Sam Gray’s Reign of Terror

Guest author Patrick Duffy has provided us an academic paper Sam Gray’s Reign of Terror: Politics, religion and violence in Ballybay, Co. Monaghan 1824-1828 which he presented at the Irish History Students’ Association’s Annual Conference in Dublin last February (2020).

Patrick is a native of Ballybay, County Monaghan who graduated from University College, Dublin with a BA in History and Modern Irish. Later this year, he will begin a one-year Master of Studies in Modern British History at Lincoln College, Oxford where he hopes to investigate the nineteenth century origins of Ulster unionist identity.

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The Family History of the McLean family of Holywood from 1821 to 1985

McLean Monument Holywood Guest author Ruth Allister has provided us an extensive history of the imposing McLean monument in the Priory Graveyard, Holywood.

It traces the family tree of the McLean family in Holywood from 1821 to 1985. Although barely remembered today, all made a significant contribution to society in Northern Ireland – particularly in the legal and military spheres.

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Roselawn 2021 – A Guide to Roselawn Cemetery

After mediocre success with books about ‘Belfast City Cemetery’ and then ‘Dundonald Cemetery’, and with books called ‘2020’ (20 graves in each of 20 selected local cemeteries) and ‘A Hundred Houses of East Belfast’ in the pipeline, I decided to spend a fair chunk of lockdown writing another book about a Cemetery! A Guide to Belfast City CemeteryThe Cemetery this time is Roselawn. Until fairly recently, I had only a passing interest in Roselawn (with the exception of the grave of my much-missed maternal grandparents) due to the relative ‘newness’ of the Cemetery, only opening in 1954.

However, whilst researching my ‘A Hundred Houses of East Belfast’ book, I discovered that, amongst the thousands of graves there, not forgetting the thousands of memorial trees in Roselawn too, there are many fascinating headstones with, I think, associated fascinating stories.

A Guide to Dundonald Cemetery

So my daily lockdown exercise when Roselawn was open (obviously, although it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve climbed over a fence to get in / out of a cemetery!) consisted of walking round EVERY! headstone in the cemetery, photographing headstones of interest and then looking in to the story behind each for the purposes of a book.

So, after wearing down the soles of my shoes, I’ve come up with ‘Roselawn 2021’, consisting of 20 themed trails, each calling at 21 headstones. Below, for the purpose of this blog, I’ve selected one grave from each of the 20 trails. If you’d be interested in sponsoring a trail, or being kept in the loop prior to publication, my contact details and JustGiving page are at the end of this article.

Here goes (everything in quotes is wording from the respective headstones):

Roselawn CemeteryTrail 1 is the Quirky Trail, and the headstone I’ve selected for this is William Johnston, ‘a musician, an Elvis impressionist (Billy Fonda).  Bill grew up on Donegall Road, The Village, Belfast. Laid to rest 17th December 2004’, with the Quirky trail also featuring Elmekki Berrabah ‘“Kebab Man” Returned To Allah On 12th April 2015’, and he is buried in the small Muslim section of the Cemetery.

Trail 2 is a World Tour and the selected grave is the McConnell grave with this headstone commemorating ‘Rev Patrick McConnell 10.6.1935 – 6.11.2005’ as well as his ‘beloved son Patrick ‘Ti Paddy’ 10.6.1962 – 5.4.1971 both interred in Haiti’. Interred in this grave is ‘Olga McConnell nee Trouillot devoted wife, mother and grandmere 19.5.1931 – 24.2.2017’. Reading between the lines, it seems that Olga was born in Haiti where she married Rev McConnell and gave birth to a son Patrick before moving to Northern Ireland following their respective deaths, and she appears to be the only interment in this grave.

Trail 3 is entitled Not From This Parish looking at the graves of people seemingly not originally from this neck of the woods. The featured grave in this trail is Dragana Mahaffy with this headstone erected ‘in loving memory of my devoted wife Dragana 18th August 1972 – 25th December 2018. Почивај у миру љубави моја’ which translates from Serbian as ‘Rest in peace my love’. I was talking to Gordon, Dragana’s husband from East Belfast, near her headstone recently and he informed me that his wife was an investigative journalist and author in Serbia, specializing in the Serbian Mafia, before moving to Northern Ireland, to quote Gordon, “from Belgrade to Belfast”. Tragically Dragana developed cancer shortly after moving to Belfast, dying unexpectedly from a blood clot on Christmas Day 2018 aged 46.

