I was carrying out research recently for a story centering on the Close family who have links to both the Lisburn and Belfast areas. A living relative of the family told me some time ago about a family link with St. Matthew’s Parish Church, Belfast. I was informed that there may well be a Close surname, linked to the family, on a 1st World War memorial in the church. My quest would begin.
On my visit to the Shankill area I was drawn to the Shankill Graveyard. I do not wish to regurgitate previous histories of the graveyard, nor the surrounding area, but I can strongly recommend a visit.
I found two information points relating the history of the graveyard to the visitor. Unfortunately they had both been vandalized making them difficult to read. I have transcribed the information point to preserve what remains.
Shankill, meaning ‘old church’ was from earliest times the parochial name of extensive territory which now constitutes a large area of the City of Belfast and even beyond. Ancient documents speak of Belfast, otherwise ‘Shankill.” The Parish Church, dedicated to St. Patrick and known as ‘The White Church’. was within the area of this graveyard. Here it stood for some centuries before the modern Belfast was founded, and certainly before 1306.
From the time of the Reformation it became known as ‘The Church of St. Patrick of the White Ford.’ It was the mother Church of the district and (unreadable) subsidiary foundations was ‘The Chapel of the Ford’ in High Street, which began to attain greater importance as a Garrison Church after 16 (?)3. In that year King James (?) first granted to Sir Arthur Chichester extensive lands in these parts, in (?) this parish of Shankill. Chichester soon built his great Castle adjacent to our present High Street – ‘a dainty stately palace, (?) glory and ‘beauty of the town’, and it may be conjectured that ‘The White Church’ of Shankill fell into dis(?) this time at the Chapel of the Ford (on this site of the present St. George’s) assumed the functions of the Parish Church. This continued until its decay and eventual demolition in 1774 led to the building of St. Anne’s Parish Church in Donegall Street, which was in (?) replaced by St. Anne’s Cathedral.
The precise site and size of the Church of Shankill is now unknown, but for more than 700 years all denominations of the people of Belfast were buried in this place.
In 1958 the Belfast Corporation acquired the old graveyard, and six years of planning and arduous labour were necessary before the chaos and disorder of generations were transformed into the present Garden of Rest.
The history of the graveyard can be found at the Shankill Graveyard page of the Belfast City Council website.
I left the graveyard, a scene of tranquility, and I made my way to the parish church. To the right of the main door of this church there is an impressive mounted stone. I was no stranger to this feature. There are several similar stones in the Glenavy and Ballinderry areas. Known as a ballaun stone, it had been removed from the Shankill graveyard. For generations people have been using the water found in the hollow in these stone for cures. This would not be the only link I would find between this parish and those of Glenavy and Ballinderry in County Antrim.
St.Matthew’s Parish Church and the Glenavy links
St. Matthew’s Parish Church, Shankill, Belfast was consecrated on the 11th March 1872 and had been built on the present site, replacing a smaller church. The original church had been located on the site of the present church hall and had been founded in 1839.
The ground for the present church had been given by Mr. William Johnston, Ballysillan House. William Johnston appeared to have connections with the Glenavy area and he may have been one of the Johnston family instrumental in the formation of Methodism in the village. He had sent a letter of apology to Glenavy Orangemen when he was unable to attend the opening of an Orange Hall there in 1872.
There were two Church of Ireland ministers who had links with both Glenavy Parish and St. Matthew’s. The Rev. William John Chambers had been a curate at St. Matthew’s during the years 1927-1932. He was Curate in Charge of Glenavy Parish during the years 1936 -1937. He became the rector of the parish in 1937 and his service there continued to 1949.
The Rev. A.J.E. Campbell had a similar career path. In the years 1934-1942 he had been curate of St Matthew’s and later held a similar post at Glenavy during the period 1950-1961.
Glenavy, being a rural parish, lost many of its parishioners to the Belfast area throughout its history. Many men and women left their farms seeking work in the Belfast area. Many settled in districts such as the Shankill and were employed as labourers, mill workers, shipyard workers, and a plethora of other employment that would bring in enough money to support their families. A burial entry in St. Matthew’s Parish magazine dated May 1914 is a good example of migrants returning “home” again.
“April 12th at Glenavy. Matilda Quigley, 7 Tennyson Street.” The Quigley headstone at Glenavy parish Church reads:
“Erected by Ann Quigley
in memory of her beloved husband
Henry Quigley who died 5th June 1844 aged 53 years their son Henry died 30th August 1850 aged 10 years.
Also their grand-children
Henry died 6th October 1858(?) Aged 1 year
Ann died 10th September 1863 aged 6 years
Ann and Margaret Peel who died in infancy
Isamenia Peel who died in her 60th year,
also the above named Ann Quigley who died 26th April 1895 aged 90 years
Also James Quigley died in his 78th year, grandson of the erector James McCracken who was accidentally drowned in Belfast Lough 13th July 1912 aged 30 years to the inexpressible grief of his devoted mother Louisa McCracken (nee Quigley)
also his brother and sister Mary and Willie who died when young
Also their dear mother Louisa McCracken died 30th December 1920
Matilda Quigley died 13th April 1914 aged 89(?) years
William McCracken died 14th May 1933 aged 84 years”
In 1901 William and Louisa Jane McCracken were residing in Perth, Belfast. They resided there with their son James aged 22 years, a joiner; Robert aged 19 an apprentice joiner; and daughters Annie L. aged 20 , a dress maker and Aggie aged 16. In 1911 William and Louisa Jane McCracken were living at Landscape Terrace, Belfast. William was listed as a carpenter.
