Ulster War Memorials from History Hub Ulster

As 2018 is the centenary of the Armistice on the Western Front, signed on 11th November 1918, History Hub Ulster felt it would be appropriate to produce a book, Ulster War Memorials to commemorate this important centenary.

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Whilst HHU Researcher Nigel Henderson had already photographed many memorials in Ulster, the main driving force behind the book, Ulster War Memorials is HHU Chair Gavin Bamford, who has had a long-standing interest in war memorials.

Belfast Cenotaph (Belfast News Letter, 20-08-1919)In the Preface to the book, Gavin says,

I first began to take an interest in war memorials whilst researching the employees of the Belfast Banking Company and the Northern Banking Company who gave their lives in the Great War. In addition to brass tablets listing those who served and the fatalities, both banks produced a series of studio portraits of the men. Currently, the brass tablets and portraits are located in the Head Office building of Northern Bank t/a Danske Bank. They are displayed in the basement and only accessible to the general public on request.”

Gavin recalls that a specific interest in war memorials that have been hidden, lost, or destroyed over time occurred whilst enjoying a cup of coffee in Flame restaurant on Howard Street in Belfast.

Garvagh War Memorial - Headlines (Northern Whig, 28-03-1924)

I noticed a plaque and, being curious, I went over to have a look. It transpired to be a commemoration of the laying of the foundation stone for the Presbyterian War Memorial Hostel in 1923. The stone had been covered over at some stage in the past, probably when the Skandia restaurant occupied the space, and had been uncovered during renovations by the current owners. They decided to retain the stone as part of the fabric and history of the building. More recently, I identified that the war memorial tablet from Elmwood Presbyterian Church in Belfast, which closed in the early 1970s, was held in a store room in Elmwood Presbyterian Church in Lisburn. Whilst, I knew about the war memorial tablets in Central Station in Belfast and Connolly Station in Dublin, I only recently discovered that a tablet had also been erected in the Londonderry terminus. It is in storage and I have initiated steps to get it renovated and re-erected. It is my hope that the memorials for the men from the three local railway companies will be brought together in one location in Weaver’s Cross, the new Belfast Transport Hub.”

Nigel Henderson had the task of compiling material relating to war memorials in Ulster, covering all nine counties of Ulster and identifying unique and interesting examples to feature in a forty-page book. No easy task, given the wide range of types of memorials and the research presented distractions – for example, German Trophy Guns and War Memorial Orange Halls.

Irish Nurses (QAIMNS) War Memorial (Irish Times, 07-11-1921)

Though the initial concept was for a coffee table book the final product goes a lot further, whilst remaining true to the original idea of focusing on public memorials which have an aspect that is unusual or unique. There is at least one war memorial from each of the nine counties of Ulster in the book – some of the memorials are monuments (cenotaphs, obelisks, statues, etc), some had a practical or community aspect, some were introduced as competition trophies by sporting associations.

It identifies the largest war memorial constructed in Ulster in the inter-war years as well as the tallest memorial and the only war memorial that is alive. For the memorials featured, research was conducted using newspapers and other online resources to identify material about the memorials – details on who designed, sculpted or constructed the memorial, details on when memorials were dedicated and by whom.

Public or town war memorials take many different forms:
• Cenotaph (for example, Belfast, Cookstown, Larne, Newry and the County Tyrone Memorial in Omagh)
• Obelisk (for example, Ballynahinch, Kilrea, Ballymena, Tandragee, Kingscourt)
• Temple (Lurgan)
• “Victory” figure (for example, Lisburn, Portrush, Londonderry)
• Soldiers (for example, County Fermanagh Memorial in Enniskillen, Downpatrick, Dromore and Holywood)
• Celtic Cross (for example, Cregagh, Hillsborough)
• Practical/Functional (for example, Ballinderry, Castledawson)
• Clock Tower (for example, Garvagh, Waringstown)
• Tablet/Plaque (for example, Castlewellan, Moneymore, Pettigo)
• Lychgate (Crumlin)