During this ongoing midlife crisis spent in cemeteries, people sometimes ask me where members of the local Chinese community are buried, so I now know the answer – usually Roselawn! Trail 4 features folks who I think are of Chinese origin. Ho Yuk Fong Chung is buried at plot W-3082 with her headstone, also featuring Chinese writing, commemorating ‘a dear sister, devoted friend and a loving mother Born on 26th November 1956 Died on Easter Sunday, 5th April 2015. Generous of heart, constant in faith, her deeds pure, her words kind, she gave willingly, never took’.

Trail 5 is Women Only which includes one of the most fantastic woman ever, my Granny Craig, as well as Selina Blanchflower, Danny & Jackie Blanchflower’s footballing mother, but the woman I’m featuring here is Helen Lewis, MBE. Born in 1916 into a German-speaking Jewish family in Trutnov in the Kingdom of Bohemia, Helen survived two ‘selections’ by Dr Josef Mengele, and was later sent to Stutthof concentration camp in northern Poland. When the war ended, she returned to Prague where she learnt of her husband’s death during a forced march, whilst her mother Elsa Katz, who had been deported in 1942, had died at Sobibór extermination camp and is commemorated on this headstone as 10.08.1893 – 1942 (?) A victim of the Holocaust with no known resting place’. After her marriage to Harry Lewis in Prague in 1947, the couple moved to Belfast where Helen began to work as a choreographer, also teaching modern dance. Her book ‘A Time to Speak’ was published in 1992 and was translated into several languages, and then adapted for the theatre by the late, great Sam McCready. In the 2001 Birthday Honours, Helen Lewis was awarded an MBE for her services to contemporary dance.

In the interests of equality, Trail 6 is Men Only! which includes Ian Ogle, beaten and stabbed eleven times by up to five men near his home at Cluan Place in early 2019, but the grave I’ve chosen to feature in this Trail is Patrick (Paddy) Joseph Devlin, not a man I expected to find in Roselawn! Devlin was a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), a former Stormont MP, and a member of the 1974 Power Sharing Executive. Described as a ‘relentless campaigner against sectarianism’, Devlin had once been a member of the IRA but later renounced physical force republicanism to work at transcending sectarian differences.

Trail 7 is the Sports trail, which features George Best (and Bob Bishop, the man credited with discovering George: “I think I’ve found you a genius”) and Mervyn Cotter, a former Mr Universe who worked for Harland & Wolff, but the grave that this Ards fan living in Glentoran territory has chosen to feature is Sammy Pavis. Born in Ballymacarrett, after signing for Glentoran in the early 1960s where he won an Irish League medal, Pavis was snapped up by Linfield, scoring 237 goals in 260 games for the Blues in five seasons. Pavis was also the Northern Ireland snooker champion for a time after he retired from football, with his headstone containing the Linfield FC logo with the word ‘Legend’ below, as well as a snooker table with the words ‘N.I & All Ireland Champion’.

Trail 8 features 21 headstones that feature the logos of Football Clubs. In the absence of any Ards or Norwich logos!, I’ve chosen to feature Grzegorz Lozynski’s headstone which includes the logos of both Górnik Zabrze and Real Madrid. Górnik Zabrze is one of the most successful Polish football clubs in history, with this headstone stating ‘Zawsze bedziemy cie kochac’, i.e. ‘we will always love you’.

Trail 9 features those who served in the World Wars, and the chosen grave here is Edgar Lean, with a plaque on this simple wooden cross reading ‘Born-Belfast 20.01.1896 Died-Belfast 17.11.1971. WW1-age 19 Rifleman-Royal Irish Rifles The Somme-Ypres 11.11.1915 – 03.03.1919. WW2-age 43 Gunner-Royal Artillery North Africa (Tobruk-El Alamein) 21.09.1939 – 10.9.1945’.

Trail 10 features those who served in the Military including Sergeant Conor Binnie killed in Afghanistan in May 2009, but the featured grave is John Holmberg ‘Sergeant Major US Army Korea Vietnam Jun 7 1931 Nov 19 1992 Bronze Star Medal’, showing that people from this neck of the woods have served in all areas of the world.

