When the newly-crowned Queen visited Northern Ireland in 1953 she met one of Northern Ireland’s greatest First World War heroes, Sgt Robert Quigg VC.
And sixty three years on from that day she unveiled a life-size bronze statue of Sgt Quigg in his home town of Bushmills and greeted relatives of the soldier, who died in 1955.
A member of the 12th Batallion The Royal Irish Rifles, Sgt Quigg was awarded the Victoria Cross in July 1916 after spending seven hours making forays into no man’s land to bring back wounded comrades during the Battle of the Somme.
Mr Quigg’s great-nephew Leonard Quigg, a retired schoolteacher from Ballycastle, who addressed the VIPs at the unveiling an dedication of the statue last week, said: “She thought it was a wonderful piece.
“She was very impressed. She actually was able to say to me when she arrived that she had shaken the hand of Robert Quigg in 1953 when she visited Coleraine train station.
“She was very gracious. It was a tremendous occasion.”
The former headmaster at Coleraine Inst described the visit as “a marvellous day for Bushmills. We have 195 guests of the Quigg VC Commemoration Society here today.
“Most of them are local or fairly local but there are some here from Canada, a couple from Sheffield and a lady from Greenock in Scotland and the VC’s oldest living relative, his last surviving neice...so they have come from all over the place.
“As well as that there’s about forty members of the extended Quigg family.”
During the ceremony, which was also attended by local members of the Royal British Legion and the Duke of Edinburgh unveiled a Victoria Cross commemorative stone.
The Robert Quigg VC Commemoration Society was established by Robert Thompson in October 2014 to raise funds to erect a sculpture of Robert Quigg VC in the town.
Costing £60,000, the bronze sculpture was made by the Scottish sculptor, David Annand.
Speaking about his famous great uncle, Len Quigg said: “In many ways he is an icon of the spirit of Bushmills at the time of the Great War.
“There were so many who served in the war - 500 from Bushmills and the surrounding district who joined up and went off to fight and 103 did not come back. They were killed during the conflict.
“So, he was lucky that he survived and he came back to live out his last years here at the Giant’s Causeway in his old home.”
Mr Quigg praised everyone involved who made the Royal visit a reality.
“We couldn’t have hoped for any more. We had always intended to have this ceremony on the 1st of July which would have been the exact centenary but when we were offered the opportunity to change it by a few days to tie in with the visit of Her Majesty there was only one answer to that
“It’s really been a community effort because the people of Bushmills and much further afield have been very very generous and we have virtually raised all the money we need and we want to thank everyone for that. “
Sgt Quigg was given his VC by the Queen’s grandfather, George V, at York Cottage, Sandringham. After the war he remained in the Army, and died, aged 70, in 1955.
Leonard Quigg added: “When he came back after receiving his medal in January 1917 he got a fortnight’s leave and there were celebrations around Bushmills.
“There was a huge celebration and he was the centre of attention but at the end he wouldn’t speak. He was too shy and his father had to speak for him.
“So, that tells you the sort of man he was.”