Dedication dates of civic War Memorials in Northern Ireland

This is a list of the dedication dates of civic War Memorials in Northern Ireland.

With many centenaries coming up, MPs, MLAs, Councillors and the public may wish to consider how they commemorate the men and women remembered on these memorials.

[List compiled by Nigel Henderson, Researcher, History Hub Ulster].

 

County Town Dedication Date
Antrim Dervock 23/12/1920
Down Dollingstown 29/01/1921
Down Greyabbey 02/04/1921
Down Moira 09/04/1921
Down Gilford 18/06/1921
Tyrone Coagh 16/07/1921
Antrim Hilden 29/10/1921
Antrim Bushmills 05/11/1921
Antrim Glynn 13/11/1921
Londonderry Aghadowey 14/11/1921
Antrim Galgorm 27/11/1921
Down Waringstown 17/12/1921
Down Holywood 28/01/1922
Londonderry Limavady 02/03/1922
Antrim Larne 07/03/1922
Down Hillsborough 13/05/1922
Antrim Crumlin 08/07/1922
Tyrone Clogher 14/09/1922
Londonderry Moneymore 12/10/1922
Down Ballywalter 25/10/1922
Fermanagh County Fermanagh War Memorial (Enniskillen) 25/10/1922
Londonderry Coleraine 10/11/1922
Antrim Portrush 11/11/1922
Tyrone Dungannon 11/11/1922
Down Comber 14/04/1923
Antrim Lisburn 28/04/1923
Down Donacloney 21/07/1923
Londonderry Garvagh 27/03/1924
Down Killyleagh 19/06/1924
Antrim Ballinderry 07/11/1924
Antrim Ballymena 11/11/1924
Londonderry Portstewart 11/11/1924
Tyrone Moy 11/11/1924
Down Groomsport 27/12/1924
Armagh Tandragee 13/04/1925
Londonderry Kilrea 01/07/1925
Down Downpatrick 05/11/1925
Armagh Portadown 13/11/1925
Tyrone Stewartstown 08/04/1926
Down Donaghadee 01/07/1926
Down Dromore 19/09/1926
Armagh Armagh City 03/12/1926
Tyrone Cookstown 18/04/1927
Down Bangor 24/05/1927
Belfast St Anne’s Cathedral Victory Memorial 01/06/1927
Londonderry Londonderry 23/06/1927
Antrim Whiteabbey (BL War Memorial Hall) 20/08/1927
Tyrone County Tyrone War Memorial (Omagh) 28/09/1927
Armagh Lurgan 23/05/1928
Antrim Ballycastle 11/11/1928
Londonderry Castledawson 30/06/1929
Belfast Belfast War Memorial 11/11/1929
Belfast Cregagh 10/11/1929
Antrim Ballyclare 09/11/1930
Down Newtownards 25/05/1934
Armagh Bessbrook 07/07/1934
Down Ballynahinch 11/11/1934
Down Banbridge War Memorial 11/11/1934
Down Banbridge Roll of Honour 11/11/1934
Antrim County Antrim War Memorial (Knockagh) 1937
Antrim Glenavy c1920
Antrim Stranocum By April 1920
Donegal Pettigo Not known
Down Castlewellan & Annsborough Not known
Down Newcastle Not known
Down Newry Sept/Oct 1939
Tyrone Castlederg 1938/39

 

Hilden, Glenmore & Lambeg War Memorial

Hilden, Glenmore and Lambeg War Memorial 

Researched by Nigel Henderson, with input from John McCormick

On Saturday 29th October 1921, a monument commemorating the men from the Hilden, Glenmore, and Lambeg areas who died in the Great War was unveiled by Mrs Anna Barbour OBE JP.

Belfast News-Letter – 31 October 1921

The monument was designed by Blackwood & Jury (Civil Engineers Architects of 41 Donegall Place, Belfast) and was built by Robert McHenry at the junction of Low Road and Mill Street on a plot of land donated by Richardson, Sons & Owden Limited of Donegall Square North, Belfast. The hexagonal monument with a domed top is built of Portland stone and is thirteen feet and six inches tall. Three of the faces are buttresses with moulded caps and bases. The other three faces are recessed and contain bronze plaques naming 117 fatalities.

