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.

Margaret Anderson – unveiling report

Date – 22nd February 2018.

Location – Mourne Presbyterian Church Hall, Greencastle Street, Kilkeel, Co. Down. BT34. 4BH

Plaque sponsored by Ulster-Scots Agency.

Unveiled by – Charles Annett, great nephew.

Margaret Anderson known as ‘Mourne’s Florence Nightingale’ was born in the townland of Ballinran, Kilkeel but until recently had been largely unknown throughout Northern Ireland. In 1919, for her lifelong commitment to the nursing profession at home, in England and overseas, as a Nurse/Sister/Matron, she was conferred with the highest award for nursing service in wartime. M argaret  travelled to Buckingham Palace to receive the award from King George V.

Rev. William Bingham of Mourne Presbyterian Church welcomed parishioners and guests to the Church Hall, before handing over to Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle who introduced the plaque sponsor, Catriona Holmes from the Ulster-Scots Agency.  Catriona said that she was delighted that the community had heartily supported the blue plaque to the nurse from Mourne, and for her wonderful work which also included her appointment as Matron of the temporary hospital at the Silent Valley Reservoir, during the time of its construction.

A fulsome account of Margaret Anderson’s life was given by Patricia Mackintosh of Mourne Local Studies Group.

Charles Annett, the great nephew of Margaret Anderson spoke of his delight and pride at being asked to unveil the plaque, and regaled guests with some family stories. He told of the lantern given by the family to Margaret which she had used as she travelled in one of the ‘little ships’ to the beaches of Dunkirk to rescue the trapped soldiers in 1940. 

After the unveiling, guests were entertained to refreshments by the Ladies Church committee, during which time Anderson family photographs were on display. Many showed the dedicated nursing heroine from Mourne; no longer forgotten.

Photos from the unveiling event for Margaret Anderson Blue Plaque. Click on thumbprint photos to enlarge.

Nurse/Sister/Matron Margaret Anderson

Rev. William Bingham, Mourne Presbyterian Church and Bob McConnell, Kilkeel

Charles Annett, great nephew of Margaret Anderson, unveils the Blue Plaque

The Anderson extended families outside the Church Hall

Chris Spurr, Chairman, Ulster History Circle; Tony Lundy, UHC; Charles Annett, great nephew; Eunice Annett; Maynard Hanna; Alan Boyd, UHC; Catriona Holmes, Ulster-Scots Agency; Patricia Mackintosh ,Mourne Local Studies Group; Mairead Ferguson, UHC;  Rev. William Bingham.


Stephen Boyd – Unveiling Report

Date – 4th July 2018 at 12.00 noon.

Location – Moygara, 292 Shore Road, Whitehouse. Newtownabbey.  BT37 9RW.

Plaque sponsored by Abbey Historical Society

Unveiled by Tony Corbett, son of the late actress Valerie Corbett, and Vikki Dundas, President of Abbey Historical Society.

One of the oldest historic houses in Whitehouse, ‘Moygara’, saw the unveiling of a Blue Plaque to legendary actor and movie star of the 1950’s-1970’s, Stephen Boyd, born Billy Millar, in a house (long since demolished) and 50 yards from the plaque site.

Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, Chris Spurr welcomed the Deputy Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Councillor John Smyth, the family members representing the Millar family, the Corbett families, 

Members of the Abbey Historical Society and local Councillors.   The plaque funded by the local Historical Society from a legacy gifted by their late past esteemed member, actress Valerie Corbett, was unveiled by Tony Corbett, Valerie’s son, who with his family had arrived from London that morning. Together, Tony and Vikki Dundas unveiled the honour bestowed on local actor Stephen Boyd who had been largely forgotten in the course of history.

Roma Tomelty, daughter of the late great Joseph Tomelty, spoke of how her father had given Billy Millar his break in radio, in the successful series, ‘The McCooeys’.  Valerie Corbett had also played a part in the series. From Belfast to London and to the glittering lights of Hollywood, Billy Millar, known then as Stephen Boyd, became a Hollywood movie star of the silver screen.  Messages of congratulations from Danny Kinahan, former South Antrim Member of Parliament, and  the American Consul General in Belfast, Daniel J. Lawton, were read to the assembled guests.  American Independence Day and Stephen Boyd share the same Birthday..4th July.

Afterwards guests were entertained at nearby Abbeydene House, the home of a former Lord Mayor of Belfast and now owned by host Tim and Ethy Clifford .

Photos from the unveiling event for Stephen Boyd Blue Plaque. Click on thumbprint photos to enlarge.

Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History Circle welcomes assembled guests

Tony Corbett and Vikki Dundas unveil the plaque

The extended families of Stephen Boyd with Deputy Mayor, Councillor John Smyth of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council

Chris Spurr, Roma Tomelty and Deputy Mayor John Smyth, with the families of the late Valerie Corbett

Vikki Dundas with members of the Abbey Historical Society,

Mrs. E.H. O’Doherty – Unveiling report

Date – 23rd March 2018.

Location – 29 Francis Street, Derry-Londonderry.

Plaque sponsored by – Derry City and Strabane District Council

Unveiled by – Cathal McCabe, grandson.

The second plaque in the five year Ulster History Circle partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council was unveiled by television and stage producer, Cathal McCabe who had travelled from Dublin to unveil his grandmother’s Blue Plaque at the house where she lived.

Behind St. Eugene’s Cathedral in the City, in a street that could well be renamed ‘Music Street’ (James McCafferty, founder of the Gaelic Singers lived at No.25 and the late great Joseph Locke also lived close by), a large crowd of guests heard Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, say that the contribution made by Mrs. Edward Henry (Rose) O’Doherty to the music of the City and its Irish Culture, was immeasurable.

Rose, as a music teacher and one of the co- founders along with Father McGettigan of the Feis Doire Colmcille in 1922, remained involved in her music and the Feis Doire now in its 94th year, until she died in 1969.  Thousands of young people and adults have travelled through its doors and some have become household names throughout the world, to name but a few, Phil Coulter, Dana, Roma Downey, and the Undertones.

Roisin Doherty, Curator of the Tower Museum welcomed guests on behalf of the Derry City and Strabane District Council, and said that the Council were delighted to be involved in this important occasion.  A special message from

the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, and a native of Derry, Dr. Eamon Martin, was read out by Pat McCafferty, the musical director of the Feis Doire Colmcille. The Archbishop served as the Executive Secretary of the Feis in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Before unveiling the plaque to his grandmother, Cathal McCabe spoke of his memories of the lady whose love of music continued through his own musical career.

Guests then adjourned to the Tower Museum for refreshments and to listen to further tributes from family members, and a poetry reading by two young girls aged six and seven who had already participated in the Feis.

Musical tributes were from the well known singer Maureen Hegarty, and by St. Patrick’s Primary School, Pennyburn, where another of Rose’s grandchildren, Eamon Devlin is headmaster.  In 2013, the school won the BBC Junior Choir of the Year.

A long remembered, wonderful day in the Maiden City, honouring a very special lady, known throughout the Island as Mrs. E.H. O’Doherty. 

Click on the photos to enlarge image.

Mairead Ferguson, treasurer Ulster History Circle, Cathal McCabe, eldest grandson of Mrs. E.H. O’Doherty, and singer Maureen Hegarty.

l.r.-Pat McCafferty, Feis Doire Colmcille, Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History Circle,, Roisin Doherty, Curator, Tower Museum, Derry-Londonderry and Cathal McCabe.

Cathal McCabe, unveils the Blue Plaque to his grandmother, Rose.
Family and guests gather in front of No. 29 Francis Street, Derry-Londonderry after the unveiling.