Snowman Memorial, Newtownards, March 1924

Snowman Memorial, Newtownards, March 1924

In the book’s forward, local historian and author, Philip Orr says,

As a result, both during and after the Great War, a remarkable and diverse array of memorials was created in Ireland, as indeed happened across these islands. These local memorials often located grief and commemoration in tangible, meaningful ways within particular civic, sacred or familial spaces. Nigel Henderson’s work plays an important role in drawing our attention to the subject, a century later. Despite problems caused by Northern Ireland’s political fractures and by the lack of funds in an inter-war era of poverty and economic downturn, the work went ahead – and Nigel’s thorough and revealing account gives the reader an insight into the motivations and practice of those involved in Ulster’s own memorialisation process. Most of these projects still survive to this day, though some are long gone.”

Whilst the book does cover some church memorials and contains a chapter (Playing The Game) on memorials produced by sporting organisations, the focus is on public memorials erected to commemorate those from a defined locality. There is a chapter that relates to women who died as a result of the war, with a focus on the Irish Nurses Memorial in St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast. There is also a chapter on memorials with which the Holywood-born sculptor Sophia Rosamund Praeger was associated – these include the memorials in Campbell College and Belfast Royal Academy, several churches within the Non-Subscribing (or Unitarian) Presbyterian denomination, the Workman Clark shipyard and the County Tyrone War Memorial in Omagh.

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The lost lives of the Battle of the Somme

Belfast City Council event with History Hub Ulster member Nigel Henderson.

The lost lives of the Battle of the Somme

Date: 21 Jun 2016

Time: 6.30pm – 9pm
Venue: Banqueting Hall, Belfast City Hall

Over 200,000 Irishmen fought in the Great War, and it’s estimated that up to 25,000 – 30,000 Irish soldiers from the Irish Divisions and others in British based Divisions died between 1914 and 1918. The most iconic Battle involving Irish soldiers was the Battle of the Somme, which began on 1 July 1916.

Nigel Henderson and Philip Orr will deliver a presentation on some of those who lost their lives, focussing on the impact that this had on communities in Belfast. The presentation will also include poetry written in Ulster and in France during the period of the Battle of the Somme.

The presentation will be followed by a dramatised reading of the Halfway House, which looks at two women who met in 1966, the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, hearing of the experiences of their fathers who were on different sides in 1916.

Light refreshments will be served at 6.30pm.

Booking is essential, email goodrelations@belfastcity.gov.uk or call 028 90270 663 to register.

http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/events/Event-61893.aspx

Call for Participants in North Belfast Remembers Project

CarolineA sea of lights to remember those from North Belfast who died in the First World War.

On Saturday 19th March, participants of North Belfast Remembers will set sail glass bottles with LED lights and details of individual men and women from North Belfast who served in the First World War.

Adults and children will partner to tell the stories of 100 men, will attend a memorial event and release their glass bottle into the water at HMS Caroline.  At workshops in North Belfast, the adults involved will research a serviceman and write a letter to an unknown child about his life.  Each child will receive a letter and design their glass bottle accordingly.  The letters will be inserted into the bottles, and together each partnership will turn on the LED light in their bottle and push their bottle and letter into the water, a message in a bottle.  The sea of LED lights will serve as a poignant reminder of those lost during the First World War.

If you are from North Belfast and would like to take part in a research workshop please get in touch by emailing research@historyhubulster.co.uk

Research skills workshops will be roughly 2 hours long and will include basic research skills using a number of sources on local library computers.  Each participant will then write a letter to a child with all the information they have found. The child will use the letter to design their bottle in keeping with the man’s life. Each participant will then be required to attend an informal memorial event on the evening of 19th March at HMS Caroline, and throw their ‘message in a bottle’ into the Victoria Channel.