Belfast Telegraph -1 November 1921

Research facilitated by History Hub Ulster has identified details for 110 of the men named on the memorial.

The first fatality belonged to the Royal Marine Light Infantry. James Holmes was born on 6th May 1896 at Low Road to Thomas Holmes and Annie Harvey. James enlisted on 31st August 1914 but died of Cerebrospinal Meningitis on 2nd March 1915, at the aged of 19, and is buried in the Portland Royal Naval Cemetery in England.

The last fatality was from one of the area’s leading families, the Ewarts of Derryvolgie House. William Basil Ewart was born on 25th September 1890 at Glenmachan House to Frederick William Ewart and Mary Anne Elizabeth Valentine. Major Ewart was deployed to France with the Royal Irish Rifles in October 1915. He married Rebe Annette Grindle on 31st July 1917 and was invalided out of army service in November. He died of Chronic Nephritis at Derryvolgie House on 13th February 1920, ages 29, and is buried in the historic Clifton Street Graveyard in Belfast. His brother, Captain Cecil Frederick Kelso Ewart, Royal Irish Rifles, was Killed in Action on 1st July 1916, aged 28, and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.

The youngest fatality was only 17 years old. Rifleman David Martin, Royal Irish Rifles, was Killed in Action on 17th June 1916 and is buried in Authuile Military Cemetery in France. He was born on 27th April 1899 at Ballynahinch Road to David Martin and Annie Singleton.

The oldest fatality was 48 years old. Private William Neill, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who was Killed in Action on 21st August 1915 and is commemorated on the Helles Memorial on the Gallipoli Peninsula and at Lambeg Parish Church. He was born on 24th May 1867 at Ballyskeagh to John Neill and Jane McDermott and was married to Margaret Shields of Sandymount, Ballyskeagh.

Research to date shows that four men died after being taken prisoner by the Germans. Rifleman James Coburn served with the Royal Irish Rifles. He was reported missing during the Battle of St Quentin in March 1918, and it was confirmed that he was a prisoner of war two months later. He died in captivity on 14th October 1918, aged 20, and is buried in the Belgrade Cemetery in Belgium and commemorated on a family memorial in Lisburn Cemetery.

He was born on 12th December 1897 at Hillsborough to David Coburn and Emma Livingston who later lived at Wilson Street.

As one might expect from the locality, the majority of the fatalities came from the Protestant community but there are at least eighteen Roman Catholics commemorated on the memorial. Rifleman Robert Costello was deployed to the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles on the Western Front in January 1915 and was awarded the Military Medal in 1917. He died of Wounds at the Bath War Hospital on 14th January 1918, aged 28, and is buried in Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Cemetery in Lisburn. He was born on 24th August 1890 at Low Road to James Costello and Mary Grimley. A brother, Private Samuel Costello, served with the Royal Irish Rifles and the Royal Irish Regiment. He was discharged on 25th February 1919 and was allocated one of the twelve Ex-Servicemen’s Cottages built on Wallace Avenue in 1930.

 

Linen Families associated with Hilden War Memorial

Researched by Richard Graham

Hilden War Memorial is located on a traffic island bounded by Grand Street and Mill Street. The land for the memorial, in the form of an obelisk, was given to commemorate men from the Hilden, Glenmore and Lambeg area who died in the slaughter of the First World War (1914-18). The monument was designed by Percy Morgan Jury, a leading architect practising in Belfast, and a son of W J Jury, a Belfast Whiskey magnate and founder of Jury’s Hotels.

RHS Richardson

The land was gifted to the people of the area by the Richardson family, leading linen bleachers and manufacturers in the area and descendants from a Quaker family who settled in Ireland at Lisburn in the early 1700s. The Richardsons owned three linen production plants in the area: The Island Spinning Co (now LCCC Headquarters) Millbrook Bleachworks (now housing) and The Glenmore Bleachworks one of the largest of its type in Ireland. The family lived at two large estates in the Lambeg area: Glenmore House (now apartments) and Aberdelgy (now a Golf Course).

