Somme soldier would have been ‘embarrassed’ by attention from sculpture ceremony

Queen Elizabeth II unveils a statue of Robert Quigg, VC during a visit to Bushmills Village on the second day of her visit to Northern Ireland to mark her 90th birthday
Queen Elizabeth II unveils a statue of Robert Quigg, VC during a visit to Bushmills Village on the second day of her visit to Northern Ireland to mark her 90th birthday

The modest soldier at the centre of Royal commemorations in Co Antrim would have been embarrassed by all the attention, according to his great nephew.

Sergeant Robert Quigg may have risked his life seven times to rescue wounded comrades from the bloody battlefields at the Somme but he could not muster the strength to speak during a village reception after he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Today marks the second day of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh's visit to Northern Ireland when they will experience some of Northern Ireland's best loved tourism locations

Today marks the second day of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh's visit to Northern Ireland when they will experience some of Northern Ireland's best loved tourism locations

Retired schoolteacher Leonard Quigg, who spent years researching his great uncle for a new book, said: “When he came back after receiving his medal in January 1917 he got a fortnight’s leave and there were celebrations around Bushmills.

“There was a huge celebration in the Hamill Hall in Bushmills and he was the centre of attention but at the end he wouldn’t speak. He was too shy and his father had to speak for him.

“So, that tells you the sort of man he was.”

The labourer from Bushmills was 29 when he signed up to fight in the First World War and was 31 when his heroics on the first day at the Battle of the Somme earned him the highest honour for gallantry.

A statue of Robert Quigg, VC, which was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to Bushmills Village on the second day of her visit to Northern Ireland to mark her 90th birthday

A statue of Robert Quigg, VC, which was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to Bushmills Village on the second day of her visit to Northern Ireland to mark her 90th birthday

The medal was presented by King George V in January 1917.

In 1953, he was introduced to the new Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh when the Royal couple visited Coleraine in Co Londonderry as part of the Coronation tour.

And, more than 60 years later, hundreds of people lined the streets as the Queen unveiled a life-size sculpture in his home village while the band of the Irish Guards played laments.

Mr Quigg said his great uncle would have been quietly pleased but may have found the pomp and ceremony of the occasion somewhat overwhelming.

“Underneath he would have been very proud but openly he would have been very embarrassed by it all,” he added.

“He would have been mortified because he was so shy and unassuming.”

Sgt Quigg served with the Royal Irish Rifles until 1922 and then the Royal Ulster Rifles until 1926. He was discharged from the army after a serious accident in 1926 but worked as a civilian in the Rifles’ depot for about nine years before returning to his native Causeway Coast to live out his final years.

The Quigg family and local history enthusiasts have long been campaigning for formal recognition and in just four years raised more than £60,000 to erect the bronze statue.

It sits on the edge of the country estate where he had worked before the war and looks towards the village war memorial.

Mr Quigg said: “Robert Quigg VC was one of the great characters of Bushmills. He was awarded his VC for rescuing seven soldiers on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

“He crawled out into no man’s land seven times and each time brought back a wounded soldier.

“We have been raising funds for a statue in his memory and today it has come to fruition.

“It has been an absolutely wonderful occasion. A great spectacle.”