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.

Margaret Taylor McCoubrey plaque unveiling

Three generations of the families associated with Margaret Taylor McCoubrey gathered to watch Baroness May Blood of Blackwatertown unveil a Ulster History Circle blue plaque to their ancestor.

Welcoming everyone, Dr. Myrtle Hill, vice-chair of the Circle spoke of how Margaret had lived in the house for thirty five years, and in the week that marked International Women’s Day, the Circle were marking their own tribute to a woman whose passionate engagement in suffrage, pacificism and the Labour and Co-operative movements, made her a worthy recipient of the prestigious blue plaque.

Dr. Hill said,  ‘when Margaret became involved with the suffrage movement in Belfast, she was friendly with the Pankhursts and was committed to the causes in support of women, children and the working class’.   As a young girl aged twelve, Margaret had commenced work in an outfitters but had wanted to further her education, and being proactive went on to study shorthand and typing.  She fought all her life for better conditions for women, and eventually served as a councillor in Belfast. 

Unveiling the blue plaque, Baroness Blood – a proud working class lady with an extraordinary career who had  worked in a linen mill and had been an active member of the Trade Union and a Shop Steward, said that Margaret Taylor McCoubrey, had made a great difference to the lives of  women and the working class. She said that she was proud to have been asked to unveil the plaque, and paid tribute to Margaret who had devoted her life to fairness, and to the laying of  foundations for better lives and working conditions.  37 Candahar Street where the plaque was unveiled, had been an ‘ever open door’ .

Guests adjourned to the nearby Ballynafeigh Community Centre for refreshments, and to hear Dr. Hill deliver a presentation on the life of Margaret Taylor McCoubrey.  

Photographs from the Plaque unveiling ceremony

Photographs – left to right
  1. Margaret Taylor McCoubrey seated, with her daughter.
  2. Baroness May Blood unveils the blue plaque.
  3. Three generations of the family of Margaret Taylor McCoubrey.
  4. Dr. Myrtle Hill, extreme right and Baroness May Blood with members of the Ulster History Circle.
  5. L.R. – Carole Moore, actress, Maggie Cronin, actress, Ann Hope (Irish Congress Trade Unions)
  6. Paul Clements, Chris Spurr, Chairman-Ulster History Circle, Anthony Lundy, Alan Boyd, Hon.Secretary-Ulster History Circle.

John Murphy Farley plaque unveiling

The first Ulster History Circle blue plaque to be unveiled in  Newtownhamilton was watched by a large crowd of local people as well as invited guests who had travelled from other parts of the Island.

Tony Gildernew, the owner of the premises at 12 Dundalk Street, said that he was delighted and privileged to be associated with such an historic building, where on 20th April  1842, the young boy who later was to become the Archbishop of New York, was born.

In his opening speech, Chris Spurr, Chairman, Ulster History Circle, thanked Tony and the Creggan Historical Society for bringing the name of John Murphy Farley to the attention of the Circle, and also the former Newry and Mourne District Council who kindly provided the funding.  Chris extended a very special welcome to the American Consul-General, Gregory S. Burton.

Speaking to the crowd, the Consul-General said it was wonderful to be able to commemorate at his birthplace, John Murphy Farley who as an Irishman had contributed so much to the history of America, and who had become the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in America’s greatest city New York.

Before unveiling the plaque to a son of Newtownhamilton, Monsignor Raymond Murphy said he was humbled to have been asked to unveil the plaque, and that the plaque had already attracted a huge cross-border community interest.

From small beginnings, John Murphy Farley had risen to great heights in the Catholic Church but had never forgotten his roots in South Armagh. He had returned to Newtownhamilton several times and had a memorial erected to his parents, as well as donating stained glass windows to St. Patrick’s Church in Cullyhanna and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh.

Irish Television covered the event and after the ceremony, guests enjoyed refreshments courtesy of the Gildernew family whilst listening to further tributes paid to the Newtownhamilton man who for 16 years until his death in 1918 had become the 4th Archbishop of New York, and who was made a Cardinal in 1911 by Pope St. Pius X.  Aged 76, John Murphy Farley died in Long Island and was buried beneath the high alter of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Long Island, New York.

He will never be forgotten in his home village of Newtownhamilton.

Photographs from the Plaque unveiling – Left to right


  1. Local residents of Newtownhamilton and guests listen to the Mayor of Newry, Mourne  and District Council, Naomi Bailie, in front of the birthplace of Cardinal John Murphy Farley.
  2. American Consul- General, Gregory S. Burton.
  3. Monsignor Raymond Murray who unveiled the blue plaque.
  4. Kieran McConville, Creggan Historical Society, Mayor Naomi Bailie of NMDC, Monsignor Raymond Murray, Chris Spurr, Chairman, Ulster History Circle, Gregory S. Burton, American Consul-General and Mary Comiskey, Chairperson, Creggan Historical Society.
  5. Anthony Gildernew, Chris Spurr, Mayor Naomi Bailie,and Mairead Ferguson, treasurer Ulster History Circle.

Alexandrina McCausland Stewart plaque unveiling


Photographs from the unveiling ceremony – left to right

  1. Pat McCafferty with Celia Ferguson (nee Herdman)
  2. L-R.- Chris Spurr, chairman- Ulster History Circle, Nuala McAllister Hart and Wilson Burgess.
  3. Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Elisha McCallion unveils the blue plaque.
  4. Nuala McAllister Harte and Mayor, Councillor Elisha Mccallion.
  5. Guests who attended the unveiling.