But it was to another leading employer in the area, that the unveiling ceremony was entrusted – that of the Barbour family of Hilden Mill.

Hilden Mill 

The War Memorial was officially unveiled on the morning of Saturday 29th October 1921 by Mrs Anna E Barbour, OBE, the American born wife of Harold Barbour – they lived at Strathearne, Dunmurry, now Hunterhouse College. They were in fact first cousins, her father having been born at The Fort, now Fort Hill College, before moving to America.

Anna E Barbour 1876-1941

The platform party also comprised members of several other leading linen families of the area: John McCance of Suffolk House (now Colin Glen Regional Park); Malcolm Gordon (manager of Hilden Mill) of Clonmore, Lambeg (latterly a community and arts facility); Frederick W Ewart, of the enormously successful Ewarts linen dynasty, who lived at nearby Derryvolgie House (latterly the divisional HQ of the Water Service and Mrs Emily Reade, whose husband was a director of the York Street Flax Spinning Co, and who had before her marriage been a Charley of Seymour Hill.

Elsie Milne Barbour

It commemorated the lives of 117 men from the local area who lost their lives in the Great War, aged from just 17 years to 48 years old – 55 of whom have no known place of burial.

Just a few yards from the War Memorial, there is a beautiful children’s park with an interesting stone inscribed E M B Memorial Park … but who was E M B?

Sir Milne Barbour – 1 Jan 1900

Elsie Milne Barbour was the wife of Sir J Milne Barbour of Conway House, Dunmurry (latterly an hotel) the Chairman of Hilden Mill. Sadly, Elsie Barbour died during the birth of her third child, Elizabeth, in 1910 at the age of only 37 years old. In her memory, Sir Milne Barbour gave the land for the playground for local children and also built the EMB Memorial Hall which stood opposite the War Memorial until 2000.

The Barbour’s only son, John Milne Barbour, also died young in an air crash whilst flying a private plane from a Barbour plant in Scotland to Conway in 1937 at the age of 30.

EMB Memorial Hall

So, that is the story behind two of Hilden’s memorials to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country and the tragedy of the owning family of one of the largest linen thread factories in the world.

Hilden War Memorial

Belfast Banking Company, Bushmills, Co. Antrim

Whilst undertaking research into the Northern Bank in Bushmills, I came across a sad tale about the first branch manager of the Belfast Bank branch in that small village. In 1870, Thomas McComb (32) had been working in the Belfast Bank, Coleraine branch as Accountant and Cashier for 13 years when he was appointed Manager of their Bushmills Agency. He was widely respected in the town. This article presents the sad story of Thomas McComb through newspaper clippings and photographs.

Download pdf

Northern Banking Company, Cushendall, Co. Antrim

An old envelope addressed to ‘J Wilson, Manager, Northern Bank, Cushendall’ and postmarked ‘Dublin 19, 14th March 1879’ was recently discovered in an internet search. What is the story of this bank branch in the small County Antrim village of Cushendall? This article presents the history of the building through newspaper clippings and photographs.

Download pdf

 

Ballymena WW2 War Memorial Names Project – Public Call

  Credit: Nigel Henderson

  

Background
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has launched a public call for missing names on Ballymena’s Second World War Memorial located in the Memorial Park.

The public call is the next phase of a council search for any missing names of Ballymena Town and Rural District’s Fallen that can be identified and verified. After being fully collated and approved by council, these names will be added to the town’s Second World War Memorial in 2022.

History Hub Ulster has been working with the council and has identified 27 additional names that fall into the criteria listed below.

Consultation

Between 4 October and 1 November 2021 Mid and East Antrim Borough Council are inviting the public to examine the list of names provided below (these include those currently named on the Memorial and those newly identified) and advise us if there are any other names that should be considered for inclusion. This consultation deals only with the ‘Fallen’ and is NOT a collection of names for a ‘Roll of Honour’.

The current names on the War Memorial can be viewed HERE.

