLaughlin family plot in Belfast City Cemetery on 4th March. Amongst those attending the funeral were Mr E H Stephens, Missions to Seamen, and Rear Admiral King. Emily Margaret Davison was survived her husband and three children, aged five to eleven.

 

Larne Urban District War Memorial

On 7th March 1922, the Larne War Memorials’ Committee organised two ceremonies in the town – one to commemorate the fallen from the town and the other to demonstrate gratitude to those who had served in the Great War. Colonel Robert Chaine Alexander McCalmont, who had served with 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and 1st Battalion Irish Guards, played a role in both ceremonies.

At Noon, Colonel McCalmont unveiled the War Memorial to remember the fallen from the Larne Urban District. The names of the 147 fatalities recorded on the memorial were read out by Major George Thomson DSO who had served with 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. The Reverend James Kennedy dedicated the memorial, and the Last Post was played by Buglers from 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment.

At 3pm, Colonel McCalmont he raised the flag in the ceremony to formally transfer Inver House and its grounds to the Larne Branch of the British Legion for use as a club and recreation facility for ex-Servicemen.  Inver House had been purchased by the War Memorials’ Committee from the Barklie family, Colonel McCalmont having played an important role in the transfer.

This war memorial was dedicated to those sailors and soldiers who died in the Great War and were natives, lived in, or left from Larne Urban District. Although it is unclear exactly what was meant by the term “left from Larne”, it possibly referred to men who enlisted in Larne Town. There are men recorded on the memorial whose only identifiable connection to the town was as the place of enlistment. Unlike the Ballymena & District War Memorial, which covers fatalities from the Urban District and the Rural District, the memorial in Larne was designated as an Urban District Memorial. Consequently, it does not extend to war fatalities from what was the Larne Rural District. Whilst there are war memorials in some parts of the old Larne Rural District, for example in Glynn village, there is no war memorial for the fatalities from the Rural District

The memorial is the work of Frederick William Pomeroy, a prolific British sculptor of architectural and monumental works, who died in May 1924. The memorial takes the form of a cenotaph made from Portland Stone with the addition of bronze statues of a Sergeant of the British Army and a sailor of the Royal Navy. At the soldier’s feet in a German helmet. An engraved frieze runs around the upper part of the cenotaph. At the four corners are the heads of lions and on the front and rear faces there is a medallion featuring a sailing ship and the motto of Larne. On the other two faces, there are medallions on which France and Belgium are engraved.

The memorial was originally erected in the roadway at the junction of Main Street, Glenarm Road, and Curran Road. The Methodist Church was behind the memorial and the Laharna Hotel was in front of it. There were changes to the memorial even before its re-location to its current location at Inver. When the memorial was unveiled, the dedication and the names of the fallen were individual metal letters attached to the stonework. By the end of October 1925, a bronze dedication panel and two bronze panels listing the names of the fallen had been inserted into the stonework.

With the increase in motor transport, the Larne Urban District Council proposed the relocation of the memorial in 1933. Although several accidents had occurred at the busy junction, there was opposition to the relocation. The current Garden of Remembrance was purchased from Larne & Inver Parish Church by Larne Borough Council in 1973 and the war memorial was transferred in May 1975

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The first name recorded on the original war memorial was Robert McFerran Adams. Robert was born on 23rd June 1896 at Glynnview Avenue in Larne to Edward John Adams, a ship’s carpenter, and Ellen Jane Burns and the family later lived at Ship Street, Olderfleet, and Castle Terrace in the town. Robert McFerran Adams enlisted with 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and was deployed to France in October 1915. Rifleman Adams Died of Wounds on 4th June 1916 at the age of 19 and is buried in the Forceville Communal Cemetery and Extension in France. Locally, he is commemorated on the memorial tablet in First Larne Presbyterian Church and on a family memorial in the graveyard of St John’s Church of Ireland in Glynn. Ellen Jane Adams was awarded a Dependant’s Pension of five shillings per week from 26th June 1917 and Edward John Adams received a War Gratuity of £17 and ten shillings in October 1919.