One of the results of migration to the Belfast area was the formation of new Orange Lodges named after former villages where the migrating workers had lived. In the Belfast area there were at least two lodges bearing these names – Glenavy Chosen Few L.O.L. 1963 and Ballinderry Purple Star L.O.L. 1939. Ballinderry Purple Star later became known as Ballinderry Purple Star McDonald Memorial. Andrew McDonald residing at 114 Ainsworth Avenue, a member of that family, paid a yearly pew rent for seat number 102 at St. Matthew’s Parish Church. In 1911 he paid an annual fee of 14 shillings, increasing to 15 shillings the following year. Members of the McDonald family are buried at Glenavy Parish Church. The headstone records burials there from 1862.
St. Matthew’s Parish Church and the First World War.
One of the unusual features in the church are the three brass tablets mounted on the pulpit. The centre tablet reads:
THIS PULPIT IS ERECTED
GLORY OF GOD
AND IN HONOUR OF
800 MEN OF THIS PARISH
WHO NOBLY RESPONDED
TO THE CALL OF DUTY
AND FOUGHT FOR
KING AND COUNTRY
GREAT WAR 1914 – 1919.
IN LOVING MEMORY
OF THOSE OF THEIR NUMBER
WHO SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES
IN THE SACRED CAUSE
OF FREEDOM AND HUMANITY.
THEIR NAMES ARE INSCRIBED
ON THE ADJOINING TABLETS.
“They were a Wall unto us both by night, and day”
1st SAM. 25 16
The tablets to either side of the centre tablet contain the names of 113 men who served their country and perished in the 1st World War.
TABLET 1 – 55 names
W J Boyd
W J Close
W J Coates
W H Corrigan
R F Hoff
V E Jackson
TABLET 2 – 58 names
W J Lavery
T W Mathers
J H Moore
C W Quinn
J G Robinson
W J Shaw
C V Taylor
J L Thompson
C A L Walker
We are fortunate to have some of the parish magazines surviving from the inception of the 1st World War to the end of 1916. Unfortunately there do not appear to be any surviving magazines covering the latter stages of the war.
Church magazines are sometimes an untapped resource, having been overlooked by the family historian.
At the outbreak of the 1st World War the minister at St. Matthew’s was Josiah Nicholson Shearman. Prior to taking up his incumbency there in 1891, he had also been a curate in the parish since 1887. He and his wife Susan Mary had six children. Two of their daughters, Rosalind Susan and Anne Constance founded Ashleigh House School in Belfast. The curate for St Matthew’s during the 1st World War was William Aubrey de Vere Dodd.
The message to parishioners on the front page of the church magazine dated November 1914 stated:
We must not let ourselves get so much absorbed in the war on the Continent as to forget the great war against sin and Satan all over the world. Satan never rests, and, whatever we must go on too.
Page two of the magazine carried the tragic news of the death of one of the brave souls serving “King and Country” in distant lands.
St. Matthew’s Roll of Honour – We offer our deepest sympathy to Mr. Samuel Bryans and his family on the death of his son, Private Harry Bryans, 4th Hussars, who was killed in action on September 13th at the battle of the Aisne.
Captain Brooke, officer commanding his squadron, in writing to his parents, describes him as “a very promising young soldier and a general favourite with his comrades, who deeply deplore his loss.”
Private Bryans was one of the first members of our Cadet Company, and held the rank of sergeant at the time of his departure.
The officers and lads of the Company join in expressing their sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that Private Henry Bryans, 4th (Queen’s Own) Hussars, 8973, aged 21 years died on 11th September 1914. He was the son of Samuel and Rachel Bryans, 150 Cambrai Street, Belfast. His name is recorded on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, Seine-et-Marne, France.
A memorial service was held on the evening of November 8th at St. Matthews for Harry Bryans. It was noted that “the attendance was very large, and the service was very hearty and impressive.”
Harry Bryans at the age of 16 had been working as a labourer in an iron works. He was one of ten children. His father, Samuel, was a bricklayer who originated from County Armagh. The family are believed to have been in the County Tyrone area towards the end of the 19th century and then relocated to Belfast. Frederick Bryans was a brother of Hugh. He was serving as a Rifleman with the 15th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 12583. He died at the age of 19 on 21 11 1917. His name is recorded on panel 10 of the Cambrai Memorial, Louveral, France.
Reading between the lines parish life continued despite whatever anxieties there were amongst the community. The December 1914 issue of the magazine informs readers of the dates during the forthcoming month when the almost weekly meetings in the parish took place. The organizations meeting there included – the Cadet Corps, Junior Cadet Corps, Girls’ Friendly Society, Mothers’ Union and Church of Ireland Men’s Society.
The background to the Cadet Corps is explained in the parish magazine issued in September 1915. The Brigade had been formed four years previously and meets each Monday evening in the Schoolroom at 8 o’clock. In September 1914 they received Recognition by the War Office as an independent Battalion.
This recognition does not in any way imply liability on the part of our lads for military service, but under the new conditions the Battalion is inspected annually by an officer appointed for this purpose by the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in Ireland. We are also entitled to obtain equipment, &c., from Government stores, and have other valuable privileges, such as the use of military ranges for Musketry practice, grants of camp equipment, &c. Our officers have received their new commissions from the War office, and we are all looking forward to a successful season’s work.
By September 1915 it was reported that almost one hundred of the Cadet’s members had joined “the colours” and there were a large number of vacancies for “lads between 11 and 16.” They were being encouraged to make application as soon as possible.
In a parochial organisation of this kind, not some but all the lads of the Parish should be members, unless debarred by delicacy or some such cause, and if all the eligible boys joined our Battalion would be well over 1,000 in strength.