Ruby Murray Plaque unveiling

Ruby Murray Plaque unveiling on 15th February 2019

The Belfast press corps and local television cameras faced Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle as he welcomed everyone to the unveiling of the blue plaque to remember and commemorate, Ruby Murray, the singing sensation of the 1950’s and subsequent decades.  The girl who had the ‘jewel of a voice’ and who enchanted millions with her talent.  The Murray families had travelled from Canada and from England to attend the event. Guests who included Arlene Foster, Emma Little-Pengelly, Christopher Stalford, mingled with local bystanders who had come to watch the ceremony.

Ruby Murray was born in 84 Moltke Street, off the Donegall Road, not too far away from the plaque location. Speaking on behalf of the Belfast City Council, Councillor Donal Lyons said that the BCC were delighted to have been approached by the Circle for the funding, and he welcomed being able to honour such an icon – a daughter of the City.  The acting director of the Great Village Regeneration Trust, Sarah Bowden expressed their honour in having the plaque on the GVRT building on the Donegall Road,  and said that it was a fitting tribute to Ruby Murray who came from the area. The plaque can be seen by everyone.

Just before Ruby’s son and daughter, Tim and Julie Murray, unveiled the plaque, Tim said – ‘Julie and I are totally ‘blown away’ by the honour bestowed on our mother in her home city.

We are delighted to be back in Belfast especially in the area that was so dear to our mother’s heart – where she was born, grew up, attended Fane Street School and joined the children’s choir. We are grateful to everyone who has turned out this morning to commemorate Ruby with this Ulster History Circle blue plaque, and to the Belfast City Council for the funding.

It means the world to us that she is still remembered with love in her native city and by so many people the world over. We are so proud and it is lovely to know that her name and her music live on’.

After numerous photographs and television interviews, Tim, Julie and guests adjourned to the adjacent building for refreshments, and to listen to Peter Wilson (aka Duke Special) sing one of Ruby’s songs ‘Happy Days and Lonely Nights’. This was followed by Michael Cameron who nominated Ruby Murray for the blue plaque, and who was the writer of the ‘Ruby’ play at the Lyric theatre.  Finally Tim Murray spoke personally about his wonderful mother; her achievement of having 5 No. 1 records in the Top Twenty in the week of 18th March 1955, and eventually her battle with her demons.

The ceremony concluded with the showing of a 20 minute film made many years ago by RTE. An emotional audience heard again, Ruby Murray singing a selection of her songs with tributes on film from Phil Coulter and Daniel O’Donnell, amongst others.

The final song to end the remarkable day in which so many memories were stirred, was from ‘Duke Special’ who sang perhaps Ruby’s most famous – ‘Softly, Softly’.

Photographs from the Plaque unveiling


Photographs – left to right

  1. The location of the Blue Plaque to Ruby, at 337 Donegall Road, Belfast.
  2. Chris Spurr, Chairman Ulster History Circle looks on as Ruby Murray’s son and daughter Tim and Julie Murray address the guests.
  3. Tim and Julie unveil the UHC Blue Plaque to their mother.
  4. Michael Cameron who nominated Ruby Murray for the blue plaque, and  the writer of the ‘Ruby’ play at the Lyric Theatre, with Julie and Tim.
  5. Suzanne McGonagle , Irish News and Claire McNeilly, Belfast Telegraph interview Tim Murray.
  6. Sarah Bowden, acting director -Greater Village Regeneration Trust (3rd Left) and the ladies from GVRT, with ‘Duke Special’ who performed at the ceremony.

David Herbison plaque unveiling

Whilst widely known in Ballymena with a local park named after ‘The Bard of Dunclug’, little was known about his actual birthplace. With this in mind the Circle set about researching the birthplace and found that the actual Inn where David Herbison was born had been demolished. So for the blue plaque location, the corner of Lower Mill Street and Wellington Street was considered to be the closest to the Inn.

There was a large gathering of notable historians and academics at the site where Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle extended a warm welcome to visitors and guests. Before the Deputy Mayor of Ballymena, Councillor Timothy Gaston proudly unveiled the plaque; speeches were heard from Ian Crozier, CEO-Ulster Scots Agency who funded the plaque, followed by Dr. Frank Ferguson, director of the Centre for Irish and Scottish studies at the Ulster University.

Dr. Ivan Herbison, a descendant of the poet, regaled guests with a rendering of perhaps David Herbison’s most famous poem –

My Ain Native Toun.

Since I was a boy in my ain native toun,

There’s naething but bigging an pu’ing was’down,

The streets are grown wider, the houses are high

And half o’ their windows peer into the sky……………………

The assembled group then adjourned for refreshments to Ballymena Central Library at Pat’s Brae, courtesy of Mary Bradley, Libraries N.I. There Dr. Ivan Herbison gave an illustrated talk on his ancestor which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. This was the 195th Ulster History Circle blue plaque and the first one in the town of Ballymena.


Photographs from the plaque unveiling – left to right

  1. David Herbison – the Bard of Dunclug.
  2. Ian Crozier, the Chief Executive Ulster-Scots Agency, addresses guests.
  3. L.R. Ian Crozier, Dr. Ivan Herbison, a descendent of the poet, Councillor Timothy Gaston, Deputy Mayor of Ballymena  who unveiled the plaque, Dr. Frank Ferguson, Director – the Centre for Irish & Scottish Studies- Ulster University and Chris Spurr, Chairman, Ulster History Circle.
  4. L.R. Wilson Burgess, Liam Logan, Dr. Ivan Herbison, Chris Spurr with Mary Bradley, Ballymena Central Library.