WW1 TALK: PTE ROBERT HAMILTON – PART 2

Quincey Dougan talk on UVF: Sir John Leslie inspects the UVF at Glaslough

Quincey Dougan talk on UVF: Sir John Leslie inspects the UVF at Glaslough

Quincey Dougan in his talk in June last year  at Monaghan County Museum on the Ulster Volunteer Force gave an interesting insight into how the force was set up along military lines. The County Chairman of the UVF was the Earl of Dartrey. In August 1913 Edward Carson visited Newbliss and this caused a surge in local volunteer membership. First official returns to UVF HQ at the end of that month listed a force of two battalions consisting of 1155 men. The Regimental Commander was Colonel John Leslie, seen in the above photo inspecting the ranks at the force’s headquarters at Castle Leslie in Glaslough. The 1st Battalion known colloquially as the North Monaghan Battalion, based in Monaghan Town, was commanded by Major Edward Richardson of Poplar Vale, who as we saw earlier organised the signing of the Ulster Covenant in the Ballinode area.

UVF Flag 2nd Bn Co.Monaghan: Monaghan Co.Museum Photo:  © Michael Fisher

UVF Flag 2nd Bn Co.Monaghan: Monaghan Co.Museum Photo: © Michael Fisher

QUINCEY DOUGAN tells us that in August 1913 the battalion comprised 747 men, but by August 1914 this had increased to 1037. Its main drill centers were Monaghan, Clontibret, Glaslough, Smithborough, Shanroe and Ballinode. The Orange Order played a particularly important role within unionism in the county, with most units appearing to be the locations of Orange Halls. Ballinode included Poplar Vale (the home of Major Richardson), Coragh, Ballinode, Rafeenan and Kilmore. Glaslough with its large Protestant population provided 10 units, with 257 men in 1913. They included Emyvale, Templetate, Silverstream, Mullapike and Glaslough itself. The 2nd Battalion, South Monaghan, was based in Clones and under the command of Lt Colonel John Clements Waterhouse Madden of Hilton Park. At its peak the County Monaghan Regiment of Volunteers had 2095 men, approximately 40% of those that signed the Ulster Covenant.

UVF 1st Bn Monaghan armband Photo:  © Michael Fisher

UVF 1st Bn Monaghan armband Photo: © Michael Fisher

It appears Robert Hamilton joined the UVF at some stage, possibly when he was a member of the Orange Order at Mullahara lodge, Ballinode. According to his obituary in the Northern Standard (May 1918), he was “one of those who took part in the great parade through Monaghan when the members of the Ulster Volunteer Force marched in a body to offer their services to their King and country”.

As nationalists began to organise in groups such as the Irish Volunteers with the aim of achieving Home Rule, unionists in County Monaghan were in a minority position. With the outbreak of war in August 1914, the numbers enlisting in the British Army from rural Ireland were not significant. At the time there was no conscription here, only in Britain. Many Protestant farmers in Monaghan would have been reluctant to see their sons, particularly the eldest who was likely to inherit, joining the war effort.

Johnston & Madden Orange Hall, Monaghan Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Johnston & Madden Orange Hall, Monaghan Photo: © Michael Fisher

One of the places used for enlistment was the Johnston and Madden Memorial Orange Hall on the North Road in Monaghan. Quincey Dougan refers to one day when almost fifty UVF Volunteers enlisted here, but it’s not certain that this was the same day Robert Hamilton would have joined up. With his Orange Order connection, it was however likely that this was where he went to, possibly along with some of his friends, rather than to the Town Hall, which was also used by the British Army. By October 1916 only 738 men from County Monaghan had answered the call to enlist, the majority being Protestant, although Protestants only comprised around one-fifth of the population. (Dougan).

For the Ulster Volunteers their 36th Ulster Division Battalion was the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, alongside their comrades from Counties Armagh and Cavan, with most Monaghan recruits forming the ranks of the Battalion’s ‘D’ company.

General Sir Oliver Nugent: Photo courtesy Cavan County Museum

General Sir Oliver Nugent: Photo courtesy Cavan County Museum

In 1915 the 36th Ulster Division got a new commander, Major General Sir Oliver Nugent. Nugent was from Farren Connell, Mount Nugent, Co. Cavan and was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst before joining the Royal Munster Fusiliers in 1882. He transferred to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in 1883. In 1891 and 1892 he served in operations on the Northwest Frontier, including a spell as ADC to Sir William Lockhart, later C-in-C India. In 1895 he took part in the Chitral relief expedition and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. The medal was given to him by Queen Victoria. The First World War saw Nugent serving in England until 1915 when he was given command of the 41st Infantry Brigade on the Western Front. In September 1915 a new General Officer Commanding was needed for the 36th (Ulster) Division before the division arrived in France in October 1915. Nugent fitted the bill as he had experience, ability and was Irish.

