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16 October 2014
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Somme hero: Robert Quigg VC 1885 - 1955

In the little cemetery of Billy Parish Church near Bushmills lies the grave of Robert Quigg VC.

Article written by Brian Willis.

County Antrim
 

Robert won that most prestigious medal in a tremendous act of bravery on July 1st 1916 at the Battle of the Somme.

Watercolour of Billy Parish Church
Watercolour of Billy Parish Church, Bushmills

A Bushmills man, Robert Quigg was a member of the UVF and when war came he enlisted in the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (Mid-Antrim Volunteers). His platoon commander was Lieutenant Harry McNaughten the heir to the Bushmills' McNaughten Estate.

On the 1st of July Robert's platoon advanced three times only to be beaten back by the Germans. Many hundreds of the 12th Battalion were either killed or wounded. In the confusion of battle it became known that Lieutenant McNaughten was missing. Robert Quigg immediately volunteered to go out into no-mans land and search for his commander.

His actions during that fruitless search led him to receive the Victoria Cross. His citation reads as follows....

"..... hearing a rumour that his platoon officer was lying wounded, he went out seven times to look for him, under heavy shell and machine-gun fire, each time bringing back a wounded man. The last man he dragged on a waterproof sheet from within yards of the enemy's wire. He was seven hours engaged in this most gallant work, and was finally so exhausted that he had to give it up."

The body of Harry McNaughten was never found.

Robert Quigg returned to Bushmills to a hero's welcome. He died in 1955 and was buried with full military honours at Billy Church.

The grave of Sergeant Robert Quigg VC
The grave of Sergeant Robert Quigg VC
Inscription

Inscription on the gravestone reads.....

IN MEMORY OF SERGEANT ROBERT QUIGG 12TH BN. ROYAL IRISH RIFLES

WHO WON THE VICTORIA CROSS FOR MOST CONSPICUOUS BRAVERY

AT THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME ON 1ST JULY 1916

BORN 12TH MARCH 1885 - DIED 14TH MAY 1955

ERECTED BY HIS COMRADES

See also:

Somme hero: Robert Quigg VC 1885 - 1955

Battle of the Somme

Battle of the Somme - Memorabilia

The Larne Fallen

An Enniskillen VC

Lurgan Men in the Great War

World War I: Soldiers of Down

The Peake Brothers at War 1914-18

 

 

YOUR RESPONSES

George Kane-Smith - Mar '08
I remember Robert Quigg. I lived at The Nook, Giant's Causeway, and was his next door neighbour but one.
He was a lonely figure. Not seen much outside his garden, but when he walked up The Causeway, he seemed invariably to be dressed in black trousers with braces over a collarless shirt. He did not have a particularly military bearing.
His medal has never been accounted for.
I was asked if he might have buried it in the garden.
Does anyone out there know what he did with it?
George Kane-Smith

Philip Mclernon (Bushmills) - Feb '08
Age shall not weary them,nor the years condemn,

Peter Mullan - Feb '07
Yes....a great man?
Can anyone authenticate some of these stories about Quiggs responses to the King?

I also have heard.
You're a brave man Mr Quigg
You're a quare brave man yourself your majesty

I'm doing a little research for a book and would love someone to give me a wee bit more.

Doug Smith - Oct '06
I came accross this site whilst trying to trace relatives of my Mother, Sarah Elizabeth Smith (nee Hegarty). My Grandmother Sarah Ann Hegarty (nee Quigg) was the brother of Robert Quigg. I note that my niece Sue Flaxman has already made contact and it appears there are many people around the globe who are trying to trace relatives of this great man Robert. It makes the hair stand on your neck when you read this story of such outstanding bravery.

I would be pleased to hear from anyone wishing to make contact just to put another piece in the jigsaw of our familly history, and compare notes on that wonderful man Robert Quigg VC.

John Quigg - June '06
I am called John Quigg, Robert Quigg was my Grandfathers cousin. I would be interested to hear from any other relatives.

Isabel MacDougall, formerly Quigg - April '06
Robert Quigg was the uncle of my late father Henry Quigg. It warms me to know that so many others are as proud of his memory as our family. I would be delighted to hear about other possible relatives. Thank you.

Bob Kane - Mar 06
I remember being at this funeral, at least at the grave side. My home was just along the road from Billy church and I, as a young boy, was very interested in the military aspects of the funeral. The coffin was carried on a gun-carriage and a rifle squad fired a salute over the grave. After everyone had left I found, in the grass near the grave, an unfired blank rifle shell which I kept for many years. (I don't know what finally happened to it.) I suppose that one of the soldiers had failed to pull the trigger in time and then shucked the cartridge out and deliberately lost it.

John McKay - Feb '06
The story my mother told me long ago was the King asked him his name and the reply was "Quigg frae Bushmills ye boy ye.."

K.Searle - Jan '06
Hello, I am doing a piece of history coursework on Ireland about the Orange Order. (The Orange Order celebrate the Battle of the Somme) and I wanted to know who was the King of England at that time. I tried a 'Google' search and this website came up, I read this story with interest and I admire this man so much, he was brave and heroic and it makes me wonder would I myself be brave enough to do that? All the men who fought in WW1 were brave but this man went the extra mile, it is a truely touching story.

Trevor Gray - Oct '05
The story is told that, when being presented with his V.C. by King George V, the King said to him, "You're a brave man, Private Quigg", to which the soldier is alleged to have replied, in his broad North Antrim accent, "Aye, you're a brave mon yourself, Your Majesty".
Can anyone authenticate this story?

Paul Massey - June '05
I have search the CWGC database for the details of Harry McNaughten but cannot find them. Is he listed under another name perhaps?

Bertha Lyman - May 05
Hello, i was so thrilled to read the above article, i am a great,great niece of Robert Quigg, and i also read with delight that one of the responses, Sue Flaxman, is also a great great niece. Sue's grandmother, Sadie Heggarty, was my late Mothers sister. i would love to have Sue's email address if possible or if she gets in touch with you you may give her mine. Your article was so well written and just lovely. i have been to the grave of my great great Uncle Robert. and tell Sue that yes we still have relatives left in Northern Ireland and England. We are also very proud to see our ancestor's name remembered. My Mother's name was Agnes Mary Quigg, (Maiden Name Quigg, of course) and she married Robert King in Belfast, Northern Ireland. my mother also has two brothers who immigrated to Australia, i do not know if they are still alive. their names were; Johnny and Willie Quigg.

Thomas H. Quigg - May '05
Thank you for telling a beautiful story of a great young man.
I was in N. Ireland about seven years ago and heard about Robert Quigg. My father was born in Garvagh and emigrated to Canada in 1920. I do not know if our family is related to Robert. Again, thank you, I get the BBC via satellite and the news service is great.
Thank you.

Angela Quigg - January '05
I am very interested to find out more about Robert Quigg as a friend discovered his gravestone and wondered if my family is related. My Father gave us no info re his parents or family history, my fathers name was Francis Joseph Quigg born in Mary Hill, Glasgow in 1928, unfortunately he died 8 years ago.

Sue Flaxman, Nov '04:
Hi, I read the article above with interest as I am the great great niece of Robert Quigg. I currently live in Norfolk but still have relatives in Ireland and my mother was also born there. I have always wanted to visit the area and the museum where his medals are. My grandfather is still alive and often tells tales about his own time in the war.

I am a blood relative and my mother and two sisters live nearby. My late grandmother was Sarah Sadie Heggarty and I believe Robert Quigg was her uncle.

We are very proud of our ancestor's heroics at that time and are glad to see his name is remembered.

 

 

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