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.

Guinness employees in the Great War

At the outbreak of the war, the Guinness Brewery at St. James’s Gate was the world’s largest brewery.  The company actively encouraged its workers to enlist for war service and an article on the Herald.ie website in February 2015 estimated that a fifth of the Guinness workforce served.  Like many other industrial and commercial concerns, the company guaranteed that the jobs of men enlisting for war service would be there for them on their return.  However, Guinness went further, and paid half of the men’s ordinary wages to their families during every week in which they were engaged in the conflict.

Guinness employees in the Great War

After the war, those men who returned expressed their gratitude to the company for its philanthropic attitude by presenting the Directors with an illuminated address on 16th February 1920.

Guinness employees in the Great War

A duplicate address was prepared to enable a number of employees, who had not had the opportunity to subscribe to the address in the first instance, to similarly express their thanks.  The two addresses were installed in the Board Room at St. James’ Gate in Dublin.

The company subsequently produced a parchment Roll of Honour and a Roll of Honour book in which the names of 645 employees who served in the Great War are listed by Department.  104 Guinness employees (16% of those who enlisted) died, with 96 being killed in action or dying of wounds.  One of the Roll of Honour books is on display at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

Guinness employees in the Great War

Two of the company’s directors served in the Great War.  Captain Edward Guinness, Viscount Elveden, served with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and was an Aide de Camp to His Majesty King George V from 1916 to 1918.  Lieutenant-Colonel, the Honourable Walter Edward Guinness served with the Duke of York’s Own Loyal Suffolk Hussars and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (with Bar) and was Mentioned in Despatches on three occasions.

Guinness employees in the Great War

The company had its own steamers for making deliveries to Great Britain and one ship was lost to enemy action.  The SS “W M Barkley” was built by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company of Troon in 1898 for William M Barkley & Sons (coal merchants, steamship owners and agents) of Wellington Place in Belfast but was later sold to John Kelly & Company before being purchased by Guinness in 1913.   On 12th October 1917, the SS “W M Barkley” was transporting a cargo of stout from Dublin to Liverpool when she was torpedoed by German submarine UC-75 and sank seven miles east of the Kish lightvessel.  Five men from the crew of 14 were lost and their names are commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial in London. Whilst the Guinness Genealogy Archive lists all five men as employees of the company, only Able Seaman Ernest Arthur Kendall (40) of Meany Place in Dalkey is listed in the Guinness Roll of Honour.  The other fatalities were Ship’s Master, Edward Gregory (46) of Meadows Lane in Arklow, First Engineer Alexander Corry (48) of Victoria Villas in Dublin (who is commemorated on family memorials in Belfast City Cemetery and Movilla Cemetery in Newtownards), Second Engineer Owen Francis Murphy (27) of South Main Street in Wexford and Fireman Thomas Murphy (29) of Lower Sheriff Street in Dublin.

Guinness employees in the Great War

First Engineer Alexander Corry

Another anomaly on the Guinness Roll of Honour is William Geoghegan, who had joined the company in 1889 at the age of 24 and worked as a labourer in the Brewhouse Department.  He is listed as a Sergeant with 8th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers and he had given his age as 52 when enlisting in October 1914.  He was discharged as “unlikely to make an efficient soldier” on 21st November 1914 and died of pulmonary tuberculosis at his home address in Dublin on 22nd February 1916. The Register of Deaths records his age as 51 and his occupation as “Sergeant R.D.F.”.  However, he is not listed as a war fatality by Commonwealth War Graves Commission as he was not a serving soldier and his death was not attributable to war service.        

The first Guinness employee to die was Private Thomas McDonagh, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, who died of wounds at Coulommiers on 8th September 1914 at the age of 25 and is commemorated on La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial in France.   The Guinness Genealogy Archive records that Thomas McDonagh was born on 30th May 1889 and had joined the company as a cleaner in the Engineer’s Department on 13th November 1911.  He left the company on 5th August 1914, being recalled from the Army Reserve, and was deployed to France on 13th August 1914.   He was a son of Thomas McDonagh and the husband of Elsie McDonagh, later of 24 Pancras Square in London.