Edward Carson UVF mural East Belfast  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Edward Carson UVF mural East Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

In September 1914, the Ulster Division was formed from the 80,000 volunteers who made up the Ulster Volunteer Force, a Protestant organisation created by Sir Edward Carson as an armed force to counter the threat of Home Rule.

36th Ulster Division UVF mural East Belfast  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

36th Ulster Division UVF mural East Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

The UVF raised thirteen battalions for the three Irish regiments based in Ulster: the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Royal Irish Rifles which made up the 107th, 108th and 109th Brigades, as well as supporting arms.

Recruiting office display, Cavan County Museum Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Recruiting office display, Cavan County Museum Photo: © Michael Fisher

Recruiting office display, Cavan County Museum Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Recruiting office display, Cavan County Museum Photo: © Michael Fisher

It’s not exactly clear what inspired Robert Hamilton to join. Was it to follow some of his comrades in the UVF? Or was it simply that like so many others, he needed a job? But we do know he enlised in February 1915 when a recruiting party from the 9th Battlion Royal Irish Fusiliers based in Armagh came to town. Maybe he was among the almost 50 who joined on a single day, as we heard earlier.

He would probably have been sent to Victoria Barracks in Belfast for his initial training. Clandeboye estate in Co. Down had been in use for the regiment.

Regimental Crest, Royal Irish Fusiliers: Nick Metcalfe website

Regimental Crest, Royal Irish Fusiliers: Nick Metcalfe website

Faugh a Ballagh was the regimental motto, taken from the Irish fag an bealach, or clear the way. We know that after further training at Seaford camp at East Sussex in England, where they were inspected by Lord Kitchener, the 9th Battalion joined their divisional comrades in transferring to the western front. They sailed from Southampton to Boulogne on October 3rd 1915.

After a period of training in trench warfare, the division moved into the front lines in February 1916 at Thiepval Wood. The Division remained in the Western Front in France and Flanders throughout the rest of the war. It took part in the numerous battles of the Somme, Messines and the final advance into Flanders. It ceased to exist on 29 June 1919. The Great War cost the 36th Division 32,000 men killed, wounded or missing.
(to be continued)
This talk was made possible with the assistance of a team. The vestry of the church especially Ronnie. Ruby Heasty, a distant relative who gave the introduction, Heather Stirrat, another Hamilton connection, and Marie McKenna, who provided the encouragement and also the technical support. I thank them all, and Jonathan Maguire of the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum in Armagh, who provided details of Robert Hamilton’s military service. He also suggested the excellent book by Nick Metcalfe, Blacker’s Boys, in which you will find the name of Robert Hamilton among the comprehensive lists of those who died from the 9th Battalion. Kevin Cullen’s Book of Honour for County Monaghan 1914-18 has also been a useful source and he also contributed some of his slides for use in the talk.

WW1 TALK: PTE ROBERT HAMILTON – PART 1

DSC_0253~2COPYRIGHT NOTICE: THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND RESEARCH EXCEPT WHERE STATED ARE © COPYRIGHT  © OF THE AUTHORS   MICHAEL FISHER/MARIE McKENNA/RUBY HEASTY/HEATHER STIRRAT    AND MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION

Plaque for Robert Hamilton, St Dympna's Church Ballinode  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Plaque for Robert Hamilton, St Dympna’s Church Ballinode Photo: © Michael Fisher

My talk has been sparked off by this plaque in St Dympna’s church of Ireland church, Ballinode, which will be open afterwards. Some have wondered why I have taken up the very kind invitation to give this presentation by Marie McKenna and others. I myself do not have any direct relatives who died in the Great War. I have however taken an interest in history and in commemoration mainly because of my childhood in England, including part of my secondary education up to ‘O’ level at a Jesuit school, Wimbledon College.

WW1 Memorial in chapel at Wimbledon College SJ  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

WW1 Memorial in chapel at Wimbledon College SJ Photo: © Michael Fisher

During my four years there I often passed this memorial at the back of the chapel when we attended Mass. I was proud of the story of an Irishman who won a Victoria Cross in the Second World War: Royal Navy Lt Commander Eugene Esmonde, the naval pilot who led the attack on the Bismarck. But there is one other VC on that list, also an Irishman, whose Wimbledon College connection I became aware of only recently in the Jesuit Missions magazine. He is Lieutenant Maurice Dease VC, born in Coole, Co. Westmeath. Dease attended Stonyhurst College SJ and then transferred to the Army Class at Wimbledon, before going on to Sandhurst to complete  training as an officer. The memorial is one of thousands you will see throughout Britain, Northern Ireland and in some parts of the Republic.