The last name recorded on the original war memorial was William James Weir. William was born on 30th June 1890 at Drummaul near Randalstown to William Weir and Charlotte Morgan. In 1911, the family was living at Meetinghouse Street in Larne and William was employed as a Cloth Passer. The family was recorded as belonging to the Congregational denomination. William James Weir married Nora Barr on 30th April 1915 at Larne Methodist Church and they lived at Mill Brae in Larne.  William James Weir enlisted with the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and was deployed to France in October 1915. Rifleman Weir Died of Wounds on 10th August 1917, aged 27, and is buried in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery in Belgium. His widow was awarded a Dependant’s Pension of thirteen shillings and ninepence per week from 25th February 1918 and received a War Gratuity of £13 and ten shillings in November 1919. His brother, Rifleman Matthew Weir of the same battalion and regiment, is also commemorated on the memorial. He had been discharged due to wounds in 1917 and died of Septic Pneumonia on 12th January 1919, aged 27, and is buried in the Greenland Cemetery in Larne.

A stone panel bearing the names of 72 fatalities from the Second World War was unveiled in November 1949. A second stone panel was added later to commemorate one fatality from the Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960), two from the Korean War (1950 to 1953), and one for Aden (1963 to 1967).

In 2019, two obelisks were erected near the war memorial on which are recorded the names of a further 128 fatalities from the Great War. As part of the project, the original memorial was renovated, and new paving was laid around the memorial. Ironically, the original war memorial was unveiled on the anniversary of the death of one of the men included on one of the obelisks.

 

 

William Hugh McCluggage was born on 20th February 1898 at Ballyvernstown near Glynn to Robert McCluggage and Jane McDowell. He enlisted in Larne with 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and was deployed to France in October 1915. Signaller McCluggage was Killed in Action on 7th March 1917, aged 19, and is buried in St Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery in France. Locally, he is commemorated on the memorial tablet for Ralloo Presbyterian Church, on a family memorial in the graveyard at St John’s Church of Ireland in in Glynn, and on the War Memorial in Glynn Village. Robert McCluggage received a War Gratuity of £8 and ten shillings in October 1919.

 

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them

 

 

Limavady War Memorial Institute

The Limavady War Memorial Institute was formally opened on Thursday 2nd March 1922 by Major General Sir Oliver Nugent, who had commanded the 36th Ulster Division for much of its active service in France and Flanders. However, the story goes back to the weeks that followed the signing of the Armistice in 1918.

On 28th November 1918, a public meeting of the inhabitants of Limavady and the surrounding district determined that an institute would be the most fitting form of commemoration for the men from the district who had served in the Great War. The Institute would enable the inhabitants of the district of every class and denomination access to the benefits of a free library as well as other recreational facilities. On the night that the scheme started, £800 was promised to the subscriptions scheme – that equates to about £48,370 in current terms. A local solicitor, Mr Edward Maurice Fitzgerald Boyle of Gorteen, offered a free site for the erection of the building and the scheme received a significant financial boost when Mr George Lowry Moore, a native of the town but living at Forest Hill in London, donated £1,000 to the scheme. Due to the excessive of building materials and labour difficulties the scheme stalled until 1920. In April of that year, Major Alexander Boyle of Bridge Hill in Limavady died and his son, Edward Maurice Fitzgerald Boyle, sold the property to the War Memorial Committee for a reasonable sum and gave permission for the donated plot to be sold by the committee to fund the scheme. The process of altering the commodious mansion began and the final building, in addition to a free library, would contain reading rooms, billiard rooms, recreation rooms, and, importantly, rooms where the veterans could socialise and reminisce. On the north façade a grey granite stone recorded “War Memorial 1914-1918”. The property was vested in a Board of Trustees who were bound by their deed never to alienate the property from its original object. In the words of Mr Robert Douglas JP, Chairman of the Trustees, “Their aim was not to have an ornamental memorial, but one which would be serviceable, especially to those who had fought for them in Flanders and France”. The latter comment must have come as a surprise to the assembled veterans who had served at sea or in other theatres of the land war.