The last Guinness war fatality was Private James Kennedy, 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who died of influenza at a Military Hospital in Shropshire on 9th April 1919, aged 31, and is buried in the Dean’s Grange Cemetery in Dublin.  The Guinness Genealogy Archive records that James Kennedy was born on 19th March 1888, joined the company as a labourer at the Cooke’s Lane Maltings on 18th July 1911 and left on 27th March 1915.  He was stationed at Victoria Barracks in Cork when he married Ellen Doyle of Montpellier Parade in Blackrock on 4th September 1915. He was deployed to the Western Front after 31st December 1915.

The Guinness Roll of Honour records that 47 employees received gallantry awards during the war, with several men receiving multiple awards:

  • Distinguished Service Order awarded to three men (four awards in total)
  • Distinguished Conduct Medal awarded to eight men
  • Military Cross awarded to nine men
  • Military Medal awarded to 16 men
  • 18 men were “Mentioned in Despatches” (25 awards in total)
  • Three men were awarded the Croix-de-Guerre.

Two employees serving with the Irish Guards are recorded as having received the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM).  However, the United Kingdom only issued DSMs to naval personnel in the Great War.  It is possible that Henry Corrin (a fitter in the Engineer’s Department) and George Woods (a Gate Porter in the Brewhouse Department) were awarded DSMs by the United States of America.

Four men were awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and Captain Trevor Crotty, Royal Army Service Corps, was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.  Major Edward Gordon Peake, Royal Engineers, and Major Frank Douglas Stevens, Royal Air Force, were made Officers of the Order of the British Empire and Major John Lumsden, Royal Army Medical Corps, was made a Knight of the Order of the British Empire.

One of the Guinness men to be awarded the Military Cross was James Plowman.  He was born at Skerton in Lancashire on 15th September 1890 to Louis Plowman and Eliza Thomas, being the second of their seven children.  Their third child was born in Dublin in 1892 at which time Louis Plowman was employed as a Coach Painter for the Great South Western Railway.  James Plowman joined Guinness as a Fitter in the Engineer’s Department on 9th June 1913.  The family was living at St. Patrick’s Terrace in the New Kilmainham district when James married Isabella Small of Rosemount Terrace in the Arbour’s Hill district on 29th July 1914 in St Paul’s Church of Ireland.  The Guinness Genealogy Archive records that James left the company on 6th August 1914.  He was deployed to France with the South Irish Horse on 17th August, receiving a commission with the Leinster Regiment on 28th August 1915.  James Plowman was awarded the Military Cross for an act of gallantry in June 1917, the citation being published in the London Gazette on 9th January 1918.  Captain James Plowman MC was serving with 2nd Battalion Leinster Regiment when he died of wounds on 29th April 1918, aged 27, and he is buried in the Cinq Rues British Cemetery at Hazebrouck in France.

Guinness employees in the Great War

History Hub Ulster acknowledges the assistance of Dr Jonathan Mattison in providing access to the Roll of Honour book to photograph and transcribe the contents.  A copy of our transcription and the photographs of the pages have been provided to the Museum so that visitors can access the information whilst preserving the integrity of the artefact.

Additional information was obtained from the Guinness Storehouse.

Written by Nigel Henderson, Member, History Hub Ulster

“1919 – 2019 Peace Day” Commemorative Lapel Badge

 

“1919 – 2019 Peace Day” Commemorative Lapel Badge

Following the Great War Armistice signed on 11th November 1918 various peace treaties were signed during 1919. These culminated in a series of ‘Peace Rally’s’ throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland during August 1919.

History Hub Ulster are offering for sale a ‘1919 – 2019 Peace Day’ commemorative lapel badge. Designed for History Hub Ulster by John McCormick, antique brass finish, measuring 35mm x 25mm with 2 pins & clasps on reverse.

1919-2019 Peace Day Centenary BadgeCost is as follows. Postage will be by 1st class.

