Robert Quigg VC plaque unveiling

Tuesday, 28th June 2016 will forever be remembered in the history of Bushmills, as the day on which HM Queen Elizabeth II came to the town to unveil the bronze statue to one of Bushmills’ heroic sons, Robert Quigg who won the Victoria Cross for his gallantry at the Battle of the Somme on 1st July I9I6.

The bronze statue project was led by Robert Quigg’s great nephew, Leonard Quigg and the committee of the Commemoration Society, Robert Thompson and Keith Beattie, and the majority or the money for the statue had been contributed by the local community.  When the Ulster History Circle approached Leonard Quigg about the possibility of unveiling a blue plaque to Robert Quigg VC, after Her Majesty had left Bushmills, he was very receptive of the idea.

So on the afternoon of 28th June, a large contingent of Robert Quigg’s extended families which included Quiggs, Nesbitts, Beatties, Sherrards, McCartney, Hughes and Ward from Canada, Knox and McAfees, arrived at the old schoolhouse at the Giant’s Causeway, to watch a blue plaque to their ancestor being unveiled by Jean Gibson from Scotland, the niece of Robert Quigg VC.

Welcoming everyone to the very special day and ceremony, Chris Spurr, Chairman-Ulster History Circle, thanked Seymour and Carol Sweeney, the owners of the Nook Restaurant, for permitting the blue plaque to be put up on the building which was once the schoolhouse where Robert Quigg attended as a young boy.  Chris said that the commemoration was taking place almost 100 years to the day, when Robert Quigg’s valour won him the Victoria Cross.

Robert Quigg’s citation described how he had advanced 3 times with his platoon to assault the German lines. When Robert heard that his platoon officer, Sir Harry Macnaghten, the son of the local landowner, Lady Macnaghten, was lying wounded on No Man’s Land, for 7 hours Robert went out under heavy machine gun fire to look for him.  His body was never found but on each sortie, Robert Quigg brought back wounded men and one such man was Robert Matthews of Mosside who survived, and whose family Robert and Louise Matthews were guests at the unveiling of the plaque.

Speeches were heard from Leonard Quigg, Ian Paisley MP, and Ian Crozier, CEO-Ulster Scots Agency who sponsored the plaque, and before going inside the old schoolhouse to enjoy refreshments, Chris Spurr said that the day in Bushmills would most certainly go down in the annals of history of the History Circle, as being a very special day indeed, one which could never be repeated.

Photographs from the event

Photographs – left to right

  1. The bronze statue of Robert Quigg VC by renowned sculptor, David Annand, in Bushmills. The statue was unveiled in the morning by Her Majesty the Queen.
  2. Outside the Old School House, Giants Causeway, (now the Nook Restaurant) Chris Spurr-Chairman, Ulster History Circle being interviewed by NVTV.
  3. L.r.  Leonard Quigg, great nephew of Robert Quigg VC and Robert Thompson, local WW1 historian.
  4. Ian Paisley MP. with CEO -Ulster Scots Agency, Ian Crozier.
  5. Guests who included many Quigg family members watch the ceremony.
  6. l.r. – Chris Spurr, Ian Paisley MP, Ian Crozier, Jean Gibson, niece of Robert Quigg VC and Leonard Quigg, great nephew.
  7. Jean Gibson from Scotland, niece of Robert Quigg, unveils the blue plaque.
  8. Alan Boyd, Secretary – Ulster History Circle, at Robert Quigg’s Grave in Billy Parish Church, Bushmills.


Oliver Pollock plaque unveiling

The 200th Ulster History Circle blue plaque was unveiled by the US Consul General, Daniel J. Lawton, watched by invited guests and visitors from all over the north of Ireland.

In his opening address, the Ulster History Circle’s Chairman, Chris Spurr noted that Oliver Pollock had been given the honour of the Circle’s milestone plaque, and by choosing Pollock and his birthplace of Bready, this would remind people that the Circle had a place as much in the smaller historic communities as it did in the larger cities.  ‘In devising the dollar sign, Oliver Pollock created a small symbol which had a huge impact, and we hope that the Ulster History Circle do the same,’ he said.

Speakers at the commemoration included Daniel J. Lawton, the US Consul General who said that he was honoured to have been asked to unveil the plaque to locally born Oliver Pollock.

