Montgomerys of Ballydrain, Dunmurry

Montgomerys of Ballydrain, Dunmurry

by Gavin Bamford

Hugh Montgomery (1743-1832) of Glenarm and Benvarden, Co. Antrim was one of the original founders or partners of the private bank, ‘H Montgomery & Company’ that was formed in Belfast in 1809. Around 1815 it became known as Northern Bank. He retired as a partner in 1822. His son, another Hugh Montgomery (1794-1867) succeeded his father in the partnership.

Montgomery’s private bank was incorporated in 1824 as the first ‘joint stock bank’ in Ireland, becoming the ‘Northern Banking Company’. Hugh Montgomery became one of its directors.

Hugh’s son, James C Montgomery was appointed as an additional Director in 1860. His health did not allow him to take up his duties and he resigned in 1862. He died abroad, in 1870 aged 34.

Another son, Thomas Montgomery (1837-1909) had joined the bank early in life and was appointed to the board on the death of his father in 1867. He served as a Senior Director until 1905 and died at Ballydrain, Dunmurry in 1907.

The Montgomery family plot is one of the principal graves situated at the back of Drumbeg Parish Church.

Close by, nearer to Belfast on the Upper Malone Road is Ballydrain House and estate. ‘Ballydrain Estate, Dunmurry’ was purchased by Montgomery in 1834 for £13,500 (2024 £1.46m) with the present house being completed a few years later. The house and estate left the Montgomery family in 1920. In 1960, Malone Golf Club purchased the entire property and greatly extended the club house together with building the golf course.

Malone Golf Club (Ballydrain House) October 2023 – Northern bank Pensioners Luncheon

Malone Golf Club (Ballydrain House) October 2023 – Northern bank Pensioners Luncheon

The Belfast Blitz: Lost Church Memorials

The Belfast Blitz: Lost Church Memorials 

Researched and written by Nigel Henderson

According to official Air Raids Situation Reports (PRONI File MPs1/2/2), 68 places of worship in Belfast were damaged during the German air raids of 1941. Five were in Belfast city centre, three were in the Shankill area, 28 were in East Belfast, and 32 were in North Belfast. Inevitably, many memorials commemorating service and sacrifice in the Great War were also lost due to the bombings.

Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church 

On Sunday 12th October 1919, the new War Memorial Organ in the church was used for the first time in public worship. In his address, Dr Park referred to the 555 men from the congregation and Sabbath School who had served in the Great war, 86 of whom had made the supreme sacrifice. The following Sunday, Mrs John Sinclair unveiled a brass tablet which had been erected by the afternoon Sabbath School in memory of the members of the congregation and school who fell in the Great War. The newspaper article on the unveiling reported that the tablet was attached to the front of the pulpit and recorded the names of the 86 fatalities. The church was not rebuilt and the congregation amalgamated with Ekenhead Memorial Presbyterian Church at its new site on the North Circular Road, adopting the name Rosemary Presbyterian Church. A history of the congregation by J W Kernahan includes a photograph of the War Memorial Organ, and the plaque on the front of the pulpit is visible. 

Clifton Street Presbyterian Church

Two white marble tablets were unveiled on Sunday 7th March 1920 – one commemorated the nineteen men of the congregation who died  and one recorded the names of those who served and survived. The tablets were unveiled by Mrs Anna Craig Picken of Antrim Road, who had a noble record of work on behalf of soldiers and sailors. The church was not rebuilt, and the congregation merged with the nearby Clifton Street United Free Presbyterian Church. The amalgamated congregation adopting the name Clifton Street United Presbyterian Church.

York Street Presbyterian Church 

On Sunday 25th April 1920, two memorials were unveiled at the church by the Right Reverend Doctor John Morrow Simms, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, who had served as Senior Chaplain to the Ulster Division during the war. One of the mural tablets was erected inside the church and commemorated fourteen men from the congregation who died during the war. The second mural tablet was erected by 33rd Company Boy Scouts and was placed on external wall of the church at the junction of York Street and Earl Street. This memorial tablet recorded the names of 132 men from Earl Street and District who served in the Great War, 36 of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice. Newspaper articles about the unveilings recorded the names of those commemorated on the two tablets, although none of the fatalities named on the congregational tablet are named on the district tablet. In essence, the external tablet probably represented service and sacrifice by people who lived in the streets between Gallaher’s Tobacco factory and the York Street Flax Spinning mill. To the best of my knowledge, no photographs of either memorial tablet have survived, although there is a newspaper photograph of the unveiling of the district memorial. The church was not rebuilt, and the congregation merged with Castleton Presbyterian Church on York Road, the amalgamated congregation adopting the name of Alexandra Presbyterian Church.

St James’ Church of Ireland, Antrim Road

On 9th May 1920, the Very Reverend Thomas Gibson George Collins, Dean of Belfast dedicated memorials commemorating the service and sacrifice by men from the parish. Choir stalls and a bronze mural tablet, on which the names of thirty fatalities were recorded, was erected by congregational subscription. Mr Andrew Alexander Clendinning, a linen merchant, gifted the Roll of Honour tablet which recorded the names of 156 men who served and survived. Mrs Mary Kathleen Watson gifted a prayer desk in memory of her husband, the Reverend John Edmund Malone Watson MC, who was a chaplain to the forces and died of wounds on 10th April 1918, aged 31. In the 1943 Belfast Street Directory, the site was recorded as “Vacant” and the church was restored by 1947.

St Silas’ Church of Ireland, Oldpark Road

This church was located on the corner of Oldpark Road and Ardoyne Avenue and was built in 1901. On Sunday 30th May 1920, the Right Reverend Doctor Charles Thornton Primrose Grierson (Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore) dedicated a new pulpit in the church as a memorial to those from the parish who had died in the Great War. The pulpit of white oak was manufactured by Purdy and Millard of Howard Street and a brass plate on the front panel named thirty fatalities, under the headings Navy and Army. On the base of the pulpit were carved the words of His Majesty King George V, “The men of Ulster have proved how nobly they fight and die.” The memorial was unveiled by Mr James Barlowe and Mr James Bustard, two former churchwardens who had both lost their only sons in the war. In his address, the Lord Bishop stated that 160 men from the church had volunteered for service in the Great War. The memorial cost £150, which equates to approximately £5,500 in current terms. Newspaper reports on the unveiling ceremony recorded the names of the fatalities and a photograph of the memorial pulpit was published in the Belfast Telegraph. The 1951 and 1955 street directories record that the site for the replacement church was located at the junction of Cliftonville Road and Cardigan Drive, and the new church was completed in 1958.

