Homes for Disabled Heroes in Belfast – Part 2 The Occupants

Homes for Disabled Heroes – The Occupants.  Please note this is part two of an article. You can find part one by clicking here.   

Thiepval Cottage

Disabled Heroes

Sands, Edward, Rifleman

Edward Sands was born on 25th January 1879 at Drumnagally near Banbridge to Samuel Sands, a Bleacher, and Isabella Sands (nee Morrow). He married Mary Gilmer on 13th December 1899 at St Anne’s Parish Church in Belfast. In 1901, Edward and Mary were living at Seventh Street with Edward’s paternal grandfather. By 1911, Edward and Mary were living at Aberdeen Street with their ten-year-old son, William. Edward was a 35-year-old joiner at a mill and a member of the West Belfast Regiment UVF when he enlisted with 9th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles on 9th September 1914, being made a Lance-Corporal on 11th September 1914. He was deployed to France in October 1915 and was transferred to 2nd Battalion in February 1918. On 21st March 1918, during the Battle of St Quentin, he sustained gunshot wounds to his left arm and a compound fracture of his left leg and was admitted to 41st Casualty Clearing Station. He was moved to No 3 Stationary Hospital where the affected limbs were amputated. Following hospital treatment, he was invalided to the United Kingdom on 3rd May 1918 on board HMHS Carisbrook Castle. He was finally discharged from the Army on 9th November 1920, by which time he was living at Thiepval Cottage at Knockbreda. Edward Sands, who is commemorated on the Roll of Honour for the Shankill Road Mission, died on 21st August 1949, aged 70, and was buried in the graveyard at Scarva Street Presbyterian Church in Banbridge on 24th August. His widow was living at Breda Road in Belfast when she died on 22nd January 1965 and was laid to rest alongside her husband.

Cambrai Cottage

Disabled HeroesAlfred Ernest Davidson was born on 7th May 1886 at Upper Townsend Street to John Davidson and Mary Elizabeth Davidson (nee Malcolm). Alfred, an insurance agent, was living at Chatsworth Street in the Pottinger Ward when he married Elizabeth Cherry on 13th January 1909 in St Clement’s Parish Church on Templemore Avenue. They were living at McClure Street in the Cromac Ward in 1911. Alfred enlisted with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 24th June 1916 and served on the Western Front with 1st Battalion, being badly wounded in the Cambrai sector on Christmas Eve 1917. His wounds necessitated the amputation of both legs and his right arm. Alfred was discharged on 24th October 1918 with Silver War Badge Number B32162 and received a Constant Attendance Allowance. He was a member of the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association and a founding member of the Disabled Ex-Servicemen’s Association in Northern Ireland, whose colours are housed in Sinclair Seamen’s Presbyterian Church. He was chairman of the latter association throughout the 1950s. He died on 29th November 1967, aged 81, and his funeral was conducted at the Church of the Pentecost on Mount Merrion Avenue to Knockbreda Cemetery.

Messines Cottage

Allen, Joseph, Medal Index Card

Joseph Allen was born on 1st April 1870 at Linwood Street in Belfast to Samuel Allen, a cloth finisher, and Martha Allen (nee Andrews). Joseph Allen was living at Keswick Street when he married Agnes Doherty from Brookmount Street on 1st April 1907 at the Holiness Movement Church on the Crumlin Road at Ballysillan. In 1911, they were living at Sixth Street with their first child, Samuel (born 1908). They had four more children – Joseph (1911), Elsie (1912), Pearl (1914), and Martha (1916). Joseph Allen was 36 years old when he enlisted with 17th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles on 25th May 1915 and was deployed to France with 9th Battalion in October 1915. In early January 1916, Agnes Allen received a telegraph message advising her that Joseph was dangerously ill having been admitted to 9th General Hospital in Rouen with gunshot wounds to the spine. The telegraph also advised that she could visit at public expense. As Agnes Allen was six months pregnant and had four children under the age of eight, the last being born in March 1914, it is doubtful that she would have been able to travel to France. Joseph Allen was discharged due to his wounds on 31st March 1916 with Silver War Badge Number 304101 and was awarded a pension of twenty-five shillings per week (£122 in current terms) the following month. He was living at Avondale Street when he received the King’s Discharge Certificate in December 1918 and was one of the first two occupants of the Soldiers Cottages at Galwally in April 1919. In 1921, his army pension was reduced to twenty shillings per week (£43 per week in current terms). Joseph Allen died in Messines Cottage on 12th September 1939, aged 60, and is buried in Dundonald Cemetery.

