Category Archives: Women’s Unionist Association

Orangemen Return to Carleton Street Orange Hall 1944

Orangemen Return to Carleton Street Orange Hall 1944

Before Victory in Europe in 1945, the Orangemen and Orangewomen of Portadown could return to Carleton Street Orange Hall.  The Hall had been under military control to both the British and American Troops at different periods of time during the 2nd World War.

To mark the occasion a function was held in the Town Hall in 1944.

“The large and enthusiastic representative audience spoke volumes for the virility of the Order in the Portadown District and augurs well for its future progress here”.

 

The assembly room in the Town Hall was ‘attractively decorated’ with bunting, greenery and flowers.  This added a ‘welcome touch of warmth’.

“Everyone was in good spirits and keen to resume the good work of the order”.

Dr Dougan and the Orange Influence

In his opening address, District Master Dr George Dougan said that ‘they had a great deal for which to be thankful for.  They were grateful to get back again and it would make a great difference to the Order in the District’.

In his speech conclusion, Dr Dougan conveyed to the meeting a message of good wishes from sister Louisa Shillington, widow of the former District Master, Major David Graham Shillington.

Service

Parkmount Flute Band led the music entertainment, their conductor was Brother Albert Wilson.  Songs were performed by Brother Harold McAfee, Brother Leslie Hurst and Brother Jack Menaul.

Secretary of the Orange Hall Committee, Brother Herbert Whitten, who had been at the forefront of all negotiations with the British and American Military authorities regarding the Hall, gave an interesting survey of matters concerning the hall since its requisition by the military.

A number of speeches followed.

The Ladies

There was a short interval in the service and tea was served.  This was provided by two of the Women’s Orange Lodges, WLOL 62 and WLOL85. The District Mistress, Sister Dougan, organised the refreshments ‘with an efficiency that earned the praise of all present’.

With the interval over, Parkmount Flute Band once again took to the stage to provide musical entertainment.

Presentation

One surprise item came at the end of the evening.  Mr Callender Bullock made a presentation (on behalf of his wife) from the members of Portadown Women’s Unionist Association, to Dr George Dougan.  It was a ‘beautiful paper knife’.

The evening Concluded with the National Anthem.

 

 

Portadown Soldier’s Ordeal: Home for VE Celebrations after 5 years as a Prisoner of War

Portadown Soldier’s Ordeal: Home for VE Celebrations after 5 years as a Prisoner of War

After having spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war in the hands of the Germans, Fusilier James Hughes of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers returned home in time to experience the VE Celebrations.

Fusilier Hughes returned to his home at 13 Fowlers Entry, Portadown. He was met at Watson Street Railway Station by Mr R J Magowan, Chairman of the Urban District Council, Mr Geo McGowan, Town Clerk, and Mr R Heathwood, B.E.M.

Fusilier Hughes’ widowed Mother, Mary, and other members of his family were of course overjoyed to see him.  Some of the younger members of the family had never met him.  Some of his younger siblings had only a handful of memories of him before the war and didn’t know what he looked like.

He was described as

“looking little the worse of his long period in German war prisoner compounds”.

First Visit

One of the first visits for Fusilier Hughes on his return was to the News Office.  There he requested a public thank you to be published to the local citizens for their support of the Red Cross Prisoners of War Fund.

“these parcels reached us regularly, though the Germans had been ghoulish enough to open them and merely hand over about half of what was intended for the men to whom they were dispatched”.

Fusilier Hughes

He also acknowledged parcels sent by Mr George Hughes, 13 South Street.  Although he never personally received the packages.

The Parcels

One of the main contributors to the parcels for local men being held in German prisoner of war camps , was Portadown Women’s Orange District.  They worked alongside Portadown Women’s Unionist Association.

Sister Louisa Shillington, was one of the main organisers and a driving force behind donations for the appeal.  It was something close to her heart as she had lost her son, Tom Shillington, and nephew, Geoffrey Shillington Cather, in the First World War.  Her Husband, David Graham Shillington had sadly died in 1944 and never saw the war come to an end.

Louisa Shillington (Nee Collen)
Image courtesy of Shillington Family records

David Graham Shillington was MP for the area and was District Master of Portadown Orange District LOL No 1 right up until his death.  He had been a company commander in the local Ulster Volunteer Force during the Home Rule Crisis and went on to become a Major in the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers during the First World War. He had also took over the family firm T A Shillington & Son (now Haldane and Fisher) after his father died suddenly when he was 16.

Enlistment

Fusilier Hughes, who in civilian life, had been employed by Mr Edward Cassells of Woodhouse Street, enlisted in 1936.

