Friday night saw a Gala Ball held in the Royal Court, Portrush by the Robert Quigg VC Commemoration Society.
The Society is endeavouring to raise money to erect a sculpture as a fitting tribute to this local hero who was awarded the VC for valour shown at the battle of the Somme.
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for ‘valour in the face of the enemy’ to members of the armed forces.
The guests had a rare opportunity to see the Victoria Cross medal presented to Private Robert Quigg by King George V in January 1917 at Sandringham House. The medal is in the care of the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum, Belfast and having such a precious historical treasure at the Gala Dinner helped to make the occasion even more exceptional for everyone there.
With the youngest recipient ever of the Victoria Cross, Lance Corporal Leakey, being presented with his medal in London last week it was also fitting to have serving members of the armed forces present at the event.
Lance Corporal Chris McKendry had made and sold trench art during his recent tour to Afghanistan and he made the presentation of the money raised and a piece of his trench art to President of the society, local war historian Robert Thompson.
Robert Quigg’s great nephew Leonard Quigg spoke about his relation and what the society were aiming to achieve.
“Like a lot of soldiers from Bushmills on July 1st 1916 Robert Quigg went into attack against the German trenches and his company was led by Sir Harry McNaughton who was the landlord at the Dundarave Estate in Bushmills.
“At the end of the day, after lots of fighting and lots and lots of casualties, Quigg discovered that his platoon commander, Sir Harry was injured and lying somewhere in no man’s land. He then went into No Man’s land to try and find him but unfortunately he didn’t manage to find him but he went out seven times and each time he went out he brought back a wounded soldier. Sadly Sir Harry’s body was never found.”
Leonard continued: “Our main focus is on raising funds to erect a statue of him in Bushmills in time for the centenary of the Somme in July 2016 and we have a Robert Quigg VC Commemoration Society and actually that idea was initiated by Bushmills war historian Robert Thompson. Robert has done a tremendous amount of research, not just on Robert Quigg but on soldiers from all over the north.
“It is a fitting tribute to a selfless act and we intend that the sculpture will be an enhancement of the village and would help tell the story of that time. Quigg is very much part of the heritage and culture of the Bushmills community and is still well known and celebrated there.”
The connection between the battle of the Somme and the latest conflict fought by British soldiers was made at the event with a special presentation by Lance Corporal Chris McKendry.
“Chris has been very good to us,” continued Mr. Quigg. “He made a lot of trench art from used ordonnance and sold those to raise a considerable amount of money for our society. He presented that and also a specially made momento to Robert Thompson.
After his presentation Chris commented: “It makes me feel very proud to be part of a community that wants to remember a war hero such as Robert Quigg VC. The personal connection I had to the Commemoration society was the Society’s President Robert Thompson. He is a close friend to my family and I’ve known him all my life. I’ve grown up listening to his stories of Quigg and other local heroes.
“Many of our local first and second world war heroes would still be forgotten if it not had been for Robert’s hard work and passion to ensure their names and stories went on our town memorials and in his books. When I presented Robbie with the plaque I had made in Afghanistan along with the cheque for £1100 he was astonished and because it had all been kept as a surprise he was a bit stuck for words to begin with.
“He took to the podium and responded by reminiscing over my childhood and in his very own humorous style told the crowd embarrassing stories about me. He was genuinely touched by it all and that was obvious. It was my objective to not only support the memorial fund but to take the opportunity to acknowledge such a great servant to our community, a man who is “passionate in his efforts, unsung in his efforts and throughout it all totally humble.
“I included two pieces of the trench art in the auction, a set of cufflinks made from spent 7.62mm cases which fetched a mighty £220. Also a .50 Caliber spent case that I had crafted into a bottle opener that sold for an also impressive £150.”