Oliver was one of the many Ulstermen who left Ireland and who had vastly contributed to America’s history, by inventing the dollar sign and by helping to finance the American Revolutionary War, personally donating 3000,000 pesos, equivalent to $Ibn. 

A special welcome was extended to the Consul General who had just taken up his appointment in Northern Ireland. Chris Spurr said that the Circle and the Consulate office enjoyed 

an excellent relationship, and he hoped that Daniel J. Lawton would indeed enjoy his time in Northern Ireland, and where possible attend some future plaque unveilings.

As this was the Circle’s 200th plaque, there was a large attendance of press corps and the unveiling was also covered by television; and it was the opportunity for the Ulster History Circle to personally thank the media for their continuing support of the Circle’s voluntary work.  The funders of the blue plaque, the Ulster Scots Agency, were represented at the event by Board Director, Ida Fisher who was warmly thanked for their support.

After the unveiling and interviews, guests enjoyed a talk on Oliver Pollock by the well-known local historian William Roulston, followed by James Kee of the Bready Ulster-Scots Group.  Welcoming everyone inside the Sollus Centre, James introduced piper, Darran Milligan, singer Ruth McPhillips, and the Sollus Highland Dancers who showcased a programme of music, song and dance.

It was a very special day in Bready, Strabane, Co. Tyrone – where the links with America were as strong as they were in Oliver Pollock’s Day.

Some photographs from the event.

Photographs – Left to right.
  1. The invitation photograph showing the dollar sign and the face of Oliver Pollock (face is taken from a sculpture of Pollock in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by artist Frank Hayden)
  2. The US Consul-General in Northern Ireland, Daniel J. Lawton who unveiled the blue plaque.
  3. L.r. Chris Spurr, Chairman-Ulster History Circle, Derry City and Strabane Mayor, Elisha Mccallion, US Consul-General, Daniel J. Lawton and James Kee , Manager, Sollus Centre.
  4. Leslie McKeague, Co. Cavan, member of Ulster History Circle with Mervyn and Jean McKean, Longvale House, Porthall, Co. Donegal.
  5. Mayor Elisa Mccallion, Consul-General, Daniel J. Lawton with members of the Ulster History Circle, the Ulster Scots Agency who sponsored the plaque, the Ulster Historical Foundation and the Sollus Highland Dancers.
  6. The US Consul-General with Darren Milligan, piper, Ruth McPhillips and the Sollus Highland Dancers who showcased a programme of music,song and dance.

William Mulholland plaque unveiling

Date of Plaque unveiling – 25th March 2019.
Location – 201 Donegall Street, Belfast.BT1 2FL.
Plaque unveiled by – Deputy Lord Mayor, Emmet McDonough-Brown

Plaque sponsored by Belfast City Council.

Photographs from the plaque unveiling ceremony


Photographs – Left to right
  1. William Mulholland.
  2. Chris Spurr, Chairman-Ulster History Circle welcomes the vast crowd of guests gathered in Donegall Street, Belfast.
  3. The Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown unveils the blue plaque.
  4. L.R. – Chris Spurr, Chairman-Ulster History Circle, Tom LaBonge, retired Councillor Los Angeles, Deputy Lord Mayor,  Councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown, Father Eugene O’Neill, administrator St. Patrick’s Church, Stephen Stewart, producer of Patrick Kielty’s documentary on William Mulholland, designer of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
  5. Dr. Peter Collins, Ulster History Circle, Father Eugene O’Neill, St. Patricks, Bishop Noel Treanor and Tom LaBonge, Los Angeles.
  6. U.S. Consul General, Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau with Deputy Lord Mayor, Emmet McDonough-Brown.
  7. Tom LaBonge, Los. Angeles presents Catherine Morrow, Libraries NI, Central Library, Belfast, with Catherine Mulholland’s book on William Mulholland.
  8. J.J. Tohill, film-maker, with Father Eugene O’Neill.
  9. L.R. Chris Spurr, Liam Logan, Mairead Ferguson and Dr. Peter Collins, of the Ulster History Circle, with Father Eugene O’Neill, administrator of St. Patricks Church, Donegall Street, Belfast.

James Somers Plaque unveiling

A beautiful July day heralded the unveiling ceremony of the Ulster History Circle blue plaque to Sgt. James Somers VC at Belturbet Church of Ireland, Co. Cavan.