Newington Presbyterian Church, Limestone Road

On Sunday 5th September 1920, the memorial was unveiled by Mrs Samuel Jordan of Lisnagarvey and dedicated by the Reverend Thomas McGimpsey Johnstone, Minister of the congregation. In reporting the Reverend Johnstone’s address, The Witness recorded that, He could not help feeling that the names on the brass tablet did not represent all in that congregation who had died for their country. Scarcely a month went past without the death occurring of someone whose name ought to be transferred from the ordinary Roll of Honour to the tablet of the glorious dead. Reverend Johnstone went on to refer to one of the members of the Sabbath School who had gone away before he was 17 years of age, had been awarded the Military Medal, and had died just days before the memorial was unveiled. The memorial took the form of a cabinet, similar to the memorial in Shankill Parish Church in Lurgan. When opened, a brass plaque naming 66 fatalities was revealed in the body of the cabinet, whilst the names of 340 members of the congregation who served and survived were inscribed on brass plaques on the insides of the doors. The first person named on the fatalities’ plaque was VAD Nurse Margaret Cameron Young who was serving at No 2 General Hospital when she died of illness, probably influenza, on 30th July 1918, aged 25. She is buried in Terlincthun British Cemetery at Wimille in France and is commemorated on a family memorial in Shankill Graveyard. A memorial tablet was erected in the Minister’s Room in her memory in 1920. The church was rebuilt in 1951/1952 and a plaque in the foyer records that the current building replaced the 1875 building that was destroyed in 1941. A generic bronze plaque and an illuminated Book of Remembrance in an oak cabinet were dedicated as a war memorial on Remembrance Day in 1957. The memorial was unveiled by Miss Helen Cameron Young, whose sister was the only female commemorated on the original memorial.

Mervue Mission Hall

On Sunday 19th September 1920 a reading desk was dedicated as a memorial in this mission hall, which was associated with Donegall Street Congregational Church. The desk was unveiled by Captain William Reid and the names of fourteen fatalities from the congregation are recorded on the front of the desk. The newspaper coverage of the unveiling service included a photograph of the memorial and the hall had been re-opened by 1945.

St Barnabas’ Church of Ireland, Duncairn Gardens

On 13th March 1921, the Reverend Dixon Patterson, Rector of the church, unveiled and dedicated a memorial tablet and Roll of Honour to commemorate the sacrifices and services of members of the congregation in the Great War. A large chandelier with electric lights (or electrolier) for the chancel formed part of the war memorial. The memorial tablet recorded the names of 31 men who had died in the war, and the Roll of Honour recorded the names of 168 men from the congregation who had returned home. The latter, the work of William Rodman & Company of Donegall Place and Fountain Street, was seven feet long and five feet high, and featured Celtic ornamentation. Although the names of the fallen were recorded in newspaper coverage of the unveiling, no photographs appeared in the local press. It is not known whether there are any photographs of the memorial tablet or the Roll of Honour tablet. The church and the adjacent St Barnabas’ Public Elementary School were destroyed or demolished and St Barnabas’ Church Hall is recorded at the site of the church in the 1951 Belfast Street Directory. A new church was built on the site by 1960 and the congregation later merged with St Paul’s Church of Ireland on York Street.

Duncairn Gardens Methodist Church

On 7th April 1925, Sir William Turner JP, Lord Mayor of Belfast, unveiled a polished marble tablet which recorded and the names of the fourteen members of the congregation who died and the names of a further 100 people who served in the Great War. The memorial was the work of Thompson & Sons of Limestone Road and the embellishment at the top of the tablet features crossed flag and the Dove of Peace under a Crown. A photograph of the memorial was published in the Belfast Telegraph in April 1925 and a fine photograph of the memorial can be found online. The church was never rebuilt, and the congregation merged with Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church.  

 

 

Other destroyed or demolished churches where war memorials were probably lost include:

Holy Trinity Church of Ireland on Unity Street, which was not rebuilt,

York Street (Non-Subscribing) Presbyterian Church, which was not rebuilt,

Crumlin Road Presbyterian Church, which was rebuilt by 1955,

Macrory Memorial Presbyterian Church, which was rebuilt by 1955.

 

Sources of images:

Newspaper images are from the Great War Ulster Newspaper Archive.

Newington Presbyterian Church memorial courtesy of Ricky Cole

Photograph of the War Memorial Organ in Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church is from “Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church: a record of the past 200 years” by J. W. Kernohan (1923)

Sheila the Belfast Blitz Elephant

Sheila the Belfast Blitz Elephant

Researched and written by Nigel Henderson

An elephant arrived at Bellevue Zoo in 1938 and was given the name Sheila by Sheila Williamson. Also in the newspaper image is Gordon McNutt who was helping Keeper Higgins in the elephant enclosure when he was injured by Sheila in 1940.

After the German air raid on the night of 15th/16th April 1941, Antrim Road residents raised concerns that dangerous animals might escape during air raids. The account in Scott Edgar’s WartimeNI records that authorisation was given on 19th April for the killing of zoo animals.

Around the same time, Denise Weston Austin, a keeper at the zoo, started to take Sheila to her home in the evenings, returning her to the zoo in the mornings. Some accounts say that she did so to protect the elephant from being shot (which does not make much sense) and others that she was protecting the elephant from being injured/killed in the German air (which also does not make much sense as her home was not far from the zoo and Whitewell Road was bombed!).

The Zoo authorities only became aware of Sheila’s nightly forays when a neighbour of the Austin family complained that the elephant had broken a boundary fence and trampled his garden whilst chasing his dog. It is not know how often Denise took the elephant home with her – it might have been only for a few nights, it might have been for a few weeks.

So far, so good, a nice heart-warming story.

However, recent articles in newspapers and on websites (including the Belfast Zoo website) record that Sheila lived for a further 25 years. Is this true? I do not think so and here is why.

In March 1961, the Belfast News-Letter ran a full page on recollections of the Belfast Blitz, including those of Alex McClean, curator of the zoo and veterinary officer for Belfast Corporation. He is on record as saying that he and Dick Foster, head zoo keeper, decided to carry of the cull of the animals on 4th May 1941. By the time he arrived at the zoo with a .303 rifle, dusk was setting and they decided to carry out the cull the following day.

Of course, this was the night of the second big air raid on Belfast. Having shot the other dangerous animals, Alex and Dick found Sheila dead in her enclosure. Of course, it is possible that Alex McClean’s memory was playing him false, so I dug a bit deeper.

In 1948, Belfast Zoo received a new elephant which was named … Sheila!

Belfast News-Letter, 5th October 1948

On 22nd October 1965 , the Belfast News-Letter carried a report that Sheila the Elephant, who had been at the zoo for 17 years (i.e. from 1948), was ill and would be put to sleep in the winter months. 

In essence, when articles were compiled this century, the researchers knew there was an elephant called Sheila at the zoo in 1938 and that an elephant called Sheila died at the zoo in 1965. Unfortunately, they made the assumption that the elephant that died in 1965 was the elephant who had arrived in 1938.