He was taken prisoner at Ypres, Belgium on 27th May 1940.  Some of the places he had been to in the course of his travels across Germany, some of them in forced marches, included Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Marienwerder and Danzig.

Dunkirk

Fusilier Hughes had been in Berlin when the Dunkirk Evacuation took place.  During his incarceration he had acquired a good understanding of the German language.

While a prisoner he was allowed one letter home per week, but since the Normandy Invasion correspondence ceased and at all times contact with German civilians was strictly  forbidden.

The bombing by the RAF and USAAF gave the Allied war prisoners cause for anxiety, as at times their camp had narrow escapes.

Experiences

Fusilier Hughes described the Germans as harsh. On one occasion he escaped from the camp and enjoyed four days of freedom.  He was caught by the Gestapo, taken to their headquarters and severely beaten.

He described the occasions of forced marches as gruelling.   The Supreme headquarters of the Allied Nations had dropped leaflets into Germany demanding more consideration to the welfare of their prisoners, but no improvement in camp conditions was noticed.

Liberation

Liberation came when the 8th American Army reached Hamburg.  The Russian Forces converged at the same time.  Another local man they set free was George McCarragher from Obins Street, Portadown.

Fusilier Hughes arrived by Lancaster at Croydon. There, liberated prisoners of war were met with crowds and fellow servicemen and women to welcome them back. James then continued to Stranraer and arrived back in Northern Ireland via Larne.

Home Thoughts

One thing that surprised Fusilier Hughes on his arrival home was the small extent of the damage by air raids.  In Germany, all the big cities he had passed through were completely flattened.

Fusilier Hughes was given 6 weeks leave with double rations which were to help towards his complete recovery from undernourishment.  He was to rejoin his unit on 28th June 1945.

His Father, the late Mr James Hughes Senior, had served in the 1st World War with The Royal Engineers and The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

1914: The possibility of a UVF hospital at Carleton Street Orange Hall

1914: The possibility of a UVF hospital at Carleton Street Orange Hall

 Ulster Women’s Unionist Council

The council was established on 23rd January 1911.  It very quickly developed into a strong, active and democratic body that held the women of Ulster together with one common objective-the resistance to Home Rule for Ireland.  Within just one year of its establishment, the UWUC was notably the largest female political  group in Ireland.  At its height membership was in the region of 115,000-200,000.

Civil War In Ireland

Many women were anxious to play their part in the event of Civil War in Ireland, particularly the Ulster Women’s Unionist Council who proposed, as early as the beginning of 1912, that an Ambulance Society be set up and associated with their organisation.  However, they also became the driving force behind the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Medical and Nursing Corps which was formally in place by the end of 1913.  They believed that each Company of the UVF should have a voluntary female nursing section that could be called upon in the event of Civil War breaking out.  Up until that time various affiliated associations of the UWUC were already offering First Aid and nursing classes in their areas.

Establishing a Nursing Service

The Executive Committee of the Ulster Women’s council then took the initiative in early October 1913, to write to the Medical Board of the Ulster Volunteer Force to ask them to give serious consideration to the idea of a nursing service.  They made plain the urgency of the situation and included how the scheme should be based on the outline of the Voluntary Aid Detachment scheme which operated in Britain under the Red Cross.  They pointed out that volunteers should be trained in First Aid and Home Nursing using material from either the Red Cross or St John’s Ambulance Association.  The medical Board accepted the idea of a nursing service and by mid December 1913 the training scheme was well underway in many areas of the province.

Portadown Women’s Unionist Association

The members of Portadown Women’s Unionist Association had many links with the local Women’s Loyal Orange Institution.  The association in Portadown was a strong and well organised one.  They met in Carleton Street Orange hall.  In August 1913 they held a large meeting in a field in Edgarstown, which was owned by Miss Kate Carleton, to rally against Home Rule.  They held a number of these meetings during the years of the Home Rule Crisis.

The Blacker’s and The Unionist Associations

The President of the Portadown Women’s Unionist Association in 1914 was Mrs Blacker of Carrickblacker. The wife of Major Stewart Ward William Blacker.  During the years of the Home Rule Crisis, Major Blacker took a keen interest in the formation of the Unionist Clubs and in January 1912 he was appointed vice-president of the local men’s Unionist Association in Portadown.  Major Blacker was then appointed commanding officer of the 4th Portadown Battalion Ulster Volunteer Force.

Mrs Blacker was described by Mrs Dougan (the Vice President and wife of Bro. Dr George Dougan) as:

“A worthy representative of the Blacker family, the Blacker’s in days gone by have rendered invaluable service to the Unionist Cause”

The Secretary was Mrs C Johnston, her husband was the Chairman of the men’s Unionist Association in Portadown.  The treasurer was Louisa Shillington, the wife of David Graham Shillington and a respected Orangewoman.  David Graham Shillington was an officer of the 4th Portadown Battalion Ulster Volunteer Force and also a respected Orangeman.