In his speech, Major General Nugent said that he had come not to be honoured but to pay a tribute to the gallant men of Limavady. He said that the record of the district was magnificent with 800 men enlisting from a population of 4,000 men, women, and children. He went on the say that 74 men had made the supreme sacrifice and that 25 of those men came from the local battalion, the 10th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He commended the committee on the form of the memorial, and he wished every possible happiness and prosperity to those who would use the Institute and to the people of Limavady he wished an equal measure of happiness and prosperity in a united Ireland. His speech was greeted with cheers from the people attending the ceremony.

The Honorary Treasurer of the War Memorial Committee was Lieutenant Colonel Francis Samuel Needham Macrory of Ardmore Lodge. He had been commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in February 1896 and held the rank of Major with 10th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers when he was deployed to France in October 1915. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in the 1917 New Year’s Honours List, was mentioned in Despatches in January 1917 and again in December 1917. He was later Chairman of the Board of Trustees and he was Commanding Officer of 1st Londonderry Battalion Ulster Home Guard during the Second World War.

The Reverend Canon Richard George Salmon King, Rector of Christ Church was appointed as Chaplain to the Ulster Division in November 1914 and accompanied the Division to France the following October. Canon Richard King relinquished his commission in November 1916 and was awarded the Military Cross in the 1917 New Year’s Honours List.

Canon King’s eldest son, Robert Andrew Ferguson Smyly King, held the rank of Lieutenant in 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers when he was wounded during the Battle of Le Bassee. He died of his wounds at No 7 Stationary Hospital on 23 May 1915, aged 19, and is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.

In early 1919, 32 men from the Limavady District who had been taken prisoner during the war were welcomed home by Mrs Catherine Anne Swetenham Trench (nee Lecky) of Graystone Hall and entertained in the Alexander Memorial Hall. Catherine Trench’s husband, Frederick Charles Bloomfield Trench, had been killed in action on 1st July 1916 and the Trench Memorial Flute Band was named in his memory.

In January 1919, Limavady Urban District Council had applied to the Secretary for War Office for a captured German gun to be awarded to the town. Although the council had already received two trench mortars, which had been place at the Institute, the council Limavady received the first of its two War Trophy guns in July 1923, the second arriving the following month. Both guns were howitzers with a bore of 210 centimetres, the first weighed six and a half tons and the second weighed seven tons. 

On 7th May 1940, Limavady Urban District Council debated the sale of the trophy gun. Mr Campbell JP is quoted as saying, “I would certainly sell them, and send them back to Germany in another form.” The following month, Mr John Hunter, Chairman of the Council, announced that the two howitzer guns had been sold and the money raised, £21 and ten shillings, would be donated to the British Red Cross Society. The money raised from the sale of the guns would equate to approximately £1,300 in current terms.

 

On Thursday 10th October 1924, a Roll of Honour made from dark Oak was unveiled in the Institute by Major Henry Hewey Francis MacDonald-Tyler who had served with the 9th Gurkha Rifle during the Great War and made a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire. The dedicatory panel reads, “Limavady and District War Memorial, to commemorate alike the brave sons of this district who died fighting for their country, and the gallant survivors who shared their dangers, toils, and sufferings; to show honour to the dead and gratitude to the living by a memorial whose object is to imbue successive generations with the same love of country and sense of duty, and to forge, by the memory of valour and self-devotion, a fresh bond of union and friendship among all who dwell in this district.”

In the late 1920s, a Celtic Cross was erected at the Institute and this became the focal point for Armistice Remembrance and the Limavady Branch of the British Legion received permission to use, free of charge, a Billiard Room and an Ante Room for meetings.

On 28th March 1972, a car bomb exploded outside Limavady RUC Station and caused significant damage to the War Memorial Institute, which was subsequently demolished. The Limavady and District Roll of Honour Boards were moved to the Town Hall and an additional panel of names was added. The Roll of Honour Boards were recently installed in the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre and were unveiled on Tuesday 1st March 2022.

The Celtic Cross that had been erected at the Institute was incorporated into a new War Memorial which was unveiled in 2002 and incorporates panels naming those from the district who died in the two world wars, the Korean War, and during Operation Banner in Northern Ireland.

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them