Ballinode Parochial Hall Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Ballinode Parochial Hall Photo: © Michael Fisher

I am particularly pleased that the meeting tonight is in Ballinode parochial hall. The plaque near the entrance shows the former school was renovated and extended in 1906. It was just over 100 years ago when members of the local community gathered here shortly after the start of the Great War in August 1914. The purpose was to support the war effort by raising money for the National and Belgian relief funds. Heather Stirrat will read the extract from the Northern Standard for us:

SUCCESSFUL CONCERT IN BELLANODE
 On Friday evening 30th ult; (=last) a most successful concert under the auspices of Bellanode & Scotstown Work Party was held in the Parochial Hall, Bellanode, in aid of the National and Belgian Relief funds. The promoters, Mrs Greene, Cappagh Lodge; Miss Richardson, Poplar Vale, and Miss Reid, Lemaculla, deserve congratulations on the success attending their efforts, as from every point of view it was the most successful concert ever held in the building.

Northern Standard  report November 1914 Courtesy of Kevin Cullen: Co. Monaghan Great War Roll Book

Northern Standard report November 1914 Courtesy of Kevin Cullen: Book of Honour for Co. Monaghan 1914-18

The chair was occupied by Colonel Lucas Scudamore, who referred in touching terms to the objects  for which the entertainment had been promoted, and pointed out the necessity for each and every one doing their very best to relieve the suffering of the unhappy Belgians driven from their homes by the Germans, who had shown a barbarism in the present war that was utterly astounding, and also to relieve the necessities of   the dependents of our soldiers and sailors. The programme, which was of a highly appreciative character, was contributed to by Miss Richardson, Miss Jamieson, Miss Lucas Scudamore (fancy dance), Miss Brydon, Miss Turley, Miss Wright (recitation), Miss Rea, Revs. R.H.Robinson and I. a G.Eccles, Messrs.J.C.Wood, D.Hanna, A. Wilson, —  Scarisbrick, A. Begas (pianoforte solo), and T.J.Kennedy, and Masters J.Wright, K. McAlpine, and E. McAlpine. An interesting feature was the patriotic songs illustrated by lime light pictures and a series of war pictures. The programme concluded with the Belgian, French, Russian and British National Anthems, played by Mr. Begas. The thanks of the concert committee are tendered to Miss Jamieson for the use of her splendid piano, to Mr W.J. Crawford J.P., who provided and manipulated the magic lantern, and to Mr. Robt. Moffett and Mr. Ross Kennedy for the use of their motor cars in conveying the performers from a distance.  

Private Robert Hamilton Photo from Northern Standard obituary May 1918

Private Robert Hamilton Photo from Northern Standard obituary May 1918

At that stage Robert Hamilton had not yet joined the British Army and was residing in Ballinode. So how do we put together a picture of his life? Let’s start at the beginning.

Robert Hamilton was born on February 21st 1892 in Clabby, County Fermanagh. The death notice and anniversary notices in the Northern Standard show he was the son of Mary Hamilton of Kilmore East, Ballinode. Tonight I can reveal more details about this soldier of the Great War.

Mary Hamilton was unmarried at the time of his birth. So she must have been faced with a difficult choice given the mores or social conventions of society at the end of the 19th Century. Pregnant single women in her situation would have been ostracised and had to give birth possibly in a home or the local workhouse. Cliona Rattigan in her book (2012) on Single Mothers 1900-1950 reminds us that:-

“Unmarried mothers were shunned by society.While many women concealed their pregnancies from their employers because they would have been fired, others hid it from their family for fear of being put out or in some cases a more violent reactionThe law itself conspired to create unfavourable conditions for unmarried mothers…There was no law that allowed for legal adoption and the foster services that did exist were private arrangements, which had to be paid for.

Very different from today where one-parent families make up 11% of the total of all households in County Monaghan (2011 figures onefamily) “there are 2,430 lone parent households in Monaghan; 84% lone mothers, 16% lone fathers. One-parent families make up 11% of all households in Monaghan”.

1901 Census Ballinode: Thomas Hamilton household

1901 Census Ballinode: Thomas Hamilton household

Mary Hamilton carried her baby apparently for the full nine months term and was then faced with the reality of how she was to bring up her son Robert. Before giving birth, she might have been residing in Kilmore East in the house of her younger brother Thomas, a single man, and head of household, along with his uncle John who is listed as a farm servant. This is an assumption however based on the 1901 census return.

