During our recent Roadshow at the Museum of Orange Heritage, we were once again amazed and moved to uncover new stories about East Belfast’s First World War and a series of artefacts which help us to see those stories through the eyes of those who lived them.
This photograph is of Agnes Agnew. Born in Banbridge, during the First World War, Agnes served as a nurse at the UVF Hospital in Belfast. In 1914, the leadership of the Ulster Volunteer Force had made an offer to the War Office to build and furnish a military hospital in Belfast. The War Office having accepted this offer, the hospital was initially opened in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens, eventually extending into the grounds of Queen’s University Belfast, with branch hospitals established throughout Ulster, including at Craigavon House – the ancestral home of leading Ulster Unionist and first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, James Craig.
During her time at the Hospital, Agnes kept an autograph book in which she collected messages from the many wounded soldiers she nursed. These messages, many of which include cartoons and doodles, give an insight into the thoughts and feelings of the wounded men and their relationship with Agnes. Agnes passed away in 1950, and we are grateful to her family for bringing her collection of photographs and her autograph book to our Roadshow.
The entries in Agnes’ autograph book, along with all of the artefacts and stories we have recorded and digitised through our Roadshow are available to view in our community archive, which is available here: http://www3.qub.ac.uk/cdda/EastBelfastWW1_Archive/, and our database of men from East Belfast killed during the Great War is now also available here: http://www3.qub.ac.uk/cdda/EastBelfastWW1_Archive/Database/. We will continue to update our database as our research develops, so watch this space! As always, we are keen to hear from you, so please get in touch!
Thanks to the Museum of Orange Heritage for hosting us, to the CDDA at Queen’s University Belfast for their assistance with digitisation and web development, and to Nigel Henderson for providing his genealogical expertise on the day.