UVF Hospital at Carleton Street Orange Hall

At the annual meeting of the Portadown Women’s Unionist Association in Carleton Street Orange Hall, in April 1914, the plans were finalised for a volunteer hospital in the Orange Hall.  In the event of an outbreak of civil war in Ireland.

The Orangemen of Portadown had kindly placed the whole building at the disposal of the women should a civil war break out.  It would have been a base hospital.  The Parochial Hall had also been offered as an auxiliary if it was required.  The staff at the hospital would have been as follows:

  • Joint Commandants- Mrs Robb and Mrs Hobson
  • Superintendant Nurse- Miss Marion Stanley
  • Mr WM Fulton- Treasurer
  • Mr Megarry- Quarter Master
  • Mr Robert Anderson – Transport Officer
  • Four trained nurses
  • Forty women trained in first aid nursing

The people of the town and district were generous in their promises to give or lend articles for the hospital and the tradespeople of the town also came forward to offer their services.

The cleaning and cooking was also not over looked.  In the President’s report of the meeting it states that:

“I am glad to be able to tell you that we are extremely well off in both these respects”.

Mrs Davidson was tasked to oversee the cleaning of the hospital along with a large group of willing helpers.  Mrs Dawson, Mrs Wedgewood, Mrs R Lutton and Mrs W Fulton would be responsible for the cooking.

The women had carefully refrained from asking for any money for the hospital.  Although the executive committee of the association had ear-marked £10 of the general fund to be devoted to the use of the hospital if it was required.  It was noted within the Presidents report that:

“I know that should the need really arise, you would all help as much as lay in your power”.

Mrs Blacker stated in her President report that:

“We all pray earnestly that the need for this hospital may never arise, still we must have our preparations made, and our organisation more or less complete, so that in the event of an outbreak we would not be caught napping”.

The Secretary, Mrs C Johnston, read a report on the work done by the Association during the year, which contained the following:

“When we met at our annual general meeting last year, we all fondly hoped that Home Rule would have been dead by this time.  I believe it is dying, but it is not prepared to die, and we need to do everything in our power now to make it impossible for it ever to raise its head again in Ulster”

Canvassing and Newspaper Distribution

Women of the Portadown association often traveled to Britain to canvas support and teach the true facts of the situation in Ireland.  One noted visit in the report of the meeting mentions a, Mrs Weir, who had given a satisfactory account of her canvassing experience in Scotland.

The Association in Portadown, on average posted over one hundred papers each week to Britain.  The importance of this task was emphasised as it resulted in large subscriptions from some of the people to whom the papers were sent.  This task counteracted government propaganda in Britain.

Mrs Johnston worked tirelessly to promote the Unionist cause both as Secretary and as head of the Volunteers Post Office.  Mrs Louisa Shillington, as treasurer, and all the other officers of the Association gave so much of their time and effort in the interests of the Unionist cause.

Mrs Dougan paid tribute to the Ulster Volunteer force during the Association’s meeting stating:

“On the night of the 19th and 20th March when we all believed that wholesale massacre was at hand, and also on Friday night last, every man turned out.  Not one sent an apology or made an appeal to get off.  We hope and trust that they might never have to be mobilised again in similar circumstances, but if they do, they would prove themselves worthy sons of worthy forefathers, and that every man among them would do his duty’.

Outbreak of War

At the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, the Home Rule crisis in Ireland and the threat of Civil War was now overtaken by a much greater force.  The Ulster Volunteer Force and the Irish Volunteers set aside their differences and joined the ranks of Kitchener’s new army.

The outbreak of war propelled the Ulster Women’s Unionist Council into a new cause and for the remainder of the war their active opposition to Home Rule was put aside; the focus was now on how they could actively help on the ‘home front’.

In the early period of the war, the UWUC were actively pursuing various avenues whereby the skills of their newly trained Ulster Volunteer nurses could be utilised immediately and like many other aid organisations, offered their services to the British War Office which were declined.  Not to be deterred an offer was made directly to the French Authorities which was gladly accepted and by 22nd September 1914, arrangments were already in place for the first group of the Ulster Volunteer nurses to proceed to France.

Carleton Street Orange Hall

The Orange Hall became a recruitment office.  On 15th September 1914, 300 men were selected from the 4th Portadown Battalion Ulster Volunteer Force.  The men underwent medical examination and were enlisted into the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Carleton Street Orange Hall

 

This is a very small part of a much bigger story to be told through our “Loyalty is Not for Barter’ Exhibition launching September 2019.