The December 1914 issue of the magazine carries an acknowledgement from Mr. Cairns, the parochial treasurer for the contribution of 10 shillings from E Company, 2nd Battalion West Belfast U.V.F c/o Mr. Joseph Alexander.
In February 1915 it was apparent that “The Roll of Honour” would unfortunately become a regular feature of the parish magazine.
Hugh Harkness, private, R.I.R., died December 4th at Stationary Hospital Le Mons, result of railway accident in France.
Samuel Ferris, private, R.I.R., killed in action near Gheluvelt, Belgium, on November 11.
George Allman, corporal, Cheshire regiment, killed in action November 26.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission make reference to a “Rifleman D. Harkness, Royal Irish Rifles, 8252, who died on 03 12 1914” and is buried in plot 38 row A grave 57 at Le Mans West Cemetery, Sarthe, France. This may well be Hugh Harkness. The Harkness family were residing in Matchett Street, Belfast.
There is also a reference to Rifleman Samuel Ferris, 9153, 2nd Bn Royal Irish Rifles, aged 40, died 11 11 1914, husband of Catherine Ferris of 914 Crumlin Road, Ballysillan, Belfast. His name appears on panel 40 of the Pyres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium. Samuel Ferris, his wife Catherine and son Samuel were residing at Mayo Street, Belfast in 1911. Samuel had been working as a fireman on a steamship.
Corporal George Allman, 8568, 1st Bn. Cheshire Regiment, aged 26 is recorded as having been killed on 16 11 1914. He was the husband of Kathleen Allman of 181 Leopold Street, Belfast. His name also appears on the Pyres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium on panels 19-22.
Many of the men serving in the army abroad would be injured and returned home. Their determined resolve to defeat the enemy on the battlefield is demonstrated in this extract from the parish magazine in April 1915.
Privates David Bryans and Robert Elliott are home wounded from the front. Both lads are old members of the Cadet Corps, and joined the colours as soon as the war broke out. Private Bryans was wounded in the neck with shrapnel, and Private Elliott received a bullet wound in the leg. Both lads are progressing satisfactorily and hope to be back again soon in the firing line.
David Bryans is believed to be another son of Samuel and Rachael Bryans who resided in Cambrai Street.
The church announced a special service of intercession for “our country, our soldiers and sailors” on the evening of June 9th at 8 o’clock.
Soldiers and sailors actually at the front will be prayed for by name if request is made by a member of the congregation. Such requests may be dropped into the Rector’s letter box. It is understood that any person who makes such a request is thereby pledged to attend the service and join in the intercessions.
A similar service was held on July 14th. The announcement in the July edition of the magazine had an additional appeal to the parishioners.
We have more than five hundred soldiers and sailors gone out from this Parish to fight for us. Why can we not gather a congregation of five hundred to pray for them? And surely in the congregation that we do gather the sexes might be more equally represented.
The Roll of Honour in October 1915 carried two more names.
Rifleman James Edgar, Royal Irish Rifles; killed in action on the Dardanelles
Private John Dodds, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Died in hospital at Cairo of wounds received at the Dardanelles.
The Commonwealth War graves Commission records the following:
Rifleman James Edgar, 6th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles, 11141, died 11 08 1915 aged 25 years.
He was the husband of Isabella Edgar of 6 Disraeli Street, Belfast. His name is on Panel 177/178 of the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
Private J. Dodds, 1st Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 6945, died 31 08 1915.
There is a memorial to Private Dodds in Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.
In November 1915 the death of another soldier was recorded. It was that of Private Samuel Maconachie of the 252 Co. Army Service Corps.
…who died after a short illness at Ravenscroft Hospital, Seaford, Sussex on 2nd September.
The deceased, who formerly resided at 1 Greenmount, Ballygomartin Road, was a most enthusiastic member of our Choir, and was always to be found in his place both before and after enlistment, and was immensely popular with everyone he came in contact with. He joined the A.S.C. shortly after the outbreak of war, and it came as a great shock to his many friends to hear of his death while in training to do his little bit for his country. The funeral accorded him was attended with full military honours, interment taking place at Seaford Cemetery.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists Private S. Maconachie, Ulster Divisional Train, Army Service Corps, S3/030986. His grave no is recorded as 2665 at Seaford Cemetery, Sussex.
In December 1915 The Girl’s Friendly Society devoted two of three meetings it was holding that month to knit for soldiers.
In April 1916 an announcement was made to readers of the parish magazine that Mr. J. Johnston Waite, of “Verbana,” Salisbury Drive had received a commission.
Second-Lieutenant J.J. Waite was a very enthusiastic member of the Choir, and it is with feelings of regret, mingled with pride, that they bade him good-bye. He has gone for a course of instruction to the Military Training College, Cork. After finishing his course he will be posted to the 20th Battalion R.I.R. (Ulster Division). We all wish Mr. Waite every success, and hope that the time is not far distant when this terrible war will be over and we shall have the pleasure of welcoming him back again.
The Waite family were originally from County Armagh. John Waite, father of John Johnston Waite was employed as an insurance superintendent.
The London Gazette dated 03 03 1916 states:
The Royal Irish Rifles
Cadets Officers Training Corps.
To be temporary Second Lieutenants (on probation). John Johnston Waite. Dated 18th February, 1916.
A further entry can be found on 28 08 1916:
R.Ir.Rif. Temp. 2nd Lt. (on prob) J.J. Waite is confirmed in his rank.
On 27 07 1920 the following appeared:
The King has approved the appointment of the following officer to the Indian Army on probation:- To be Lietenant. Lieut John Johnston Waite, R.Ir.Rif., attd 59th Scinde Rif. 21st Sept, 1918, but to rank from 15th Feb 1916.