Warmly welcomed by Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, a large audience, many travelling from Dundalk, Dublin and from James Somer’s home town and final resting place, Cloughjordan, Co., Tipperary, heard Chris say – ‘this is rather like a ‘home coming’ for the young soldier from the Royal Munster Fusiliers and the 2nd Battalion-Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. His bravery on the Gallipoli Peninsula, earned James the Victoria Cross in 1918.  Belturbet is the village in which he was born, as his father was the sexton of the Church, where we are standing today.  James Somers was born in 1894 in the sexton’s house in Church Street. Eventually the family moved to other locations in Ireland, before finally settling in Co. Tipperary’.

Guests listened to addresses given by the minister of the Belturbet Church of Ireland, Rev. Tanya Woods, Councillor Paddy Smith from Cavan County Council, Ger Heffernan, Cloughjordan Heritage Group, Lt.Col. David Twigg, Chairman,

Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Regimental Association, Foster Summerson, Gallipoli Association, and historian Dr. Brendan Scott.

As Sidney Cooper, nephew of James Somers VC stepped up to unveil the blue plaque, he said that he did so on behalf of all the families associated with James Somers, and that he did so with great pride. It was a very memorable and historic day in Belturbet, and he thanked the Ulster History Circle for commemorating his ancestor.

Guests adjourned to the Fairgreen National School on Railway Road, where during further tributes and refreshments, they were able to view an exhibition which had been kindly loaned for the occasion by Neil Armstrong, curator of the Inniskilling Museum in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh.

Photographs from the Plaque unveiling ceremony


Photographs – left to right

  1. James Somers.
  2. Leslie McKeague,Ulster History Circle, Olive McKeague, Anne and Ger Heffernan, Cloughjordan Heritage Group, Co. Tipperary.
  3. L.R. Rev. Tanya Woods, Councillor Paddy Smith, Chairman, Cavan Co. Council and Ger Finn, Acting County Manager, Cavan Co. Council.
  4. Sidney Cooper,( nephew) who unveiled the blue plaque (back with pink tie) with family members.
  5. Left – Neill Armstrong, curator, Inniskillings Museum with members of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Regimental Association.
  6. Sidney Cooper with all the extended related Somers families from over Ireland.

Bridget Desmond plaque unveiling

Photographs from the Blue Plaque unveiling ceremony (click on photograph to enlarge)

Photographs – left to right

  1. Bridget Desmond who laid the foundations of the Desmond empire.
  2. The ladies of the early shirt making in Claudy.
  3. Dr. Myrtle Hill, Ulster History Circle with Sir Denis Desmond.
  4. Sir Denis Desmond addresses the guests.
  5. The blue plaque unveiled.
  6. The Desmond extended families.
  7. Guests at the Diamond Centre.

Thomas Hughes Blue Plaque unveiling

Location – In Muckross Park at the Gate Lodge,
Market Square. Castleblayney. Co. Monaghan.
Date 17th February 2017

On a very cold winter day, guests and onlookers including family members, local councillors and pupils from the nearby school, gathered at the entrance of the Hope Castle estate, Castleblayney, to watch the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD unveil a blue plaque to a long forgotten local soldier from the Great War.  Connaught Ranger, Thomas Hughes was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in the field of battle.

Local man, Thomas was from Corravoo, near Castleblayney and as with so many men in Ireland in I9I4, joined the regiment at the Curragh to fight for King and Country.  His bravery on 3rd September I9I6 at Guillemont, France won him the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy.

His cousin Josephine Hughes and extended families watched with pride as their ancestor was commemorated, and after the unveiling of the plaque by the Minister, the family laid a poppy

wreath at the base of the wall, in remembrance of the man who in I9I8 upon his return from France, had been lauded for his bravery and who in later years had been largely forgotten in history.  A large portrait of Thomas Hughes VC was also presented to the family by Freddie Kettyle from the Ulster-Scots Agency who had sponsored the plaque.

After the unveiling and many press photographs, guests adjourned to the newly restored Gate Lodge at the entrance to the estate, where Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, introduced speakers Heather Humphreys, Councillor Aiden Campbell, and Siobhan Hughes Sharkey.  The audience also listened to a beautiful violin rendition of ‘The Green Fields of France’ played by two young talented musicians from the local school.

