A Fateful Day

On Friday 22nd October 2010, I attended the opening of the exhibition on the 1641 Depositions in the Long Room, Trinity College, Dublin by President Mary McAleese and the Lord Bannside PC, Dr Paisley.This date was chosen because it was on another Friday, 22nd October 1641, that the Rising took place in Ireland. It was also to me a significant date because on that day in 1935, Edward Lord Carson died.

But I was also shocked to hear that on the same day two of my friends and colleagues had also passed away. John Harrison MBE, one of Northern Ireland’s leading photographers, died at his home in Lisburn, County Antrim at the early age of 50. And Captain Bill Henderson OBE also passed away that day. Both of course, were associated with the Press, who were present in force at the funerals on Monday 25th October and Wednesday 27th October.

John was a staunch member of the Northern Ireland Press Photographers Association and was its Chairman when his critically acclaimed ‘Out of the Darkness’ exhibition was put on show in Washington. It formed part of the opening of the ‘Re-Discover Northern Ireland’ series of events then being held in Washington, DC to show the move from conflict towards normality here. John was a great supporter of the Somme Association and came frequently with us to France as the official photographer for the various Secretaries of State who came with us. He was a great favourite of the Paisley family and took classic photographs of them through the years.

Captain Henderson was a member of the Victoria Unionist Association of which I was Secretary for many years. He was an esteemed friend and colleague and, with his wife Primrose, entertained our Association regularly at their home. He was a member of our Somme Advisory Committee and we benefitted much from his wisdom. He was, of course, as James O'Fee has told us, a serving officer in the Irish Guards and was very proud of his comrades, who accompanied him on his last journey. Two of Northern Ireland’s six prime ministers served in the Irish Guards:Captain Terence O’Neill, (1963-1969) and Major James Chichester Clark, (1969 –1971).

Lieutenant John (Jack) Kipling, only son of Rudyard Kipling, also served and was killed on the second day of the Battle of Loos on the Western Front in 1915, aged 18 years. After his death Kipling wrote the poem ‘My Boy Jack’ for him. Kipling published a two volume history of the Irish Guards in 1923. Guardsman Joseph McLaughlin, son of a butcher from Londonderry, added two years to his age in order to enlist in the Irish Guards. After service in the Palestine Police Force and the Royal Ulster Constabulary he became a full-time singer using the stage name Josef Locke. He performed in five Royal Variety performances and became known for such classic ballads as ‘I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen’ and ‘The Isle of Innisfree’. His signature song ‘Hear My Song’ became the title of a film released in 1992 about a fantasy comeback concert by Locke in Liverpool.

One of the most famous soldiers of the Irish Guards, who was also a photographer, was Francis Patrick Mary Brown, MC and Bar, SJ, who was a distinguished member of the Jesuit Order in Ireland. He was best known for his photographs of the RMS Titanic taken shortly before its sinking in 1912. At the age of 35 he travelled to Europe to join the Irish Guards as a chaplain in 1915 and served with them until the spring of 1920. He served at the Battles of the Somme, Locre, Wyteschaete, Messines Ridge, Passchendaele, Ypres, Amiens and Arras. He was injured five times during the war, once severely in a gas attack and was awarded the Military Cross and Bar for his valour. His Commanding Officer, Harold Alexander (later Field Marshal and then Viscount Alexander of Tunis and of Errigle in County Donegal, Baron of Ottawa and Castlederg in County Tyrone) described him as one of the bravest men he had ever met.

But an equally brave man was Father Willie Doyle MC, SJ who enlisted as a chaplain shortly after the outbreak of the First World War and served in the 8th Royal Irish Fusilliers, the Royal Inniskilling Fusilliers, the 9th Royal Dublin Fusilliers, the 6th Royal Irish Rifles and the 7th Royal Irish Rifles. He also participated in the Battles of the Somme, Messines Ridge and Ypres. General Hickie, the Commander-in-Chief of the 16th (Irish) Division, described Doyle as “one of the bravest men who fought or served out here.” He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery during the assault on the village of Ginchy and was cited for a posthumous Victoria Cross the day he was killed at the Battle of Passchendale alongside the 16th (Irish) Division and the 36th (Ulster) Division which both suffered heavy losses. He has no known grave.

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