The announcement in the June 1916 parish magazine portrayed the feeling of pride that the parish had in Second-Lieutenant T.E.C.Shearman, son of the Rev Shearman.
Before the commencement of the Stall Workers’ meeting, the following resolution, proposed by Mr. H. Maguire, and seconded by Mr. J. Redpath, was enthusiastically adopted:- that this meeting extends to 2nd Lieutenant T.E.C. Shearman its heartiest congratulations on the honour conferred upon him of the Military Cross. The members of St. Matthew’s are proud of him. They were deeply sorry to learn that he had been severely wounded, but they rejoice to know that he is making good progress towards recovery, and trust that it will be speedy and complete.
Appended in the official announcement as it appeared in the Press:-
Second-Lieutenant Thomas Elliot Cairnes Shearman, 12th Battalion the King’s (Liverpool Regiment), attached 61/1 Trench Mortar Battery, is awarded the Military Cross:-
For conspicuous gallantry and skill. After marking down the enemy‘s mortars from out front line, he went back to his guns under heavy shell fire and directed their fire. He was wounded later in a gallant attempt to rescue a sergeant who had been buried.
The Supplement to the London Gazette dated 23 01 1940 makes reference to T E C Shearman.
The undermentioned to be Lts. (Qr.-Mr.):- 29th Dec 1939:-
Lt Thomas Elliott Cairnes Shearman (114659), late The King’s R.
For further information on the mother of T E C Shearman see
A history of the family of Cairnes or Cairns and its connections
In the notes of the annual general Meeting of the Committee of the Luther Church, Whiterock held in the church in April, the following were listed as honorary members –
Quartermaster-Sergeant G.D. Uprichard
Sergeant A. Morgan
and Private S. Hoy.
They were all with the R.I.R., and were on active service.
The Statement of accounts published in June 1916 for The Little Girls’ Club provide us another insight into the fundraising efforts for the war.
£1 was shown to have been spent on behalf of the French Red Cross Society and £1 1s 6d spent on behalf of hospitals in Malta, Alexandria and Serbia C/O Ulster Women’s Unionist Council. 19s and 6d was also sent to the French Red Cross Society.
Work accomplished during session from November 8th, 1915 to April 10th 1916 –
10½ dozen Hospital treasure bags, 3 dozen pocket do., 3 dozen muslin squares (for covering milk & c.), 20 bags for sphagnum moss dressings, 30 pairs of socks, 29 pairs of mitts, 11 comforters, 2 knitted quilts, 1 elbow cushion. The socks, mitts, and comforters were sent to the Ulster Women’s Gift Fund. The cushion, 2 quilts, and 14 pairs of mitts were sent to Miss Thompson, Bertha House, Malone Road; the secretary of the North of Ireland Branch of the French Wounded Emergency Fund. All the rest of the work was put at the disposal of the Ulster Women’s Unionist Council, and was sent to the old Town hall.
In July 1916 it was announced that the Girls Friendly Society League of Honour were helping to provide a room in the Star and Garter Home for paralysed soldiers and sailors, and to be named the “League of Honour Room.”
The following is the extract from the Roll of Honour in the July 1916 magazine:
Shortly after going to press last month intimation was received that Private William James Close, 9th R.I.R., of 17 Bracken Street, had been killed in action. Then followed the news of the great battle off Jutland, in which, amongst other losses incidental to modern naval warfare H.M.S. Black Prince was sunk with all on board, amongst them being George Smiley , A.B., husband of Mrs. Smiley, 1 Lanark Street, and nephew of Miss Smiley, 46 Woodvale Road. Our deepest sympathy goes out to those bereaved families, and a special memorial service was held in the Parish Church on Whit Sunday evening, at which the Rev. W.A. de V. Dodd made touching reference to the loss they had sustained.
Since then it has been announced that James Crawford (stoker) has been lost on the same ship. He was a brother of Mrs. Lemon, of 60 Sydney Street West; and the sad news has come to Mrs. Gorman that her son, Samuel, L.-Corporal 9th R.I.R., was killed by a shell on Tuesday, June 6th. The news was conveyed to her in a letter by 2nd Lieutenant McGranahan, who stayed with him in the trench for half-an-hour until the ambulance came to take him to the rear, but he only survived two hours after he was hit. The Chaplain to the 107th Brigade also wrote to express his deep sympathy –
“This brave non-commissioned officer died doing his duty for King and beloved country. He is greatly missed already by both officers and men; but his work was done. There is to be no more sad war for him. It may comfort you a little to know that I buried him with his comrades in a pretty little cemetery near to a river, and his chums put up a memorial over the grave and some flowers. May God bless you and comfort your stricken hearts at this sad time.”
Mrs. Geo. Hunter, 23 Glenwood Street, has also sustained a sad loss in the death of her brother, who died after a very brief illness at the front. He was attached to the Trench Mortar Battery, commanded by Lieut. E.H. Lloyd-Dodd.
The Rector has arranged to hold another memorial service on Sunday evening, June 25th.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has the following information recorded:
Private W. Close, 9th Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers,14506,died 08 05 1916. His grave/memorial reference number is given as D.41, Authuille Military Cemetery, Somme, France.
Able Seaman George Smiley, Royal Navy, 231456, H.M.S. Black Prince died 31 05 1916, aged 27 years. Son of Samuel and Emily Smiley of Belfast; husband of Mabel Smiley, of 6, Lanark Street, Belfast. His name appears on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon.
Stoker James Crawford, Royal Navy Reserve, 7821S, H.M.S. “Black Prince”, Died 31 05 1916. Commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Devon.