#NeverAssume #AlwaysCheck #GoTheExtraMile

Albert Bridge, Belfast – Collapse on 15th September 1886

By Gavin Bamford, History Hub Ulster

History

A previous bridge on this site was a privately owned five span masonry bridge which was built in 1831. It was officially called Lagan Bridge, although it was known as Halfpenny Bridge due to the toll charged. It was subsequently renamed to Albert Bridge after Queen Victoria’s husband. In 1860 it was acquired by the Belfast Corporation, which abolished the toll. 

Imminent Collapse

The Belfast Corporation Improvement Committee (note 1) met on 8th September 1886:

Albert Bridge – The Surveyor reported that in consequence of the Albert Bridge having shown signs of subsidence and fracture, observations were being taken to determine whether any danger is likely to occur to the public.

The Witness (Belfast) newspaper of 10th September 1886 reported in their local and provincial news column that:

It is stated that the Albert Bridge is sinking, and that it is consequently becoming dangerous for heavy traffic. We understand that the Town Council officials are engaged in examining it.

The Belfast Corporation Improvement Committee met again on 15th September 1886: 

Albert Bridge, closing of vehicular traffic etc – The Surveyor reported that he considered the Albert Bridge to be in a dangerous state and the Mayor (note 2) who had examined the bridge with him concurred. Resolution: that the bridge be closed to vehicular but not foot traffic and the Surveyor be instructed to put for the guidance of boatmen a notice on each arch the word ‘dangerous’ and to take the necessary steps for shoring up and placing centering under the dangerous arches.

Collapse

The bridge must have collapsed shortly after the Improvement Committee meeting (mentioned above).

The Ulster Echo newspaper of 16th September 1886 reported:

The Catastrophe at the Albert Bridge, Recovery of Bodies, Later Particulars – …. The lamentable catastrophe which occurred at the Albert Bridge last night, when the central arch fell, involving the loss of a number of lives, and inflicting injury upon others. 

Thankfully, there was only one death in this horrific incident.

Death

John Matthews, 64, night-watchman, married, died on 15th September 1886 at Albert Bridge. His body had been recovered from the bed of the river at 5 o’clock on the morning of 16th September 1886.

An inquest was held later that day with R F Dill M.D., Coroner for the Borough of Belfast presiding. 

The Ulster Echo newspaper of 16th September 1886 reported:

James Callaghan, residing in George’s Court East, Lagan Village, stated that he was passing along the bridge from Ballymacarrett in the direction of the town about twenty minutes to eight along with Mrs Maguire (now in hospital). Witness saw a watchman on the bridge; and immediately after he passed him he heard a crash. Witness looked around and saw that the woman Maguire (note 3) had fallen into the chasm created by the breaking of the bridge. The watchman had also disappeared.

The cause of Matthews’ death was found to be “Homicidal injuries. Death instantaneous”. This information was included in the death registration made on 17th September 1886. 

Aftermath

The Belfast Corporation Improvement Committee met again on 17th September 1886:

Albert Bridge (Collapse) – The Surveyor reported the action he had taken from the first time his attention had been attracted to the condition of the bridge till its collapse. Moved by Alderman Dixon. Seconded by Councillor Jenkins.

Temporary Wooden Bridge – Specification for the erection of a temporary wooden bridge over the Lagan as a present substitute for the Albert Bridge until arrangements can be made, either for the repair of the old one or the erection of a new Bridge; the width of the temporary Bridge to be 30 feet including an eight foot footpath and that advertisements be published inviting tenders for doing the work before the 1st January; and that the Improvement Committee be instructed to take charge of the matter; also to report to the Council as to whether the old Bridge can or should be repaired or a new one erected.

The Belfast News Letter of 20th September 1886 reported:

There is nothing new in connection with the collapse …. no additional fatalities …. no enquiries have been made for persons missing.

 

Parliament

The bridge collapse was later raised in Parliament where Hansard records:

21st September 1886 vol 309 cc1113-4 1113 

  1. SEXTON (Belfast, W., and Sligo, S.) 

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, whether any lives have been lost through the collapse of the Albert Bridge, Belfast, on Wednesday evening last; whether the bridge was thronged at the time of the accident; whether it is true, as reported, that a gradual sinking of the structure had been observed for the past two or three weeks; whether the Town Council is responsible for having allowed the continuance of a thoroughfare across the bridge weeks after its collapsing condition became apparent; and, how soon an official inquiry will be held? 

THE CHIEF SECRETARY (SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.) 

So far as is known one life was lost through this accident. Fortunately, it is not a fact that the bridge was thronged at the time. It is, I understand, true that a gradual sinking had previously been observed; but the immediate collapse of the bridge was not apprehended. I am advised that the question of responsibility is one of law, which must be decided in a Court of Justice, if raised. I am not aware that there is any obligation on the Government to institute an official inquiry; but I shall look further into this matter.”

New Bridge

This new bridge, of granite with three cast-iron arches was designed by Mr J. C. Bretland, the Borough Surveyor of Belfast at the time, and was constructed by Messrs Henry of Belfast on behalf of Belfast Corporation, at a cost of £36,500 was built in 1888/90. All of the cast iron including the decorative lampposts were made in Derby by Andrew Handyside & Co. It was opened in 1890 and the name Albert Bridge was kept, but now in honour of Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Albert Victor, who had laid a foundation stone in 1889.

Notes

(1) The author was given the minutes book of the Belfast Corporation Improvement Committee for the period from 20th August 1884 to 21st March 1888. It had been found in a skip.

(2) Sir Edward Harland Bt, Mayor 1885 to 1888.

(3) The Northern Whig of 23rd August 1916 reported on a court case:

An old woman, named Bridget Maguire was charged with an assault. The prosecutor advised the court that the prisoner was nearly lost in the Albert Bridge disaster in 1886, being rescued by police from the debris floating in the Lagan after much difficulty.

The Last Man to Let You Down

A unique presentation and talk by Chris Scott, Funeral Director with Kirkwoods and Wilton Funeral Directors.

Since his teenage years, Chris has always taken a keen interest in local history, and at an early age interviewed older members of the community and recorded their stories for posterity.

Over time, Chris developed his skillset and was a regular columnist with The Ulster Star, Lisburn, producing hundreds of local history stories. Over the past fifteen years Chris has been invited to speak to various groups, including local history societies and church groups. He also trained as a tour guide and led several walking tours in villages on the eastern shores of Lough Neagh, County Antrim. Chris has, in the past, touched on aspects of local and family history on both BBC and commercial radio, presented his own programme on local community radio in County Down, and now is an active podcaster and interviewer in his spare time!

