Wooden cross and official recognition for unmarked grave of Belfast soldier

Section of Memorial Bearing McCarron's name. Photo by Mark Thompson
Section of Memorial Bearing McCarron's name. Photo by Mark Thompson

A recent communication from Gavin Bamford, Chair of History Hub Ulster, recounted one of the first war memorials constructed in a public location here following the Great War.

Erected by the Workman Clark Shipyard, the memorial was unveiled in Belfast by Sir Edward Carson in 1919.

Original Workman Clark Memorial Stone

Original Workman Clark Memorial Stone

History Hub writer and researcher Nigel Henderson explained that along with most major industrial concerns during the First World War, Workman Clark encouraged its workforce to enlist for war service whilst retaining other shipyard-men to build, convert and repair vessels for the Admiralty.

Poignantly, many Belfast shipyard-workers went to sea with the Royal Navy on ships that they’d helped construct and sadly, some of them perished on vessels that they’d welded, riveted and launched in the Lagan’s two great shipyards.

In the aftermath of the First World War, Workman Clark was one of the first heavy industry companies to erect a memorial to the men who never returned.

Bearing the names of 136 men it was unveiled by Sir Edward Carson on Friday, August 8th 1919, the day before Belfast’s Peace Parade.

Ballybeen Men's Shed with wooden cross. Peter McCabe on left and John Laverty of Ballybeen Men�s Motivation Group on right

Ballybeen Men's Shed with wooden cross. Peter McCabe on left and John Laverty of Ballybeen Men�s Motivation Group on right

The stone memorial originally included a three-panel frieze by Holywood sculptor Sophia Rosamund Prager which depicted men at work in the shipyard, soldiers bidding farewell to their wives and sweethearts, and a depiction of the wounding of Lieutenant Edward Workman.

Lt Workman MC of the Royal Irish Rifles was the only son of yard-boss Frank Workman and his wife Sara.

Educated at Charterhouse and Trinity College Cambridge the 29 year old Lieutenant was wounded in action in France and died of his wounds on January 26 1916.

In the days when Harland and Wolff was the biggest shipbuilder in the world, the Workman Clark yard, though a very substantial shipyard, was endearingly nicknamed the Wee Yard by local folk, simply because Harland and Wolff was so enormous!

David John McCarron's unmarked plot, Dundonald Cemetery. Photo Nigel Henderson

David John McCarron's unmarked plot, Dundonald Cemetery. Photo Nigel Henderson

History Hub’s Nigel Henderson and Maureen McKinney from the Belfast Titanic Society are undertaking a project to highlight the role played by the Wee Yard in the First World War.

A key element of the project is to identify and document family and service details behind the names on the memorial.

During his research Nigel discovered that one of the fatalities, Private David (Davey) John McCarron of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, is not remembered as an official war fatality by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).

Nigel has identified that David died of heart disease at Athens Street, Belfast, on July 4, 1918 and is buried in an unmarked plot in Dundonald Cemetery.

He hopes that News Letter readers might be able to help him find out more about Private McCarron and is particularly keen to make contact with any family relatives.

Having served with the Ulster Division in France, David McCarron was discharged due to illness on April 4th 1918.

His army medical reports clearly record that he was discharged due to a heart condition aggravated by his war service.

As the cause of death is inextricably linked to his war service David qualifies to be regarded as an official war fatality and evidence has been submitted to the relevant authority.

This should, in due course, result in Private McCarron being recognised as an official war fatality, with his resting place marked by a CWGC headstone.

Peter McCabe, an Associate Member of History Hub Ulster, is writing a book about Dundonald Cemetery and has arranged for the Men’s Shed run by the Ballybeen Men’s Motivation Group to make a cross to be placed at the grave as a temporary commemoration.

David John McCarron was born on September 12, 1878 at Frank Place to David John McCarron and Sarah Ann McCarron (nee Thompson) and he married Sarah McGrath of Foxglove Street on March 24, 1902 in St Anne’s Parish Church.

David and Sarah had one child, Maria McCarron, born on June 27, 1903 at 24 Frankfort Street.

Nigel Henderson and Maureen McKinney embarked on contacting family descendants.

“A post on Facebook resulted in a meeting with three descendants of David John McCarron’s sister,” Maureen recounte. “And they were able to fill in some additional family relations. However, we now want to close the circle by establishing contact with the descendants of Maria McCarron, known in the family as Ria, who married George Rutherford. They had two daughters – Annie Rutherford married Bobby Stevenson and Dorothy Rutherford married Sam Haire. We are hoping that an appeal on Roamer’s page will enable descendants to get in contact.”

Family-descendant Annie McCarron Osborne finishes off the story: “Despite being a widow with a child, Annie McCarron also helped to look after her dead sister-in-law’s children, becoming like a second mother to them, and the name McCarron has been carried down through the generations as a tribute. As a family, we are amazed to find out about Davey John’s war service and his place of burial, and we appreciate the efforts being made by Nigel to get him accepted as a war fatality. We would dearly love to establish contact with our Rutherford/Stevenson/Haire relatives so that both sides of the family can be present when we place the cross at Davey John’s grave.”

If you think you might be related to David John McCarron, please get in contact with Roamer (at email and postal addresses displayed here) and your details and information will be immediately passed on to Nigel, Maureen and Annie.