Many thanks to all those who attended my talk tonight in Ballinode, County Monaghan, about a soldier who died in the Great War, Private Robert Hamilton. Thanks to Claire Noble of Northern Sound for recording an interview with me about the subject in The Wider View programme this afternoon. The interest shown by people who attended who came from Holywood (Co. Down) and Castleblayney as well as the parish of Tydavnet shows that there are many other similar stories out there waiting to be told. Thanks are also due to Jonathan Maguire in the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum in Armagh, who helped me to find records relating to Private Hamilton of the 9th Battallion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, known as the Faugh-a-Ballaghs or Blacker’s Boys (see the excellent record by Nick Metcalfe, a great source of information).
Private Robert Hamilton from Ballinode is one of the thousands of Irishmen killed in World War I whose stories have been forgotten for nearly 100 years. Now to coincide with the centenary of the start of the Great War in August 1914, his story deserves to be told. According to his obituary in the Northern Standard, he was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force in County Monaghan. He had signed the Ulster Covenant in Ballinode in September 1912. The UVF ranks joined the British Army to fight in World War I and became part of the 36th (Ulster) Division, headed by a Cavan man, Major General Oliver Nugent.
Hamilton enlisted in Monaghan in the Royal Irish Fusiliers (the ‘Faugh-a-Ballaghs’) when a recruitment party came to town in February 1915. He fought at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 and was invalided at some stage so he would have returned home to Kilmore East. He left Ballinode on Easter Saturday at the end of March 1918 and returned to his unit on the western front in France, only to be killed in action three weeks later. His name is engraved on the vast Tyne Cot memorial near Ypres/Ieper in Belgium.
There is also a plaque in his memory in St Dympna’s Church of Ireland church, Ballinode which has provided the springboard for my talk on Friday 21st November 8pm in Ballinode. The talk would not have been possible without the research and interest shown by Marie McKenna and two distant Hamilton relations Ruby Heasty and Heather Stirratt.