Chris is a “late joiner” to the funeral profession, starting out as funeral arranger and progressing to a Funeral Director. His curiosity and passion for history doesn’t stop here! Chris recently uncovered several original Wilton Funeral Day books covering the period May 1929 to December 1933. These registers provide an invaluable insight into aspects of the funeral business and our social history almost one hundred years ago.

Chris has carried out an analysis of the books revealing some stark facts about aspects of our ancestors’ lives across Belfast and beyond in the “Hungry Thirties.” Chris also explores the early history of Wilton Funeral Service from the mid 1920’s and briefly looks at the Wilton family history.

You might well imagine it might be all doom and gloom – but we can dispel that myth. Chris will be relating some strange stories around funerals from the 1930 era, combined with some personal accounts he recorded in the past from people who lived through that era.

Find out about the court case, in 1931, focusing around falsifying the age of a person during the death registration process. Hear all about the invention of a foghorn for a vault in 1932, specifically designed for those who feared premature burial! Chris will also talk about some of the funeral customs and superstitions from that era. “Never count the cars or people at a funeral” – Apparently it would bring you bad luck!  The original Wilton Day books and other funeral related material will be available for inspection. Who knows – you might discover something to supplement your own family history research!

Chris will be more than happy to arrange for you or your group to avail of the
presentation. This can be held at your venue or at one of the branches at:

Wiltons, Ravenhill Road (Belfast)
Wiltons, Shankill Road (Belfast)
Wiltons, Shore Road (Whitehouse)
Wiltons, Holborn Road (Bangor)
Wiltons, Scotch Quarter (Carrickfergus)
Kirkwoods, King’s Road (Belfast)
Kirkwoods, Church Street (Newtownards)

Whilst there will be no charge for the presentation, any donations kindly received will be forwarded to Marie Curie Hospice, Kensington Road, Belfast.

If your group or organisation would like to arrange or attend a presentation then please get in touch with Chris at Wilton Funeral Service, 334 Ravenhill Road, Belfast, BT6 8GL.

Telephone number 02890 450723. Email: christopher.scott@dignityuk.co.uk

Homes for Heroes in Glengormley

Homes for Heroes in Glengormely

In the aftermath of the Great War, parliament passed the Irish Land (Provision for Soldiers and Sailors) Act in 1919 which provided for the erection of dwellings for ex-servicemen across the island of Ireland.

Nigel Henderson, a researcher with History Hub Ulster, has been documenting locations of the 1252 cottages built in Northern Ireland for war veterans between 1921 and 1939 under the auspices of the 1919 Act and the men who lived in the cottages. In the Whiteabbey/Glengormley area, 111 cottages were built under the auspices of the Act between 1922 and 1925. In 1922, one house was built in Ballyduff Townland and four cottages were built at the top of Whitewell Road. However, May 2023 marks the centenary of the completion of the cottages built at Glengormley. The centenaries of the colonies built at Cambrai Park and Ypres Park in Whiteabbey fall in January 2024 and March 2025 respectively. The British Legion built four cottages for ex-servicemen at Doagh Road, Whitehouse in the late 1920s.

A colony of forty cottages, known collectively as St Quentin Park after the 1918 battle, was built in two phases in 1922 and 1923 on 10.5 acres of land purchased from Thomas Alexander Archbold of Hillview and Captain Robert Humphrey Bland of Tobarcooran for £1503-6-6, which equates to approximately 68,380 in current terms. Mr Archbold’s daughter, Jane Russell Archbold, had served with the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a Staff Nurse at the UVF Hospital in Belfast from January 1916 to February 1919. Captain Bland had served with the Royal Irish Rifles and the Labour Corps in the Great War. There were three cottage types in the colony with 38 semi-detached cottages and two detached cottages. 

Work commenced in August 1921 and the ten cottages at Block A were completed in September 1922. The fourteen cottages at Block C were completed in January 1923 and the sixteen cottages at Block B were completed on 11th May 1923. The average size of each plot was 0.26 acres which provided a sizeable area in which the veterans could grow fruit and vegetable and the initial rent was five shillings per week (approximately £11pw in current terms). The cottages did not have a water supply and four pumps supplied water to forty households. The first record of occupants of the cottages appears in the 1924. 

These are the details on just two of the veterans who lived for a time at St Quentin Park.

Patrick Joseph Finnison was born in Leith and enlisted with the Royal Irish Fusiliers in October 1908 and was stationed with 1st Battalion at Woolwich in Kent in 1911. He was deployed to France on 22nd August 1914 and taken prisoner at Le Cateau five days later, being held at Limburg and Stendal camps. He was discharged in January 1919 and was living at Dandy Street in Whitehouse when he awarded a 40% Disablement Pension in respect of Neurasthenia at the rate of sixteen shillings per week (approximately £46 per week in current terms). He was employed as a Clerk when he married Agnes Canavan, a tailor, on 15th July 1919 at St. Mary’s Star of Sea Roman Catholic Church in Whitehouse. Patrick and Agnes Finnison later moved to Warrenpoint, where Patrick died on 28th November 1943, aged 49.

Isaac Doherty was born on 5th July 1877 at Ballyfinaghy to Robert Doherty and Anne Doherty (nee McGowan) and he married Mary Graham of Drew Street on 5th September 1912 at St Anne’s Parish Church. Isaac enlisted with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was posted to France with the Ulster Division in October 1915. He was serving with the Royal Engineers when he was transferred to the Class Z Army Reserve on 8th May 1919. In 1928, Mary’s daughter from her first marriage, Lily Graham, died at the Royal Victoria Hospital at the age of 21. Isaac Doherty was living at 909 Crumlin Road when he died on 24th February 1940, aged 63, and Mary Doherty died on 7th May 1957, aged 80. Isaac and Mary Doherty and Lily Graham are buried in Dundonald Cemetery. 

Whilst many of the cottages have been extended or altered, with some of the semi-detached cottages being converted into single dwellings or business premises, it is still possible to see features of the original cottages. One pair of cottages have been demolished and replaced with Milibern Close, a housing complex for ex-service personnel. The support for service personnel continues, albeit in a different way.

Nigel Henderson, History Hub Ulster

Belfast Blitz Plaques

Belfast Blitz Plaques

Following the 75th Anniversary of the 1941 German air raids on Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council erected a number of memorial plaques at various locations in the city. The phrasing of the inscriptions on all but three of the plaques refers to “lives lost here” but it is unclear whether it refers literally to fatalities at the location/street, the number of people who lived in the location/street who died, the number of people from the area near the location who died, or a mixture of the circumstances.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website includes a Civilian War Dead section which lists the place of death and the place of residence for fatalities, the information having been collated from the Civil Defence Authority fatality lists and other sources. The anomalies between the figures specified on the Belfast City Council plaques and the CWGC Civilian War Dead List (henceforth CWGC List) will be examined in this article.

