William Kennedy plaque unveiling


Photographs from plaque unveiling event – left to right

  1. Eamonn Curran, Chair of Armagh Pipers Club playing uilleann pipes at the opening ceremony.
  2. Brian Vallely, Director of Armagh Pipers Club.
  3. Lord Mayor of  Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council Julie Flaherty, and Brian Vallely, unveil the Blue Plaque to William Kennedy.
  4. L.R. Eamonn Curran with uilleann Pipes; Dr Myrtle Hill, Ulster History Circle; Brian Valley and Finlay MacDonald with Highland Pipes (lecturer at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire); Sitting – Lord Mayor, Julie Flaherty and Luigi Lai, Sardinia – Launeddas Player (Ancient Pipes of Sardinia).
  5. L.R. Alan Boyd; Anthony Lundy; Dr. Myrtle Hill and Mairead Ferguson, Ulster History Circle; and Curatorial Services Officer, Sean Barden, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council.

Rex McCandless Plaque unveiling

Rex McCandless Blue Plaque unveiling – October 2018.

In his opening welcoming remarks to the large assembly of guests from the motorcycling world in Northern Ireland, Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said that this was a ‘First’ in so many ways for the Circle.  It would be the only plaque in all of the 236 plaques which had been erected throughout the nine Historical Counties of Ireland, where the unveiling would be at the opening of the ceremony, instead of at the closing of the commemoration.  It was also a ‘First’ where a plaque would have the words, ‘Featherbed and Gyroplane’ on the same plaque, and where a vintage motorcycle and vintage racing car took centre stage.

The Chairman spoke highly of the plaque recipient, Rex McCandless who excelled as an engineer and inventor, particularly in the areas of motor sport and aviation.  The development of the featherbed motorcycle frame, the McCandless racing car and the gyroplane were amongst his many achievements.  Before asking Race Ace and household name, Jeremy McWilliams to unveil the plaque, a special word of thanks was extended to the Ulster-Scots Agency for the sponsorship of the plaque, and to the Board of W.A.C. McCandless Limited for permitting the plaque to be erected on their Head Office building, where in the 1960’s Rex McCandless had lived and worked.

Stepping up to the podium, Jeremy McWilliams, said that he was honoured to have been asked to unveil the plaque to the man who had changed the face of motorcycle racing for all of racing fraternity. He told of when he had commenced racing in the 1970’s, some 40 years ago, he had heard of the Norton Featherbed but knew little of Rex.  In the years to come, he was to ride a Norton Featherbed at the Goodwood Revival, and was delighted when earlier, he had been presented with a book by the life-long friend of Rex McCandless, author, Les Jennings, and looked forward to reading the biography, ‘How to make a better Mousetrap’, about the man who had created a winning racing frame amongst his other inventions.

Before leaving the event for a racing engagement in Spain, Jeremy McWilliams climbed on board a vintage Norton Featherbed for Press and TV photographs. The motorcycle had been brought to the ceremony by its owner, Terry Rafter and had been organised by David and Joan Crawford from Lisburn. Special thanks were extended to everyone involved.

The ceremony continued with speeches from the CEO of the Ulster-Scots Agency, Ian Crozier; Ernie Cromie from Ulster Aviation, and from Rex McCandless’s nephew, John McCandless who piloted his own plane from his home in the Isle of Man.  John who is the son of Rex’s brother, Cromie, who rode with Geoff Duke in the 1950’s, told of how his ‛Uncle Rex’ had paid for his first flying lessons as a gift, because John had excelled in his studies at the Belfast Royal Academy. Rex McCandless was responsible for John’s love of flight.

Ulster History Circle committee member, Trevor Parkhill had organised for the McCandless Racing Car to be on show at the ceremony, courtesy of Mark Kennedy of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Mark spoke on the life of Rex McCandless and of his great inventions both on land and in the air. The vintage racing car proved, as with the motorcycle, to be a great attraction with all guests.