The list of 27 additional names can be viewed HERE

Set Criteria

For a name to be considered for inclusion it must meet all of the agreed selection criteria below.

  • Those born within the former Ballymena Borough or Rural District or had residency within the district’s boundaries, who died in action or subsequent to war service.  A list of townlands in the district can be viewed HERE. A map can be viewed HERE.
  • Following guidelines adhered to by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission all names will be verified for death in service or subsequent to service within the time period of September 3 1939 until December 31 1947.

It should be noted that the names of people who died after being discharged from the armed forces can be submitted if the death was connected with war service and if the person is commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database. This link can be used to check the CWGC database – www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/

Should you or your group consider, after looking at the set criteria and the Fallen list, that a war fatality is missing from this list, and you wish them to be considered for inclusion on the Ballymena Borough and District War Memorial, please complete THIS FORM with as much detail as you can. This will enable History Hub Ulster to verify the name supplied.

No Internet Access

To facilitate those who have no internet access or for further information on how to provide the name of one of the fallen who is not already on the War Memorial please contact the council by emailing braidmuseum@midandeastantrim.gov.uk or telephoning 028 2563 5027.

Verification Sources

Depending on the level and quality of the information provided by members of the public when submitting names, the following primary sources will be used to verify whether the names put forward during the public consultation process satisfy the specified criteria:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission;
Civil registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths;
British Newspaper Archives; and
1901/1911 Ireland Census returns.

Privacy Policy

Your personal information will be shared between History Hub Ulster and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and will be used solely by us for the purpose of verifying the historical data provided and only used with your consent.  Mid and East Antrim Council’s privacy policy can be viewed here : https://www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/privacy-notice

Please be aware that by providing us with the military personnel information you are consenting for this data to be held and used, not only for the purpose set out above, but in future Mid and East Antrim Borough Council publications, websites, presentations or other projects associated with the Second World War.

Census of Population of Northern Ireland 1937

In order to bridge the gap between the census of 1926 and the census which it was intended to take in 1941, a census of more limited scope (e.g., omitting questions regarding occupation and industry) was taken in 1937. The returns were made as at midnight of 28th February – 1st March, 1937, and a Preliminary Report, containing population and other tables, was issued in July of that year.

It was intended to publish in 1939 a General Report for the whole of Northern
Ireland, containing statistical notes on the recorded results, together with tables
covering, in more detail, the figures given in the County volumes. Most of the
tables were duly prepared, but the remainder of the work had to be postponed
indefinitely owing to the outbreak of war. Further, the present paper shortage
renders the immediate production of a lengthy volume undesirable.

Download 1937 

Download 1926

Time Travel – Connecting a vintage dress label to a Belfast company and family

James Lindsay and Co, Belfast

A query recently came into History Hub Ulster from a Bangor lady, Amanda Allaway who has a personal Facebook blog ‘aetherealart’.

Amanda wrote in her blog:

I have a little piece of history that lives in my loft – she was made in the late 1800s I think by a tailors called James Lindsay in the Ulster Arcade in Belfast. I believe this is mourning dress. Unfortunately, the silk facings holding the corset boning together are disintegrating rapidly but sometime soon I will try and restore her for posterity. I rescued her from a wardrobe clear out from a drama group many years ago and she had been tweaked and remade several times but she remains elegant and beautiful”.

and followed it up with a request to History Hub Ulster:

I wonder can anyone help me with some research pointers for this dress – it carries the label James Lindsay &Co Ulster Arcade which I believe is the Lindsay Brothers – Thomas Lindsay, Mayor of Belfast in 1875? I know they were textile merchants (and very successful too) but I don’t know if they actually produced/commissioned clothing? Any info about the company very welcome”.

History Hub Ulster researcher, Richard Graham takes up the story:

James LindsayJames Lindsay and Co was established at 18 Donegall Place, Belfast c 1860. The Lindsay family first came to Ireland from Scotland in 1678, with their descendants moving to Belfast in 1822, opening a “woollen, linen and haberdashery warehouse” trading as J & D Lindsay on Bridge Street. The business prospered and John and David Lindsay brought into the partnership their three younger brothers, one of whom was James Lindsay after which the business at 18 Donegall Place was named.

