We all know Northern Ireland is home to some of the most breathtaking landscapes on the planet but did you know our people have always punched above their weight when it comes to giving the world life-changing inventions.
Agriculture was transformed forever when Harry Ferguson, from County Down, introduced the modern tractor, tourism received a major boost when brothers William and Anthony Traill from County Antrim invented the electric tramway and in the world of sport, County Armagh man William McCrum provided agony and ecstasy for football fans around the world with the introduction of the penalty kick.
We have much to be proud of in Northern Ireland and thanks to the Ulster History Circle many of our greatest people will be remembered for generations to come. The voluntary organisation places a commemorative Blue Plaque in public places, in towns and villages in honour of men and women who have contributed to our history.
Discover Northern Ireland has compiled a list of Blue Plaque recipients from this little corner of the world.
- Thomas Andrews came from a notable family with his elder brother, John Miller Andrews serving as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland between 1940 and 1943. Thomas entered Harland & Wolff’s shipyard as a 16 year-old boy and studied ship design after his day’s work. He would go on to become the firm’s Managing Director in 1907 and was the chief designer on the world-famous Titanic. Plaque located at 20 Lower Windsor Avenue, Belfast (former headquarters of the Irish Football Association).
- Moira O’Neill (pen name of Agnes Higginson Skrine) was born in 1864 and later came to live in Cushendun. The poet and novelist was inspired by the landscapes of County Antrim and in 1900 published her most famous work, Songs of the Glens of Antrim – 25 ballads and poems written in the dialect of the people from the Glens. Songs of the Glens of Antrim has been republished on numerous occasions. Moira also published the Elf Errant, a children’s story which explored the cultural differences between Irish fairies and a visiting English fairy. Plaque is located at Old Church Heritage Centre, Cushendun.
- Anne Acheson was a sculptor from Portadown who would go on to revolutionise the treatment of fractures during the First World War. The use of Plaster of Paris which Anne used in her sculptures was to change medical history. During the First World War she volunteered with the Surgical Requisites Association. Anne witnessed soldiers returning from the front line with broken limbs held together with only wooden splints and basic bandages. She suggested taking a plaster cast of the limb and when the cast had hardened, wrapping papier-mache over it, and placing it over the broken limb to support it whilst healing. Plaque located at First Presbyterian Church, Bridge Street, Portadown.
- William Kennedy was born in Tandragee and lost his sight at the age of four. He was sent to Armagh to learn the fiddle at the age of 13. There he lodged with a furniture maker where he acquired considerable skills in woodwork. William developed a specialism for repairing uilleann pipes, the bellow-driven instrument that is the most complex of the many forms of bagpipes found across Europe. He became a master pipe maker and to this day The William Kennedy Piping Festival attracts pipers from all over the world to Armagh each year. Plaque located at Montagu Arms 9-19 Church Street, Tandragee.
- Born in the townland of Dunnavil, Kilkeel, Joseph Henry Thompson went on to become an award-winning football coach and Pennsylvanian State Senator after emigrating to America. He joined the National Guard and later set off for France during World War One as a Major in the 110th At Apremont, Ardennes, Major Thompson advanced on foot on three separate occasions under heavy machine-gun and anti-tank fire to enable an Infantry assault. His bravery earned him the Distinguished Service Cross which President Harding later upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Plaque is located at Kilmorey Arms Hotel, 41-43 Greencastle Street, Kilkeel.
- Samuel Black graduated as a doctor from Edinburgh University in 1786 before setting up his practice in Newry. Black’s main contribution to medical science is his diagnosis and analysis of angina pectoris. He investigated those categories of people who were most, and least, subject to heart disease – among the former, the stressed, the obese and over-eaters; among the latter women, foot soldiers and the poor. He also carried out research in the fields of neurology, diabetes and public health. Plaque is located at Marcus Square, Newry.
- Charles Duff was born in Enniskillen in 1894 and attended Portora Royal School. He went on to study Spanish, French, Portuguese and German, and in 1916 joined the British Army. He ended up serving on both the Western Front and in Italy and was left hospitalised after being caught in a gas attack in France. Charles later worked as a barrister, Foreign Office press officer, journalist, playwright, and writer – even penning some science fiction. Perhaps his best-known work, ‘A Handbook on Hanging’, which has been published several times, is a plea against capital punishment. The German translation of this has the distinction of having been burnt by the Nazis in 1931. Plaque is located at Ely Place, 66-68 Forthill Street, Enniskillen.
- Joan Trimble, from Enniskillen was one of the most distinguished musicians to come from Northern Ireland in the twentieth century. She has been described as the doyenne of Irish composers; with her sister Valerie she formed a piano duo who were household names in the mid-twentieth century. She also took over the direction of the family business, publishing the Impartial Reporter newspaper. Joan attended Enniskillen Royal School for girls, of which she was the first Head Girl, and in 1931 she and her sister commenced studies at the RIAM. Joan also studied composition at the Royal Irish Academy of Music from 1930 with John F Larchet. Plaque is located at The Impartial Reporter, 8-10 East Bridge Street, Enniskillen.
- Edgar Henry Harper from Dungannon contributed greatly to aviation theory. His work helped shape the science behind the stability of the aeroplanes that now crowd our skies. After continuing his studies at Trinity College in Dublin, he returned to his former school, Royal School Dungannon to teach maths, before taking up a position as lecturer at Bangor University in Wales. By 1910, Mr Harper had co-published Aerial Locomotion, looking at the principles involved in aeronautical theory. Mr Harper also made a significant contribution to Professor George Hartley Bryan’s book, Stability of Aviation, which is considered one of the seminal books on the subject. Plaque is located at 3 Northland Place, Dungannon.
- Oliver Pollock from Bready has a unique place in the history of the United States of America, as the man responsible for devising the dollar sign ($) Pollock sailed to North America at the age of 23 in 1760 with his brother, James and his father, Jared. They settled in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. He soon began his career as a merchant based in New Orleans, trading from port-to-port. In his ledgers, Pollock abbreviated ‘pesos’ to ‘ps’ and tended to run the letters together, resulting in a symbol resembling a $. The timing could not have been better as it was the intention of the new Secretary of Finance Alexander Hamilton to establish a strong central bank and currency. Plaque is located at Sollus Centre, 231 Victoria Road, Bready, Strabane.
- Dorethea Florence Macausland from Garvagh founded the Women’s Institute in Northern Ireland. Born in India in 1888, Dorethea was educated in England but spent her holidays at her family’s residence in Garvagh, and it was here the family moved when her father retired. Dorethea trained as a nurse during World War One and was on board a troopship that was sunk by a torpedo. After the war she trained as a health visitor and joined the Women’s Institute, eventually becoming Warwickshire county secretary. In 1932 she returned to Garvagh where she organised the first ever Women’s Institute meeting, held in her home. Plaque is located at St. Paul’s Parish Church, Main Street, Garvagh
- Rose O’Doherty’s contribution to the music of Derry~Londonderry was immeasurable. Rose, as a music teacher and one of the co-founders along with Father McGettigan of the Feis Doire Colmcille in 1922, remained involved in her music and the Feis Doire until she died in 1969. Thousands of young people and adults have travelled through its doors and some have become household names throughout the world, such as, Phil Coulter, Dana, Roma Downey, and the Undertones. The plaque is located at 29 Francis Street, Derry~Londonderry.
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