1 to 5: £3.50 each plus £1 p&p (max) 
6 to 10 maximum: £3.00 each plus £1 p&p (max)
any number collected: £3.00 each

Badges may be purchased via

www.paypal.me/historyhubulster

or by sending a cheque f/o History Hub Ulster to 12 North Circular Road, Lisburn, BT28 3AH with number required and postal address.

Please message us on facebook for prices outside the UK

Hugh McNeill – Veteran of the Boxer Rebellion dies in Great War 

Hugh McNeill - bannerThis article commemorates the memory of Lance-Corporal Hugh McNeill of the Royal Marine Light Infantry who died on 21st June 1918, 100 years ago today. 

Hugh McNeillAccording to naval records, Hugh McNeill was born in Belfast on 5th January 1881.  Hugh enlisted on 7th July 1899 and served in the crushing of the Boxer Rebellion (10th June to 31st December 1900) in China, for which he was awarded the China War Medal (1900).  He subsequently served on HMS Goliath.  In 1911, he was stationed at Fort Blockhouse in Gosport and he was discharged on 6th September 1912, having completed twelve years of service.  On the following day, he enrolled with the Royal Fleet Reserve.

He settled in Belfast and was Head Boots at the Imperial Hotel, which was located on the corner of Donegall Place and Castle Lane.  When Hugh married Annie Harland on 12th October 1913 at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Belfast, he was recorded as being a “Navy man” and was living at 56 Canal Street in Saltcoats, Scotland.  His father’s name was recorded as Daniel (Tradesman) and Annie, a millworker, was a daughter of Michael Harland (Tradesman) of 12 Bute Street in the Jennymount district of Belfast.  

Hugh McNeill - Imperial Hotel

At some stage after their marriage Hugh and Annie moved to Ballymena and were living at 11 James Street when Hugh was recalled from the Royal Fleet Reserve.  His name is included on the list of 78 men from All Saints’ Roman Catholic Church serving with His Majesty’s forces that was published in the Ballymena Weekly Telegraph on 5th June 1915. 

Hugh McNeill - RND

As there were insufficient ships to accommodate all the naval personnel recalled from the reserves and men enlisting with the navy, Winston Churchill, First Sea Lord, instituted a new naval force called the Royal Naval Division, which would fight as infantry in land campaigns.  Hugh McNeill served with the Portsmouth Battalion of the Royal Marine Brigade of this new force at Ostend and Antwerp between 26th August 1914 and 1st September 1914.  He was wounded in the left leg and right knee by a splinter from a German shell and, during the withdrawal from Antwerp, the train on which he was travelling was knocked off the rails and surrounded by Germans.  In the engagement that followed, there were many casualties on both sides and several marines were captured but a party of 90 men under Major French got safely away after a 35-mile forced march to the Belgian village of Ecloo.

Hugh McNeill - RNASHugh McNeill then served with a Royal Naval Air Service’s Armoured Cars unit under Commander Charles Rumney Samson RN between 10th September 1914 and 17th October 1914 before returning to the Royal Naval Division.  Following a period of furlough, an interview with Hugh McNeill was published in the Ballymena Weekly Telegraph in May 1915 in which he spoke highly of the “pluck and daring” of Commander Samson, particularly in engagements with roving units of Uhlans (Light Cavalry, with a Polish military heritage), saying that, “the Germans had come to greatly dread and fear Commander Samson and his gallant men”.

In January 1918, Hugh McNeill was promoted to Lance-Corporal and transferred to HMS President III – this was not a ship but a shore establishment for men serving on Defensively Armed Merchant Ships. Hugh was a member of the gun crew on SS Montebello when she was torpedoed by U-100 on 21st June 1918 and sank 320 miles from Ushant, an island off the coast of Brittany, with the loss of 41 lives.  Lance-Corporal McNeill, who is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, was 37 years old when he died. He was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914 Star, the latter being issued to his widow on 1st July 1920.