Lance Corporal Samuel Edwin Gorman, 9th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles, 14715, aged 19 years died on 06 06 1916. He was the son of Mary Gorman, 1 Florence Terrace, Ballygomartin Road, Belfast and the late William Matthew Gorman. His grave/memorial reference is recorded as D.23 at Authuille Military Cemetery, Somme, France.
There was no public demonstration on the 12th of July 1916. The church magazine announced that the monthly intercession for the soldiers and sailors was to be held on that evening, at 8pm.
The August 1916 edition of the parish magazine reflects the full horrors of the Battle of the Somme.
Since the last issue the Parish of St. Matthew’s has, in common with every other Parish and congregation in the Province of Ulster, been passing through a terrible time of anxiety and sorrow. Not till now has the war come so closely home to us as it has done to the people of England and Scotland, but when the news of the great advance came, and that the Ulster Division had been allotted a foremost and dangerous position in that advance, there was the anxious waiting; the loss of brave fathers, sons, and brothers – who will never come home any more; the hope deferred that sickens the heart with disappointment when no news comes of any kind.
It is impossible to give a list of those who have been wounded, but we are in a position to give the names received up to date of those who have made the great sacrifice, and their names will be inscribed on what will henceforth be called the Roll of Sacrifice.
On Sunday evening, July 23rd, a special Memorial Service was held in St. Matthew’s Church, and an eloquent service was preached by the Rev. J.W. Minchin, M.A. The congregation filled the church in sympathy with the Rector, bereaved of his second son, who, though not in the Ulster Division, was fighting with the 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers not very far away from them, and with the families of others who had been killed in action. The following names were read out:-
Second – Lieutenant Claud Walker
Private Albert Laughlin
Private George McCarroll
Private James McCoy
Private Robert Scott
The same buglers who sounded the “Last Post” at the Memorial Service of Lance-Corporal Samuel Gorman Officiated on this occasion, in charge of Private Samuel Maguire, and the collection was given to the U.V.F. Patriotic Fund intended to supplement the Government allowance to disabled soldiers.
There was also an announcement made in relation to the death of Mrs T.H. Lloyd-Dodd, the mother of the Curate of the parish. She was buried in the City Cemetery, Belfast.
It was with deep sorrow that her son, Lieutenant A.E. Lloyd-Dodd, who had gone safely with his Trench Mortar Battery through the horrors of July 1st and 2nd, was unable to get home from France in time for his mother’s funeral.
The Rev. Robert Walker became rector of St. Matthew’s Parish Church in 1916. He had two sons in the military. His son, Claude Arthur Leonard Walker was killed in the 1st World War.
The following letter was also published in the parish magazine:
2nd Lieut. C.A.L. Walker.
Killed leading his platoon.
(from The Northern Whig)
Rev. Dr. Walker, St. Matthew’s Rectory, Ballygomartin Road, has received the following letter from Captain C.H. Daniels, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, with reference to the death of his son, Second-Lieutenant Claud A.L. Walker, who was killed in action on 10th July:-
19th July 1916.
Dear Mr Walker,
I have intended writing to you since the 10th, but there was no opportunity while in the trenches, and we have been moving daily since we left them. I am commanding B Company, the company to which your son belonged, and with other officers of the company offer you our sincerest sympathy in your sad loss. We are all extremely sorry, and miss him very much. I am afraid that my attempts at expressing sympathy are very weak. Claud was in charge of two platoons in the front line of the attack on the night of Monday, 10th of July. At 8pm we attacked at —. He was with the rest of the company in the first trench, which we took from the enemy. My last words to him were: – ‘Well done, Walker; you are doing splendidly.‘ At 9.30 he left with the first line to attack the second trench. On reaching the second trench with the second line of attack I was told that Claud was killed just outside the second German trench. He led his platoon well and bravely, and did all that was required of him. He fell at the head of the men just at the moment of victory. He was shot in the head, and died instantly. We took him into the captured trench, and managed to send him down on Tuesday. He was buried on Wednesday morning in the cemetery at — next to poor young Tottenham, killed at — whose grave he had taken me to see on the previous Sunday. Our pioneers have placed as cross there inscribed – ‘To the loving memory of Second-Lieutenant C.A.L. Walker, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, killed in action 10-07-16.‘ Two of his friends, subalterns in the company, who were left behind when the company went up to the attack, attended his funeral. He was liked by us all, men and officers. Let me once more reassure you, sir, of our deepest sympathy. Claud died in a good cause, in the bravest possible manner, and without pain.
Charles H. Daniels, Captain.“
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the following information:
Lieutenant Claud Arthur Leonard, 2nd Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, aged 21 died 10 07 1916, the son of Rev. R. Walker, LL.D., and Mrs. L.J.T. Walker, of Shankill Rectory, Belfast. Joined Public Schools Corps, Aug., 1914. Nominated to R.M.C. Sandhurst, Dec., 1914. Commissioned, May 1915. The grave/memorial reference is given as I.B.2. at Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France.
Second Lieutenant Arthur Tottenham, C Coy 2nd Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, aged 20, died 27 06 1916. He was the son of Lowry Cliffe Loftus Tottenham and Isabella Ogle Tottenham, of The Grange, Moy, County Tyrone. The grave/memorial reference is given as II.A.6 at Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France. Lowry C L Tottenham had been a District Inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary.
Rifleman Albert Laughlin, 14th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles,15139, died 01 07 1916, commemorated on Pier and face 15A and 15B on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.
The magazine that month refers to £3 10s had been collected in church over four Sundays for the U.V.F. Patriotic Fund.
