Portadown Heritage Tours are launching ‘Our Loyalty is Not for Barter’ festival of events. This week-long festival is taking place during Orange Heritage Week. The festival will explore the transition of the 4thPortadown Battalion Ulster Volunteer Force who enlisted into the 9thBattalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in Carleton Street Orange Hall in 1914.
The festival will run from Monday 23rdSeptember until Saturday 28th September. Every room within the hall will feature an exhibition or living history display. One of the rooms will be converted into an army recruitment office, similar to the one that would have been used in the hall in September 1914.
The festival exhibitions will create a timeline of events looking at the years before the outbreak of war covering the Home Rule Crisis, the Ulster and Irish Volunteer Forces, the Unionist Clubs and the Women’s Unionist Association. Carleton Street Orange Hall was on standby to become an Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital if Civil War had been declared. One of the rooms in the hall will be converted into a medical room to showcase what the rooms would have looked like if that had happened.
Women and the First World War
Also included is an exhibition on the Suffragettes and Women during the First World War. There will be an exhibition exploring the famous Blacker and Shillington families of Portadown. Both families were influential during the First World War, but we also look at the generations before them that paved the way for the development of the Orange Order in the local town.
Exploring both Communities
We are exploring the events of 1916 and how the Ulster and Irish Divisions came together to fight at Messines in 1917. Also, on display will be ‘The Arches of Portadown’. This exhibition will look at the local triumphal arches in the area including those that are memorials to those who died during the First World War.
The launch night is Monday 23rdSeptember, this is a closed event by invitation only. The festival will open to the public on Tuesday 24thSeptember. Exhibitions are open Tuesday-Friday 10:30am – 4:00pm and also Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings 7:00pm-9:30pm. On Tuesday 24thSeptember at 7:00pm there will be talk by Mrs Carol Walker MBE, Somme Association, on ‘Women and the First World War’. On Thursday 26thSeptember at 7:00pm there will be a talk by local historian Mr Richard Edgar on ‘A Call to Arms: Portadown and the Great War’.
The Festival will finish on Saturday 28thSeptember with exhibitions open 10:30am-4:00pm and Portadown District LOL No.1 will also be hosting the Brew for Drew Coffee Morning and Family Fun day from 11am-3pm. There will be lots to do for all the family at the fun day with Bouncy Castle, Face Painting, Play Area, Balloon Modelling, Games, Arts, Crafts and also special guests!
A World War 1 Victoria Cross Recipient, Lieut. Cather was born October 11th 1890 and died 2nd July 1916. A native of the Streatham Hill area of south west London, Cather enlisted in the University and Public School Corps in September 1914 and was then commissioned into the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in May 1915. He served as as a Lieutenant, Adjutant, with the 108th Infantry Brigade, 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers (Armagh, Monaghan and Cavan Volunteers).
Cather was awarded the VC for action near Beaumont Hamel during the first days of the Battle of the Somme, the “Big Push”. His unit was assigned a sector just north of the river Ancre. At 7:30am they went over the top with six hundred men to cross six hundred yards of no-mans land towards their objective of Beaucort Station. At roll call at the end of the day just over five hundred were killed, missing or wounded. Later in the day the remnants of the battalion were withdrawn to the village of Beaumont Hamel. Search parties were organised that evening to go back over no-mans land to look for their missing comrades.
As battalion adjutant, Lieutenant Cather led one of the parties. From his citation:
“For most conspicuous bravery. From 7pm till midnight he searched ‘No-Mans Land’, and brought in three wounded men. Next morning at 8am he continued his search, brought in another wounded man, and gave water to others, arranging for their rescue later. Finally, at 10:30am he took out water to another man and was proceeding further on when he was himself killed. All this was carried out in full view of the enemy, and under direct machine gun fire and intermittent artillery fire. He set as splendid example of courage and self sacrifice”
He has no known grave, but he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 15a. His Victoria Cross was presented to his family by King George at Buckingham Palace on March 31st 1917. The medal is now on display at the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum, Armagh.
One of the original murals in Edgarstown was of King William III, it was painted on the gable wall of a house in Henry Street, which no longer exists. Unfortunately, due to the areas housing redevelopment in the 1970’s it was demolished and lost.
There are only a handful of murals still remaining in Portadown today. Probably the most eye-catching one can be found in the Edgarstown area. It was finished and unveiled in time for the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, in memorial of the 36th Ulster Division. It depicts a famous painting, a copy of which can be found on display in The Ulster Tower at the Somme.
The original mural demolished in the 1970’s and pictured below, the new mural for the 36th Ulster Division.
Charles Moore Johnston was a Captain with the 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. He was originally from Carrickblacker Avenue in Portadown. Captain Johnston was in command of ‘C’ Company, which was positioned on the left of the centre for the attack on the 1st July. He was killed in action on the 1st July 1916 at age 30. He is buried in Mensil Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France. He was a member of Portadown Unionist Club.
His Father also, Charles, was Chairman of Portadown Unionist Club. The bannerette of Portadown Unionist Club has been preserved and is on display in Carleton Street Orange Hall.