James LindsayJames Lindsay & Co was part of a much larger family business which traded under the name Lindsay Brothers. They first began manufacturing muslin in the early 1800s, but expanded the business to include the spinning of flax at two large mills (the Mulhouse Works and Prospect mills) and all associated processes involved in the rapidly developing linen industry. These goods were exported all over the world from their warehouse at 7-9 Donegall Place (see pic). This building still stands as the Disney Store today.

Meanwhile one of the brothers, James, developed a retail side to the business at 18 Donegall Place. The building erected in 1858, held some of the finest stock in Belfast, as can be seen by the attached advertisement of 1861. Although it had many departments, it was not a department store per sae – that concept didn’t become popular until the 1910s. It was more of a Victorian fashion emporium and traded as “The Ulster Arcade”.

The business continued to prosper for the next 80 years, and allowed James to reside at a large house and estate called “Wheatfield” at Ballysillan, North Belfast. The business concentrated on products of Irish Manufacture, and they were soon joined by other worldwide concerns such as Robinson & Cleaver which opened their Royal Irish Linen Warehouse two doors up on Donegall Place in 1888 – the year Queen Victoria granted Belfast it’s charter as a city. Here James Lindsay’s premises can be seen during the Edwardian period in 1910.

Although Lindsay Brothers were one of the largest manufacturers of linen products in Ireland – they also produced muslin, cambric and linen handkerchiefs at their Victoria Street premises which were sold at Donegall Place. My feeling is that the dress in your possession may have been imported for retail sale to the ladies of Victorian Belfast, as the range of products included fabrics and finished products from around Europe. I cannot find definitive proof that they actually commissioned or manufactured such detailed work, as the warehouse was very much focused on retail.

In 1920, James Lindsay retired to his villa in Cannes in the South of France, which was named “Lisnacrieve” after the family seat in Co Tyrone. The business was taken over by Thomas Brand, a young entrepreneur who also developed a chain of fashion stores in Belfast City Centre. Brands continued to trade as “The Ulster Arcade – successors to James Lindsay” at 18 Donegall Place until Easter 1941, when during the Blitz of Belfast by German bombers in the Second World War, the premises were completely destroyed, and the name of James Lindsay ceased to exist. Brands went on to form Brand’s Arcade (opposite) and then Brands and Normans on Castle Lane – one of the city’s leading fashion and department stores.

Bringing the story up to date, the site of the Ulster Arcade was later developed (in 1950) as the first branch of C&A in Northern Ireland! They were of course part of the new breed of department store (such as Littlewoods and M&S) which would take over from older stores such as James Lindsay, which dominated the market in Victoria and Edwardian times. Lindsay Brothers continued to trade until the 1960s, when with the decline of linen, they sold to Courtaulds, one of the new synthetic fibre manufacturers to arrive in NI in the 1960s.

When the building was destroyed, Thomas Brand merged with Norman & Co on Castle Lane to form Brands & Normans. The Brand family also developed Brands Arcade (aka Birdcage Walk) becoming one of the most important fashion houses and retailers in Belfast in the “Swinging Sixties” Sadly that business has now also disappeared from the streets of Belfast, as has C&A, Robinson & Cleaver, Anderson & McAuley and all the other great stores, even up to last month when Debenhams closed down.

Article by Richard Graham, Researcher, History Hub Ulster

Ards TT – Ulster ’71 Festival

History Hub Ulster Chair Gavin Bamford asks “How often do you go back and look at your old photograph albums and perhaps discover local history at your fingertips? Is there an archive of life in Northern Ireland waiting to be unveiled to future generations? Will they bring back memories to our older generations?”

Gavin recently found a small number of historical photos in an album from 1971 linked to the Ulster ’71 Festival organised by the Government of Northern Ireland to celebrate 50 years of Northern Ireland.

In 2021 when Northern Ireland celebrates its centenary many people are discussing the political aspects of the past century. 

