Report by Sandra Millsopp
Bangor Historical Society welcomed Doreen Corcoran to its final meeting of 2011 on 8th December. Her subject was blue plaques in Ulster.
The meeting began with a short talk by John Hume of the Federation of Ulster Local Studies. He wished to publicise two projects currently being undertaken by the Federation: Hidden Gems and Forgotten People. Both highlight lesser known people and places. Mr. Hume urged Bangor Historical Society members to send in suitable local information and to view the existing material on the web.
Doreen Corcoran is a member of the Ulster History Circle. She began by explaining the background to the blue plaques which this group erects. The first blue plaques were erected in London, following a suggestion made by the M.P. William Ewart, in 1863.
Northern Ireland did not follow suit until the 1980s when Dr. James Hawthorne, controller of BBC Northern Ireland, fostered the idea. The Ulster History Circle was set up to oversee the scheme. There are currently 110 plaques which are listed in a small booklet produced by the society. Plaques are only erected once a person has been dead for 20 years. Those commemorated range from the writer Oscar Wilde to a world-renowned daffodil breeder in Broughshane.
The speaker then focussed on the plaques erected in the North Down area and told us something about the people commemorated. Amy Carmichael’s plaque is on Millisle Baptist Church. She took an early interest in the welfare of Belfast mill girls. Later she became a missionary in India where she is still remembered for her work in education. Sarah Grand was born Frances Elizabeth Clarke at Rosebank house in Donaghadee where her blue plaque is now displayed. Following the failure of her marriage to Mr. McFall from Magherafelt, she settled in London. She campaigned for women’s rights and wrote novels. She later became Mayor of Bath and died during the Second World War.
The painter Colin Middleton is commemorated by a plaque on 6, Victoria Road, Bangor, where he lived for a time. He worked in the family business in Belfast before devoting himself to art and design. William Macquitty was a film producer, whose most famous work was “A Night to Remember’, the story of the sinking of the Titanic. His plaque is on the family home, 89 Princetown Road, Bangor. Robert Lloyd and Rosamund Praeger were the children of a Dutch linen merchant. Robert was a famous writer and naturalist, while his sister was an illustrator and sculptress. Their plaques are in Holywood. Robert Sullivan is also commemorated in Holywood. From humble beginnings he rose to be one of four inspectors of schools in Ireland. He used money made from writing textbooks for various projects in Holywood.
Ellen Elder proposed a vote of thanks for this very interesting talk.