Beaumont Cottage

O’Brien, George, Medal Index Card

Entries in Belfast Street Directories record O’Brien, D but death notices identify the occupant’s forename as George. George O’Brien was born in Liverpool to John O’Brien, a bootmaker, and Caroline O’Brien (nee Wilson) and was baptised on 28th December 1879 at St Titus’ Church in Liverpool. The family was living at Solway Street in 1901. George was an Iron Moulder in a Belfast shipyard when he married Sarah Anderson on 22nd December 1909. In 1911, they were living at Susan Street in Pottinger Ward, with their daughter, Edna (born 9th August 1910) and George’s widowed mother. George was serving on the Western Front with 1st Battalion Irish Guards when he was admitted to hospital with trench foot on 17th March 1917 and transferred to Sick Convoy on 27th March. He was discharged on 3rd February 1920 and was living at 147 Newtownards Road when he was awarded a 100% Disablement Pension in respect of a double amputation. The pension was paid at the rate of forty shillings per week with an additional allowance of twenty-nine shillings and sixpence for his wife and three dependant children, which equates to £170 per week in current terms. George, a member of the Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association, died at Beaumont Cottage on 13th November 1931 and is buried in Dundonald Cemetery.

St Quentin Cottage

James Davis was a son of James Davis, a carpenter, and Margaret Davis (nee Browne) and the family lived at Collyer Street. In 1911, James Davis was a labourer in a tobacco factory and was already in the army when he married Sarah Briggs of Gertrude Street on 24th December 1915 at Newington Presbyterian Church. Unfortunately, I have not been able to identify further details about his war service.  James Davis died suddenly on 5th June 1977 at Crossfields House, the Royal British Legion Home at Brecon in South Wales

Jutland Cottage

Hugh Joseph McClean (sometime McLean) was the occupant of this cottage in 1926 but he later lived at Mons Cottage. He was born on 5th January 1892 at Main Street in Strabane to Charles McLean, a butcher, and Catherine McLean (nee Patton).On the night of the 10th December 1930, Hugh Joseph McLean was found, badly injured, on Church Road and was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he died on 11th December 1930, without regaining consciousness. The newspapers reported that Hugh was a Naval pensioner who had been injured in the legs at the Battle of Jutland and could only walk with the aid of two walking sticks, which were found 300-400 yards from the body. It was assumed that Hugh McLean had been knocked down by a motor car and, despite police appeals, the perpetrator was not identified.  Hugh Joseph McLean was 37 years old and is buried in Milltown Roman Catholic Cemetery.

Courtrai Cottage

George Shiels Storey was born in Liverpool on 16th July 1893 to George Storey, an Iron Turner, and Mary Ellen (nee Shiels) and was baptised on 15th October 1893 at St. Matthias’ Church. The family had moved to Belfast by 1897 and was living at Roslyn Street in the Ormeau Ward in 1911 and had moved to Jocelyn Avenue by 1917. George Storey enlisted as a driver with the Royal Engineers on 7th January 1915 and was deployed to the Western Front after 31st December 1915. On 7th February 1917, he sustained shrapnel wounds and a fracture of the right tibia and was transferred to No. 18 Hospital train on 15th November for evacuation to Ireland. On 20th November 1917, the Northern Whig reported that George’s right leg had been amputated. He was serving with 227th Field Company when he was discharged on 20th February 1919 due to sickness with Silver War Badge Number B200373. He was living at Jocelyn Avenue when married Charlotte McCarthy (nee Dalzell) of Boyne Street on 26th March 1919 at Knockbreda Parish Church. The 1924 Belfast Street Directory records him as the occupant of Ypres Cottage. George and Charlotte Storey were living at Courtrai Cottage when George died at the UVF Hilden Hospital at Galwally on 5th June 1927, aged 33. He was buried in Knockbreda Cemetery and death notices were placed by Ballynafeigh Guiding Star LOL 597 and two RAOB lodges with military associations – Sir Henry Wilson Memorial Lodge and Lord French Lodge.

