When I was a young lad, around 9 or 10 years old, I was a
primary 6 or 7 pupil at Victoria Primary School Newtownards. We were very
fortunate to have many great and memorable teachers, one teacher that springs
to mind instantly was Mr. Morrison - famed for is bushy eyebrows and great
sense of humour, he was very much a local man.
Here is Mr. Morrison (white blazer) at the annual sports day at Victoria Primary School
I recall each year at the school either watching or when
taking part in the annual school play called 'The Christmas Rhymers'. The
performers would learn their parts in the play during late November / early
December, this would not take too long as each part lasted between 3 or 4 lines
of dialogue (except for the 2 main parts). We would also prepare our costumes
and props - then it was time for the performances. The troupe of Christmas
Rhymers would gather in Mr Morrison's room then in turn visit P1 then onto P2
and so on, right through the school to P7.
Christmas Rhymers, taken from 'Six Miles from Bangor - the story of Donaghadee & Copeland Islands.
This was all a distant but pleasant memory, until Christmas
of 2011 when Mark Thompson sent me and Darren Gibson, a copy of a 'Christmas
Rhymers' article that had appeared in a local history book about Donaghadee.
Over that Christmas as I visited family and friends I introduced the subject of
Christmas Rhymers and we had a great time reminiscing about the play and our
'aul school days' at Victoria Primary School.
I thought no more about the article until during one of my
weekly visits to Lisneal College in Londonderry (to teach Lambeg drum and
fife). Over a cup of tea Darren Gibson and I had a chat about the Christmas
Rhymers play and suggested trying to re-establish the Christmas Rhymers play in
a few local Schools in Newtownards - this is where I come in.
With my work as a peripatetic music tutor and experience as
a Ulster Scots enthusiast with Loughries Historical Society in Newtownards, I
made 2 telephone calls to schools in the town and they were very interested and
keen to run with the play.
I will post another blog item on the Christmas Rhymers in a
few weeks time and name the 2 schools involved and give you an update on the
Delving into family history has been very interesting indeed recently!
I have identified a Great Uncle William Anderson who is somewhat of an enigma. When I initially spoke to living family members about 'The Anderson's' most were very forthcoming with information about the family, however one family member said I would be best not to look too closely into William Anderson..... well.
Me being me, I have decided to, yes, look into William's life a little closer.
Along with other details he joined the 13th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles in 1914, I was informed that he was a dispatch rider and came home safely.... wrong! He did join the 13th Battalion RIR however he transferred to the Machine Gun Corps later in the war. There is a lot to this past relative that is rather private that I won't post, nevertheless his war record is interesting.
Channel 4 are showing: - The Forgotten Gunners of WWI: A Time Team Special, about the creation of the unit, where they trained, etc, and yes Great Uncle William was in this unit. I will be glued to Chanel 4 tomorrow in order to find out a little more about this unit and the kind of war they fought.
Taken of the Channel 4 Site;
Golfers at a popular East Midlands golf club now know that a huge wooded bank beside their fairway is a rather special area of 'rough'. Time Team's experts discovered, that 90 years ago it was a machine gun firing range - and buried in the bank are tens of thousands of spent bullets.
Belton House near Grantham may be one of Britain's finest stately homes but during World War I, the grounds were home to thousands of men training for front line duties. It was where the Machine Gun Corps was created and its troops were trained.
The Corps was set up as a response to German superiority in using these deadly weapons and became vital to the war effort. Most of the Machine Gun Corps' records were destroyed, first in a fire and then in the Blitz in World War II.
Today almost nothing is visible above ground. Tony Robinson and the Team have quite a task to locate the hundreds of barrack blocks, kitchen blocks, roads, social centres and shooting ranges.
To the Team's relief, the dig is rich in finds, revealing glimpses of the men's lives in wartime; whether from the site of the YMCA, where a cup of cocoa could be had for a few pence, or from the hastily erected huts where they lived for their six weeks of intensive training.
They uncover stories of young men who went so bravely to their deaths. Of the 170,000 who trained here more than 12,000 were killed and another 50,000 injured. The Corps' nickname was 'the Suicide Club'.
The sound of a Vickers gun reverberating around the park for the first time in 90 years provides a shocking but fitting tribute.