March 2015

Extraordinary stories of local doctors, nurses and volunteers during First World War to be explored at special event

A page from the fascinating diary kept by Sixmilecross nurse, Bella Dixon, during her journey across war-torn Europe in 1915. SU1202JRTHE fascinating stories of local doctors, nurses and volunteers during the First World War will be explored at a special event in the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies (MCMS) at the Ulster American Folk Park, near Omagh, next week.

Dr Johanne Devlin Trew, of the Ulster University, and Dr Patrick Fitzgerald, from the MCMS, will introduce the series of talks, which have been jointly-organised by Libraries NI, Living Legacies 1914-18 and Live and Learn. The two academics will then deliver a brief overview of health provision during the First World War.

Several guest speakers will be available throughout the event, which is called West Ulster and World War One: stories of local doctors, nurses and volunteers. It is taking place on Wednesday, March 25, between 1pm and 4pm.

Professor Elizabeth Crooke, from Ulster University, and Peter Archdale will talk about the scrapbook as a source of information, with reference to the unique WW1 scrapbook compiled by Nurse Drought, grandmother of Peter, who was perhaps better known as Mrs Edith Whelan, the wife of Canon Whelan, of Lislimnaghan Church, just outside Omagh.

The organisers of the event say that this scrapbook is an "extraordinary item", which containing photos of soldiers, and poems and sketches the soldiers made while recuperating.

Alan Clarke will present the story of Sixmilecross nurse Bella Dixon, who served in Serbia in 1915 and was decorated by both King George V and King Peter of Serbia for her work at the field hospital.

Bella's story will then be brought to life by Dr Brenda Winter-Palmer and student actors from Queen's University drama department.

A career nurse who trained at the Tyrone Infirmary in Omagh, Bella's exploits were covered by the Tyrone Constitution 100 years ago. However, the extraordinary diary of her journey to serve in Serbia in 1915 has only recently come to light. It begins on March 26, 1915 and relates events over the summer of 1915 in Serbia, where conditions were amongst the worst experienced in the First World War.

Claire McElhinney and Amanda Porter will present the story of their grandmother, Edith Harkness, and the other UVF nurses from Tyrone, who established the Tyrone Hospital in Pau, France, during World War One.

Edith, who was from Newtownstewart, joined the Tyrone UVF nurses brigade as a volunteer. Sponsored by the Duchess of Abercorn, they offered their services to the French Army during WW1 and set off for the continent.

During the day, the public will be able to access The Mellon Centre for Migration Studies Library Heritage Collection, with access to Libraries NI free on-line resource 'Ancestry Library Edition' to research WW1 ancestors. 

The Living Legacies 1914-18 Engagement Centre is a focal point for connecting academic and community researchers interested in how the First World War lives on in the 21st century world.

Dr Johanne Devlin Trew, who is one of five academics on the Living Legacies team, said next week's event had been organised after the success of a workshop, called WW1 and You! Objects and Memories, held at the Ulster American Folk Park last November.

She said: "It was a huge success, with literally not even standing room left! Some material came to light at that event, especially the interest in local nurses so we decided to run this second event, West Ulster and WW1: stories of local doctors, nurses and volunteers."

The academic said that this latest event was being run in partnership with Live and Learn, a creative learning initiative for over 50s and is funded by Big Lottery in partnership with Age NI.
“So far, our workshops are attracting people of all ages," she added.

2015-03-19 # Tyrone New Paper # Extraordinary stories‌Rich memories
Briege McClean, project officer for the Ulster American Folk Park, said: "Older people have so many rich memories and stories. Sharing these with others and in particular leaving their legacy for a younger generation is so important."

Meanwhile, Patricia Walker, Libraries NI head of heritage and digitisation, said: "Libraries NI is delighted to partner with a number of organisations to host this event; it is aimed to encourage lots of people to learn about their family's past during WW1, discover their local history and celebrate their heritage."

Everyone is welcome to come along to this informative and enjoyable afternoon and admission is free.

