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16 October 2014
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Ballymena and the Great War

YPAM's Jim Kelso dropped in on two Ballymena men to witness a project to record a database of the local soldiers who fought in WWI.

Old photo of WWI

The Great War - Ballymena Information Exchange

"Ballymena Borough & the Great War" is the working title of an exhibition which is a labour of love for two Ballymena men. John Hoy (Lecturer) and Des Blackadder (Editor of The Ballymena Times) got together to collate an enormous database of information in relation to those men from the Ballymena area who fought and died in the 1914-18 war.

Picture of Tommy Shields in tropical kit taken in the Red Sea just before war was declared in 1939

Des Blackadder and  John Hoy
Des Blackadder (standing) and John Hoy study some of their Great War statistics.

It was an enormous amount of work spanning over a year. They then put the information on display at the Local Studies Library on Demesne Avenue in Ballymena. Lots of people came along and gave more information in return for receiving new information relevant to their own families. It is this exchange of information which is the most striking aspect of the venture.

Pay-in books, medals and old photographs, like the ones below, were brought down to the library to the delight of Des and John who were able to match up the memorabilia with the names of soldiers on their lists. In return the public got a chance to discover the last known movements of their relatives and discover where, and in some cases, how they met their end.


click to listen
Des and John describe how their statistics match up with local people's relatives and a "death penny" is featured at the exhibition....





Picture of Tommy Shields in tropical kit taken in the Red Sea just before war was declared in 1939
WWI  photo
Picture of Tommy Shields in tropical kit taken in the Red Sea just before war was declared in 1939
WWI photo




Some of the old photographs unearthed thanks to the work of John, Des and the Ballymena public.







Hilda Sullivan ne Vance - Apr '07
My grandfather Joseph Vance was with the Inniskillen fusiliers in world the great war. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war. He was also wounded he was shot in the arm, He used to tell us all about it -When we listened. I wish we had have listened more but when we were kids we only wanted to have fun and now in our later years we struggle to remember what we were told.

Des Blackadder - Mar '07
It is with great sadness I must report the recent death of Mr John Hoy on 4th March 2007. He was diagnosed with Alexander disease in May of last year (2006) and it slowly progressed. Everyone who knew him agreed it was a release for him in the end.

He is survived by a son of 16 and a wife of 67.

Johnny McBeggs - Mar '07
In 1918 my great grandfather John Hoy died in the the war.. personally i think the man in the picture is an imposter.. He has cheated my great grandfather out of any dignity he had left!

Alan Rutherford - Nov '06
Would be very grateful for any information on my grandfather, John Rutherford, who claimed he was in the Inniskillen Fusiliers, see only reference I have below...

You ask about our grandfather and as one of the older grandson's (64) I may be able to help you. Our great grandfather, as far as I can ascertain, came from the Selkirk area and moved to Ireland to work in a paper mill at Ballymoney, lived in Balnamore. His first wife died and he re-married - the 3 stepsons did not get on with his new wife. They fled to Milngavie (nr Glasgow)where they worked in the Ellangowan Paper Mill. This was about 1906 and the brothers were George, James and our grandfather, John. Our grandfather eventually became nightshift foreman and he and his family moved into Mansefield, which was a mill house. He left his wife, family and job to go to Ireland and join up in the first world war, he claimed he was in the Inneskillen Fuseliers but Uncle Davie's widow has his medals and cap badge, and the badge is for the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He took part in the 2nd battle of the Somme and had a small piece of shrapnel embedded in his forehead.

Jean Scott - Oct '06
Great site, Jean Scott and Ted Dickey grandfather was killed in action 1917, Adam Craig bridgend thanks for everything.

Laurine Potter - Sep '06
Hello I wonder if you can help me? I have for some time been trying to trace my great grandfather with no success. I don't know if he served in the forces in either war but I know his son my grandfather served in the Royal Inneskillen Fusiliers. He fortunately survived. I am researching my family history but keep hitting a brick wall when trying to find my great grandad Samuel Ashe. I have no idea what year or county in which he was born the only information is from my grandad's birth certificate he was Robert Henry Ashe from Ballymena so it is likely that Samuel also came from Antrim?
Another question for you is would you have any records of a soldiers marriage. As I don't know what year my grandparents were married? This is probably not your area I have been to the PRO NIi office but hav'nt a clue what year to start looking.
Many thanks Laurine

Looking for Thomas Chesney Gourley - December '04
Hi Des & John, I had emailed Des some weeks ago, (Des replied with some information in November ) but I am still no further forward in my quest, which is to trace any information on my great uncle Thomas Chesney Gourley, born about 1890 in the Ahoghill area. Father James mother Elizabeth nee Chesney. Thomas and his family moved to Larne (date unknown) where he joined the 12th battalion Royal Irish Rifles service No. 17742. He was killed in action 1st July 1916. I always thought Ahoghill was in the Ballymena area but I could be wrong, if you could could come up with any information about this young man who died so far from Ahoghill I would be most greatful.

If you have any information about Ballymena soldiers of the Great War you can fill in the form below. YPAM will then pass it on to Des and John.


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