June 2016

Talk on the Ulster Home Front during the First World War
27th June 2016

2016-06-27 # Home Front Talk flyerOn Monday 27 June 2016 Dr Robert Whan, Living Legacies’ History Engagement Officer, gave a talk in Belfast City Library on the First World War home front in Ulster. This was part of the Belfast Somme 100 programme.

The First World War was the first conflict in which people started to talk about a home front. This was because people living and working at home were just as important to the war effort as the men fighting at the actual front. The illustrated talk examined the impact of the First World War on the domestic, economic, social and political life of Ulster, including the effect on women and children, industry and agriculture.

Dr Whan began by setting the scene by looking at Ulster on the eve of the war, including the pre-war Home Rule crisis (with the creation of the Ulster and Irish Volunteers) and the local suffrage movement. He then spoke about recruitment activities for the three new Irish divisions and the training of men in camps across the province. Conscription was never introduced in Ireland and as recruitment numbers began to decline recruiting rallies became a feature of life in Ulster.

The role of women was not neglected, and the talk included references to the service of women as professional nurses and Voluntary Aid Detachments, as well as their enrolment into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and work in munitions. Women also collected sphagnum moss which was available in Ireland and this was used as a replacement for cotton wool.  The war also had an impact on the lives of children with toys and games often becoming war-themed – dolls houses, for instance, became representations of hospital wards.

The work of farmers became more important, especially as an increasing amount of shipping coming to the British Isles was sunk by German submarines. The work of the Belfast shipyards increased and, as the war came to an end, concrete ships were produced in Warrenpoint because they used less steel which was instead required for making weapons.

In the concluding section of the talk, reference was made to how the November 1918 Armistice and the 1919 Peace Day celebrations were marked before thoughts turned to the erection of monuments and memorials and veterans’ organisations such as the British Legion were formed.

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Sixmilecross to the Balkans and Beyond
16th June 2016, Sixmilecross Presbyterian Church Hall

A Commemoration in Honour of Nurse Isabella Dixon’s WW1 service in France, Serbia and Egypt

Thursday June 16, 2016 at 8 pm

Sixmilecross Presbyterian Church Hall

Meeting House Road, Sixmilecross, Co. Tyrone

On the evening of June 16th, the Sixmilecross community packed the Presbyterian Church Hall for a commemoration in honour of Nurse Isabella Dixon (1882-1940), who served during the First World War (FWW) in France, Germany and Egypt (1915-1920).

Bella, as she is known locally, came from a farming family, and was educated at the village school before undertaking her nursing training at the Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh from  1903-1907. Her training completed by May 1907, she left Ireland to take up a nursing position at the Osborne Naval Academy cadet training centre on the Isle of Wight. In January of 1915, Bella left the naval academy and volunteered for war service with the British Red Cross to work under the famous Mrs Mabel St. Clair Stobart at her Anglo-French Hospital based at the Chateau de Tourlaville in Cherbourg, France treating wounded French soldiers brought by ship into the port. From there she volunteered for Mrs Stobart’s Serbian relief mission and worked at the tented Stobart field hospital in Kragujevatz from April to August of 1915, writing a diary of her experiences. From Sept. 1915, Bella served in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) and was stationed at the Montazah Palace Hospital in Alexandria until October 1920. Returning to England, she rose through the ranks in her nursing career serving as Matron in several hospitals. Bella took early retirement in 1938 and returned home to Sixmilecross where she died in 1940 and is buried in the Presbyterian Church Yard, just outside the venue of the evening’s commemoration.

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 First on the programme was a talk by Dr Johanne Devlin Trew of Ulster University and Living Legacies 1914-18 about the work of Isabella and her medical colleagues during the humanitarian campaign in Serbia, 1915.

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This was followed by a performance of songs that Bella had written into her Serbian diary sung by the Marshall Tenors, directed by Beth Giles.

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The FWW themed short play entitled: Of Bicycles and Fallow Fields, written and performed by the Omagh Robins Drama Group followed. The play is a creative response by the group to key events of Ireland's decade of centenaries, notably the First World War and the Easter Rising. Inspired by Bella Dixon’s wartime diary and WW1 letters and that were brought in to digitization workshops organised by the Living Legacies 1914-18 Engagement Centre (Queen's and Ulster universities) during 2014-15, the Omagh Robins have woven historical and newly composed narrative together, crossing generations and geographies.

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The commemorative evening event was filmed by Irish TV for broadcast on the following dates: July 6 at 8 pm; July 8 at 1 pm and July 10 at 1 pm. This will be available on Irish TV (SKY 191) and via their website at: www.irishtv.ie  .

