Plans for dedicated memorial for Somme hero

THE possibility of having a dedicated memorial or sculpture in Bushmills to honour Victoria Cross Battle of the Somme hero Sergeant Robert Quigg is being examined.

Discussions have taken place at Moyle Council and it was agreed to write to the Royal British Legigion in Bushmills and the MacNaghten Estate in Bushmills to get their views.

Many would like to see a memorial in place in Bushmills ahead of 2016 which will be the centenary of Quigg’s heroics in World War One.

Moyle Council has received two letters in relation to installing a statue or sculpture in memory of Robert Quigg and one letter suggested using an area at Hamill Terrace in Bushmills for such a memorial.

Bushmills historian Robert Thompson said Sergeant Quigg should be remembered in a suitable fashion in Bushmills.

In correspondence with the Council, Mr Thompson said: ‘In July of 1916 Robert Quigg risked his life to rescue wounded soldiers at the Somme and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts.

“He is the only Victoria Cross winner north of Belfast, yet he is ignored by his home town of Bushmills. If this were anywhere else in the world he would be feted and honoured forever.”

North Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann also contacted the Council.

He wrote: ‘I have been approached by a number of constituents from the Moyle Council area in relation to the centenary of Robert Quigg’s brave actions on the 1st July 1916 which led to the award of the Victoria Cross.

‘While Robert is acknowledged by the presence of a plaque at the War Memorial, the community have suggested that a more fitting tribute or a statue or sculpture could be provided in time for the centenary of his actions.

“I am sure the community will play a full part in planning such a tribute but clearly leadership from the Council in delivering such a memorial will be very important.

‘I would be grateful if you could clarify if Moyle Council has already initiated a process to deliver such a memorial and if not if we could meet to discuss how to take forward such a proposal,’ said Mr Swann’s letter.

Bushmills man, Robert Quigg enlisted in the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (Mid-Antrim Volunteers) during World War One. His platoon commander was Lieutenant Harry McNaghten the heir to the Bushmills’ McNaghten Estate.

On the 1st of July Robert’s platoon advanced three times only to be beaten back by the Germans. Many hundreds of the 12th Battalion were either killed or wounded. In the confusion of battle it became known that Lieutenant McNaughten was missing. Robert Quigg immediately volunteered to go out into no-mans land and search for his commander.

His actions during that fruitless search led him to receive the Victoria Cross. His citation reads as follows: “... hearing a rumour that his platoon officer was lying wounded, he went out seven times to look for him, under heavy shell and machine-gun fire, each time bringing back a wounded man. The last man he dragged on a waterproof sheet from within yards of the enemy’s wire. He was seven hours engaged in this most gallant work, and was finally so exhausted that he had to give it up.”

The body of Harry McNaghten was never found.

Robert Quigg returned to Bushmills to a hero’s welcome. He died in 1955 and was buried with full military honours at Billy Church.

Moyle Council Vice-Chairperson, Councillor Sandra Hunter (Ulster Unionist), said said there are plans for a cooper sculpture at Hamill Terrace at the top end of Bushmills because it is close to the distillery and she thought there could be two sculptures in Bushmills with something to commemorate Robert Quigg possibly in the area of the War Memorial.

DUP councillor Robert McIlroy said they should liaise with the Royal British Legion on the project.

Ulster Unionist councillor Joan Baird said Quigg won the VC for his attempt to rescue one of the MacNaghten’s of Dundarave and she said the MacNaghten Estate might want to get involved in the project.

She described Quigg as “a very famous hero or our area”.

Special wreath-laying ceremonies are held each year at Billy Parish Church where Sergeant Quigg is buried.

He is also commemorated on a bannerette carried by Silver Plains Flute Band.