The start of the second half of the book looks at the legacy of ‘The Troubles’ with Trail 11 featuring members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary including Victor Arbuckle, the first member of the Force to die during the Troubles, but the headstones I’m featuring on this occasion are Sergeant James William Blakely and Inspector William Henry Murtagh. Both are recorded on their respective headstones as ‘killed in the execution of his duty’ on 6 February 1976 – shot dead from behind by terrorist gunmen while on foot patrol on the Cliftonville Road – and they are buried in neighbouring graves.

Trail 12 features those Troubles Victims Shot during the Troubles, with 1972 being an especially brutal year. The featured grave for this Trail is the Warnock grave which includes Robert James Warnock ‘died 13th September 1972 aged 18’ after he was shot dead by an off-duty Royal Ulster Constabulary member during an attempted armed robbery at the Hillfoot Bar, Glen Road, Castlereagh. Also buried in this grave is his brother ‘William (Billy) died 16th October 1972 aged 15’, knocked down by an Army Armoured Personnel Carrier, while at a barricade during street disturbances on the Newtownards Road, Belfast.  Also commemorated on this headstone is ‘their broken-hearted mother Mary (May) died 25th August 1977’, and ‘Stephen murdered 13th September 2002 aged 35’. Warnock, a member of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) was shot dead by the Red Hand Commando (RHC) as he sat in a car in Circular Road, Newtownards.

Trail 13 features those Troubles Victims as a result of Bombings. On 21 July 1972, also known as Bloody Friday, the IRA detonated at least twenty bombs in the space of eighty minutes, most within a half hour period, in Belfast killing nine people and injuring 130. Killed in the explosion at Oxford Street bus station were 15-year-old William (Billy) Crothers, and William (Billy) Irvine aged 18, with both buried in Roselawn and featured in Trail 13.

Trail 14 is also Troubles-related, and features those involved in Paramilitary organisations, with the featured grave in this Trail being Tommy Herron. A leading member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), Herron was kidnapped in September 1973, and died by one gunshot to the head, with his body found in a ditch near Drumbo. Herron received a paramilitary funeral, presided over by Reverend Ian Paisley, attended by an estimated 25,000 mourners.

Numerous headstones in Roselawn commemorate loved ones killed as the result of an accident, so Trail 15 is entitled Accidents, with the featured grave that of Lorraine Gibson who, along with her daughters Angela (9) and Julie (7) died in the Maysfield Leisure Centre fire on 14 January 1984. Three other people died in the fire, with the blaze breaking out in a storeroom, with the victims overcome by toxic fumes released by smoldering gymnastic mats. Horrific.

Trail 16 is entitled Celtic Cousins and features 21 headstones that mention either Ireland or Scotland. The featured grave is James Cook commemorated on his headstone as the ‘Laird of Lochaber’. The titles ‘Laird, Lord or Lady of Glencoe and Lochaber’ are trademarked Highland titles available for purchase online.

Trail 17 looks at Groups, Organisations & Workplaces with the chosen grave belonging to Ernest Harris with the logo for the Maple Leaf Social & Rec Club featuring at the top of this headstone. Many readers will remember the Maple Leaf Club on Park Avenue, originally a meeting spot for emigrants heading to Canada on the first transatlantic flights from Belfast – hence the maple leaf in the name.

Trail 18 features 21 Ministers with the selected grave being Rev Dr Roy Magee, O.B.E. Minister of Dundonald Presbyterian church from 1975, Rev Magee became actively involved with a cross-community alliance of clergymen and community workers and, from 1990, worked in harness with Archbishop Robin Eames, the Church of Ireland primate, during protracted, private discussions with the Combined Loyalist Military Command which, ultimately, culminated in the 1994 cessation of violence.

Trail 19 is entitled Titles and features 21 graves of Sirs & MBEs including the legendary Tommy Patton, but the grave I’m featuring in this blog is William (Billy) McKnight, MBE recorded on his headstone as a ‘Teacher and musician [and] Beloved husband and father’. McKnight was awarded the MBE in 1968 when Principal of Strandtown Primary School, Belfast, and was living at 227 Kings Road, Belfast when he died in 1984.

Trail 20 is entitled And Finally …. and contains nice sentiments written on headstones (not that people are going to write bad sentiments!), with the featured grave being Susan Jayne Wilson. As well as the image of Wilson, who died in August 2007 aged 57, the headstone contains what seems to have been a letter to her family penned by her: ‘Goodbye my family, my life is past. I loved you to the very last. Weep not for me but courage take, Love each other for my sake. For those you love don’t go away. They walk beside you every day’. Powerful!