Guests and onlookers mingled with names from the motorcycle world such as Ray McCullough and Billy McCosh and members of the 30 motor cycle club, and many photographs were taken of the event.  Guests were then entertained to refreshments by W.A.C. McCandless Limited at the Titanic Hotel, Belfast.


Photographs from Plaque unveiling event. Double click on individual photos to enlarge.

Photographs left to right:

1. Rex McCandless.  Photo courtesy of R.L. Jennings.
2. Race Ace Jeremy McWilliams on board a vintage Norton Featherbed bike.
3. The McCandless Race car – courtesy of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
4. L.R. Terry Rafter owner and on board the Norton Featherbed; Mark Kennedy, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum; Trevor
    Parkhill, Ulster History Circle and Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History Circle.
5. Mairead Ferguson, Treasurer Ulster History Circle; David and Joan Crawford, 30 Motor Cycle Club and Rosemary Gerring,
    Director-WAC McCandless (Engineering) Ltd.
6. L.R. Terry Rafter: Ciaran Carvill; Rose Gerring, Directors, WAC McCandless; John McCandless, nephew of Rex
    McCandless and John Gibson, Director, WAC McCandless (Engineering) Ltd..
7. Ernie Cromie, Ulster Aviation addresses guests on Rex McCandless’s development of the gyroplane.
8. Les Jennings, Author of ‘To Make A Better Mousetrap’ presents Jeremy McWilliams with a copy of his book.
9. Ray McCullough and Jeremy McWilliams, two household names in the world of  motorcycle racing.
10. Jeremy McWilliams; Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History Circle; John McCandless, nephew of Rex McCandless and Ian
      Crozier, CEO, Ulster Scots Agency.
11. Guests in front of the Blue Plaque and the McCandless Building.

Harry Willoughby Weaving Blue Plaque unveiling

Harry Willoughby Weaving plaque unveiling report with photographs of the event

The Great War of I914-I918 commenced on 4th August 1914 and to honour a long forgotten WW1 poet and former master at Craigavad, Rockport School nominated his name for a Blue Plaque.

On 24th November 2014, staff, pupils and guests gathered in front of the original School building to be welcomed by headmaster, Mr. George Vance.  Harry Willoughby Weaving had been associated with the school from 1911 until 1920, and during this time had penned several poems, the first collection being published in 1913.  War intervened and as with so many other schools and colleges, young men set off to fight for King and Country.  His military service was in the Royal Irish Rifles and during the period of the war, he wrote his poetry in the trenches – ‘Between the Trenches’ and ‘Warrior Months’ in 1917 to name two of many. He also wrote the 3rd verse of the School hymn.

He returned to the school in 1919 and left to co-found Elm Park in Co. Armagh in 1920.  This largely forgotten war poet continued to write until 1952.

Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, thanked the Headmaster of Rockport for the permission to place the plaque on the School, where it could be seen by for all future generations of pupils. The school had fully supported the plaque in honour of their former master, and had interviewed Chris Spurr and UHC Secretary, Alan Boyd as part of their studies into the WW1 poets.  Chris said that the Circle had entered a period where many soldiers across the nine historical counties of Ulster, would in the next four years, be receiving Blue plaques for their bravery for which they had received the Victoria Cross. This plaque was the only one in Ulster to a First World War poet.

After further presentations and the unveiling of the plaque by Professor Fran Brearton, School of English at QUB, and Mr. George Vance, headmaster of Rockport, guests enjoyed refreshments in the old Library.


Double click on a photograph to enlarge it.

Photographs left to right:-

  1. Harry Willoughby (Willow) Weaving with pupils of Elm Park, Co. Armagh  which he co-founded.
  2. Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History Circle addresses staff and pupils  of Rockport School, Craigavad.
  3. L.R. Councillor Peter J. Martin, Mayor of North Down with Mr. George Vance, Headmaster of Rockport.
  4. Rockport Staff and pupils with guests in front of the School.

