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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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