The first meeting of the season for Portrush Heritage Group attracted a large audience to the Portrush Atlantic Hotel, chaired by Hugh McGrattan who opened the meeting, welcoming everyone, including the two speakers, Victoria Millar, Curator at H.M.S.Caroline, Belfast, and Leonard Quigg, former headmaster of C.A.I., and great nephew of Robert Quigg, VC.
Chairman of P.H.G. , John McNally, gave a résumé of the Group’s past year, including its input into an (unsuccessful) Heritage Lottery Fund Application by the Council, the very successful 2 day Pirates Off Portrush festival coordinated by John Moore and a great team of volunteers, a fascinating coach trip, discovering North Coast history,led by Jean Clayton and Dr. Bob Curran, and a very satisfactory outcome for the search to find a temporary home for the old Station Clock, with liaison between owner, Barry Torrens, Council and Sharman Finlay. Mr. McNally highlighted future initiatives, such as the aim to establish a Heritage Trail in Portrush with H.L.F. funding ,and working with the Council in its regeneration of the town prior to the British Open. Members were asked to submit suggestions for priorities for the Trail by completing an email sent to everyone. An improved Pirates Off Portrush weekend is planned , with a Viking theme on the first day. Members were given a list of names put forward and for the new Committee, and this was approved by the majority . Mr. McNally also outlined the upcoming programme of events and asked for further volunteers, for example for the Pirates weekend.
Hugh McGrattan introduced the first speaker, Victoria Millar ,an historian based at H.M.S. Caroline as its Curator, who gave a fascinating talk with many photographs of the ship, from the time of her building in 1914, her service in the First World War, and her subsequent use as a training base and then later a museum in Belfast, up to the present day, when she is currently undergoing a refurbishment to restore it closer to its original format.
The second speaker Leonard Quigg gave an intimate insight into the Battle of the Somme hero , Robert Quigg V.C., tracing his modest origins near Bushmills , being employed at the McNaghten’s estate Dundarave, before joining the Ulster Volunteer Force , prior to enlisting in the British Army. Leonard outlined the brave but poignant actions of Robert rescuing seven comrades -in- arms while trying unsuccessfully to save his commanding officer and former employer, the 20 year old Sir Harry McNaghten, to whom Robert was batman. Robert was awarded the V.C. and returned to live in Bushmills. The Queen unveiled a statue of Robert Quigg which stands on former Dundarave land in Bushmills, in June, almost 100 years to the day after the events occurred.
The meeting concluded with a raffle for a copy of Leonard’s book on Robert Quigg, a pass to H.M.S. Caroline, and Lifeboat Christmas cards.