Fermanagh’s Homes for Heroes in the 1920s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ulster War Memorials from History Hub Ulster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snowman Memorial, Newtownards, March 1924

Snowman Memorial, Newtownards, March 1924

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

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

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

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Release of previously unseen vintage aerial photographs of Ulster

Harland & Wolff, Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1947. Oblique aerial photograph taken facing East.

Harland & Wolff, Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1947. Oblique aerial photograph taken facing East.

History Hub Ulster welcomes the release of previously unseen vintage aerial photographs of Ulster by the Britain From Above website.

The site has recently published many unseen vintage aerial photographs of Ulster covering the 1920’s through to the 1950’s.

Within the archive are aerial photographs of the Antrim, Ards, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Cavan , Coleraine, Cookstown, Craigavon, Derry, Donegal, Down, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Lisburn, Larne, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newry and Mourne, Newtownabbey, North Down, Omagh and Strabane areas.

The photographs will interest everyone from local historians, railway enthusiasts and heritage fans to name a few.

Britain from Above is a four year project aimed at conserving 95,000 of the oldest and most valuable photographs in the Aerofilms collection, those dating from 1919 to 1953.  Once conserved, they are scanned into digital format and made available on this website for the public to see. This project has been made possible due to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and support from The Foyle Foundation and other donors. The website launched with the first 10,000 images and as we currently have little information about the details in the images, the website provides the opportunity to share and record your memories and knowledge about the places shown in the collection.

Britain From Above website http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/ 

Gavin Bamford and Catherine Burrell, History Hub Ulster members