A very dignified and appropriate commemoration for a very brave Castleblayney man whose name will now never be forgotten.

Photographs from the event – left to right
  1. Heather Humphreys.TD  Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht with Chris Spurr, Chairman-Ulster History Circle.
  2. Councillor Aiden Campbell, Chair – Municipal District Castleblayney/Carrickmacross.
  3. Josephine Hughes and Siobhan Hughes-Sharkey relatives of Thomas Hughes VC.
  4. Heather Humphreys TD unveils the blue plaque.
  5. Guests gather to watch the unveiling.

Anne Jane Carlile Plaque unveiling

In his opening address to a very packed Trinity Presbyterian Church in Bailieborough, the chairman of the Ulster History Circle, Chris Spurr said that Anne Jane Carlile was an Ulsterwoman whose inspiration and faith gave a name and purpose to one of Victorian Britain’s leading temperance movements. A co-founder of the Band of Hope, her early years in counties Monaghan and Cavan lent substance to her charitable work in later life.

The Circle were delighted to commemorate Anne Jane Carlile’s achievements with the blue plaque which was the first ever in County Cavan, and thanked Circle committee member, Leslie McKeague for organising the event in his home territory of Bailieborough.  Leslie also delivered a very interesting illustrated talk on Anne Jane to an enthralled audience.

A very warm welcome was extended to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphries TD. The Minister had graciously agreed to unveil the blue plaque and before doing so she said that she was delighted that Anne Jane Carlile whose pioneering work in temperance was being remembered in the town where she had lived for 11 years before her husband, Rev. Francis Carlile had died. The Minister hoped that there would be further blue plaques in the Ulster counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal.

The unveiling outside on the Church was well recorded by local press and television, after which guests were entertained to supper before leaving to travel back to many parts of the country.

Photographs from the plaque unveiling ceremony – Left to right

  1. Anne Jane Carlile
  2. L.R. Chris Spurr, Chairman-Ulster History Circle, Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and Leslie McKeague, Ulster History Circle.
  3. Rev. David and Mrs. Nesbitt, Ballybay.
  4. Heather Humphreys TD unveils the Blue Plaque watched by Chairperson, Cavan County Council, Councillor Shane P. O’Reilly.
  5. Val O’Kelly, Sharon Tracey-Dunne, Ida Fisher and Derek Reaney Ulster-Scots Agency with Heather Humphrey TD.
  6. Trinity Presbyterian Church with the Blue Plaque.

Henry Montgomery (1788-1865) plaque unveiling

On a very wet and cold morning, seven days before Christmas, a large number of parishioners and guests gathered in the warmth of the First Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church built in 1779, where the minister emeritus, the Very Rev. William McMillan MBE, spoke of his joy at being able to honour the great Henry Montgomery.  A man described as the champion of the non-subscribing Presbyterians; a preacher, teacher and reformer who had a long association with the Glebe Road Church and whose grave was in the adjoining graveyard.

Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle said that the Circle was delighted to commemorate the distinguished minister in his church on the 150th anniversary of his death in 1865.

Before moving outside to the plaque unveiling ceremony, Ian Crozier, chief executive of the Ulster-Scots Agency who funded the plaque expressed the Agency’s delight in being able to remember a  ‘titan of the Church’ who was born in Killead, Co. Antrim of Ulster-Scots stock.

As the Rev. William McMillan proudly unveiled the plaque, he remarked that the life of Henry Montgomery was the story of the pressures he experienced in the pursuit of the ideals he cherished, and the grace with which he endured them.

After the ceremony, very welcome Christmas refreshments were provided by the ladies committee of the Church.

Photographs from the plaque unveiling ceremony – left to right
  1. Rev. William McMillan, MBE addressing guests in Dunmurry First Presbyterian Church (Non-Subscribing)
  2. Ian Crozier, Chief Executive Ulster-Scots Agency – funder of the blue plaque.
  3. Rev. McMillan unveils the plaque.
  4. L.R. Rev. Christopher Wilson, Moderator of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church-N.I., Chris Spurr, Chairman-Ulster History Circle, Rev. William McMillan MBE,  Rev. Trevor Gillian, and Ian Crozier, CEO Ulster-Scots Agency
  5. Liam Logan and Alan Boyd, Ulster History Circle.
  6. Guests gather in front of the Church to watch the unveiling.