Thank you for reading this article, and I hope you managed to avoid nodding off! If you’d like to support this Roselawn 2021 book, you can do so via, e-mail me on or call me on 07596 603 463.

Peter McCabe

Associate member, History Hub Ulster


50 Years On – Black Ties or Red Carnations – The Belfast Bank & Northern Bank Merger

50 Years On – Black Ties or Red Carnations – The Belfast Bank & Northern Bank Merger

50 years ago, on 1st July 1970, the Belfast Banking Company Limited and Northern Bank Limited merged into Northern Bank now known today as Danske Bank.

Belfast Banking Company Limited

Belfast Bank Lisburn

Belfast Bank, Lisburn

To see why this merger took place, we have to go first back to 1827 when the Belfast Bank started business.  On 25th May 1846 following redevelopment, the bank moved into the former Assembly Buildings situated at the ‘four corners’ of North Street, Bridge Street, Waring Street and Donegall Street.  Within decades the bank was trading in branches throughout the northern half of Ireland.  Moving forward into the 20th century, the London City & Midland Bank was following events after the 1916 Easter Rising.  This bank wanted to move into Ireland and considered the Belfast Bank would to be the best bank should partition occur. 

Belfast Bank Duncairn Gardens

Belfast Bank, Duncairn Gardens

Following a failed agreement in March 1917, the shareholders of the Belfast Bank approved the amalgamation of their bank with the London City & Midland Bank on 9th July 1917.  This merger was the first entry into the Irish market by an English bank.  Merger negotiations had already started between the Ulster Bank and the London County & Westminster Bank.  At the same time, London City & Midland Bank had decided to open a branch of their own at 17 Castle Place, Belfast.  The decision was later taken to rebrand this branch as Belfast Bank.

Following partition, the Belfast Bank directors decided that they would only operate in what became Northern Ireland.  In 1923, following secret negotiations, they transferred their business in the Republic of Ireland to the Royal Bank of Ireland Limited along with 20 branches and their staff.

Belfast Banking Company Portrush

Belfast Bank, Portrush

Northern Bank Company Limited

Although the bank had links to a private bank (Montgomery & Company) dating back to 1809, Northern Banking Company, as a joint stock company, commenced trading in 1824.  Northern Bank was based in Belfast with its Head Office at 16 Victoria Street (beside the Albert Clock and operated branches throughout all of Ireland.  The two branch networks continued after partition.

Another Purchase

On 1st April 1965 the news broke that the Midland Bank (as London City & Midland Bank was now known) were proposing to purchase all the share capital of Northern Bank.  Belfast Bank branch managers were advised in a circular from the Directors’ that “It is not the intention to merge the Northern Bank with the Belfast Banking Company, but as opportunities occur in the future it will be possible to effect some rationalisation to the advantage of all concerned.”   The Belfast Telegraph reported the news the next day under the headline “Northern Bank shares jump for take-over”.  However, the public were more concerned with the ending of Saturday branch opening starting on Saturday, 3rd April 1965.

Further bank groupings, although not yet mergers, would soon take place on the island of Ireland with groups coming into being by 1967:

  1. Bank of Ireland, National Bank of Ireland and Hibernian Bank Limited
  2. Allied Irish Banks Group of Munster and Leinster Bank Limited, Provincial Bank of Ireland Limited and Royal Bank of Ireland Limited
  3. Belfast Banking Company Limited and Northern Bank Limited, both owned by Midland Bank
  4. Ulster Bank Limited owned by Westminster Bank Limited
Belfast Bank Rathfriland

Belfast Bank, Rathfriland

Late 1967 saw the arrival into both banks of a team from Midland Bank with the aim of bringing their systems into line with each other.  As Noel Simpson (Retired Head of Finance, Northern Bank) says in his book ‘The Belfast Bank 1827-1970’; ‘These men had a difficult and lengthy assignment, for the two Irish Banks had gone their separate ways for almost a century and a half’.

On 20th November 1968, the staff were informed of the creation of ‘United Northern Banks Limited’ to, at a later date, complete the integration of the 2 banks.  The Belfast Telegraph reported the next day that ‘but so far it is not known if the names of both banks will disappear after the formation of the holding company, United Northern Banks Ltd.’  Press advertising started the following week.