The history of Northern Ireland isn’t always about politics; it’s about people and sporting achievements too. Between 1928 and 1936 the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) ran the Ards Tourist Trophy (TT) motor races over a triangular circuit of Dundonald, Newtownards and Comber.

On 11th September 1971 as part of the Ulster ’71 Festival the Ulster Vintage Car Club (UVCC) organised an event to commemorate the running of the Ards TT in the 20s/30s. This considerable project involved the erection of a brick ‘pit building’ together with a number of wooden ‘pits’ alongside it. 

Gavin’s photographs, a few are shown here, feature in a short video uploaded to the History Hub Ulster YouTube channel show the ‘pit buildings’ together with some of the wonderful vintage cars shown on the day.

The ‘Belfast Telegraph’ published the following article the day before the event:

 

LORD GREY’S LAP OF HONOUR

The Governor, Lord Grey will head a cavalcade of vintage sports cars round the 13.7 miles of the former Ards Tourist Trophy circuit to-morrow after opening a memorial to the TT races which used the circuit from 1928-1936.

The memorial is in the form of a reconstruction of three of the pit ‘units’. These have been erected on the site of the original pits, close to the Rolls Royce factory outside Dundonald. Built of wood, the 10ft long structures were used by pit staff during races.

The memorial was undertaken by the Ulster Tourist Trophy Commemorative Committee, who scheduled it for Ulster 71.

Committee member, Mr. William Galbraith, said: “This is not just going to be a static out-of-reach memorial. The site of the pit ‘units’ will be a picnic area and a lay-by and we hope many people will use and enjoy it”.

Also on the site will be a brick-built store for the Ulster Vintage Car Club.

During Lord Grey’s tour of the circuit, it is hoped about 25 sports cars of the period, including several former TT cars will take part. 

Said Mr. Galbraith: “Among the cars we are hoping to see is the 4-litre Lagonda, which won at Le Mans in 1935, and then took part here the same year, when driven by J S Hindmarsh”.

Mr. Galbraith said: “There will be three locally-owned ex-TT cars. One is Lord O’Neill’s Invicta which he will use to take Lord Grey round the course. Another is an Alfa Romeo, owned by Malcolm Templeton of Ballymena which will be driven by Jimmy Greenwood, who was the travelling mechanic to Bobby Baird in the 1933 race. The third car is an Aston Martin owned by Bob Stewart from Newtownards”.

Gavin comments “Although now on an extremely busy road, the lay-by and a ‘pit building’ is still there. The original ‘pits’ were destroyed by vandals over the past 50 years. The UVCC has installed a marble and slate commemoration stone at the location. Unfortunately, picnicking is definitely not recommended”. 

 

Hillsborough Graveyard

A lot of history is hidden in local graveyards just waiting to be brought back to life … sometimes by accident. As Nigel Henderson, a researcher with History Hub Ulster, explains, “I recently visited the graveyard at Hillsborough Parish Church to search for a headstone commemorating Joseph Beddy  Lambert, who was killed during the first German air raid on 8th April 1941. A veteran of the Great War, he was injured at Belfast Docks and died at the Mater Hospital. He was 53 years old. I never did find a memorial for Joseph, but I did spot a well-preserved family memorial on which John Cleland, a Boer War fatality, is commemorated. 

Although this war is not my usual area of interest, the amount of detail on the headstone piqued my interest. As 8th May is the 120th anniversary of his death, I thought the following short biography would be of interest to your readers. I would also like to take this opportunity to appeal for information about the final resting place of Joseph Beddy Lambert or, indeed, any other blitz fatalities buried locally.” 

John Cleland was born on 7th April 1871 at Kilmood, between Killinchy and Ballygowan, to John Millen Cleland and Mary Barclay Cleland (nee Dickson). His father later married Sara Johnson on 22nd October 1885 at Hillsborough Presbyterian Church. John and Sara were both National School teachers and, in the 1901 Census, the family was living at Main Street in Hillsborough and his father was recorded as being a teacher of Chemistry, Physics, Science, and Botany.