Close-up 1901 Census Ballinode: Thomas, Mary and John Hamilton

Close-up 1901 Census Ballinode: Thomas, Mary and John Hamilton

We now know that some time before she gave birth, she went to a couple about thirty miles away in Brockagh, Clabby, beyond Fivemiletown, – John and Jane Keys. Thanks to Jean Armstrong (wife of the local rector) we now have details of the birth. Her husband Reverend Maurice Armstrong tells us that Robert must have been a very delicate baby, ‘poorly and weak’ as he was baptized just three days after his birth.

1901 Census Clabby: John Keys household

1901 Census Clabby: John Keys household

The 1901 Census reveals that Robert then aged 9 had been boarded out and given into what amounted to foster care by the Keys. John Keys was a small farmer at Brockagh, a mountain area near Clabby. Robert is listed as a scholar, so he must have attended a local school. John Keys and his wife Jane were in their mid-50s, possibly childless, and both were members of the E(stablished) Church, the same denomination as the Hamiltons (Church of Ireland).

Close-up 1901 Census Clabby: John & Jane Keys; Robert Hamilton

Census Clabby: John & Jane Keys; Robert Hamilton

So although Robert’s birthplace was Fermanagh, I think he can truly be regarded as a Monaghan man. Jane Keys died in 1906 at the age of 65. Her husband John followed months later. Having been admitted to the workhouse in Enniskillen shortly after Christmas 1906, he died there on June 1st 1907 at the age of 52. According to Reverend Armstrong, it appears that Mr Keys was destitute and not coping after his wife’s death. Young Robert would have been sent back to live with his mother in Ballinode in 1906, aged 14.

1911 Census Ballinode: Hamilton household

1911 Census Ballinode: Hamilton household

The 1911 Census confirms he has been brought back to Ballinode and is living with his mother Mary in Kilmore East.

1911 Census Ballinode: Thomas, Mary & Robert Hamilton

1911 Census Ballinode: Thomas, Mary & Robert Hamilton

He was then 19 and like his mother is listed as a servant in the household of Thomas Hamilton, a farmer and Mary’s younger brother. Mary was 52. This edited picture kindly supplied by the Mohan family shows the house at Kilmore East after they had extended it many years ago. The original building was a single storey, as can be seen on the left hand side.

House at Kilmore East, Ballinode Photo: courtesy of Mohan family

House at Kilmore East, Ballinode Photo: courtesy of Mohan family

 The following year, Robert’s signature and that of his uncle are among those of nearly quarter of a million men included in the Ulster Covenant. HamiltonCovenantHamiltonCovenant2They signed in Ballinode on September 28th 1912 and the declaration was signed on the same day by Mary Hamilton.  HamiltonCovenant3This was the time when leading Protestant landlords in County Monaghan such as Major Edward Richardson of Poplar Vale were supporting the establishment of the Ulster Volunteer Force in opposition to nationalist demands for Home Rule. Quincey Dougan in a talk last year has described how the UVF formed two battalions in County Monaghan between 1912 and 1914.

Quincey Dougan talk on UVF: Sir John Leslie inspects the UVF at Glaslough

Quincey Dougan talk on UVF: Col John Leslie inspects the UVF at Glaslough (Monaghan Co. Museum)

(to be continued) DSC_0191 (778x800)

PLEASE NOTE: EXCEPT WHERE STATED THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND THE RESEARCH ARE © COPYRIGHT 2014 MICHAEL FISHER/MARIE McKENNA/RUBY HEASTY/HEATHER STIRRAT AND MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT THE AUTHORS’ PERMISSION

PRIVATE ROBERT HAMILTON, BALLINODE

Talk on Private Robert Hamilton, Ballinode

Talk on Private Robert Hamilton, Ballinode

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.

Private Robert Hamilton (from Northern Standard May 1918)

Private Robert Hamilton (from Northern Standard May 1918)

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.

Tyne Cot Memorial Wall (CWGC Picture)

Tyne Cot Memorial Wall (CWGC Picture)

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.

Plaque to Robert Hamilton in St Dympna's Ballinode Photo: @ Michael Fisher

Plaque to Robert Hamilton in St Dympna’s Ballinode Photo: @ Michael Fisher

'Dead Man's Penny' with Robert Hamilton's name in the plaque in Ballinode

‘Dead Man’s Penny’ with Robert Hamilton’s name in the plaque in Ballinode