1 Temporary Mortuaries

The first plaque was erected at St George’s Market, which was used as a temporary mortuary following the air raids and was the centralised location for the identification of bodies. On 21st April and 9th May, funeral corteges left St George’s Market, with unidentified and identified but unclaimed bodies being interred in publicly-owned plots in Belfast City Cemetery and Milltown Cemetery.

Plaques were also erected to mark the use of the Peter’s Hill Baths and the Falls Road Baths as temporary mortuaries, but no arrangements were made to erect a similar plaque at the temporary mortuary at Erskine’s Felt Works in Whitehouse.

2 Campbell College

Campbell College was taken over by the military authorities as the 24th (London) General Hospital shortly after the start of the Second World War and was hit on the night of 4th/5th May 1941. The Blitz Victims List compiled by the Northern Ireland War Memorial records that 24 people died at the hospital, including one civilian fatality. Of the 23 army personnel killed, nine are buried in Northern Ireland and the remainder were repatriated to Great Britain for interment. The civilian was Mary Jane Close (58) who was injured at her home in Westbourne Street and died at the hospital and is buried in Dundonald Cemetery.

3 Pottinger – Ravenscroft Avenue

The CWGC List records Ravenscroft Avenue as the death location for only five people, including four members of the Frizzell family from Number 39 and Thomas Crone Bingham, a sixteen-year-old ARP volunteer from Isoline Street. However, a further sixteen people died in the Ravenscroft Avenue area. Fifteen lives were lost at Avondale Street, including six members of the McCullough family at Number 8. Another sixteen-year-old ARP volunteer, William James Mays from Lichfield Avenue, died at Rosebery Street. Consequently, the German bombing of the Ravencroft Avenue area resulted in the deaths of 21 people but only five died at Ravenscroft Avenue. Ravenscroft Public Elementary School was destroyed, and 47 houses were either destroyed or left uninhabitable. 

4 Mountpottinger – Thorndyke Street

On the night of 15th/16th April, a 250kg bomb exploded near the air raid shelter, causing the walls to buckle and the concrete roof fell on the people inside. The CWGC List records that seventeen people died in Thorndyke Street, nine at the air raid shelter. Thirteen of the fatalities were residents of the street, including six members of the Wherry family from Number 16. Four of the Thorndyke Street fatalities resided elsewhere – ARP Warden Joseph Bell (45) of Lord Street, ARP Messenger Phares Hill Welsh (16) of Paxton Road, William Stewart (55) of Lord Street, and William Murray (30) of Cherryville Street. Another resident of Thorndyke Street, Sarah Hughes (62), died at the Royal Victoria Hospital and Andrew McAdams (75) died in nearby Dufferin Street. The bomb that exploded at Thorndyke Street resulted in the deaths of nineteen people.

5 Sandy Row – Blythe Street

The only Blitz Plaque in South Belfast is attached to an outer wall of St Aidan’s Church of Ireland and records that thirteen lives were lost at Blythe Street, which matches the details on the CWGC List. Fourteen people who lived in Blythe Street died as a result of the air raid, including a father and daughter who were injured at Blythe Street, died at the Belfast Union Infirmary, and are buried in Ballynure Cemetery – Rebecca Craig (7) died on 16th April and Robert Craig (36) died two days later. Nine people died at 95 Blythe Street, the home of William and Jane McKee, who lost a son, two married daughters, and five grandchildren. David McKee (26) was an Engineer in the Merchant Navy and Sarah Jane (Sadie) Thompson (21) from 313 Donegall Road, was visiting the family when she died. 

6 Yorkgate – Sussex Street and Vere Street

Although the York Street Flax Spinning Mill took a direct hit, no fatalities are recorded as dying at the mill. However, the falling masonry from the mill and other bombs brought death and destruction to the close-packed streets of housing between the mill and Gallaher’s tobacco factory at Earl Street. In 1939, there were 260 residential properties in the area but there were only 128 houses after 1941. In addition, York Street Presbyterian Church on the corner of Earl Street and York Street Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church were destroyed. The CWGC List records that thirty-four people died in either Sussex Street or Vere Street, with twenty-nine being residents and the other five being from Pilot Street, New Lodge Road, Chatham Street, Artillery Street, or Orchard Street. Mary McSourley (12) of 74 Vere Street died at the Mater Hospital and the Civil Defence Authority’s 9th List (dated 21st April 1941) records Kathleen Malone of 31 Sussex Street as a fatality but she is not recorded on the CWGC list or on the NIWM Blitz Victims List. Lance Corporal John Thomas Park and Corporal David Cooper Simpson from 507th Field Company, Royal Engineers, died at the junction of Henry Street and North Queen Street during the May air raids. The death toll for the area was 38 and not 40 as recorded on the plaque.

7 Tiger’s Bay – Hogarth Street

Unlike other locations where the Belfast City Council plaques specify exact numbers, the plaque at Hogarth Street records “up to 80 lives lost here”. The CWGC List records that 69 civilians died at Hogarth Street and nine died at Edlingham Street, including eight people from other streets. A memorial at Hogarth Street, since removed after being vandalised, recorded the names of 117 fatalities from the Tiger’s Bay area. The CWGC List records that 71 residents of Hogarth Street and Edlingham Street died, with six-year-old Jean Spratt dying of injuries at Belfast City Hospital. Six members of the Wilson family died at 56 Edlingham Street and five people living at 65 Hogarth Street died, including two women from Glasgow. Hugh Baxter McNeill had died on 3rd March 1941, aged 49, and his widow Annie Lorna McNeill (nee Dornan) died on the night of 15th/16th April at the age of 46, along with her children, Hetty (23) and Hugh Baxter McNeill (19). Also at the house were her mother and sister – Harriett Dornan (69) and Cissy (30) – whose home address was in Glasgow. It is possible that William John Dornan sent his family back to Belfast as it was deemed to be safer than Glasgow. 

8 New Lodge – Sheridan Street

Two plaques relating to lives lost at two streets which no longer exist were placed at Sheridan Street. The CWGC List records that eleven civilians died at Burke Street, with the twelfth fatality being Stoker 1st Class Henry Brown (51) who was serving on HMS Caroline and died at 18 Burke Street with his mother, his wife, and his daughter – Mary Jane (89), Georgina (50), and Georgina (18). Thomas Mason (33), who was injured at his home in Burke Street and died at the Mater Hospital, is not included on the plaque. The CWGC List records that 18 people who lived in Annadale Street died at their homes, including Ernest William Riecken (65), the only German-born fatality of the air raids, and his wife, Mary Louisa (66) from Number 6.