In the September 1916 there is a strong message from the ministry of the parish criticising the sending of children to the nearest Sunday-school without regard to the nature of the teaching.
We want our Church children to attend our own schools, and then when they grow up into men and women there will not be so many half-filled churches as at present.
The letter concludes:
In many houses the father is away on military service, so it is a duty on the part of the mother to see that the religious life of the household is kept burning and bright until the return of the loved ones.
The Roll of Honour that month referred to the death of Hugh McKendry, 7th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, who died on July 25th of wounds received in the “Big Push” of July 1st. He resided at 7 Bracken Street with his wife.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the following:
Rifleman H. McKendry, 7th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles,6086, died 25 07 1916. The grave/memorial reference is recorded as IV.A.15 at Longuenesse (St. Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
A Sale of Work was organised by the parish for the 7th – 9th December 1916. One of the events in October of that year to raise money towards the sale was the showing of “Photographic slides of ‘Our Men’ and Patriotic Concert.” In a report of this event in the November 1916 magazine it states:
By a strange coincidence the slide containing the photograph of the message of sympathy being sent to the relatives of deceased West Belfast heroes by the Unionist Association, contained the name of Private Joseph Smyth, of Dunmoyle Street. He had been missing since July 1st, but was ultimately posted as killed. So far as we can make out he is the 26th who has been killed in action or died of wounds.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the following:
Rifleman Joseph Smyth, D Coy. 9th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles,3467, aged 19, died 01 07 1916. He was the son of James and Agnes Smyth of 21 Dunmoyle Street, Belfast. His name is recorded on Pier and face 15a & 15B on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France. His full name was Joseph Thompson Smyth.
It was announced that Rifleman Sam Shane, of the 9th (West Belfast) Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, who had been reported wounded and missing on July 1st had been killed.
Sam Shane was a very keen member of our Cadet Corps, and is now the seventh member who has fallen in action. We shall miss him, but we know he died gallantly, doing his duty like an Ulster lad. Our sympathy goes out to his sorrowing mother and sisters in their hour of trial.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the following:
Rifleman Samuel Shane, 9th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles,1457, died 02 07 1916. The grave/memorial reference is recorded at XI.K.2 on the Serre Road Cemetery No.2, Somme, France.
The announcement of deaths continue –
As we go to press we regret to learn that Private Leonard Hill, of 277 Cupar Streeet, was killed in action on September 6th. He was in the 8th Royal Irish Fusiliers. He was a member of St. Matthew’s Cadet Corps. He went to the front shortly after his father died last April, and the deepest sympathy will be felt with his family, especially with his mother who lies dangerously ill, too ill to be told of her sad and heavy loss.
His name was read out during a memorial service held in the church on the evening of Sunday October 8th.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the following:
Private Leonard Hill, 8th Bn. Royal Irish Fusiliers, 3531, aged 19, died 06 09 1916. He was the son of Joseph and Mary Jane Hill of Belfast. The grave/memorial reference is recorded as VIII.C.6 at Flatiron Copse Cemetery, Mametz, Somme, France.
More names were being added to The Roll of Honour. They included:
Joseph Smyth, 9th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles; posted missing on July 1st, since reported killed in action. A former member of St. Mathew’s Cadet Corps.
Sergeant William Lyle, Royal Irish Fusiliers, attached to the Garrison Battalion; died in India on July 31st.
Pte James G. Robinson, 14th Battalion (Y.C.V.) Royal Irish Rifles, attached to Lewis Gun Section; killed in action on 9th inst. Former member of St. Matthew’s Cadet Corps.
Pte. John Henry Moore, 8th Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers; killed in action October 5th 1916. Buried in Kemill British Cemetery.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the following:
Serjeant William Lyle,1st Garrison Bn, Royal Irish Fusiliers, G/40, died 31 07 1916. He was the husband of Mary Jane Lyle of 1 Brachan Street, Belfast. His name is recorded on face 10 on Kirkee 1914 – 1918 Memorial, India.
Rifleman J G Robinson, 14th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles, 19/122, died 09 10 1916. He was a son of Mr. R.G. Robinson 342 Springfield Road, Belfast. Grave/memorial reference D.17 refers at Pond Farm cemetery. Heuvelland, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Private John Henry Moore, 8th Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 26103, aged 31, died 05 10 1916. He was the son of Henry and Agnes Moore, Belfast. The grave/memorial reference is recorded as D6 at Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery, Heuvelland, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Further information relevant to those serving in the Great War also appeared.-
We offer our congratulations to Corporal William Woodside, of the 16th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, who has been awarded the Military Medal for his bravery and devotion to duty on July 1st. Corporal Woodside is the son of Mr. J.P. Woodside, 29, Ainsworth Av., and grandson of our respected Churchwarden, Mr. W.J. Woodside. He was a member of our Cadet Company. This is the second Military Medal gained by our lads.
William Woodside was the son of John Parker Woodside and Agnes Purdy.
News has just come to hand of the death of another of our members. Private James G. Robinson was killed in action on the 9th inst. He was attached to the Lewis Gun Section of the 14th Battalion R.I.R. Canon King chaplain writing to his father, says – “Your son was faithful unto the death. Our hearts go out in sympathy to the bereaved family. James Robinson was a good earnest Christian lad, and was a keen member of the Cadet Corps. We shall miss him in our ranks.”
There was better news for the Cadet Corps:
Members of the Cadet Corps will be glad to know that Pte. J. Andrews, R.A.M.C., has been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the advance of the Ulster Division on 1st July. Pte. Andrews is not yet 18 years of age, and on the day in question displayed signal gallantry, carrying in wounded men from “no man’s land” with a comrade, who has been similarly decorated. Pte. Andrews was a member of the Cadet Corps up to the time he joined the Army, and was a member of the Company which carried off the Ritchie Shield twice in succession. We offer him our hearty congratulations.