Sarah Leech plaque unveiling

Sarah Leech plaque unveiling report with photographs of the event

For the last plaque on its 20I4 plaque programme, the Ulster History Circle travelled to Co. Donegal where a Blue Plaque to the Donegal weaver poet, Sarah Leech, was unveiled by Joe McHugh TD, the Minister of State for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. This was only the 2nd plaque in Donegal and it was hoped that more would follow in due course, honouring those people from the County who had made a significant historical contribution to its history.

The town of Raphoe was preparing for Christmas, and as part of the Ulster-Scots festivities, a Christmas Fayre was being held in the Square where a large marquee held a selection of stalls overflowing with Christmas ‘goodies’.  Ulster-Scots musicians and dancers entertained the crowd. 

Meantime, invited guests gathered at the Ulster-Scots agency office in William Street, to hear a warm welcome to the very special unveiling, from Derek Reaney, Ulster-Scots.  This was followed by speeches from Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, Jim Devenny and Anne Morrison Smyth who read several of Sarah Leech’s poems.

Before guests adjourned outside the building to watch the unveiling, Joe McHugh TD said that it was an honour to have been asked to unveil this plaque, and that it was important to remember those largely forgotten people who had made contributions to the history of the Island. This was a very special young woman who had been born 205 years ago in the local townland of Ballylennan, and who had from an early age of twelve worked at the spinning wheel. This was a tedious task but whilst she worked, she read and composed her poetry. The rhythm of her verses matched that of her spinning wheel, and her poetry used the Ulster-Scots tongue of her hearth and home.

Sarah died at a very young age of 21 but not before her poetry had been published, and this offered her some small income.

The Minister paid tribute to the Ulster-Scots Agency and to the Ulster History Circle for the tremendous voluntary work which the Circle did in remembering and honouring those in the nine

Historical counties of Ulster, and whose achievements had largely gone unnoticed.

The unveiling of the Blue Plaque was recorded in interviews by Liam Logan, and aired on BBC Radio Ulster ‘A Kist O Wurds’.



Double click on a photograph to enlarge it.

Photographs left to right:-

1. Sarah Leech, the weaver poet.
2. Derek Reaney, Ulster Scots, Joe McHugh TD, Minister of State for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Ida Fisher and Val O’Kelly, board of Ulster-Scots.
3. Joe McHugh TD, addresses guests.
4. Anne Morrison Smyth and Alan Boyd, Secretary Ulster History Circle
5. Jim Devenney, Derek Reaney, Anne Morrison Smyth, Joe McHugh, TD who unveiled the Blue Plaque, Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History Circle, Maynard Hanna, Ulster Scots and Alan Boyd, Ulster History Circle.

James McGregor plaque unveiling

James McGregor plaque unveiling report with photographs of the event

The Presbyterian Minister, Rev. James McGregor who could well be known as the ‘Moses of Scotch Irish’, and who in 1718 left these shores with his congregation, has been honoured with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque at the Church where he preached from 1701.

Aghadowey Presbyterian Church was founded in 1655, making it one of the oldest, and when the Rev. James McGregor, a veteran of the siege of Derry, became minister at the Church in 1701, he found a people who were oppressed and governed by the harsh laws which existed, and which would continue to exist for decades.  It was hardly surprising that Presbyterians were unsettled and were ready to look beyond the shores of Ireland for alternative places to live and worship.

So it was to Nutfield, New Hampshire where the Rev. McGregor led his pioneering flock, and in 1722 Nutfield was eventually renamed Londonderry, New Hampshire, USA.

The current minister of the Aghadowey Presbyterian Church, Rev. Robert Kane welcomed the large crowd gathered in the grounds of the Church and in particularly a very warm Irish welcome to historian and author, Rick Holmes and his wife Anne, who had travelled from Londonderry, New Hampshire for the occasion.  Special guests also included the U.S. Consul-General for Northern Ireland, Gregory S. Burton and the Mayor of Coleraine, Councillor George Duddy.