On 29th November 1968 press advertisements were published to promote the name of ‘United Northern Banks Limited’ as ‘the big new name in Irish banking’.  This holding company, registered in Northern Ireland was to promote a gradual harmonising of methods and services, thus fostering closer co-operation between the two banks.  At that stage there were 287 offices of both the Belfast Banking Company Limited and Northern Bank Limited. 

Belfast Bank, Warrenpoint

Belfast Bank, Warrenpoint

It would take until late 1969 for the banks directors to decide on the name of the future organisation.  A process of legal changes involving Acts of Parliament on both sides of the border would be required and then there was the (bank) note-issuing rights that dated back to Victorian times.  A separate 3rd company would not be able to retain the note-issuing powers currently held by both banks.  A Private Bill was to be enacted in the Parliament of Northern Ireland that would allow the merger of the two banks on 1st July 1970 without the use of the 3rd company.  The Belfast Bank Executor & Trustee Company would also be merged into the Northern Bank Executor & Trustee Company at the same time.  The Bill when enacted would see the Belfast Bank branches be known as ‘NORTHERN BANK LIMITED, BELFAST BANK BRANCH’.

The Merger and Aftermath

Branch managers were advised on 25th June that the 1st July 1970 ‘will be a happy and memorable day for all of us’.  All Managers, Sub-Managers, Pro-Managers and Cashiers are to wear red carnations as ‘something eventful is happening in our bank’.  An anonymous slip of paper arrived in branches and departments with the circulars the next day announcing ‘that black ties should be worn’.

Belfast Bank, Advertisement

Belfast Bank, Advertisement

Northern Bank continued to trade in the whole of Ireland.  Parts of Belfast and many of the towns and villages throughout Northern Ireland ended up with Northern Bank branches perhaps beside each other.  Rationalisation of branches took place over many years in areas such as Antrim (16 & 42 High Street; Aughnacloy (93 & 134 Moore Street); Ballyclare (1 & 18 The Square); Shankill Road (15 & 93) and Holywood (74 & 98 High Street) to name a few.  Branches would be merged into one site or even a brand-new site to create modern branch offices.

The Midland Bank during a financial crisis of its own eventually sold the Northern Bank to the National Australia Bank who later transferred ownership to Danske Bank.  The (bank) note-issuing rights would again come into play.  Once again, a Private Bill was considered to transfer the rights to Danske Bank but that was considered to be too expensive a plan.  The decision was taken by the Directors’ to create a trading name of Danske Bank.  Thus, the current bank is now known legally and, on their banknotes, as ‘Northern Bank Limited trading as Danske Bank’.  Shortly after this, all the branches and offices were rebranded as Danske Bank.

Belfast Bank, Bed

Belfast Bank, Bed

Many of the former Belfast Bank buildings have been sold on to other businesses.  However, the name of ‘Belfast Bank’ continues to adorn a few of these old buildings e.g. Portrush, Rathfriland & Warrenpoint.  Some of their branches have been demolished and only photographs remain e.g. Lisburn & Duncairn Gardens.  A brass nameplate saying ‘The Belfast Bank Bed (Centenary) 1827-1927’ is still on show in the ‘Victorian Corridor’ at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Gavin Bamford is a retired Northern Bank Assistant Manager who worked for the bank from 1974 to 2013.  He is Chair of History Hub Ulster and runs both Northern Bank War Memorials and Belfast Banking Company Architecture Facebook page.

Acknowledgements to Noel Simpson, author of ‘The Belfast Bank 1827-1970’ and to the British Newspaper Archive.



Irish Constabulary Pensioners in the Coleraine district: Incorporating the Irish Constabulary and the Royal Irish Constabulary

History Hub Ulster welcomes guest writers who research and write on subjects from around the Province of Ulster.  In a short series over the next few weeks, Ross Olphert writes on the ‘Constabulary on the North Coast’.  Anyone wishing to submit an article should send in ‘word’ format to

Article 3 – Irish Constabulary Pensioners in the Coleraine district: Incorporating the Irish Constabulary and the Royal Irish Constabulary by Ross Olphert

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The members of the Constabulary of Ireland and later the Royal Irish Constabulary were men drawn from all strata of society whether as ordinary constables or officers. Their backgrounds and their experiences shaped their outlook on their work and later how they occupied their time after their service, should they be so fortunate to live that long.

For the first article in this series please read here.

For the second article in this series please read here.