Mons Cottage (Golfers’ Cottages)

David Spence was born on 17th October 1895 at Ambleside Street to David Spence, a storeman and later a draper’s traveller, and Margaret Spence (nee Johnston). The family was living at Ballymena Street in Clifton Ward in 1901. In 1911, David was an apprentice barber and living with the Finlay family at Silvio Street, along with his grandmother, Ellen Johnston. David Spence was working as a vanman and living at Matchett Street when he enlisted with the Army Service Corps on 5th May 1916 at the age of 22, naming his grandmother, Ellen Johnston, as his next of kin. He was deployed to France on 8th June 1916 as a driver but was transferred to 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles on 13th September 1917. David Spence was taken prisoner on 21st March 1918 during the Battle of St Quentin and, on being repatriated, he was admitted to the 1st General Hospital at Camberwell on 18th August 1918, where his right leg was amputated at the thigh. On 13th September, he was transferred to the UVF Limbless Hospital in Belfast where had a mechanical limb fitted and was discharged as an invalid on 21st September 1919, having been discharged from the army on 19th September 1919 with Silver War Badge Number B306962. David Spence’s disablement was classified at 80% and his character was recorded as “Very Good”. David Spence was living at Matchett Street when he married Annie Hall (nee Cook) of Mourne Street on 24th December 1919 at Belmont Presbyterian Church. In 1951, David Spence was living at Jutland Cottage and was living at 6 Church Road (Mons Cottage) when he died on 16th December 1971.

Ypres Cottage (Golfers’ Cottages)

Robert Houston was an electrician employed by James Barry and Company of Church Street when he enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles on 7th September 1914 and was deployed to France with 8th Battalion in October 1915. On 15th July 1916, the Northern Whig reported that he had been wounded and was in a hospital in Devon. Robert Houston was a brother of Mrs Ritchie of 23 Magdala Street.  On 10th May 1917, the Belfast News-Letter reported that Robert had been seriously wounded. Robert Houston was discharged on 10th October 1919 with Silver War Badge Number B323307, having had both arms amputated below the elbow. In April 1954, he was given a television by the King’s Fund via the Ministry of Pensions.

Notes:

These houses are being documented and their occupants researched by History Hub Researcher, Nigel Henderson, and progress can be followed in this Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/204334820682671/

If readers have any old photographs of the cottages covered by this article or have any information about the men who lived in any of the cottages built for veterans of the Great War, History Hub Ulster and Nigel Henderson would like to hear from you. You can contact us by email or via the Facebook group.  

Homes for Disabled Heroes in Belfast – Part 1

Homes for Heroes, Knockbreda

Many people will be aware of the cottages that were built across Northern Ireland under the terms of the Irish (Provision for Sailors and Soldiers) Land Act of 1919 for ex-servicemen from the Great War. However, these were not the only houses built for war veterans. In 1929/30, the British Legion constructed twelve semi-detached houses – four in Dunmurry, four in Whitehouse and four in Dungannon. The focus of this article is on the ten Homes for Heroes – bungalows built at Knockbreda specifically for disabled ex-servicemen by the Belfast Branch of the Auctioneers and Estate Agents’ Institute.

In 1915, the Council of the Auctioneers’ and Estate Agents’ Institute in London purchased the Star and Garter Hotel in Richmond for the purposes of providing a permanent home for soldiers and sailors totally disabled in the war. The Belfast Branch committed to raise £360 (£39,600 in current terms) and organised auctions of items donated by individuals and commercial concerns. A comprehensive list of the financial donations and donated items was published in the Belfast News-Letter on Tuesday 12th October 1915 in advance of the auctions on 27th and 28th October. In reading down the list, Samuel McCausland (Wholesale Tea, Sugar, and Seed Merchant of Victoria Street) donated ten pounds of tea and S D Bell (Tea Merchant and Grocer of Upper Newtownards Road) donated five pounds of tea. The hotel was purchased for £21,500 (£2,365,000 in current terms) and was run by the British Red Cross Society.