John Cleland was a chemist and a member of the Royal Irish Rifles militia when he enlisted with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Omagh on 11th March 1890. His period of engagement was seven years regular service and five years reserve service, but he extended his regular service in 1897. He served with 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during the 1897/98 North Western Frontier campaign, being awarded the India Medal (1895) with Punjab Frontier 1897-98 and Tirah 1897-98 clasps. He was wounded during the Second Anglo-Boer War whilst serving with 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. On 30th March 1900, General Redvers Buller wrote to the Secretary of State for War listing cases of distinguished conduct in the field. Lance-Corporal John Cleland was included in the report as he had rendered very valuable assistance to the wounded under heavy fire on 23rd-24th February. John Cleland held the rank of Sergeant when he died of dysentery on 8th May 1901 at Middelburg in Transvaal Province. In addition to the Distinguished Conduct Medal, he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with four clasps – Belfast, Cape Colony, Tugela Heights, and Relief of Ladysmith.

Gavin Bamford, Chair of History Hub Ulster, concluded, “Every graveyard in Ulster will turn up an interesting story and Peter McCabe, an Associate Member of our society, will soon be publishing a book looking at twenty headstones in twenty different cemeteries in Northern Ireland. The book includes a chapter on the graveyard in Hillsborough and both Joseph Beddy Lambert and John Cleland feature in the chapter.”

Nigel Henderson can be contacted at nigel_henderson@hotmail.com and Gavin Bamford can be contacted via research@historyhubulster.co.uk 

Belfast Blitz 80 – Wartime in the Foreign Department

As part of our #BelfastBlitz80 series, we publish an article by the late Ned Dyas, retired manager of the Northern Bank, Foreign Department, Victoria Street, Belfast. ‘Wartime in the Foreign Department’ was first published in the Northern Bank Staff Magazine ‘The Link’ in June 1993. Ned Dyas died on 14th October 2019.

Setting the scene

Northern Bank, Head Office, Victoria Street, Belfast

If you transfer your gaze momentarily to the left of the main door of the old Northern Bank, Head Office in Victoria Street you will see nearest the corner a tall window. This, double glazed and pretty sturdy, was the window to the world of the wartime Foreign Department of the Bank. A second window looked out, as it still does, onto Ulster Street and the building of G. Heyn & Sons Ltd. In the third wall stood a fireplace where a bright, richly burning fire greeted you each morning and the remaining wall was in fact an oak partition separating the room from the Bank’s main waiting room. Apart from the Manager’s large and imposing desk and those for the typists, a high solid desk stretched round two of the windowed walls. The staff either sat on high stools at this desk or more often than not stood and leaned! The high desk was essential to carry and spread the huge ledgers recording the transactions. The old-style telephones with separate earpieces were still in use. I well remember too that one of the cupboards held bundles and bundles of Reichsmark Notes dating from the collapse of the mark in the twenties. This was 1943 – fifty years ago.

Extract from a wartime fire prevention document completed
for Northern Bank, 110 Victoria Street branch.

Fire-watching at Head Office

Belfast had been the subject of its main air attack in 1941 and while our Head Office, like the Belfast, Ulster and National Banks, was very much in the target area being so near the shipyard it escaped any major damage. The other banks were similarly fortunate. A solitary incendiary bomb had left a hole in the floor of the Stationery Store and I remember having to step over this hole to get at our supplies. Fire-watching was at once a chore and a source of much needed extra remuneration as far as ‘juniors’ were concerned, so those of us in digs did as many nights as possible. Pay was at the rate of 3/= (three shillings) per night, in modern terms 15p but in real value more like £5 to-day [1993]. If you were lucky enough to be asked to do an extra night for a Director or Chief Cashier or other senior member of staff you could earn as much as 7/6d for the night. This as you may well imagine was regarded as a plum! When I tell you that our annual starting salary was £100 per annum plus a 16% War Bonus out of which in my case £78 went on digs you will see that the fire-watching shillings were valuable indeed. Many’s a nice-looking girl would not have been asked out without them. You cycled from your digs to the office, arrived for fire-watching about 10 pm, slept the night in the main waiting room or Foreign Department where the beds were assembled and cycled back for breakfast making sure that you would be back in good time for your day’s work. If you were going to arrive late for fire-watching you made a prior arrangement with a fellow watcher to let you in at the side door. Quite often the pulley bell on the great front door would clang out in the darkness to announce a late comer and I can remember on occasions seeing the face of the Albert showing midnight as I made my way down to the side door. We had an almost permanent firewatcher in Mick the porter. You would find him doing his football pools when you arrived in for duty. Almost completely deaf, he was nevertheless bright of eye, beaming smile and a loyal servant of the Bank. His favourite comment when you handed him a letter or parcel for delivery was “Thank you kind Sir, your kindness exceeds your personal beauty by far; your face I may forget but your kindness never.”