Nigel Henderson, History Hub Ulster Member

Acknowledgements and Sources:

Michael Nugent (ww1researchireland.com), John Hoy (Ballymena & The Great War, snake43.webs.com/), Richard Graham, Ballymena Weekly Telegraph, Royal Navy & Royal Marines War Graves Roll and Royal Naval Division Casualties of the Great War.

Great War Trophy Guns in Northern Ireland

Trophy Guns Northerrn Ireland bannerAs early as February 1915, local newspapers reported that 150 artillery pieces captured from the Germans were in London and that they would be presented to districts, “which had done good work in the cause”, after the war. However, during the period of the war some war trophy guns were displayed in locations in the north of Ireland – two machine guns captured by the Ulster Division were sent to Londonderry (November 1916) and Portadown (July 1917) and a field gun was on temporary display in Belfast in 1916.

In December 1918, five captured guns were presented by Brigadier General George William Hacket Pain to the City of Belfast. In accepting the guns, which were placed in front of the Queen Victoria Memorial at Belfast City Hall, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sir James Johnston, said, “they would be cherished as mementoes of the great world war” and finished his speech with “The guns would remind many generations to come of the great victories achieved by our gallant soldiers”.  From as early as 1924, there were no guns on display at the Queen Victoria Memorial during the various Somme and Armistice Day commemorations held in front of Belfast City Hall.

Trophy Guns Northern Ireland

As had been intimated in 1915, the captured guns were distributed to locations across the United Kingdom, although guns were generally not delivered to locations in Northern Ireland until 1923 due to the civil disturbances in the opening years of that decade. Documents at the National Archives in Kew record that 72 trophy guns were allocated to Northern Ireland. Whilst most went to urban or rural councils, trophy guns were also on display at Queen’s University in Belfast, Campbell College in Belfast and Portora Royal School in Enniskillen.

Trophy Guns Northerrn Ireland Enemy Gun Letter

However, it is clear from newspaper reports that the trophy guns were not always welcomed or wanted. Also, some public representatives were dissatisfied with the trophies that they did receive and some councils either did not put them on display or removed the guns from display with unseemly haste. Some members of the public also questioned the desirability of having trophy guns on display, as demonstrated by a letter “Enemy Guns” published in the Northern Whig on 6th July 1925. 

In April 1923, the Belfast News-Letter reported that the War Office was sending four eight-and-a-half ton guns to Enniskillen and that the council was asking for the number to be increased to six guns. One of the guns was subsequently sent to Portora Royal School, which had already received one trophy gun directly from the War Office. Trophy Guns Northerrn Ireland EnniskillenIn March 1925, the Northern Whig reported that Enniskillen Urban Council had removed the German gun from the Diamond and the same newspaper reported, in December 1926, that the two guns outside the gaol were, “to be placed at the rear of the old gaol (out of the public view)”.  In September 1927, the Belfast News-Letter reported (see inset) that Sir Basil Brooke had written to Enniskillen Urban Council requesting the guns for Colebrooke House and Brookeborough. The Colebrooke House gun has been on display at Enniskillen Castle since February 1976.

Trophy Guns Northerrn Ireland Portrush

In March 1924, the Ballymena Weekly Telegraph reported that Mr George McMullan expressed the opinion at a meeting of Portrush Urban District Council that, “the German trophy should not be exhibited. I would rather it were thrown into the sea”. Mr Christie, Chairman of the council, replied that, “the gun might have been captured by Portrush men”.

Bangor received two war trophy guns – a howitzer/mortar was placed next to the coast at Kingsland and the deck gun from the German submarine U-19 was placed in Ward Park. This submarine was notorious at an international and local level, having sunk RMS Lusitania and landed Sir Roger Casement in County Kerry in advance of the Easter Rising in Dublin. This gun was dedicated to Commander Edward Barry Stewart Bingham VC and is one of only three Great War trophy guns that remain on public display. Trophy Guns Northerrn Ireland BangorOn 2nd October 1935, the Belfast News-Letter reported that Bangor Borough Council had decided to sell the Kingsland trophy gun for scrap, a decision which incurred the wrath of the Bangor Branch of the British Legion, which submitted a letter of complaint. The council subsequently reversed its decision.

