A very rare book – first published in 1915 to raise money for wounded soldiers in UVF hospitals – has been reprinted and updated.
The new version of the Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital Christmas Book 1915 was launched last night by the City of Belfast ABF (formerly Army Benevolent Fund), in conjunction with the 1st Shankill Somme Association.
Following the outbreak of World War One in 1914 the UVF – founded in 1912 to block Home Rule – offered a fully equipped hospital for the treatment of sick and wounded soldiers.
The UVF was tied to the war effort as many of its men went to fight, mostly with the 36th Ulster Division.
The original charity hospital at Circular Road in east Belfast had been the home of former Northern Ireland prime minister James Craig.
It operated for many years along with smaller branch hospitals before becoming the Somme Nursing Home on the same site in the early nineties.
Bobby Foster, chairmany of City of Belfast ABF, explained the purpose of the original UVF Hospital Christmas Book: “The book was primarily aimed at raising money for the wounded soldiers coming home from the Great War to the UVF hospitals of which there was quite a few spread out throughout the country, including one at Queen’s University. There was a fully kitted out UVF hospital in London which is mentioned in the book.”
He added: “The original book carried letters and messages from the King at the time and also Sir Edward Carson (who formally opened the hospital in 1915) and people of that description.
“The book has some important poems in it by Rudyard Kipling including one about the cooks of the UVF hospital.”
The revised edition of the book includes everything from the previous book plus some updated stories and artefacts of interest.
Fellow ABF member Sam Coulter commented: “There’s a letter in the new part of book which we know is an original that has never been shown before.
“It’s from James Strong whose son was killed at Messines. He had endowed beds to the UVF hospital. On this letter there’s a stain where it was pushed into the roof of Annaghmore Orange Hall roof to plug a drip.”
The aims of the new book are the same – to raise money for people in medical need.
The charity benefactors from sales of the book will be the Children’s Heartbeat Trust and Children’s Hospice.
The launch was held on Friday in St Matthew’s Parish Church at Woodvale Road, and was carried out by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for Belfast, Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle CBE. Other speakers included UTV’s Paul Clark MBE with North Belfast MLA William Humphrey acting as MC.