The Constabulary in Ballymoney, 1822-1922 by Ross Olphert

History Hub Ulster welcomes guest writers who research and write on subjects from around the Province of Ulster.  In a short series over the next few weeks, Ross Olphert writes on the ‘Constabulary on the North Coast’.  Anyone wishing to submit an article should send in ‘word’ format to

Article 2 – The Constabulary in Ballymoney, 1822-1922 by Ross Olphert

Download Pdf here

A record of men who served in or claimed pension in Ballymoney or the surrounding area.

For the first article in this series please read here.

Irish Constabulary/ Royal Irish Constabulary – Ballycastle, County Antrim 1833-1922

History Hub Ulster welcomes guest writers who research and write on subjects from around the Province of Ulster.  In a short series over the next few weeks, Ross Olphert writes on the ‘Constabulary on the North Coast’.  Anyone wishing to submit an article should send in ‘word’ format to
Article 1 – Irish Constabulary/ Royal Irish Constabulary, Ballycastle, County Antrim, 1833-1922 by Ross Olphert.
This piece of research sets out a potted history of policing in Ballycastle from 1830s until partition. Its is generally a record of the men who served in the town, those who retired in the town and those identified who came from the town. It is not intended to chart all events pertaining to these men through their career but rather shows their connections to Ballycastle and to other residents.
For the next article in this series please read here.

Colouring In Templates

Colouring In – Covid 19 – Support for Parents

Our friend, Hollie Felton has prepared some line drawing templates of local buildings and landmarks for your children (and you!) to print and colour in.

Take a photo of your work and send it to us via email on and we will publish the best Colouring in on our Facebook page!

Many other groups and organisations are creating on-line educational supplements for use during this exceptional period. One to look out for is the Northern Ireland War Memorial who have prepared some excellent material. Check it out Here on Facebook: 

View the gallery to see the images then click the buttons below to download a pdf to print.

On 8th June 2020 we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Victory in Europe ending that stage of the Second World War. This picture is based on an event held in Belfast to remember and commemorate the Belfast Blitz of 1941. It features an Air Raid Searchlight from the War Years Remembered museum at Ballyclare. We thoroughly recommend that you visit the museum once the current restrictions end.

The Ulster Hall  was opened on Bedford Street, Belfast in 1862 and provides the city of Belfast with a unique concert venue.  Designed by William J Barre the hall features the Mulholland Organ and 13 paintings by Joseph Carey of the history of Belfast.

The Grand Opera House was opened in 1895 on Great Victoria Street, Belfast.  Designed by the leading theatre architect Frank Matcham.  It has seen life as both a theatre and a cinema.  It is currently closed for extensive restoration.

Alexandra Presbyterian Church is an amalgamation of 2 north Belfast churches; Castleton Presbyterian and York Road Presbyterian.  Following total destruction in the 1941 Belfast Blitz, York Road Church united with the nearby, slightly damaged, Castleton church to form Alexandra Presbyterian Church.

The Mussenden Temple is in County Londonderry near the village of Downhill.  It dates back to 1785 when it was built as a library by the 4th Earl of Bristol.  Downhill is now part of the National Trust property at Downhill Demesne.

The Bank Buildings  is a major department store fronting on to Castle Place, Belfast.  This building was built in 1899/1900 and is the 3rd Bank Buildings on the site.  Gutted by fire in August 2018 the building is currently undergoing major rebuilding and restoration.  It is owned by Primark Stores Ltd.

The Giant’s Causeway is a natural World Heritage site on the north Antrim coastline. Managed by the National Trust, the site is one of Northern Ireland’s premier tourist attractions.

HMS Caroline is a Great War light cruiser commissioned in 1914. It is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland. Berthed in Belfast since 1924 she is now part of the National Historic Fleet. For further information on the Battle of Jutland please start here:

The Big Fish is a statue that was built on Donegall Quay in 1999.  It is by John Kindness and is a favourite tourist attraction for visitors touring around the riverside.

Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle situated on the northern foreshore of Belfast Lough at Carrickfergus.  Built in 1177 by John de Courcy the castle has had many uses over the years.  It is currently a major NI Environment Agency attraction.

Belfast Castle was the family seat of the Donegall and Shaftesbury families from 1862.  It is currently owned by Belfast City Council having been gifted to them by the Shaftesbury family in 1934.  It is a major tourist attraction on the slopes of Cave Hill.

Crumlin Road Gaol is a former Her Majesties Prison (HMP) situated on the Crumlin Road opposite the former Courthouse.  Built in 1845 and operated as a prison until its closure in 1996.  Following restoration, it is now one of Belfast’s major tourist attractions.


Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD) – An Ulster Perspective

Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD) – An Ulster Perspective

With the recent decision by Belfast City Council to honour the nurses of the Great War and the heightened appreciation of medical staff, perhaps it is time to highlight Ulster’s forgotten or overlooked nurses of the Great War – those who served with the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD).

There is a memorial tablet in St Anne’s Cathedral which commemorates the names of 18 nurses from across Ireland who died in the Great War whilst serving with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS). However, History Hub Ulster researcher Nigel Henderson has identified 11 women from Ulster who died whilst serving in hospitals with the Voluntary Aid Detachments. These women, and there may be others that Nigel has not yet identified, are not commemorated by name on any memorial tablet, although some are commemorated on civic, church, club, or school memorials.

Nigel Henderson explained, “The Voluntary Aid Detachments was an umbrella organisation for the British Red Cross Society and the St John of Jerusalem Ambulance Brigade. VAD volunteers came from all strata of society, although they mainly came from the middle classes. Whilst its principal purpose was to provide medical assistance, in a variety of roles, VADs also provided social services.”

Mabel Robinson, of Robinson & Cleaver, served in the Hospital Supply Depot in Belfast and later was in charge of the VAD Buffet in the Great Northern Railway terminus.

Voluntary Aid Detachments The buffet provided refreshments to sailors and soldiers, some of them in transit to hospitals, as they passed through the station. Two women associated with the Anderson and McAuley firm served as VADs. Lilla Anderson and Emilie Anderson served as a nurse and as a housekeeper, respectively, at three military hospitals in England. Mrs Kate Slack of Wheatfield House in north Belfast, served at the Rest House for Wounded Soldiers and Sailors in Belfast and packed parcels at the Old Town Hall for Prisoners of War. Her husband, Captain Charles Owen Slack, was killed in action on 1st July 1916 with 14th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. Mrs Mary Robertson Dunlop Coey of Merville House in Whitehouse prepared sphagnum moss for use as anti-septic packs on the battlefields. Four of her sons served in the Great War and Midshipman John Smiley Coey was killed on 1st January 1915, aged 16, when HMS Formidable was sunk by a torpedo fired by the German submarine U24.

One of Ulster’s best-known VAD nurses was Emma Sylvia Duffin from the Cliftonville Road. Emma and two of her sisters – Celia Marion and Sylvia Mary – served with the VAD and are commemorated on the memorial tablet in All Souls (Non-Subscribing) Presbyterian Church. Emma Duffin served in military hospitals in Egypt during 1915 and 1916 and spent the remainder of the war serving in military hospitals at Le Havre and Calais. She was Mentioned in Despatches by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig. Emma renewed her VAD service when the Second World War started and was appointed commandant of the VAD nurses based at Stranmillis Military Hospital. Her diary, which is held at the Public Record Office for Northern Ireland (PRONI), provides an account of the German air raids on Belfast. One of the most gripping entries relates to the time she spent in St George’s Market, which was a morgue for unidentified bodies. There, she helped stricken families search among the coffins for their loved ones. Appalled by what she saw, she wrote in her diary: “I had seen many dead, but they had died in hospital beds, their eyes had been reverently closed, their hands crossed on their breasts; death had been glossed over, made decent. Here it was grotesque, repulsive, horrible … death should be dignified, peaceful. Hitler had made even death grotesque”. In 2017, the Ulster History Circle erected a blue plaque at the house where Emma Duffin was born in University Square.

Ulster’s VAD fatalities in the Great War

Laura Marion Gailey from Bay View Terrace in Londonderry was serving at the 1st Western General Hospital at Fazakerly in Liverpool when she contracted measles, which developed into pneumonia. Laura Gailey died on 24th March 1917, aged 26, and is buried in the Kirkdale Cemetery in Liverpool. She lay in an unmarked grave for nearly a hundred years until Mountjoy Women’s Orange Lodge No. 29 from Londonderry erected a headstone in March 2017. Laura Marion Gailey is the only female commemorated on the Londonderry War Memorial.


Lizzie Neill Morrison from Killead served with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in the Balkans before joining the Voluntary Aid Detachment. She died in London of influenza and pneumonia on 2nd July 1918, aged 30. She is buried in the graveyard at Killead Presbyterian Church and is commemorated on the Crumlin District War Memorial.

