Blue Plaque for James Viscount Bryce

Blue Plaque for James Viscount Bryce
Unveiling the plaque to James Viscount Bryce at 13 Chichester Street, Belfast on Friday 10 May 2013

Saturday, 18 June 2011

A Day in the Life

On Thursday went with Circle Chairman, Chris Spurr to Ballyclare to meet representatives of the local Historical Society about a planned plaque to the author and storyteller Archibald McIlroy who wrote in the Ulster-Scots idiom and had perished in the RMS Lusitania in 1915 when it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Lindy Reid and Jeannette McKendrey, well versed in local history and folklore, showed us round the Presbyterian Church on Main Street whose 'green' was the the inspiration for McIlroy's first novel 'The Auld Meetin'- Hoose Green'. 

Then on to Mossley Mill to meet Etta Mann, former Newtownabbey Councillor who had contacted the Circle about McIlroy, Derek Rawlinson of the Ulster-Scots Language Society, who was republishing the 'Auld Meetin'-Hoose Green' and Samantha Curry, the Council's Museums Officer. The meeting was to plan the arrangements for a joint event - plaque and book launch- for later in the Autumn.

The meeting successfully concluded we went our separate ways, Chris to Dervock to discuss the planning of a plaque to Kennedy Kane McArthur, the Marathon Gold Medallist at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, who had been born in the village; me to Broughshane to track down the blue plaque to Sir George White VC, 'The hero of Ladysmith'. I had not been on the road between Ballyclare and Broughshane before and was stunned, on rounding a corner to see a sweeping panorama of countryside dotted with trees and farmhouses and dominated by the volcanic plug of Slemish. I’d never see it from this angle and it looked completely different. I took some photographs.

Sir George White VC
George Stuart White was born in Portstewart but the family lived in Broughshane for many years. He first achieved distinction in the Afghan War of 1878-80. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroism in the Battle of Charasia in India in 1879 and was knighted in 1886 for his military service in Burma. His greatest fame came in the South African War when he defended Ladysmith against a 118-day siege by the Boers (1899-1900). He became governor of Gibraltar (1900-1904) and was made field marshal in 1903. I found the plaque at the entrance to a domain. The plaque was on one pier and on the other was the command ‘No Visitors’.   The plaque, about 12 inches in diameter (much smaller then normal though clearly designed for the narrow pier), was grubby and unfortunately had a small degree of damage. I cleaned it up as best I could, took some photos and left for my next assignment.

Sir Samuel McCaughey
From Broughshane I headed for the Cloughwater Road, Tullynewey, to track down another early plaque, this one to Sir Samuel McCaughey.  McCaughey emigrated to Australia in 1856. He became manager of a sheep station in Victoria after a two-year appenticeship. By 1860, with two partners, he had built up a famous marino stud farm in New South Wales. After this he bought other stations and introduced methods to improve the yield and quality of wool. He was the first to adopt irrigation and to improve the breed of sheep. At one point he had one million sheep to shear. He became the wealthiest man in the state and was known as the 'Sheep King'. He served as a member of the Legislative Assembly for twenty years until 1919 and was knighted in 1905. He gave twenty war planes to the government in the First World War, and £2,000,000 for charitable and educational purposes.

Anyway, I couldn't seen a plaque on any of the houses on the several miles long road. Fortunately I chanced on an elderly lady who told me that 'the McCaughey place' was up the road, over the wee bridge and on the left'.  I crossed the bridge and on the left was long lane leading to a distant modern house. The lady of the house directed me to the end of the lane, narrow with sharp corners. On the way I met a large tractor driven by the current owner of the McCaughey house, Sam McNabney, a friendly and helpful man who gave me directions and explained that the place was hard to find because two directional signs that had been on the main road were no longer there, one being completely lost and the other ripped from its fastenings by a recent flood. He had rescued this and offered to let me have it when I had finished at the house. The McCaghey 'homestead' is currently unoccupied, though in good repair with a couple of satellite dishes on the roof.

I took some photos and went to Sam's modern farmhouse just off the Cloughwater Road, where after rummaging in several crowded garages the sign was found. Sam suggested I might want to have the sign reerected - he wasn't sure who it belonged to. I took the sign and cleaned it up as best I could seeing as how it was scuffed and a bit damaged after it's adventures in the flood. I plan to discuss restoration with Ballymena Borough Council in due course.

After that I went straight home. Total journey 127 miles, 6 hours.

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