Master of Ceremonies, Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, welcomed everyone and endorsed Rev. Kane’s

warm welcome to Rick and Anne Holmes, and to the American Consul General in Northern Ireland.  Speeches were heard from CEO of the Ulster-Scots Agency, Ian Crozier who had sponsored the Blue Plaque, Mayor, Councillor George Duddy,

Wilson Burgess who read a specially written poem for the occasion and Rick Holmes.

Before unveiling the Blue Plaque together with Rev. Robert Kane, the US Consul-General, Gregory S. Burton, said that he was delighted to have been asked to the event. He thanked all involved and paid tribute those who had made the arduous journeys to settle in the lands of America.

After the unveiling; to the music of the Glenkeen band, guests adjourned  to the Church Halls, where there was an extensive exhibition on the Migration, organised by the Foyle Trust, and a cake iced with the Stars and Stripes /1718. This was cut by the US. Consul General, Gregory S. Burton, Rick Holmes and Rev. Robert Kane.   Before enjoying a scrumptious supper, the large audience listened intently to Rick Holmes speak about the formation of the Nutfield/Londonderry colony and the hardships faced by the pioneering peoples of Aghadowey.  The Ulster-Scots dancers also entertained, and a very memorable evening was enjoyed by everyone.

Double click on a photograph to enlarge it.

Photographs left to right:-

1. Replica of the ship in which Rev. McGregor left Ireland in 1718.
2. Guests and members of the  Aghadowey Presbyterian Church gather for the ceremony.
3. The United States Consul-General in Northern Ireland, Gregory S. Burton, and Rev.
     Robert Kane of Aghadowey Pres. Church unveil the Blue Plaque.
4. L.R. Ian Crozier, CEO. Ulster-Scots Agency; Rick Holmes, author and historian from
    Derry, New Hampshire, USA; Councillor George Duddy, Mayor of Coleraine; Gregory S.
    Burton, US. Consul-General Northern Ireland; Wilson Burgess,broadcaster and poet;

    Rev. Robert Kane, Aghadowey Presbyterian Church; Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History

5. Dr. William Roulston, Ulster Historical Foundation; Wilson Burgess and US. Consul-
    General NI. Gregory S. Burton.
6. Local Ulster-Scots dancers who performed in the post unveiling evening in the Church

Anne Acheson Plaque Unveiling

Anne Acheson Blue Plaque Unveiling.

The extended family and guests which included the first lady Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, gathered at the First Portadown Presbyterian Church to honour a lady who had been largely forgotten in history.

Sculptor, Anne Crawford Acheson, born locally in I882 in Carrickblacker Avenue, revolutionised the treatment of fractures during the First World War, and such was Anne’s ground-breaking achievements that she was awarded the CBE by the King in I9I9. The use of Plaster of Paris which Anne used in her sculpture was to change medical history for decades.

 Rev. Robin Brown welcomed the assembled audience to the Church in which Anne was christened by her missionary grandfather, Rev. Dr. James Glasgow and this was the church which the family attended; her father being an elder.  The ceremony continued with Chris Spur, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, introducing the Lord Mayor of the Council, Julie Flaherty, the sponsors of the UHC Blue plaque, Richard Hanna from the Ulster -Scots Agency, and Doug Beattie, local MLA.

Doug Beattie was not aware of the local connection to Anne Acheson and thanked the chairman of the Edenderry Association, Shirley Banyan for bringing Anne Acheson’s name and her achievements to his attention.  He spoke also from a military point of view of how important Anne Acheson’s achievements are still being used in frontline war regions all around the world.  He was proud to be associated with the event and also said that the local community were absolutely  delighted.

Before Anne Crawford Acheson’s great nephew, Rev. John Faris unveiled the plaque, he spoke about Anne and how quiet and assuming she was. A great sculptor whose work until she died in 1962, continued to be sought by collectors. The Rev. Faris said   ‘Anne would have been humbled by this Blue Plaque. She never talked about the War and how she had in fact changed the face of medical history on fractures.’