On 22nd November 1915, the Northern Whig reported that the scheme had received very generous backing in Belfast and the North of Ireland with the Belfast Branch of the Institute being able to guarantee 1,000 guineas or £1,050, which equates to £115,500 in current terms. As there was a substantial surplus, the Belfast Branch of the Institute decided to create a fund to provide a similar home for our permanently disabled soldiers in the North of Ireland. The first event to raise funds was a grand subscription dance in the Carlton Restaurant, 25-27 Donegall Place, the Managing Director, Mr Fred William Henry, having granted the rooms free-of-charge.  Mr Henry was also the owner of the Ye Olde Castle Restaurant on Castle Place.

Homes for Heroes

In the 14th July 1916 edition of the Belfast News-Letter, the Belfast Branch of the Institute advertised that it was desirous of obtaining a site of one or more acres of land suitable for erection of semi-detached cottages for disabled soldiers and sailors. A 1.25 acre plot of land was subsequently acquired from Lord Deramore at the junction of the Newtownbreda Road and the Saintfield Road, close to the Ormeau tram terminus. In March 1917, builders were invited to tender for a contract to erect the cottages and eight semi-detached cottages had been completed by April 1919, with plans for a further six detached cottages.

On 3rd April 1919, several of the cottages were officially opened by Mrs Ainsworth Barr and the Northern Whig reported the speech made by Mr Thomas Edward McConnell JP, Chairman of the Belfast Branch of the Institute, in which he said, The work had now finished. They had eight cottages, two of which were already occupied – one by a noble fellow who on 1st July, 1916, was shot through the spine and who would never be on his feet again and the other by a man with two artificial legs and an artificial arm. It was men such as these that deserved their consideration and help. This would have been a poignant event for Thomas McConnell as one of his sons, Reginald Brian McConnell, was Killed in Action on 22nd January 1917, aged 18, whilst serving as a Second Lieutenant with 6th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers.                                            

It is not known whether the proposed six detached homes were constructed but a further two cottages had been erected by the Golfers’ Union of Ireland (Ulster Branch) and handed over to the Belfast Branch of the Institute in July 1922. Two Ulster golfers, Mr Briggs and Mr Walsh, formed a scheme to raise money from the golfing community for the Prisoners of War Fund and, in February 1919, the Northern Whig reported that £600 (£32,400 in current terms) to, Build and permanently Endow for cost of upkeep a Cottage to be known as the “Golfers’ Cottage” for a permanently disabled married soldier.

These cottages were provided free of rent and taxes (unlike the cottages administered by the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust) and contained three rooms, scullery, bathroom (with hot and cold water) and a lavatory. In this image, from the Belfast Telegraph (4th July 1922), a plaque of some description adorns the front wall between the two cottages and possibly bore the inscription, “Golfers’ Cottages”.  

As the cottages do not exist any longer, it has been difficult to identify their exact location. The 1919 newspaper article referred to above said that the cottages were built at the junction of the Newtownbreda and Saintfield Roads, within a few yards of the Ormeau tram terminus. However, this description is misleading. In the early 1920s, the Newtownbreda Road ran from the Ormeau Road junction with Church Road before veering right at the start of the Saintfield Road. This section of roadway later became part of the Saintfield Road. The Ormeau Tram Terminus was located near the junction of the Ormeau Road, Hampton Park and Galwally Park. The 1951 Belfast Street Directory for Church Road records that the cottages were the first houses listed on the same side as Knockbreda Parish Church and the Graveyard. The OSNI Historical Fourth Edition map shows eight semi-detached dwellings in the corner bounded by Church Road and Newtownbreda Road (now Saintfield Road). This map shows a space in which the 1924 cottages would be built. It is, I think, safe to assume that this was the location of the cottages built for disabled ex-servicemen.