All members of the community will be invited to attend, bringing their own letters to place into bottles which will be provided on site and can be thrown into the channel.  Details of this will be circulated at a later date on this site.

 

Titanic People: The First World War Roadshow

Did a member of your family serve in the First World War? Were any from East Belfast? Bring along your artefacts and stories to the Titanic People First World War Roadshow in East Belfast Network Centre on Saturday 6 June 2015, from 10am – 3pm.

10.30am Launch of Row on Row, East Belfast Remembers

11am The Shipyard and the Home Front during the First World War – Philip Orr

1.30pm Researching East Belfast and the First World War – Jason Burke

2.45pm Playing of the Last post – The Hounds of Ulster

History Hub Ulster member Nigel Henderson will be available all day to provide tips and pointers on conducting your own First World War family research.

Titanic People

WW1 Centenary: Social Media reunites Great War Silver War Badge with Belfast soldier’s family

History Hub Ulster member, Nigel Henderson, has been successful in re-uniting a lost Great War Silver War Badge with a living relative of the North Belfast soldier to whom it was awarded. The Silver War Badge was issued to men who were discharged from military service due to war-related injuries or illness. The recipients were required wear the badge on the right lapel to show that they had “done their bit” and would not be regarded as shirkers.

HHU's Gavin Bamford and Limerick RBL's Brian Duffy

HHU’s Gavin Bamford and Limerick RBL’s Brian Duffy

Albert Edward Baxter was born around 1884 or 1885 to James Baxter and Agnes Baxter and the family lived at various addresses, Midland Street (Woodvale), Argyle Street (Woodvale), Byron Street (Oldpark) and Harkness Parade (Sydenham).

He enlisted into the Royal Engineers (Service Number 57649, 121st Field Company) on 28/11/1914 within four months of war being declared and, after training, was posted to France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on 04/10/1915, where he stayed for just over 1 year. His next posting was back to the Home Service until he was discharged on 24/12/1917 with an unspecified sickness, being awarded Silver War Badge number 295512. Home Service suited Albert, a tailor by trade, as he met Margaret McFarlane and they married on 08/07/1907 in St Anne’s Church, Belfast. Albert died on 16/02/1960 aged 75 and his widow, Margaret, died a couple of months later on 05/04/1960 aged 74. They are both buried in Roselawn.

In early 2014, Brian Duffy, Secretary of the Limerick Branch of the Royal British Legion, discovered the Silver War Badge on a militaria stall in the St George’s Street Arcade in Dublin. Realising the badge had been issued to a Belfast man who had served in the Royal Engineers just as his own Dublin grandfather had, he secured it in the hope of reuniting it with the Baxter family.

Silver War BadgeBrian said, “I was browsing in the hope of finding my own grand-fathers lost medals but seeing this badge’s local connection, I believed that it could and should be reunited with Albert Baxter’s family. It was an act of Remembrance really and I posted an appeal on the Facebook page that I administer for the Limerick Branch of the Royal British Legion. Our Belfast following is quite strong and I was confident someone there would be able to help”.Pop in Shop Belfast

History Hub Ulster’s Nigel Henderson, a local Great War researcher, picked up on the post and, having done some additional local research, identified the date on which Albert Baxter died and the names other members of Albert’s family from the death notices in the Belfast newspapers. Nigel posted a request appealing for relatives to come forward on the Belfast Forum and a response was received from Garry Young of Ballybeen in January 2015.
Garry, whose father served with the Royal Ulster Rifles and whose grandfather died with the King’s Royal Rifle Corp during the Dunkirk evacuation, said,

“I knew that my great grand-father was in the Great War, but I did not have any other details. It is fantastic to have this piece of my family history and I am truly grateful to Brian and Nigel for making it possible.”

Unfortunately, Garry Young was too unwell to meet Brian himself and his grandfather’s Silver War Badge was accepted on his behalf by History Hub Ulster’s Gavin Bamford.

Photos: Nigel Henderson