Messages of congratulations were read from members of the extended family who lived in England and could not attend, and this included one another great-nephew, Rev. J. Malcolm Acheson and Mrs. Pauline Acheson, and from author David Llewellyn whose book, ‛The First Lady of Mulberry Walk’ covered the life and times of Anne.

After the unveiling, refreshments were provided by the Ladies Committee of the Church.  The event received extensive press coverage, both locally and on the mainland.  Northern Visions TV also covered and at the beginning of November, the BBC are showing a documentary film on Anne Crawford Acheson and there is to  be an exhibition in Portadown in 2019.

Speaking at the event and also afterwards, Councillor Julie Flaherty, Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, said that she was delighted to see that a local lady was being honoured with a Blue Plaque.  This was a story that needed to be brought to the fore. Until now it had been buried in the annals of history.  She thanked everyone involved with the event, and looked forward to seeing the film.

Photographs from the Unveiling event (click on photograph to enlarge image)

Photos left to right:-

  1. Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History Circle greets  Councillor Julie Flaherty,Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.
  2. Robin Brown, minister of First Portadown Presbyterian Church welcomes guests.
  3. Rev. John Faris, great nephew of Anne Crawford Acheson unveils the Blue Plaque.
  4. Richard Hanna,  Language and Education Director,Ulster-Scots Agency, Chris Spurr,Chairman  Ulster History Circle,Rev.John Faris, Heather Faris and Doug Beattie, MLA.
  5. Guests on the steps of First Portadown Presbyterian Church.


Charles Duff – Unveiling report

Charles Duff Blue Plaque

Date – 25th January 2018.

Location – Ely Place, 66-68 Forthill Street. Enniskillen. Co. Fermanagh.

Plaque sponsored by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Fermanagh Trust.

Unveiled by Sir Anthony Hart, great nephew.

Ely Place, the birthplace in 1894 of a ‛forgotten son’ of Enniskillen, saw the gathering of guests which included the extended families, for the unveiling of the blue plaque.  The name of writer and linguist Charles Duff, had been brought to the attention of the Ulster History Circle by Fermanagh Genealogy who had acquired sponsorship for the plaque from the Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, and Fermanagh Trust.

Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, gave a very warm welcome to everyone on such a cold and wet morning, and said that Charles Duff was a man born in Enniskillen and his childhood there, recalled in his autobiographical book ‘No Angel’s Wing’ showed his affection for Fermanagh, and the value he placed on his roots was very evident. As an author, Charles had a different and distinctive profile to two other Irish writers already commemorated by blue plaques in Enniskillen, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett.  By commemorating Charles Duff, it was hoped that there would be renewed interest in his life and work.

Short speeches were given by the Chairman of the Council, Councillor Stephen McCann who said that the Council were delighted to be associated with the event, and by Frank McHugh, Secretary of Fermanagh Genealogy. Both men hoped that by the unveiling of the Blue Plaque, that this would indeed highlight an important literary figure of the 20th Century, long since forgotten. A man of many literary talents, educated at Portora and whose ashes are scattered on Lough Erne.

After the unveiling of the plaque by Charles Duff’s great nephew, Sir Anthony Hart, guests adjournedto Fermanagh House at Broadmeadow Place, where after refreshments, they listened to Sir Anthony Hartspeak at length about his great uncle.  A biographical article about Charles Duff, written by Sir Anthony Hart can be found in the new Ulster Dictionary of Biography www.newulsterdictionary.co.uk

Photos from the Unveiling ceremony – click on thumbprints to enlarge photos

Charles Duff, author and linguist.

Guests gather outside Charles Duff’s birthplace at Ely Place.

Sir Anthony Hart, great nephew of Charles Duff, unveils the Blue Plaque.


Anthony Lundy, Ulster History Circle; Alan Boyd, Hon. Secretary Ulster History Circle; Sir Anthony Hart; Frank McHugh, Secretary, Fermanagh Genealogy; Chris Spurr, Chairman, Ulster History Circle; and Councillor Stephen McCann, Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.
Sir Anthony Hart with members of the West family and other family descendants of Charles Duff.