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Launch of Belfast Somme 100
8th June at 11.00 am at Somme Drive, Castlereagh, Belfast BT6 9JP

Somme Drive, Castlereagh, Belfast BT6 9JP (junction with Thiepval Avenue)

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‌‌Please click the above for more information or to download Somme 100 PDF click here


History Hub Ulster
Invites you to a photocall to mark the launch of
Somme 100

 Wednesday 8th June at 11am
Somme Drive, Castlereagh, Belfast BT6 9JP (junction with Thiepval Avenue)


In attendance will be
The Right Honourable Lord Mayor, Alderman Brian Kingston
Historian Philip Orr
Karen O'Rawe, Chair of History Hub Ulster
Representatives from the History Hub Ulster Advisory Group


Belfast Somme 100 is a programme of commemorative events marking the centenary of the battles of the Somme, and the place of the Somme campaign within the First World War. The project focuses on the personalities and stories associated with the campaign and mark its place in the social and political history of Northern Ireland and pre-partition Ireland. The Belfast Somme 100 project aims to raise awareness of previously overlooked or submerged stories and personal connections that both the Somme and the events of 1916 have had with the broader history and development of Northern Ireland.

The programme runs for 141 days across Belfast, the exact duration of the Somme campaign in 1916, and features a range of commemorative events including concerts, film, lectures, walks, exhibitions, poetry, debates, theatre, children and family activities.

Flagship events include the Poppy Parade Project on 18th June, the Commemoration Concert with the Irish Guards on 28th June, official commemorations at St Anne’s Cathedral and the Cenotaph, a Conference with the Western Front Association, The Great War at Home with the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Artists at the Somme, Castleton Lanterns, and will culminate in November with the Hedge School.  Community programmes will be running north, south, east and west of the city and you can check out the ‘In Your Area’ section of belfastsomme100.com for details.

History Hub Ulster is working with a wide range of partners including the Northern Ireland Museums Council, Young at Art, Linen Hall Library, Queen’s Film Theatre, Creative Centenaries, Kabosh, Museum of Orange Heritage, Belfast Book Festival, Feile, Eastside Arts Festival and the Belfast International Festival.

Historian and Belfast Somme 100 Advisory Panel Member, Philip Orr commented:

'The Somme was one of the most costly and brutal campaigns out of many which were fought in the First World War. Thousands of Irishmen fought and died as the battle raged from July to November 1916 but it is for Ulster's Unionists and Loyalists that the Somme holds the most powerful memories. On the opening day, 1st July 1916, the attack of the 36th (Ulster) Division at Thiepval involved massive casualties and a display of great courage. The events of that day soon became a founding story about loyalty and sacrifice for the newly created state of Northern Ireland.'

Chair of History Hub Ulster, Karen O’Rawe, commented:

The Somme offensive of 1916 is implanted deeper in the folk-memory than any other First World War battle.  The 16th (Irish) and 36th (Ulster) Divisions suffered around 9,000 casualties on the Somme battlefields in 1916, while many more served and died outside these well-known divisions

The impact of this loss of young men reverberated across Belfast and in every village and town across Ireland.  This programme of events looks specifically at the impact of the Somme, both in France and in Belfast.  The programme will provide alternative routes to education and commemoration, and will reach out to all four corners of the city.’

The Right Honourable Lord Mayor, Alderman Brian Kingston:

“Belfast City Council is delighted to be supporting the Somme 100 programme of events being run by History Hub Ulster. The support for Somme 100 is part of our wider Decade of Centenaries programme this year in which we are marking what is one of the most significant years in the whole Decade. The Council has its own civic programme of activities which is ongoing throughout the year, as well as our “Belfast; Reflections on 1916” exhibition which will be in the East Entrance of City Hall until the end of August. However, the Somme 100 programme offers the opportunity for us in Council to be able to support programmes, events and activities within local neighbourhoods and I pay tribute to History Hub Ulster and their Advisory group for the fantastic and engaging programme that they have put together”


The objectives of the Somme 100 project are to dispel myths and stereotypes, to promote and encourage dialogue within communities and with other communities and to create a space which allows the development of mutual understanding.              

Keep a regular check on our website at belfastsomme100.com, Facebook page, and follow us on twitter @belfastsomme100. 

The project is run by History Hub Ulster with an Advisory Panel made up of experts in the period and community leaders. It is funded by Belfast City Council.

About History Hub Ulster

History Hub Ulster is a community based organisation. We aim to promote and produce projects and partnerships which are engaging to all members of the community and to instil a sense of pride in our ancestors’ achievements; To put family and communities at the centre of the historical narrative; To engage the communities of Ulster with their history by pursuing interesting and innovative projects which enhance the individual’s understanding of their shared heritage.



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