Dealing with the U.S. Forces

Northern Bank was first to operate a Foreign Department and was appointed by the Government as its Agent to deal with the U.S. Forces and authorised to deal with all foreign currency notes and coin on behalf of the Bank of England. This resulted not only in all the other Banks clearing their purchases of U.S. Dollar Bills, etc. to us on a weekly basis but also meant that we were in the front line for dealing with the U.S. Forces Finance Officers. Such sights as our Head Office Cash Office packed with U.S. Navy Personnel when a U.S. Cruiser or Destroyer docked in Belfast and the boys needed cash for the weekend were not infrequent. At such times we all became cashiers for an hour or so! On Pay Days when U.S. Finance Officers were drawing sterling cash for their Forces pay the steps on either side to the Main Door at Head Office would be lined by troops with rifles at the ready, all the way indeed from their bullion van in the street below to the very counter inside. There was an unofficial arrangement that the Bank would try to oblige Officers and Men of the Forces who were here for a longer spell and wanted cheques cashed.

Sailors queuing at the Belfast Banking Company, Bangor branch

It was, and probably still is, a very serious offence for U.S. service personnel to issue a dud cheque so the risk was not perhaps regarded as a major one. Nevertheless, we and the other Banks did have occasional trouble with unpaid cheques. I can recall cheques written out on ordinary sheets of paper shaped like a cheque being returned by our Agents not with “Refer to Drawer” or “Insufficient Funds” but with the ultimate answer “No such Bank”.

 

Glimpses of the Daily Routine

To outline the daily routine in the Foreign Department would be a bore but a couple of features I recall may be of interest. We received dozens of cables each day from the States asking us to make payments to individual U.S. Army personnel at Camps all over Northern Ireland and these were domiciled at our local Branches or with another Bank if we hadn’t a Branch in the nearest town. As many as 150-200 “Advices to Beneficiary” were despatched daily to these personnel. How’s that for a postage book! [Editor: every outgoing letter had to be detailed in a hand written ledger]. Not only that but happily the Linen Industry kept its flag flying right through the war. Linen was still in great demand in the U.S.A., Mexico, the Latin American countries, Cuba and the Caribbean Islands and in all the countries of South America. We might have had a dozen Registered Airmail letters a day containing Shipping Documents for Havana, Rio de Janeiro, etc. Despite the risks of war, I cannot recall us losing an original set of Shipping Documents, though duplicate documents were always sent on by surface mail (even more hazardous).

The Bank as a Family

Nostalgia has a habit of painting one’s memories in a rosy glow but I’m sure I’m not mistaken in saying that Banks of those days, not alone ours, were very much large families. And as in all families there were the lighter moments! I could tell you of duets in the Letter Department in the morning interrupted by our Bank Secretary, Hugh Murphy, a man of imposing stature but gentle in manner, asking with a broad smile when the Opera was beginning. Incidentally it was Mr. Murphy’s dictum that if you walked round the Office with a bundle of papers under your arm no one would ever ask you to do anything. To conclude, our small staff of eight or nine in the Foreign Department was kept at full stretch during this time but there was very much a family feel about all we did and to someone like myself (and, if I may include him, John Tunstead) coming from Dublin to Belfast and not knowing a soul it was good to find oneself among so many friends and so soon.