The Rector’s notes in the December 1916 magazine informed readers that “the Clergy, Churchwardens, and Select Vestry desire to send a Christmas greeting to the soldiers and sailors from St. Matthew’s Parish.” It was requested that slips with the names, numbers and Battalion or arm of the Service be placed in the Rector’s boxes as early as possible in December.
Perhaps at some time in the future the remaining parish magazines from the beginning of 1917 to the end of the First World War may turn up, hidden in an attic or a drawer.
We must rely on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and extracts from local newspapers to try and piece together the stories behind the other men who appear on the roll of honour at St. Matthew’s Parish Church.
The following information gleaned from the CWGC website and 1901/1911 census information may be relevant to some of those names.
Robert Best, 9th Bn., Royal Irish Rifles, 652, aged 28, died 07 06 1917, husband of Margaret Best, 33 Ghent Street, Belfast. Panel 40 Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.
Thomas Booth, Quartermaster Sergeant, Army Service Corps, A Supply Company, S/15284, aged 37, died 19 10 1915. Son of late Robert Stephen Booth; husband of Jane Booth, 167 Tennent Street, Belfast. X131, Carnmoney Cemetery.
Robert Stephen Booth and his wife Elizabeth resided at Rosebank Street, Belfast in 1911. Robert was himself an army pensioner of the 2nd Bn Royal Sussex.
Matthew Coates, Private, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 26276, died 28 01 1917. Pier and face 4D & 5B Thiepval Memorial.
In 1911 there was a Coates family residing at Bracken Street in Belfast.
Edward Commack, Lance Corporal, Royal Irish Rifles, 8968, aged 30, died 07 07 1916. Son of Margaret Commack of 220 Leopold Street, Belfast and the late James Commack. Thiepval Memorial.
The Commack family were residing in Leopold Street, Belfast in 1901. At that time, Margaret A. the mother was a widow. The Commack had originated from County Down.
William Henry Corrigan, 7th/8th Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 26306, died 16 08 1917, Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.
N. Croll, Rifleman, 9th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 14224, died 01 07 1916, XV F8 Mill Road Cemetery, Thiepval.
In 1911 a Croll family resided in Mayo Street, Belfast. At that time Ninian McKay A Croll was aged 20 years, and worked as a Machine man in the foundry. He was the son of Gawn Henry and Mary Jane (nee Matthews) Croll. In 1901 the family resided in Wilton Street, Belfast. Further information on this family has been requested by firstname.lastname@example.org. Further details can be found at Rootsweb’s CROLL-L Archives.
John Crossett, Rifleman, 2nd Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 8215, aged 23, died 27 10 1914, Panel 42 & 43 Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. Son of Henry and Mary Ann Crossett of 116 Carmen Street, Belfast.
Thomas Courtney, Rifleman, 2nd Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 43023, died 23 11 1917, Panel 10 Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, Nord, France.
Thomas Falls, Rifleman, D Coy 6th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 10934, aged 19, died 10 08 1915. panel 177 & 178 Helles Memorial, Turkey. Son of John Falls of 162 Cambrai Street, Belfast and the late Charlotte Falls.
In 1911 Thomas Falls is recorded as being a mill worker.
Charles Grundy, Private 9th Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 13731, aged 33, died 27 10 1918. LXVII M7 Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Son of John and Ellen Grundy, 34 Rosebank Street, Belfast, husband of Annie Grundy of Disraeli Street, Belfast.
D. Hamill, Royal Irish Fusiliers, 12945, died 15 11 1916, H.284 Belfast City Cemetery.
R.J. Hoff, Private, 8th Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 10862, died 06 05 1917, IIA 18 La Clytte Military Cemetery, Heuvelland, Belgium. In 1911 the Hoff family resided at Leopold Street, Belfast. Charles Hoff , born in England, was listed as an assurance agent. His wife was called Ellen. Robert, then aged 10, is recorded as working as a cage boy in the mills.
Isaac Hughes, Corporal, A Coy 8th Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers,11649,aged 21, died 29 06 1916. II C 17 Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Son of the late Alexander and Anna Hughes, Belfast. In 1911 the Hughes family were residing at Cambrai Street, Belfast. Alexander, born in County Armagh was listed as an unemployed Butler. Isaac, born in County Armagh was working as a yarn dresser.
Victor Jackson, Rifleman, 22nd Entrenching Bn,, late 11th/13th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 18/1266, aged 19, died 29 03 1918. Panel 74 to 76 Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France. Son of Robert Jackson of 240 Cambrai Street, Belfast. In 1911 Robert Jackson, a widower was listed as a collar cutter, He had been born in County Dublin. The family were residing at Wigton, Belfast. In 1901 the family had resided in Glenwood Street, Belfast. Robert’s wife Mary was then alive.
W. Kincaid, Rifleman, 10th BN Royal Irish Rifles, 197, died 28 08 1918. II F 183 Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France.
Robert Larkin, Rifleman, 10th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 19/783, aged 19, died 08 08 1917. XVII D 19A, Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge, West – Vlaanderen, Belgium. Son of Robert and Margaret Larkin of 15 Courtrai Street, Belfast. Robert Larkin (senior) was a native of County Armagh.
