Ulster cricket club’s living tribute to WWI dead

An Ulster cricket club with strong links to World War One is creating a living memorial to eight members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Tomorrow morning, the last of more than 100 hedge and tree saplings will be planted on the boundary of the ground at Cregagh Cricket Club by P4 pupils from nearby primary school Harding Memorial.

Cregagh Cricket Club

Cregagh Cricket Club

The saplings come to the east Belfast club from Brackfield Wood, a specially created centenary woodland area in Co Londonderry as part of a Woodland Trust project to provide a living legacy to the WWI conflict.

Cregagh Cricket Club was formed in 1906 by members of McQuiston Memorial Church on the Castlereagh Road.

Club historian Graham Watt said that when WWI broke out, 75% of the club’s membership volunteered to fight, with eight of them never coming home.

He said: “After the war, the ground was purchased [from McQuiston Church] by the club to remember those players and members of Cregagh Cricket Club who died during the First World War.

Chelsea Pensioners Walter Swan (right) and Eddie Reid led a tree-planting ceremony at the Woodland Trust's Brackfield Wood in the beautiful Faughan Valley. Picture: Michael Cooper

Chelsea Pensioners Walter Swan (right) and Eddie Reid led a tree-planting ceremony at the Woodland Trust's Brackfield Wood in the beautiful Faughan Valley. Picture: Michael Cooper

“It was officially opened on June 30, 1923 when the memorial gates were unveiled, and the ground was given its official name – Cregagh Memorial Recreation Grounds.”

One of those members who died during the conflict was Victoria Cross holder William McFadzean.

Born in Lurgan, his family moved to east Belfast where they lived at the Rubicon building on the Cregagh Road which bears a blue plaque in his name.

Although primarily a rugby player, William also played cricket at the club of which his father – William McFadzean Senior – was a founding member.

William Frederick "Billy" McFadzean VC (9 October 1895 - 1 July 1916)

William Frederick "Billy" McFadzean VC (9 October 1895 - 1 July 1916)

Mr Watt said: “We are very proud of our history and look forward to seeing the trees and hedges planted as part of this Woodland Trust project blossom and grow over the next few years.

“They are a welcome addition to our grounds and a colourful legacy, not only to our members, but also for the eight million plus soldiers who lost their lives.

“Given our history and connection to the First World War we took the opportunity to apply to the Woodland Trust.

“We feel like it’s completing a circle.”

He said the extra woodland at the boundary could give rise to a few lost cricket balls, however he added: “It could be up to 50 years until these saplings reach full maturity, and some of the older members have suggested it’ll probably not be our problem.”