Frances Shortt from Curran near Dungannon was serving at the Bermondsey Hospital when she died on 26th December 1918 and is buried in the graveyard at Tullyniskan Parish Church in Newmills. She is commemorated on the Dungannon War Memorial.

Norah Ellen Dugan from Articlave in County Londonderry had only served three weeks at the Second Southern General Hospital in Birmingham when she died of pneumonia on 26th July 1916. She was 27 and is buried in the graveyard at Articlave Presbyterian Church.

Mary Louise Morrell from Articlave in County Londonderry served with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in Salonika and died of pulmonary tuberculosis on 18th August 1919, aged 29, and is buried in the graveyard at St Paul’s Church of Ireland in Articlave.

Winifred Elizabeth Atkinson from Belfast was serving as a VAD Nurse at the Waverley Abbey Military Hospital in Farnham when she died of appendicitis on 14th February 1917. She was 19 and is buried in Belfast City Cemetery. Winifred Atkinson is commemorated on the memorial tablets for Belfast Royal Academy and the Cliftonville Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club.

Alicia (Lily) Hamilton was born at Milltown in Dungannon but lived in Belfast from 1901. Lily served as a VAD Cook at Catterick Military Hospital in Yorkshire, where she died of pneumonia on 28th November 1918, aged 31. Lily Hamilton received a military funeral to Carnmoney Cemetery but lay in an unmarked grave for nearly 100 years.  Nigel Henderson explained, “When I started photographing and documenting war graves and memorials in Ulster, Lily Hamilton was recorded (albeit with an incorrect age) on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database under the “UK Book of Remembrance”. This was used when CWGC did not have evidence of burial. I had a newspaper article referring to the funeral to Carnmoney Cemetery. The staff at Newtownabbey Borough Council provided details of Lily’s burial and the plot reference. I passed the evidence on to CWGC and a headstone was erected in 2018. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only CWGC headstone for a VAD fatality in Northern Ireland.”

Wilhelmina Maude Isabel Baily from Seymour Hill in Dunmurry and served as a VAD nurse at military hospitals in Yorkshire, Salonika and Italy. During her service, she was awarded two Scarlet Efficiency Stripes. Wilhelmina was attached to the 38th Stationary Hospital when she died at No 11 General Hospital on 23rd September 1918, aged 40. Wilhelmina Baily is buried in the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa and commemorated at the Charley family memorial at St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland graveyard in Drumbeg.

Margaret Cameron Young served as a VAD nurse at the 2nd General Hospital in France and died on 30th July 1918, aged 25. She is buried in the Terlincthun British Cemetery at Wimille in France and is commemorated on the family memorial in Shankill Graveyard. She is also commemorated on the Roll of Honour for Newington Presbyterian Church.

Eliza Jane Martin was serving at a UVF Hospital in Belfast when she died of typhoid fever on 13th June 1917, aged 21. She is buried in Belfast City Cemetery and is commemorated on the memorial tablet in Belmont Presbyterian Church and on the Strandtown and District Unionist Club memorial.

Gertrude Annie Taylor served as a nurse at a UVF Hospital in Belfast and at 20th General Hospital at Camiers in France. She was serving at the 1st London General Hospital at Camberwell when she died of pneumonia on 12th December 1916, aged 35. She is buried in Belfast City Cemetery and the inscription on her memorial declares that she died on active service. Gertrude Annie Taylor is commemorated on the memorial tablet in Belmont Presbyterian Church and on the Strandtown and District Unionist Club memorial.

In his sermon on Sunday 17th December 1916, the Reverend MacDermott, Minister of Belmont Presbyterian Church, paid tribute to Gertrude Annie Taylor and included these words:

“Miss Taylor’s death reminds us that not all the heroes in the war were men; they were not all to be found among the fighters at the front. Not infrequently they were to be found among those who, all unmentioned, faithfully performed their duties at the bedsides of the wounded and weary. For them there was no roar of the guns, no excitement of the charge—nothing but the endless battle against suffering and death; but they were heroes and heroines all the same.”

HHU Chair Gavin Bamford says, “in the light of the current Covid-19 pandemic and the tremendous work being undertaken for all the community by the front-line workers, the words spoken so gracefully by Reverend MacDermott only too easily fit into today’s praise.”


The website of the British Red Cross Society can be searched for VAD record cards.

If you have information on any other Ulster VADs who died in the Great War, please email details to History Hub Ulster (