W.J. Lavery, Private, 5th Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 26071, died 17 10 1918, II E 5 Le Cateau Military Cemetery, Nord, France. Son of Samuel and Margaret Lavery; husband of Mary Harvey (formerly Lavery) of 10 Carnan Street, Belfast. In 1911 Samuel and Margaret Lavery were residing in Crimea Street, Belfast. Samuel had been born in Lisburn and was a labourer in the iron works. His wife was a native of Tandragee, County Armagh and was a spinner in the flax mills. Their son William John at the age of 14 was working as a doffer in the flax mills. In 1901 the family had resided at James’s Street, Belfast.
Robert Moreland, Lance Corporal, 110th Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps, 44141, aged 23, died 09 06 1917. IV C 22 Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Son of Robert and Mary Moreland of 54 Sydney Street, West, Belfast.
Robert McCurrie, Private, 58th Div M.T. Coy, Army Service Corps, DM2/161694, died 04 04 1918, III G2 Noyon New British Cemetery, Oise, France. Husband of Mrs M A McCurrie of 70 Montreal Street, Belfast.
W. McGuiggan, Rifleman, 9th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 1355, died 08 07 1916, B2 Caudry Old Communal Cemetery, Nord, France. A William McGuiggan aged 14 years was residing with his parents Alexander and Mary Ann McGuiggan at Ceylon Street, Belfast.
Charles Wesley Quinn, Serjeant, 20th Bn Chinese Labour Corps, transferred to (109527) 60th Coy Royal Irish Rifles, 11734, aged 47, died 19 03 1918, XIV I 10 Dozinghem Military Cemetery Poperinge, West – Vlaanderen, Belgium. Son of Charles Henry and Jane Isabella Quinn, husband of Sarah Quinn of 82 Broom Street, Woodvale Road, Belfast. In 1911 Charles Quinn, aged 40, a solicitors clerk was residing with his family at Broom Street, Belfast
Thomas Rodgers, Lance Corporal, C Coy 9th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 15823, died 01 07 1916. Pier & Face 15A & 15B Thiepval Memorial. Son of Thomas and Annie Rodgers of 42 Northumberland Street, Belfast, husband of Sarah Rodgers of 80 Sugarfield Street, Belfast. In 1911 the Rodgers family were residing at Northumberland Street, Belfast. At that time Thomas (junior) was aged 25 and working as an iron moulder.
Samuel Rosbotham, Corporal, 7th Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 3390, aged 19, died 09 08 1917, Panel 22 Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. Son of Stewart and Sarah Rosbotham of 32 Woodvale Avenue, Belfast. In 1901 this family resided at Mayo Street, Belfast. Stewart ran a dairy business at this time.
William Saulters, Private, C Coy 2nd Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 10639, aged 21, died 31 10 1914. Panel 5 Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut,Belgium. Son of the late Samuel Saulters. In 1911 Samuel Saulters, a ship yard worker, and his wife Isabella resided at Canmore Street, Belfast. At that time, William, aged 14 was working as a doffer in a linen mill.
Robert Sillery, Rifleman, 15th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 13486, died 01 07 1916, Pier and face 15A & 15 B Thiepval Memorial. In 1911 a Robert Sillery aged 25, labourer in the shipyard resided with his wife Sarah and son Robert at Palmer Street, Belfast.
R. Steenson, Private 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers, 9823, died 19 05 1918. 0171 Cairo War Cemetery, Egypt.
Robert Stitt, Rifleman, 15th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 1458, aged 19, died 22 11 1917, Pier and face 15A & 15B Thiepval Memorial. Son of Robert Henry and Margaret Stitt of 13 Broom Street, Woodvale Road, Belfast. In 1911 the Stitt family were residing at Weir Street, Belfast.
C.V. Taylor, Rifleman, 16th Bn Royal Irish Rifles,570, died 14 03 1918, IIB 5 Grand – Seraucourt British Cemetery, Aisne, France.
John Lawless Thompson, Rifleman, 15th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 17/217 MM award, aged 28, died 20 10 1918. VIII D 9 Harlebeke New British Cemetery, Harlebeke, West – Vlaanderen, Belgium. Son of Robert James Thompson of 47 Enfield Street, Belfast and the late Letitia Thompson. In 1911 the Thompson family were residing at Enfield Street, Belfast. Robert James was listed as a cloth examiner in linen. At this time John Lawless Thompson was a sample maker in a linen warehouse.
John Trew, Rifleman, 12th Bn Royal Irish Rifles, 689, aged 23, died 25 07 1918, Panel 9 Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium. Son of Arthur and Annie Trew of 15 Clovelly Street, Belfast. In 1911 the Trew family were residing at Clovelly Street, Belfast. Arthur Trew a linen sample maker was born in Barbados. John aged 15 was working in a ware house.
One of the surviving headstones in the Shankill Graveyard marks the burial place of another World War 1 soldier.
The Commonwealth War Grave Commission records the following details:
Robert McCreedy, son of Jane Eliza McCreedy and the late John McCreedy; husband of Margaret Jane McCreedy of 16 Caledon Street, Belfast. Born at Belfast.
In 1901 the McCreedy family, Presbyterians, resided at Mayo Street, Belfast.John McCreedy, a 48 year old flax dresser and his 46 year old wife, Jane Eliza had been born in County Down. Their family were listed as Martha 24; Mary E., 22; Eliza, 19; Joseph, 14; Robert, 11 and John, 8. In 1911 the family were residing at Caledon Street, Belfast. Jane Eliza was listed as a widow.
Sources for the above material:
Thanks to the Rev. Canon Gregory Dunstan, St. Matthew’s Parish Church for his assistance and for permission to use quotations from the parish magazines.
The Commonwealth War graves Commission website can be accessed at http://www.cwgc.org
The 1901 and 1911 census can be accessed at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie
For further information about St Matthew’s Parish Church visit