9 New Lodge – Victoria Barracks

The only Blitz plaque that relates exclusively to military fatalities was placed on the gable wall of the terrace of houses called Victoria Barracks on Carlisle Parade. These houses were built in the 1930s as married quarters for the Victoria Barracks and the first house in the terrace was destroyed during the air raid on the night of 15th/16th April and was never replaced. The NIWM Blitz Victims list records that five men from 9th Battalion East Surrey Regiment died at Victoria Barracks. Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Douglas Sutcliffe (50), Second Lieutenant Edward William Cobble (40), and Corporal John William Oliver Mason (29) died on 16th April. Private Denis Patrick James Cuffe (20), and Private Albert Joseph Skinner (20) died on 5th May.  Second Lieutenant Cobble, who died whilst being transferred to Musgrave Park Hospital, is the only one of the five fatalities to be buried in Belfast, the bodies of the other four men being repatriated to Great Britain for burial. 

10 Donegall Street – St Patrick’s Church

This is the only Belfast City Council Blitz plaque that had been placed inside a church in Belfast and records “130 lives lost here”.  This is not true as there were no fatalities recorded for Donegall Street and St Patrick’s Church was not one of the churches to be badly damaged or destroyed in the air raids. The specified fatality figure could refer to the number of parishioners of the church who died. Alternatively, it could refer to the number of fatalities from the parish area who died, which would include people who were not Roman Catholics.

11 Carrick Hill – Unity Street and Trinity Street

Two Blitz plaques have been erected on the outer wall of the Carrick Hill Community Centre, which was built on the site of the former Trinity Street Reformed (Covenanting) Presbyterian Church. There were no military fatalities recorded for the Carrick Hill area.

The Unity Street area was devastated when a parachute mine struck the spire of Holy Trinity Church of Ireland, which was located on Unity Street and faced down Trinity Street. The CWGC List records that 34 people died at Unity Street, with another person dying at Wall Street, which was immediately behind the church. The CWGC List records that 28 residents of the street died, with John McAnespie (19) dying of injuries at the Mater Hospital. As many of the houses on Unity Street and Wall Street were subsequently demolished and Holy Trinity Church was not rebuilt, the council built the Stanhope Street Playground on bomb site in 1954.

The fatality figure recorded for “Trinity Street Church” does not stand up to scrutiny as the only person recorded as dying at Trinity Street was Kathleen Duff (16) from Hanover Street who was a Typist at ARP Post 396 and was killed by falling masonry. Six other volunteers at ARP Post 396 died at Unity Street. The only resident of Trinity Street recorded as a fatality was Katherine Muldoon (32) from Number 20 who died in Unity Street and is buried in the graveyard at St Joseph’s Church, Hannahstown.

In an oral account, an ARP Warden refers to the spire of “Trinity Street Church” being hit by a parachute mine but Trinity Street Reformed Presbyterian Church did not have a spire – it was Holy Trinity Church of Ireland that was hit. In effect, the “Trinity Street Church” fatality figure relates to people who died in Unity Street and demonstrates the danger of relying on oral accounts without cross-checking against historic documents and sources.

12 The Bone – Ballynure Street

The CWGC List and the NIWM List both record that 29 people died at Ballynure Street, with 26 of the fatalities being residents of the street, and there is no record of any military fatalities. Eleven people died at 4 Ballynure Street, including three members of the Thompson family from 3 Lee Street. Jeremiah and Lavinia Clarke (both 51) and six children ranging in age from 10 to 26 died along with their married daughter, Unice Thompson (19), their son-in-law, John Thompson (21), and their granddaughter, Joan Thompson (2). Only four of the eleven fatalities were identified, with the deaths of the others being presumed at a Coroner’s Enquiry on 14th June 1941. John Thompson is buried in Belfast City Cemetery and Lavinia Clarke is buried in Carnmoney Cemetery. William Clarke (15) and Cecil Clarke (12) were buried in marked coffins in the Blitz Ground at Belfast City Cemetery on 21st April 1941. Robert Clarke (26) was involved in war work at the Short & Harland aircraft factory. In total, 34 people living in the “Bally” streets in this part of Belfast died during the air raids.

13 Woodvale – Ohio Street and Heather Street

Two identical plaques were erected one at the Welcome Evangelical Church on Heather Street and one at the junction of Ohio Street and Disraeli Street. The CWGC List records that 40 people died at Heather Street, with 37 of the fatalities being residents and the two being from nearby Disraeli Street and Montreal Street. ARP Warden James Henry Robinson (29) from Donaldson Crescent off Twaddell Avenue. The CWGC List records that 25 people died at Ohio, with 22 of the fatalities being residents of the street – two of the fatalities lived in nearby Columbia Street and one lived in Glencairn Crescent off the Ballygomartin Road. The CWGC List records that 72 people died at Heather Street, Ohio Street, and the streets with which they intersect, and that 73 residents of the same area died, three of the latter dying of injuries at hospital.

14 Shankill – Percy Street

The Blitz Plaque erected for Percy Street is another which records an approximate fatalities figure. The CWGC List records that 37 people died at Percy Street, ten of whom were not residents of the street. The CWGC List records that 29 residents of Percy Street died in the air raids, with Frederick Owens (41) dying of injuries at the Royal Victoria Hospital. One resident of Percy Street died in the first German air raid on the night of 7th/8th April. Archibald McDonald (22) from 80 Percy Street was a volunteer with the Auxiliary Fire Service and he died fighting the fire at the McCue Dick Timber Yard on Duncrue Street and is buried in Dundonald Cemetery. Four people injured at Percy Street died at the Royal Victoria Hospital, including Thomas Harvey (38) of 12 Tyne Street who died on 8th May 1941 and was buried in Belfast City Cemetery two days later. Ten people died at the Percy Street Air Raid Shelter, including two Able Seaman of the Royal Navy. George James Henry Saunders (21) from Brighton in Sussex was a crewman on HMS Skate which was moored in Belfast Harbour and is buried in a military plot at Belfast City Cemetery. Samuel Corry (26) of Joseph Street in Belfast was on home leave from HMS Quebec and died with his wife, Martha Mary (27) and their ten-month old daughter, Elizabeth. They are buried in a family plot in Belfast City Cemetery.

Conclusion

The fatality figures recorded on the BCC Blitz Plaques rarely tie in with the fatalities recorded by CWGC and NIWM but, as no names are available relating the BCC plaques, it is not possible to reconcile the figures. When I was in contact with BCC about the plaques may years ago, I was told that the council had just been given the figures. The person whose role covered the erection of the plaques moved to a new role and contact with Belfast City Council lapsed. Several plaques (e.g. Antrim Road and Greencastle) were not, as far as I am aware, ever erected. “With hindsight, it would have been better if the plaque figures had represented a combination of fatalities at each location and fatalities who lived at each location. It would also have been better if all the plaques had used “up to nn lives lost” rather than specifying an exact figure.  A Freedom of Information Request has been lodged with Belfast City Council seeking details of how the figures quoted on the plaques were determined.

