Recently revealed are the first images of a permanent tribute to a Bushmills man who carried out one of the most prolonged and selfless acts of gallantry during the First World War.
David Annand is currently putting the finishing touches to his sculpture of Robert Quigg VC which will be cast in bronze and placed in Main Street. The Robert Quigg VC Commemoration Society has raised £49,000 of the £57,000 needed to have the life-sized statue completed and unveiled on June 28. The renowned sculptor - whose previous work includes the Robert Dunlop bronze in Ballymoney - has been working on his depiction of the Causeway coast’s Somme hero for months.
Quigg was awarded the Victoria Cross for exceptional valour in the face of the enemy on the first day of the 1916 Battle of the Somme.
Following a number of assaults on German lines, the former farm worker was aware of rumours that his platoon officer, Lt Harry Mcnaghten, was lying wounded in no man’s land. Quigg had previously worked on the Mcnaghten estate and is reputed to have promised Lady Mcnaghten that he would not return home without her son.
Venturing out of his trench under heavy shell and machine gun fire, the Royal Irish Rifles’ private searched in vain for the lieutenant but was able to rescue another wounded comrade from certain death. Quigg left the trench a further six times - saving another soldier on each occasion.
His VC citation reads: “The last man he dragged in on a waterproof sheet was from within a few yards of the enemy’s wire. He was seven hours engaged in this most gallant work, and finally was so exhausted that he had to give it up.”
In January 1917 he returned to a hero’s welcome in Bushmills after being presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Sandringham. It was reported at the time that five of the seven wounded men that he saved had survived. Lady Mcnaghten later presented the family’s former employee with a gold watch for his efforts.
In 1953 Quigg met the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony in Coleraine. He died in May 1955 and was buried in Billy Parish Churchyard with full military honours. The new statue will be placed opposite the Bushmills Inn.
Robert Thompson of the Commemoration Society, said: “We have received money from across the world but it is the people of the Causeway area who have been the most generous. It has been clear from the beginning how much they admired Robert Quigg VC and wanted to honour his memory.”
Leonard Quigg, a great nephew of Robert, said the statue will “remind us of the bravery of all those local sons who fought on that historic and tragic first day of the Battle of the Somme”.
He has also written a book due for release in late May, ‘Sergeant Robert Quigg VC – A Bushmills Hero’, with all profits going to the sculpture fund. A fundraising brunch is also being held on Saturday in Bushmills Presbyterian Church Hall.