One of the smallest villages to be awarded a trophy gun was Balnamore, three miles west of Ballymoney. In March 1920, the Ballymena Observer reported that Mr James Young JP of the Braidwater Spinning Mills had written to Ballymoney Rural Council congratulating the council on “obtaining a captured German gun in recognition of the splendid response to the call for voluntary enlistment for national service”. In his letter, Mr Young went on to say, “before leaving Balnamore, his company desired to erect a memorial to commemorate their unbounded admiration for the men of Balnamore who went willingly overseas to stem the German invasion, and also to perpetuate for all time their names in the district.”

Trophy Guns Northerrn Ireland Balnamore

Their proposal was to erect a suitable platform for the captured German gun on the triangle in front of Balnamore post office, with the names carved on the sides. The gun was delivered to the village in October 1923 and, in September 1933, Hale, Martin & Company (who had taken over the spinning mill) handed over the memorial platform and the gun into the council’s care and keeping.

In nearby Ballymoney, there was uproar at the Urban District Council regarding the gun that was delivered to the town in June 1923.

Trophy Guns Northerrn Ireland BallymoneyThe Northern Whig and the Belfast News-Letter both reported on discussions in the council chamber concerning the gun. Mr Robert McAfee expressed the opinion that “the town Ballymoney was deserving a better trophy. lt is 32 years ago since it was manufactured, and I question whether it was in the late war at all. It is like a piece of down pipe of spouting set on two wheels”. The field gun was placed on a pedestal in the small green at the Town Hall.

Trophy Guns Northerrn Ireland OmaghIn Omagh, there was opposition from Nationalist councillors on the urban council to the trophy gun that was to be sent to the town by the War Office. In March 1923, Mr Orr spoke in favour of receiving the guns, saying that, “this was a matter above party or politics, as the men of their local regiment, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, of which they were proud, belonged both to the Orange and Green flag”. Two months later, the Mid-Ulster Mail reported on the ongoing wrangle between rival councillors. Mr McLaughlin said, “the council should never have considered the question of taking the gun at all, as the feeling of the majority of the members was totally against”

Trophy Guns Northerrn Ireland Omagh

Meanwhile, the British Legion in Omagh had secured a German machine gun (reported as having been captured by the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers). The Londonderry Sentinel reported on the ceremony in which the machine gun was placed outside the premises of the Omagh Branch of the British Legion. Following representations from a local solicitor and councillor, Captain William Henderson Fyffe MC, a German gun that had been captured by the 5th Inniskillings in Northern France in the closing days of the war was secured for the Omagh Loyalist Association and this gun was placed outside the Protestant Hall in Omagh in October 1923.

Trophy Guns Northern Ireland BallymenaIn October 1923, the Ballymena Observer reported that the German guns sent by the War Office to Ballymena had not received a fulsome welcome by Ballymena Urban District Council. The Clerk said the guns they had received – one howitzer and one Maxim – were not suited to the importance of the town. They had been promised two field guns and a machine gun but had only received one field gun and a machine gun. The Chairman remarked, “if we are to have war trophies for the Memorial Park let them be something presentable.  Other towns of much less importance than Ballymena have been able to secure something better than derelict German machine gun for their Parks”. One of the councillors, Mr Craig, went further saying, “What do we want with them, a lot of German rubbish?”.

Trophy Guns Northern Ireland CarrickfergusCarrickfergus Urban District Council had requested two field guns and two trench mortars. However, the War Office offered a heavy field gun, a field gun and a machine gun but sent two heavy guns. These guns lay in the London Midland & Scotland Railway Company’s yard in Carrickfergus until 1929. Although they were never put on public display, the council spent £40 cleaning and painting the guns. In November 1929, the LMS Railway notified the council that the guns had to be removed within two weeks, prompting the council to send an ultimatum to the War Office stating that, “unless Carrick is relieved of its cannons they would be sold as scrap”. On 3rd December 1929, the Northern Whig reported that the council had accepted a tender of £12 [approximately £700 today] from O & T Gallagher of Corporation Street in Belfast.