OSNI Historical Maps – Third Edition and Fourth Edition

In the Belfast Street Directories, eight cottages were recorded as “Soldiers’ Cottages” and two as “Golfers’ Cottages” but each of the ten cottages bore the name of a battle from the Great War – Bailleul, Thiepval, Cambrai, Messines, Beaumont Hamel, St Quentin, Jutland, Courtrai, Mons and Ypres.

Part Two of this article will deal with the stories of some of the men who lived in these houses in the 1920s (as recorded in the 1926 Belfast Street Directory).

Notes:

These houses are being documented and their occupants researched by History Hub Researcher, Nigel Henderson, and progress can be followed in this Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/204334820682671/

If readers have any old photographs of the cottages covered by this article or have any information about the men who lived in any of the cottages built for veterans of the Great War, History Hub Ulster and Nigel Henderson would like to hear from you.

Read about the occupants of these houses in Part 2 by clicking here.

Fermanagh’s Homes for Heroes in the 1920s

Fermanagh’s Homes for Heroes in the 1920s Talk:
Lisbellaw Methodist Church Hall on Thursday 12th March at 7:30pm

Over recent years we have remembered and commemorated the events of the First World War and men and women who lost their lives in that terrible conflict. However, what about the men and women who returned home?

In November 1919, the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, made a speech in which he declared that the battle was on to make the country, “a land fit for heroes to live in”. In 1919, the Irish (Provision for Sailors and Soldiers) Land Act was passed and it established a system whereby ex-servicemen could be allocated land or cottages. The story of the ex-servicemen’s “colony” on Cleenish Island has been well documented but the history of the cottages built for ex-servicemen in County Fermanagh has not received comparable attention.

Nigel Henderson, a researcher with History Hub Ulster, is documenting the 1,252 cottages built in Northern Ireland between 1921 and 1939 and is researching the stories of the men who lived in those cottages. Nigel, who will be giving a talk about this scheme for the Lisbellaw and South Fermanagh World War One Society on 12th March, explains:

“Seventy-seven cottages were built in Fermanagh between 1921 and 1927 and most were the Type 2 Cottage (as depicted), which had a Floor Area of 664 square feet and had a living room, bedroom, larder and scullery on the ground floor and two bedrooms on the first floor. Each house had a large amount of ground to enable the occupants to grow fruit and vegetables and to keep chickens and small livestock.

Whilst I have identified the actual locations of most of the cottages, there are some that are still to be identified and so I am appealing for help from people in Fermanagh. In preparing material for the talk, some fascinating stories have come to light.

For example, John Watson and Henry Creighton were the occupants of the semi-detached cottages in Pubble townland. Both men had enlisted with the North Irish Horse in 1912 at the same time and both were deployed to France with C Squadron on 20th August 1914, seeing action in the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne. They were both awarded disability pensions after the war.

Another example is the occupants of the cottages in the Ardunshin townland. Martin Fitzgerald, who had served for 12 years with the Connaught Rangers between 1894 and 1906, re-enlisted for war service in 1914 at the age of 40. He contracted malaria whilst serving in Salonika with the 10th (Irish) Division. His neighbour in the adjacent cottage was Robert Ferguson who had already served with the Irish Guards for nearly ten years when he was deployed to France in August 1914. He was 35 when he was transferred to the Class Z Army Reserve on 31st March 1920. Whilst Martin was a Roman Catholic and Robert was a Protestant, I would suggest that their common experience of the war overcame their religious or political differences. The stories of these men, and of the men who lived in the ex-servicemen’s cottages across Northern Ireland, are worthy of being documented and remembered.”

Brian Johnson, Chairman of the Lisbellaw and South Fermanagh World War One Society, adds: “Nigel has given several talks to our members over the years and they have always been well-researched and interesting. I have no doubt that the talk in March will be informative on this forgotten part of our common history and I invite people with an interest in Fermanagh’s local history to come along to Lisbellaw Methodist Church Hall on Thursday 12th March at 7:30pm.”

If you have information about the men who lived in these cottages or the locations of the cottages in Fermanagh, please contact Nigel via History Hub Ulster (research@historyhubulster.co.uk) or via the Homes for Heroes NI (1921-1939) group on Facebook.