Author: Nigel Henderson, Researcher, History Hub Ulster

Heroes of the Belfast Blitz

Whilst a lot has been written about the destruction and lives lost during the German air raids in April and May 1941, the men and women who were honoured for bravery have received less attention.  At least twenty people received awards for ‘brave action in Civil Defence’ with three George Medals (GM) and nine British Empire Medals (BEM) being issued.

John Shaw (46), an Electrical Foreman at the Belfast Electricity Department and a Divisional Superintendent in the St. John Ambulance Brigade, was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his devotion to duty at the Belfast Electric Power Station at Laganbank.

Three members of staff at the Ulster Hospital on Templemore Avenue were commended for their actions on the same night – they were Matron Eleanor Elizabeth Aicken (37), Radiographer Isobel Margaret Dickson (34), and Honorary Surgeon Robert John McConnell (57).

Three George Medals and two British Empire Medals were awarded to members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Constables Alexander McCusker (44) and William Brett (52) from the Leopold Street Barracks were awarded the former for rescue work Ottawa Street and Ohio Street.

On the same night, the York Street Flax Spinning Factory received a direct hit, with the debris and blast destroying 42 houses in Sussex Street and Vere Street. Constables Robert Moore (43) and Alfred King (36) from York Street Barracks were awarded the GM and the BEM respectively for rescue work, specifically at the home of the McSorley family at 74 Vere Street.

A unit of the Auxiliary Fire Service was travelling along Royal Avenue when their vehicle was damaged by an exploding bomb, one man being killed and another dying of his injuries. The remainder of the crew carried the pump to the designated location and commenced to fight the fires, remaining on duty well into the following day. Patrol Officer John Walsh (36), a tram driver, Leading Fireman Robert Clyde Rainey (40), a radio trader, and Fireman James Jameson Lee (28), a salesman, were commended for their devotion to duty.

The British Empire Medal was awarded to seven members of the Belfast Civil Defence Services. 

During an air raid in May, Auxiliary Nurse Denise Forster (21) was on duty at the Ambulance Depot on the Holywood Road when it was demolished by a high explosive bomb.  After extricating herself from the wreckage, Denise set about rescuing others from the rubble. She later volunteered to go with an ambulance into a district which was being heavily bombed. Nurse Forster continued to work in the greatest danger throughout the night and only ceased her activities some hours after the raid was over.

Three teenage boys who were Messengers with the Civil Defence were recommended for the George Medal for devotion to duty in April 1941. 

Messenger Alexander Cecil Hill (17), an office assistant from Convention Street, received the BEM. Although severely shaken by an explosion nearby, Alexander directed traffic at a main road whilst bombs were falling nearby. Later, whilst delivering an urgent message to the Report Centre, he was blown off his bicycle by explosions twice but each time he remounted and delivered the message.

When telephone communications were dislocated during the early stages of the air raid, Messenger George William Otway Woodward (18) of Glenburn Park carried messages of vital importance between stations. When his bicycle was put out of action, he continued to keep the lines of communication open by delivering messages on foot. He received a commendation.

BEMs were awarded to Bomb Identification Officer William John Ford (51) and Messenger William Ernest Bennett (15) of Wandsworth Gardens for rescue work at Cliftonville Road where bombs had destroyed a number of houses and fractured a gas main. Ford and Bennett burrowed six yards through rubble to bring an elderly man to safety and then they rescued two stranded women from a house that was in danger of collapse. Bombs were falling as they worked and both suffered from the effects of inhaling coal gas. William Bennet later joined the National Fire Service.

Messengers Bennett and Woodward were pupils and Belfast Royal Academy and William John Ford was the caretaker for the Model School on Cliftonville Road.

These people were from different backgrounds and their ages ranged from 15 to 52, but the common factor was their willingness to put the well-being of others before their own safety. They deserve wider recognition.

Nigel Henderson, History Hub Ulster Researcher.

Belfast Banking Company Limited – Branch Study Report

Belfast Banking Company Limited – Branch Study Report

Gavin Bamford, Chair, History Hub Ulster writes:

My interest in old bank buildings is primarily about the former Belfast Banking Company Limited (BBCo) branches in Ireland and the area later known as Northern Ireland. The BBCo was formed in 1827 and was merged in 1970 with Northern Bank. Its southern branches were sold to the Royal Bank of Ireland in 1923.

I was lucky to find an old BBCo Property Portfolio album in the Northern Bank archives a few years ago and have made it into this short video.  

Watch Video

The viewer will see around 68 branch photographs and will perhaps recall in their memory if the building still exists as a bank branch or now has another use. Thankfully many of the buildings in the video are in the latter category. Some (3), regrettably may be considered to be ‘at risk’ from developers e.g.: Waring Street (opened 1827), Mill Street, Ballymena (1834) and the older Magherafelt premises (1835).

Sadly, 16 of the buildings have been demolished and replaced by modern builds. These buildings include the former branches in Cookstown (opened 1835), Monaghan (1835), Portadown (1835), Strabane (1835), Larne (1836), Crossmaglen (1873), Shankill Road (1898), Kingstown (1908), Pettigo (1914), Aughnacloy (1917), Banbridge (1917), Downpatrick (1917), Kilrea (1917), Omagh (1917), Lisburn (1919) and Duncairn Gardens (1932).

Only 1 of the 68 BBCo buildings is still in use as a Northern Bank (t/a Danske Bank) branch; that is Ballymoney (1834). A few of the former southern branches may still be in operation as an AIB branch. 

To conclude this short study of former Belfast Bank branch buildings, from 68 in their property portfolio, only 1 remains as a branch, 16 have been demolished, 3 are ‘at risk’ and the remaining 48 continue in another use e.g., retail, other bank, tourist office or hospitality.

Three Towns, Three Counties, Three War Memorials

Three civic war memorials were unveiled on Saturday 11th November 1922 at towns in counties Londonderry, Antrim, and Tyrone.

Portrush War Memorial

The nine feet nine inch tall pedestal of Irish limestone is surmounted by a seven feet and six inches bronze figure of Victory, with inverted sword in her right hand and a palm branch in her left hand. The monument was designed by Sir George James Frampton and the bronze figure was sculpted by Frank Ransom, both of whom were from London. The monument was constructed by William Kirkpatrick Limited and unveiled by Lady Macnaghten who had lost two sons within three months during the war.

Second Lieutenant Sir Edward Harry MacNaghten of 1st Battalion Black Watch was killed in action on 1st July 1916 at the age of 20 whilst attached to 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. Second Lieutenant Sir Arthur Douglas MacNaghten was killed in action on 15th September 1916 at the age of 19 whilst serving with 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade.