Trophy Guns Northern Ireland DungannonIn Dungannon, the trophy gun was pulled into position outside the British Legion’s new club premises for the Armistice Day commemoration in 1923. Six years later, due to bus traffic, the gun was moved from Market Square to a position overlooking the ex-Servicemen’s houses on Empire Avenue. In late 1937, Dungannon Urban Council considered a proposal to sell the gun for scrap, but this met with opposition from the British Legion and ex-Servicemen, who decorated the gun with a Union flag and a notice declaring “Not for Sale Lest We Forget”. There is still a German field gun on display in the park on Black Lane, the site of Dickson’s Mill. The information panel at the site records that the gun had been purchased by the Dickson family at an auction of military artillery in the south of England in 1920.

There are, to the best of my knowledge, only three trophy guns from the Great War still on display in Northern Ireland.

Trophy Guns Northern Ireland Surviving Trophy GunsA list of the locations in Northern Ireland that received trophy guns is contained in this spreadsheet which, where possible, details the fate of the guns.

Written by History Hub Ulster member Nigel Henderson.

*The below article from the Larne Times (25th May 1940) demonstrates that many were sold for scrap as part of the war effort during the second world war.

Trophy Guns Northern Ireland Disposal Articl

The centenary of the loss of HMS Drake and HMS Brisk off the North West Coast of Ireland.

HMS Drake was the lead ship of her class of armoured cruisers built for the Royal Navy around 1900.  She was flagship of the 6th Cruiser Squadron of the 2nd Fleet on it’s incorporation into the Grand Fleet upon the outbreak of World War I.

She remained with the Grand Fleet until refitted in late 1915 when she was transferred to the North America and West Indies Station for convoy escort duties. HMS Drake was torpedoed by German submarine U-79 off the Irish North Coast on 2 Oct 1917 and sank in shallow water with the loss of 18 lives.

Shortly afterwards the destroyer HMS Brisk made a sweep up the Sound to assist her and was hit by U-79, firing one torpedo amidships causing a catastrophic explosion which broke her in two. The bow section sank in the Sound and the stern section was eventually towed into Derry. The explosion killed 32 men outright with another surviving with severe burns until pneumonia eventually took his life on 31 Oct 1917. 

U-79 had a successful day, also sinking the Steamer Lugano, although no casualties were reported.

Of the 18 men who died on HMS Drake, Petty Officer Stoker Robert O’Brien was the only Irishman. He was from Skerries, County Dublin.

Of the 32 men who died on HMS Brisk, four were from Ireland.  Officer’s Steward William Argent had Irish links as his mother Sarah was notified of his death at the Kinsale Coastguard Station in Cork. 

The four Irishmen were Seaman Adam Carthy – born in Kinsale, Stoker Michael Fay – born in County Meath, Leading Seaman Michael Flood was a Cork native and Petty Officer Stoker John Owens was born in Lusk, County Dublin.

Able Seaman Cyril Brook who died from his injuries is buried along with three of his crewmates at Londonderry City Cemetery.  None of the other men’s bodies was found, and their grave remains the sea.

There was a Commemoration Service and Service at Sea today in Ballycastle for those who died to mark the centenary of their deaths.  

Photo: Robert White

 

 

 

 

Missing Names Project – Ballymena and District

You are encouraged to come forward with names currently missing from Ballymena and District War Memorial.

Mid and East Antrim citizens have been encouraged to take part in a consultation aimed at ensuring all local people who lost their lives during the First World War are remembered on Ballymena and District’s War Memorial.

Earlier this year Mid and East Antrim Borough Council agreed the addition of verified missing names of the Fallen on the monument in Memorial Park, Ballymena.

In 2013 it was discovered that some local soldiers who died in The Great War were not honoured on the Memorial.