For more information contact the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, 2 Mellon Road, Omagh, BT78 5QU, telephone (028) 82256315, or email:


To see newpaper artical, please click the same to the right


Abstract taken from Tyrone Constitution dated 19th March 2015

Image :- A page from the fascinating diary kept by Sixmilecross nurse, Bella Dixon, during her journey across war-torn Europe in 1915. SU1202JR

Top of Page

Extraordinary stories of local doctors, nurses and volunteers during First World War to be explored at special event

Creative Centenaries



Huge crowds attend Creative Centenaries Resources Fair

2015-03-05 # Creative Centenaries Resources FairOver 250 people were in attendance at the first ever Creative Centenaries Resources Fair in Titanic Belfast this March.

The large crowds were there to hear about the work being done across the creative, cultural and community base across Ireland in response to the Decade of Centenaries.

Organised in partnership with the Nerve Centre, Community Relations Council and Heritage Lottery Fund, the event was designed to provide some guidance for those planning their own commemorative events from 2015 onwards, with a particular emphasis on remembering the events of 2016.

The event was opened with a keynote presentation from Dr. Eamon Phoenix who examined key events from throughout the Decade of Centenaries and what they timeframe means to a modern audience.

More than 30 stalls and exhibitions were in attendance to showcase some of the exciting and informative work being produced including Libraries NI, Living Legacies, National Museums Northern Ireland and many more.

Throughout the day, those in attendance also had the chance to take part in informative workshops and panel discussions about the role of commemoration and ethical and shared responses. A creative responses workshop saw how the work of digital organisations, theatre groups and community drama were being employed in areas of commemoration.

The day ended with a 32 piece choir and actors providing one final creative response and an uplifting and positive experience.

Top of Page

Enler Day Centre, Dundonald, Ulster Museum

National Museums Northern IrelandEnler Day Centre, Dundonald, Ulster Museum

The second Hackney First World War workshop was developed by Fiona Baird, Ulster Museum, History Education. Facilitated by F. Baird and Living Legacies History Engagement Officer, F. Byrne, this workshop involved exploring the First World War handling session with particular reference to the Hackney diaries.

Members of the group got to handle and examine the soldier’s First World War linen bread bag while hearing about George Hackney’s experience of waking up and discovering that rats had ate through his bread bag and most of his biscuit rations.

2015-03-03 # Enler Day Centre # Bag

2015-03-03 # Enler Day Centre # Mouse 

“Discovered in the evening that rats have eaten a hole in my Emergency ration Bag and eaten about half a pound of biscuits leaving me about enough to fill an egg cup.”

George Hackney diaries

First World War
soldier’s linen bread bag
NMNI Collection
‌Baby rat
NMNI Collection

The group also learned about George’s experience after the 1st July 1916. Suffering from ‘shell-shock,’ he was sent to a war hospital in Sheffield, where he survived a zeppelin raid. The group got to inspect a portion of the framework from one of these zeppelins.

 2015-03-03 # Enler Day Centre # Zeppelin
Piece of Zeppelin framework
NMNI Collection

“I was very glad to be marked for England as it meant I would get a good rest away from the sound of guns. Rose at 6.00 and got ready for the journey and left the hospital at 8am exactly two years after my enlistment.”

Mon 25th September 1916

“On Monday night we had a Zeppelin Raid and I was wakened by the Night Sister and dressed and told to remain up until the Safety Buzzer sounded… about 12.00 midnight a Zeppelin passed right over the hospital but did not drop any bombs until he was about three miles away, but even at that distance the explosions fairly shook our windows. My nerves were almost gone.

A good number of civilians were killed and injured, but no military purpose was done – murder pure and simple.”

The group examined many other First World War artefacts and heard many more extracts from the diaries of George Hackney.


What did you like most about the workshop today?

                “The talk and following discussion of the WWI experiences.”

                “Found it very interesting an enjoyed it.”

“Hearing the diary extracts.”

Did you learn anything new during the workshop?

“I enjoyed learning about George Hackney’s diaries. Brilliant. My father and uncle were in the trenches so it meant so much to me. To handle the food bag etc. very interesting”

“Keen to learn more.”

Top of Page