Sir James Craig presided over the ceremony and in his speech, he stated that 300 men from Portrush’s population of 3,000 had enlisted with the Ulster Division and that the Spirit of Ulster had carried those men through the most appalling time. There was no reference to the men who served and died with other units of the British, Dominion, and Empire forces. The names of the fallen were read by Captain Sydney James Lyle who had served with the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and 6th Divisional Train of the Royal Army Service Corps, being awarded the Military Cross. The memorial was dedicated by the Reverend James Gilbert Paton of Malone Presbyterian Church and formerly of Terrace Row Presbyterian Church in Coleraine. He had served as a Chaplain in the Ulster Division, being attached to the 10th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and was awarded the Military Cross with two Bars.

The bronze dedicatory plaque on the front face of the pedestal features a relief engraving depicting a seascape with three battleships and is surmounted by a victor’s laurel wreath. As can be seen from the two images, a different style of wreath in a slightly different position now adorns the memorial. The other three faces of the memorial now have bronze plaques recording the names of the Great War fatalities, but these plaques were not present when the memorial was unveiled. It is possible that the names of the fallen were originally engraved on the faces of the pedestal.

The memorial was erected at a cost of £1,300, which equates to approximately £57,200 in current terms.

Jesse Edgar was born on 28th December 1887 to James Edgar and Margaret Edgar (nee Forsythe) who farmed land at Islandmore townland. He was employed as a Policeman in Christchurch when he enlisted on 23rd August 1915 and was posted to the New Zealand Provost Corps. He was attached to the 1st Battalion Canterbury Regiment when it arrived at the Suez Canal in December 1915. He left Port Said for France in April 1916 and was transferred to the Mounted Military Police in October 1916. He was attached to the 1st Battalion Canterbury Regiment with the rank of Corporal when he sustained wounds to the head and abdomen and died at Number 29 Casualty Clearing Station on 27th April 1918. Jesse Edgar was 30 years old and is buried in Bagneux British Cemetery at Gezaincourt in France. Locally, he is also commemorated on a family memorial in Ballywillan Old Cemetery and on the memorial tablet in Ballywillan Presbyterian Church.

Coleraine War Memorial

After participating in the ceremony in Portrush, Sir James Craig and the Reverend James Gilbert Paton travelled a few miles south-west to unveil and dedicate the war memorial in Coleraine. In his opening remarks, Mr Daniel Hill Christie, Chairman of the Coleraine Urban District Council, said that Coleraine had contributed 1000 men, almost 13% of the entire population, to the forces of the Crown and this “record of patriotic duty was unsurpassed in the United Kingdom”. However, numerous other towns in Ulster made similar claims, including Ballymena and Lurgan. Mr Christie went on to report that 169 men gave their lives in the discharge of their duty. The memorial was dedicated by the Reverend James Gilbert Paton and the names of the fatalities were read out by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Sinclair Knox, formerly of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The names of the fallen were engraved on the faces of the pedestal and, at a later date, replaced with the current bronze tablets. Captain Knox was one of only seven officers from British, Dominion, and Empire forces to be awarded the Distinguished Service Order four times during the Great War.

The memorial is twenty-one feet and six inches high and features a bronze statue of a soldier in full battle uniform and wearing a cape with his rifle grounded. The statue is mounted on a pedestal of Portland stone and which features a bronze figure of Victory holding a laurel wreath above her head. The plinth is made from Irish granite and the memorial was designed by Frederick William Pomeroy and cost £1,800, which equates to approximately £79,230 in current terms.

Robert Wallace Gilmour was born on 1st July 1885 at The Diamond in Coleraine where William Gilmour and Margaret Johnston Gilmour (nee Wallace) had a jewellery and watch-making business. Before the war, Robert Gilmour was employed as a Cashier in the Ulster Bank’s Pembroke branch in Dublin. He enlisted with the Connaught Rangers but was transferred to the Inns of Court Officers Training Corps and was commissioned into the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in December 1916. He was posted to 9th Battalion in France on 21st February 1917 and sustained gunshot wounds to the leg during the Battle of Messines. After a period of recuperation at home, Second Lieutenant Robert Wallace Gilmour returned to the Western Front and was Killed in Action during the German Spring Offensive in March 1918. He was 32 years of age and has no known grave, being commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial in France. Locally, he is commemorated on a family memorial in Coleraine Cemetery and on the memorial tablets for New Row Presbyterian Church in Coleraine and the Ulster Bank in Belfast.

Dungannon War Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The memorial, which is eighteen feet and six inches high, was designed by Frederick William Pomeroy and constructed by R Patton & Sons. It was erected at a cost of £1,700, which is approximately £74,800 in current terms. The memorial was unveiled by Constance Elizabeth Knox, Countess of Ranfurly, whose only son, Captain Thomas Uchter Knox, Viscount Northland, had been killed in action on 1st February 1915 whilst serving with the 11th Battalion Coldstream Guards. Brigadier-General Ambrose Ricardo gave the eulogy, and the names of the fallen were read out by Doctor Frederick Clark Mann, Chairman of Dungannon War Memorial Committee.

The memorial features a bronze statue of an army Sergeant in full battle uniform, holding a grounded rifle in his left hand and a standard in his right hand. The statue is eight feet and six inches high and is mounted on a pedestal of Stancliffe stone which sits on a granite plinth. The bronze dedicatory panel on the lower portion of the pedestal features a laurel wreath and palm fronds. The four faces of the pedestal bear bronze panels on which names of the fallen are recorded, with the fatalities from the Royal Inniskillings Fusiliers being listed first.

Three females are commemorated on the memorial – Staff Nurse Emily Gray of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, Alicia Watt of the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and Nurse Frances Emma Shortt of the Voluntary Aid Detachment. Frances Shortt was only added to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database in recent years and a CWGC headstone was installed in the graveyard at Tullanisken Parish Church in Newmills in October 2022. The recognition of Nurse Shortt as an official war fatality was largely due the efforts of Kenneth Farquhar of Dungannon.
Frances Emma Shortt was born on 22nd April 1864 at Curran near Dungannon to Hugh Shortt and Elizabeth Short (nee Simpson). Hugh Shortt died on 2nd March 1892 and Elizabeth married John Greenhalgh on 2nd February 1898. In 1901, Frances and her sister Harriet were living at Market House Street in Limavady and were recorded as being drapers. In 1911, Harriet was living with her mother and step-father at Curran and Frances was lodging with the Erskine family at High Street West in Sligo, and was a Milliner in Joseph Erskine’s drapery business. Frances Shortt volunteered for war service as a Nurse on 9th August 1918, her age being recorded as 31. Nurse Frances Shortt died at the Bermondsey Military Hospital in Lewisham on 26th December 1918, aged 54 in lay in an unmarked grave for nearly 104 years.