Research undertaken by WW1 Research Ireland has found that up to 172 names could be missing.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said: “I would encourage local people and those from further afield to check if their forebear is on the published list of missing names and, if not, for them to share their information during the consultation period which has just opened. We would wish to ensure as best we can that all those who made the ultimate sacrifice from Ballymena and district are now remembered side by side on the Memorial with the existing names of those who lost their lives. This includes any relevant local women who served in clerical or nursing roles.”

Ballymena and District War Memorial was unveiled in 1924 after a fundraising effort raised just over £1,000.

It is unknown how the 495 names were gathered by the then War Memorial Committee in the early 1920s but through professional research, using agreed criteria, it has emerged that some of those who were killed in action or subsequently died of wounds have been overlooked until now.  

A public call for anyone who believes that their relative should be included for verification has been made by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Council’s Museum and Heritage Service at Mid-Antrim Museum is conducting the consultation facilitated by History Hub UIster.  

The consultation will be conducted through History Hub Ulster – please click here.

Primarily the criteria requires that the proposed person was born and/or enlisted in Ballymena or District, or was born in Ballymena or District and enlisted elsewhere including Dominion Forces.  

Other criteria requirements are that the proposed person was killed in action or subsequently died of wounds before August 1921, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cut-off date for First World War Fallen.  

A current database of the existing names on Ballymena War Memorial and verified names collated through ongoing research is also available to view on the page. 

Members of the public who have no access to the internet, or who would prefer to submit their information in person, are welcome to call into The Braid, Ballymena, on either Thursday 26 or Saturday 28 October. Mid-Antrim Museum staff will be available between 10am – 1pm on both days in the museum atrium to accept submissions. 

Files containing the list of existing names on the War Memorial and verified names recently collected through research will be available to view.  The 1924 Ballymena Rural District Council boundary map will also be available.

The online consultation opened on Monday 25 September and will close on Friday 10 November 2017. All names supplied, either online or in person, will be verified prior to inclusion in the final list of names missing from the War Memorial.  Members of the public who submit names for consideration will be advised accordingly.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have undertaken to have the engraving of verified names completed on Ballymena’s War Memorial in time for the national Centenary of the Armistice on 11 November 2018.  An application is being prepared to the War Memorials Trust in London to support this initiative.

Click here for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shankill Messines 100 – 10th June 2017

Please come along to support SHANKILL MESSINES 100 at Townsend Street Presbyterian Church on Sat 10th June.

10:30am Re-dedication of Shankill Road Mission Memorial
10:45am Presentation: Shankill Messines 100 by History Hub Ulster member Nigel Henderson

All day:
– Exhibition: Shankill Messines 100
– Exhibition: Poetry from the Streets
– Exhibition: Castleton Lanterns
– Exhibition: Argyle Business Centre’s new Titanic Themed training hotel

Unique event creating a 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 set sail glass bottles with LED lights and details of individual men and women from North Belfast who served in the First World War.

Sea of Lights in front of HMS Caroline EditedAdults and children across North Belfast took part in workshops to tell the stories of First World War servicemen from their areas.  The adults have researched a serviceman and written a letter to a local child about his life.  Each child received a letter and designed their glass bottle to represent his story.

This memorial event was the culmination of the project when the participants released their letters in painted glass bottles into the water at the Titanic Pump House near HMS Caroline.

Members of the public were invited to bring their ancestor’s story and write a message for a bottle which was provided on site and was thrown into Alexandra Dock.

The sea of lights was a poignant reminder of those who died in the First World War.Bottles waiting to go

Adult groups taking part were: The Hubb Community Resource Centre on the Shore Road, Survivors of Trauma Centre from Cliftonville, Alexandra Presbyterian Church on the York Road, Dalariada Community Organisation, ACT North Belfast and Brantwood History Group from Skegoneill Avenue.

Children’s groups taking part were the Hammer Youth Centre and Clonard Youth, the Church of God Boys Brigade on the Shankill, The Hubb Community Resource Centre on the Shore Road and Ardoyne Youth Club.

 

This project has been funded by Belfast City Council and Community Relations Council.